From the Crucible of Suffering

Scripture Focus: Job 6.2
Oh, that my grief could actually be weighed
And placed in the balances together with my tragedy [to see if my grief is the grief of a coward]! (The Amplified Bible)

Reflection: From the Crucible of Suffering
By Jada Swanson

With these words, Job responds to the accusations of Eliphaz. He felt that he was being unjustly judged by his friends. Since they had not suffered the great loss that he had, there was no way for them to understand his grief. The raw emotions that are expressed cannot be truly understood unless one has walked this journey.

It is easy to see God’s grace when things are going well. But in the midst of suffering—when we don’t sense any positive change in our circumstances—we can start to question God’s goodness and his love. Not to mention, navigating the advice of others while in the midst of great pain and suffering can be an added trial. To be sure, Job’s friends doled out quite a bit.

Suffering and brokenness are common experiences to which all who live in this world can relate. Yet, many tend to gloss over suffering, thinking it is unspiritual to dwell upon. The pain of suffering is like a visit with an unwelcome friend. Still, the importance of sitting with this intrusive companion, learning from the experience, and, in the end, being transformed cannot be minimized. It is essential in navigating the journey of suffering and loss.

There is a deep richness that comes to people who face suffering biblically. A key to this richness is a joy and a contentment that difficult experiences cannot steal. Unfortunately, many Christians do not look at suffering in this way, and run from it, instead of facing it head-on.

Are you in the midst of a trial, experiencing great loss, suffering without hope? You may wonder is God being too heavy-handed? Or if this kind of suffering is “normal” for a Christian’s life? Those are honest questions. And, sometimes, the answers do not come as quickly as we would like.

In the crucible of significant suffering, profound good often emerges. In these times, we can be assured that our powerful, tender God is with us, helping us discover meaning and purpose in the trials we experience and the suffering we endure.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me and hear my words. — Psalm 17.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 6 (Listen -2:56)
Romans 10 (Listen -3:21)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 7 (Listen -2:23) Romans 11 (Listen -5:23)
Job 8 (Listen -2:09) Romans 12 (Listen -2:58)

Read more about Meaning In Suffering
Because there is meaning in suffering we can refocus our attention toward the outcome.

Read more about Suffering for Our True Identity
It is not our goal to get the world to like us. In fact, we should not be surprised when they hate us.

The Grace of Holding Space

Scripture Focus: Job 5:27
We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.

Reflection: The Grace of Holding Space
By Jada Swanson

Eliphaz continues to share his thoughts, encouraging Job to simply turn to God and everything would be alright. When the fact remains, Job never turned away from God to begin with. To his credit, this is what Eliphaz’s tradition has led him to believe. Sadly, he is a misinformed theologian. Which, no doubt, many of us have encountered or, perhaps, we have been at one time or another.

As Christ-followers, we are called to carry one another’s burdens. However, when someone is navigating grief, a traumatic situation, or a horrific loss (relationship, job, etc.), we must resist the need to try and fix the problem, heal the hurt, or repair the damage, and, instead, embrace the tension that exists. Although it can be awkward, during these sacred times, silence is our ally. Instead of expressing empty platitudes or well-meaning, but unhelpful Christianeze expressions, choosing to simply be present with another is the most loving alternative, even if the silence is deafening.

What is most needed in these times is a willingness to simply “hold space” for another. What does it mean to hold space for someone else? Author Heather Plett describes it in this way,

“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control … To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

God, help us all to become comfortable with the necessary response of holding space for another. May we sincerely seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance during those times.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and in misery.
Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful; save your servant who puts his trust in you. — Psalm 86.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 5 (Listen -2:29)
Romans 9 (Listen -5:15)

Read more about Constant Comfort in Suffering
When every other source of joy is dried up…the stream of God’s mercy flows on as freely as ever.

Read more about What to Expect When Suffering
When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.

When Help Doesn’t Help

Scripture Focus: Job 4.7-9
Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
and sow trouble will harvest it.
When God breathes deeply, they perish;
by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated.

Reflection: When Help Doesn’t Help
By Jada Swanson

After seven days of silence, Eliphaz speaks to Job. Eliphaz is somewhat gentle and appears to sincerely attempt to bring comfort to his friend, Job. Yet, it doesn’t take long for one to see that his belief about his friend’s plight is that it is due to sin in Job’s life. In verse seven, he states, “Think! What innocent person has ever perished? When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?”

For we all reap what we sow, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is a common view of pain and suffering, even in the Church today. No doubt, statements have been made such as, “I wonder what she did to bring this upon herself?” or “If you’re living right, you will surely have a blessed life.”

Yet, if this is an accurate assessment, it begs the question, “What had Job done to bring such pain and suffering into his life?” and “Wasn’t he ‘living right’?”

The reality is that God never promises that his children will have a life free of trial, hardship, pain, or suffering. In fact, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face such situations and circumstances, because the hardships one endures brings about perseverance, which is needed to become mature and complete.

Most certainly, “Considering it all joy” does not mean one rejoices in the cruelty, suffering, shame, injustice, or destruction. It does not mean there will be no tears or sense of loss. Rather, amidst these constraining circumstances, one can embrace a sense of confidence and peace.

Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight. It bears considering if Job’s circumstance brought to the surface some of his own concerns and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, he thought he had matters of faith and God figured out. Yet, God does not fit into a neatly packed box of predictability. In fact, we are told his ways are mysterious (Isaiah 55:9).

