Highlighted Text: Job 31:33-34
Full Text: Job 31; 2 Cor. 1

Intensifiers | Suffering rarely exists alone. It usually comes with feelings that intensify the pain – like fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness [1]. For example, Job’s suffering wasn’t painful merely because he lost a lot; it was also painful because he felt afraid, angry, guilty, lonely and helpless. In his final speech, he expressed these feelings:

(fear) I have concealed my transgressions …  because I stood in great fear of the multitude [2]. (anger) You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me” [3]. (guilt) Did I not weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? [4] (loneliness) I cry to you for help and you do not answer me [5] (helplessness) Now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me. The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest” [6].

Reassurance | Similarly, Norman Cousins, an American author who was told that he had little chance of surviving his arthritis, wrote about his experience of being a patient:

There was first of all the feeling of helplessness – a serious disease in itself. There was the subconscious fear of never being able to function normally again … There was the reluctance to be thought a complainer … There was the conflict between the terror of loneliness and the desire to be left alone. There was the lack of self-esteem, the subconscious feeling perhaps that our illness was a manifestation of our inadequacy … And there was the utter void created by the longing – ineradicable, unremitting, pervasive – for warmth of human contact [7].

Then, near the end of his life, he reflected, “Illness is a terrifying experience. Something is happening that people don’t know how to deal with. They are reaching out not just for medical help but for ways of thinking about catastrophic illness. They are reaching out for hope” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Our suffering is often compounded by our feelings of fear, anger, guilt, loneliness and helplessness. Thus, we pray that you would make us comprehensive caretakers of those who suffer. Show us that ministering to the hurting requires no professional expertise. In Christ, who suffered for us so that we could know ultimate healing, teach us how to stand side-by-side with those who suffer. Amen.



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[1] In his excellent book, The Gift of Pain, Dr. Paul Brand is on a “crusade to improve the image of pain.” In my opinion, there is no better book on suffering than this one. Dr. Brand is the doctor who discovered that the problem with leprosy is not that the skin is eaten away; rather, it is that the leper have no sensation of pain. Therefore, for example, a leper would not blink when the eyes need water because they feel no pain (which eventually results in blindness) or a leper would not limp on a broken ankle (which eventually results in amputation). Thus, pain is a gift, a warning sign that something is wrong. Over the years, I have gone back to this book over and over again for all sorts of thoughts. When I have loaned it to someone and not gotten it back, I have bought a new copy because my library cannot do without it. I cannot more highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a wonderful reflection on pain and suffering – physical pain or otherwise. Even if we aren’t struggling now with pain, we will one day and this book is also a wonderful resource for preparing for that time.  |  [2] Job 31:33-34 ESV  |  [3] Job 30:21 ESV  |  [4] Job 30:25 ESV  |  [5] Job 30:20 ESV  |  [6] Job 30:16-17 ESV  |  [7] Cited in The Gift of Pain (see FN 1).  |  [8] 287