Weathering a Storm of Suffering

Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
“If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
    But who can keep from speaking?
Think how you have instructed many,
    how you have strengthened feeble hands.
Your words have supported those who stumbled;
    you have strengthened faltering knees.
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
    it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
Should not your piety be your confidence
    and your blameless ways your hope?
“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
    Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
    and those who sow trouble reap it.
At the breath of God they perish;
    at the blast of his anger they are no more.
The lions may roar and growl,
    yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
The lion perishes for lack of prey,
    and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

  • Job 4:1-11

Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
“How long will you say such things?
    Your words are a blustering wind.
Does God pervert justice?
    Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
When your children sinned against him,
    he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
But if you will seek God earnestly
    and plead with the Almighty,
if you are pure and upright,
    even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
    and restore you to your prosperous state.
Your beginnings will seem humble,
    so prosperous will your future be.

  • Job 8:1-7

Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
“Are all these words to go unanswered?
    Is this talker to be vindicated?
Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?
    Will no one rebuke you when you mock?
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
    and I am pure in your sight.’
Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
    that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
    for true wisdom has two sides.
    Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

  • Job 11:1-6

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  • Psalm 103:8-12

I am sure that you recognized what is going on if you have read the Bible.  Job is an exemplary person.  God tells Satan that Satan should be unable to find anything wrong with Job.  Then God allows Satan to strip Job of his wealth and his children.  Then when Job did not curse God, God allowed Satan to ravage Job’s body.  Job is destitute and in horrible pain.  Job’s wife wishes for Job to curse God and die, just to get the suffering over with.  Then Job’s three “friends” show up, a fourth would follow.  Job claims innocence and each of Job’s friends use the same arguments that are prevalent today.  “God protects the pure in heart.  He did not protect you.  Thus, you have sin in your life.”

But if we are to believe king David, the psalmist who wrote Psalm 103, then God has removed our sin as far as east is from west, to infinity, then God would not punish us for sins that He no longer remembers.

So, when the little irritating problem occurs and then another problem is added to it and then another and another, what are we to think?  Do we take the advice of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and get on our knees and beg God for forgiveness?  To be honest that is not a bad idea, but God has already forgiven those sins, although it is humbling to realize that we are not yet perfect.  Confession is required, but as a matter of course.  It is not what is going on here.

Why did Satan choose Job?  Actually, God suggested Job, but Satan wholeheartedly went for the challenge.

Job was a fine witness within his community of what it is like to follow a loving God.  But the “world” is just like Satan, Job has faith because Job has no reason to doubt.  Job has all the wealth anyone could hope for.  Job has so many children that his family line is assured for generations to come, and the wealth enough to spread around.  Job has great health.  Job can rely solely upon his earthly blessings and not upon God at all.

But then comes the test, and Job might grumble; Job might ask questions; but Job stays faithful to God.

At the end of the test, after God straightens out a few of Job’s misconceptions, God restores Job’s former lifestyle, as Scripture says, greater than before.  He has seven sons and three daughters, and oddly the only names we learn from Job 42 are the three daughters.  I could have just as easily entitled this essay as “Awaiting Jemima.”  Jemimah is the first of the daughters mentioned, but we are not promised earthly blessings.  Our Jemima may be awaiting us in Heaven.

But let us get back to the question of why did Satan attack Job?  Because Job’s faith was strong.  It was a challenge.  If he could turn Job or even weaken Job’s testimony, then he had won.

If Satan attacked someone that had no faith at all, that person might seek God during the first bit of a setback in their lives.  Satan would never take that chance.

If Satan attacked someone who had weak faith or someone who had never grown as a Christian, they might fold like a venetian blind or a bad poker player with lousy cards.  I would love to say “fold like a road map,” but half the readers might ask, “What is a road map?” and the other half would ask, “How on earth can you fold one of those things after you got it unfolded?”  So, fill in the blank, fold like ____ with something that easily folds with hardly any effort at all.

The point is Satan has already attacked those with weak faith and those who have not grown as Christians.  That is why they have weak faith, and they refuse to grow.  They are already defeated.  Still saved, just of no threat to Satan.

Satan does not know the future, but he sees potential.  Satan attacks those who scare him.

So, if you feel that you are on the right path, the one God chose for you and you feel like you are in a heavyweight fight with the “greatest of all time” (sorry for using the moniker, Mohammed Ali), you may have wanted to curl into a ball due to the body blows hours ago, even though the fight doesn’t last that long.  You may look in a mirror between rounds and you can hardly see anything, because the blows to the face have blood streaming everywhere and your eyes have nearly swollen shut.

Okay, enough of the metaphor.  I am even getting squeamish.  You have been attacked on all sides and you have no idea why.  You did nothing to deserve this.  Sure, we have all sinned, but you know that your sins are forgiven.  You have spent hours in prayer, and you know you are on the track God has placed you on.  So, why?

You just answered your question.  You spent time in prayer and Bible study, and you felt confident in following God’s lead.  That gets Satan worried.  That does not mean that you are about to become the next Billy Graham, but it does not rule that our either.

Recently, I had a series of nights with poor sleep.  When I do not get adequate sleep over several days, my mind wanders in the wrong direction and the seven deadly sins start competing to see which will take over.  And in my fatigue, I go along for the ride and watch the competition.