Everything is not always what it appears on the surface. Most often, there is more to the story, necessary details and nuances that hover just below the surface to which the public is not privy. As such, one needs to be careful in expressing personal opinions about the circumstances another is facing, regardless if this person is a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we embrace peace amidst suffering. May we listen to understand, not merely to respond. And when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for my hope has been in you. — Psalm 25.19-20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 4 (Listen -2:06)
Romans 8 (Listen -6:22)

Read more from Seeing Beyond Suffering
It is a very high privilege for a Christian to be conformed to Christ. To be conformists to Christ, is to be nonconformists to the world. But what conforms us more to Christ than the cross?

Read more about Suffering and Sin
Jesus taught his disciples that they were wrong about tragedy and wrong about sin. His words don’t at first seem comforting.

The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent

John 14.27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Reflection: The Peace of Christ :: Peace of Advent
By Jada Swanson

On the night Jesus was born, peace entered this world. And in triumphant chorus, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth!” This tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, brought peace in ways the world cannot. Yet, if truth be told, many still wonder if peace will ever be fully known, especially in light of all that is going on across the world and in individuals’ lives.

Christmastime isn’t merry or bright for everyone. Amidst the merriment and festive celebrations, life continues. The realities of life remain. For some, this could mean job loss. For others, it may mean living with a chronic illness, acknowledging the empty chair at the dinner table, or accepting the casualties associated with broken relationships.

Even still, this is a time of worship and reflection of the greatest gift given to humankind. Finding the beauty in the broken. Grieving what never was and what never will be. Making peace with the chaos of the past, and anticipating the future and all that it holds. Purposing to intentionally be present in the here and now with loved ones. Focusing on the true meaning and reason for this season: Jesus’ birth. And clinging to His promised gifts: hope, love, joy, and peace.

As believers, our hope is rooted in a promise that God made many years ago when Isaiah, the prophet, wrote:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Prince of Peace, and we are his heirs. Yet, how many Christ-Followers have come to fully understand the divine reality that peace is our inheritance? This peace that he generously and graciously grants to us is not dependent upon our circumstances or our ability to know how or when future events will work out. In fact, Jesus assures us that in him alone can we find peace at all times and in every way.

Do you have peace in this season? Or are you finding it difficult to rest in the Lord and allowing God’s peace to comfort and sustain you? You are not alone. May we all find hope and assurance in Jesus’ words from John 14: 27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Peace of Christ to you in this season and in the days ahead.

Prayer: Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord — Psalm 31:24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 11 (Listen – 2:40)
John 14 (Listen – 4:13)

Tomorrow’s Readings
Zechariah 12:1-13:1 (Listen – 2:30)
John 15 (Listen – 3:20)

Additional Reading
Read More about Under His Covering
The wise men gave three presents to the baby Jesus, but God also gave three presents to Mary. He gave her the Messiah, but he also granted her joy and peace. I’m so thankful she opened all three gifts.

Read More about Hurting through the Holidays :: Advent’s Hope
Physical and emotional pain can make the holiday season feel like a torrent of expectations to appear happy. The unspoken demand of “Christmas joy” weighs on those mourning the loss of a loved one, suffering a long-term illness, or carrying the pressures of daily anxiety or depression.

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When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michele, from Colorado
One can embrace a sense of confidence and peace. One can. It’s a voice. But do we? Can we embrace confidence and peace without sensing it? Maybe that’s a place to start.

Originally posted on February 5, 2018 with readings from Job 4 and Romans 8.

Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
and sow trouble will harvest it.
When God breathes deeply, they perish;
by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated. — Job 4.7-9

Reflection: When Help Isn’t Help :: Readers’ Choice
By Jada Swanson

After seven days of silence, Eliphaz speaks to Job. Eliphaz is somewhat gentle and appears to sincerely attempt to bring comfort to his friend, Job. Yet, it doesn’t take long for one to see that his belief about his friend’s plight is that it is due to sin in Job’s life. In verse seven, he states, “Think! What innocent person has ever perished? When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?”

For we all reap what we sow, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is a common view of pain and suffering, even in the Church today. No doubt, statements have been made such as, “I wonder what she did to bring this upon herself?” or “If you’re living right, you will surely have a blessed life.”

Yet, if this is an accurate assessment, it begs the question, “What had Job done to bring such pain and suffering into his life?” and “Wasn’t he ‘living right’?”

The reality is that God never promises that his children will have a life free of trial, hardship, pain, or suffering. In fact, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face such situations and circumstances, because the hardships one endures brings about perseverance, which is needed to become mature and complete.

Most certainly, “Considering it all joy” does not mean one rejoices in the cruelty, suffering, shame, injustice, or destruction. It does not mean there will be no tears or sense of loss. Rather, amidst these constraining circumstances, one can embrace a sense of confidence and peace.

Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight. It bears considering if Job’s circumstance brought to the surface some of his own concerns and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, he thought he had matters of faith and God figured out. Yet, God does not fit into a neatly packed box of predictability. In fact, we are told his ways are mysterious (Isaiah 55:9).

Everything is not always what it appears on the surface. Most often, there is more to the story, necessary details and nuances that hover just below the surface to which the public is not privy. As such, one needs to be careful in expressing personal opinions about the circumstances another is facing, regardless if this person is a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we embrace peace amidst suffering. May we listen to understand, not merely to respond. And when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 49 (Listen – 7:15)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Additional Reading
Read More from Jada about For Such a Time
God calls us to obedience during the dark and the daring moments of our lives. In his word, he has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

Read More about Room For Hannah
Church staff and attendees often reflect an unspoken belief that Christian Life has no place for sadness.

Readers’ Choice
We have a couple spots left for your favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post. Tell us about a post and what it meant to you.

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