Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Where Is God In Your Unrelenting Pain?

“Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;

and if I refrain, it does not go away.”

~Job 16:6 (NIV, 2010).

This is Job’s rock bottom right here. His “miserable comforters” (verse 1) have done nothing to assuage what was unrelenting, and never to be released without the slightest Word from the Most High.

Cold comfort indeed!

It is hard to write something from the heart of experience to people in genuine joy-repealing pain. It’s an inherently personal thing, pain. What is a four-out-of-ten on one person’s ‘pain register’ is going to be an eight or nine on another’s. What is pain but a hellish reminder of the fall? We have no quick or effective answer for much of it.

Job’s Context is an Encouragement, However Shallow

Just knowing that Job went through what he did helps us know that God connects with our pain. In no other religions’ scriptures is there such an amount of text devoted to human pain and suffering as there is in the Bible. God’s interested in our pain; we can be assured of that.

The lament psalms, Job, many of biblical history stories, as well as the incredibly graphic Lamentations all give rise to this.

But we Christians don’t really want to acknowledge this. We want our comfy New Testaments and the Fruit of the Spirit and such like, often not realising that realness, and answers to the hard questions of life, are what the non-Christian world needs to hear more of from educated Christians. They need faith made real for them, for ‘real’ is relevant.

The truth is Job’s context is never too far from our own. Sure, it might be an extreme example, but we all identify because we all experience the pains of life—yet, some more acutely and chronically.

Caught in a No Man’s Land?

Job is clearly caught in a confounding mystery. No matter what he does he cannot change his situation or his pain. The trouble is many know all too well what this is about, and the last thing they need is “miserable comforters” pumping ‘encouraging’ Scriptures their way.

As if a Bible verse or five is going to improve every situation. For every healing miracle there are a thousand examples where people simply bear up under the force of pain without such instant blessing. (And I certainly believe that God heals miraculously—just not in all cases. Why? We do not know. One day we will.)

For those who are caught up in a no man’s land, one that threatens their very sanity, we can only attest to the fact that there are better days sprinkled within the really bad ones. And like when we deal with someone who’s just lost a dear one, we just sit Shivah with them. Words and clichés are worse than silence. Acknowledgement is more important than encouragement. Recognition is all we can give. It’s enough.

Where Is God?

We know that God remained with Job throughout his entire journey; the same holds for us. It’s a fact we can grasp, but let the discussion end there, for it beckons a cliché otherwise and that would be reprehensible.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Acknowledgement:

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