Did Satan win my soul?  No, I am forever saved, but for that moment I was not the sterling example of the model Christian, maybe in body, but my mind was a mess.

I do not know, but the lack of sleep may have stemmed from a variety of short range and long range plans that are not making much progress.  Okay, one was completed before I started writing this, but yesterday might have been the closest I have ever come to a panic attack.  God grabbed me hard and said something along the lines of “Quit pacing and start writing.  You are wasting time.”  I don’t remember those words, but that was the thought that overpowered my anxiety.  God had calmed me down.

What had been happening yesterday?  A truck was supposed to pick up our car and take it from Pittsburgh, PA to Memphis, TN, about 850 miles or so.  And to make that worse, my wife was flying back from a wedding in Houston, TX.  The day started with fog in Houston and an air traffic controller who came down with COVID and they were short-handed, not confirmed, so allegedly.  Her flight to Atlanta was cancelled.  They placed her on a flight to Fort Lauderdale, FL, (FLL) and that flight was delayed nearly four hours.  In the meantime, nothing from the car hauling truck.  By this time, my wife took off from Houston (HOU) and she turned off her phone, a phone that would remain off for the next four hours.  It was a two-hour flight to FLL.  Her connecting flight was scheduled to leave FLL only a few minutes after she took off from HOU.  When her plane landed in FLL, I called her every ten minutes for an hour and a half.  Then I called the FLL airport to ask if she had gotten on a plane and had simply forgotten to call me.  Of course, they are not allowed to divulge such information.  I went from the person answering the phone at the airport to the airline person answering the phone to their supervisor to the next supervisor trying to find someone who could bend the rule a little to help me breathe.  She has kidney failure, needing dialysis, and when she stresses, her early onset of some form of dementia can cause her to make bad decisions, like wander away from the airport, looking for her husband who is hundreds of miles away near a different airport.  The supervisors loved my story, but they never budged.  I had already given them enough information for them to know that she was okay, but they stuck to their rules and refused to tell me anything even in code.

In the meantime, my wife was the princess of the airlines, the airlines that refused to tell me anything.  I had encouraged her to tell the ground crew in HOU that she had to get to Pittsburgh for kidney dialysis.  The ground crew already knew that her connecting flight was delayed, but they sent word to FLL to give my wife the royal treatment and guarantee her connection.  On previous flights, she had to tell the flight attendant that her wheelchair had not arrived.  On this case, the wheelchair took her off the airplane first before anyone else deplaned and wheeled her to an awaiting airplane.  She was not allowed to call me.  They had held the plane on the ground for as long as the rules would allow them to hold it, so that she could return to Pittsburgh for dialysis.  When she was wheeled onto the airplane, she had over 170 passengers giving a sigh of relief that they could finally take off.  A gentleman offered her the aisle seat and took the middle seat that had awaited her.

I knew none of this.  She and I called at the same time, roughly four hours after she was scheduled to arrive.  Cellphones are weird.  If you call at the same time, neither phone rings.  You just start talking.  She waited.  I saw the clock say that the phone call was 5, 6, 7 seconds into the call, so I weakly asked, “H-h-h-ello?”  And she replied, “It took you long enough to answer the phone!”  I asked where she was.  She said the airport.  I asked which airport.  She said “Pittsburgh, silly.  I am in baggage claim.  Come get me!”

I nearly died from high blood pressure because I did not know what was going on.  My wife fretted that she could not let me know and she wondered if this was really happening or if her luggage made it.  God had her where He wanted her and she, and the luggage, made it home.

We think, “You poor dear.  That was a harrowing experience.  What sin in your life are you paying for?”  They might ask my wife the same question.

But God had everything well in hand.  My wife got scared, but she was treated like a princess.  Her mother claimed to be part Bali Princess (the island of Bali in Indonesia).  Maybe she was not telling a tall tale.  She definitely got the princess treatment. I was frightened out of my mind and feeling guilt for not having gone with her.

But, after God had gotten my attention to have me write something instead of worrying, I came to realize what had been going on for weeks.  Satan was attacking to weaken the quality of my writing, and maybe to avoid this subject.  We can stumble.  We can fall.  But God still has us in the palm of His hand, even when the storm of suffering is raging.

As for the car hauler, our car finally arrived after cancelling one contract and the next contract was only filled after subcontracting to another hauler, three weeks after it should have been shipped. And my tale of woe about that will come shortly.

God is good, all the time, even in the worst storm you have ever faced.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

4 Comments

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  1. I think secretly deep down— she enjoys pushing your buttons — dialysis, memory loss and frailty aside— she’s finding the positive joy in the struggles!!!! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not sure. As the oldest daughter with nine children, she was taught to not complain and never be a burden on others. She is an empathic person in that she recognizes other people’s pain. She cannot magically make the pain go away, but she feels it. My wife has struggled with whether she wants to continue fighting, because she will continue to be more and more of a burden. But as for the suffering, I do not think she minds that so much. She is just frustrated that she is not doing it in a manner that avoids burdening others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I was almost out of breath reading the story.
    Love good endings 😃

    Liked by 1 person

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