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Dealing with the bad stuff

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Theme: Dealing with the bad stuff

Let us pray.

Most holy, Lord God, we are beset with so many trials and tribulations, some of our own doing, some through no fault of our own; help us in carrying these many burdens, lighten our load, and be a constant companion on our way, through the one who suffered for our own sakes, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Chapter 38 of Job is one of my favorite passages of the Bible. You were introduced to Job last Sunday. Job is one of the most famous people of the Bible and not just of the Bible. The story of Job has been found in other cultures of the Middle East. But none of those stories can rival the Biblical story. The Book of Job is one of the great literary works of western civilization. It is not taught in schools out of fear of lawsuits, but it can be taught in public schools if it is taught as literature.

Job was a very prosperous man. Satan bets God that there are no righteous human beings on earth. God counters that surely Job is righteous. But Satan asks permission to torment Job to prove that Job will curse God. (Remember that Satan literally means prosecutor in Hebrew.) Job’s children are killed. He loses his livestock and crops. And the topper is that Job is given a virulent skin disease. Job is culturally a leper and is therefore unclean.

In spite of Job’s uncleanliness and untouchableness, three of Job’s friends seek him out to offer comfort in Job’s affliction. Later a fourth friend shows up. I call them Job’s so-called friends. I say this because this is the kind of comfort they offer Job: “You are a sinner. This is why God has afflicted you.” Some comfort, being called a low life. Job replies over an over again that he has done nothing to deserve his misfortune. And the same argument goes around and around, chapter after chapter ... Both sides refuse to budge from their theological positions.

Finally Job has had enough. Job curses God for his plight. Job protests his innocence and that he has done nothing to deserve this fate. God is unfair.

What we hear this morning is part of God’s reply to Job’s accusations. God answers out of a storm [probably like last week’s storm]. God in this context is a storm God or a nature God. Basically God is asking Job, “Just who do you think you are? You ignorant little pup. You think you know so much? Just try to answer my questions.

“How did I create the earth? Obviously, you know who came up with the earth’s size. Do you know how the footings were pored?” (Remember people thought the world was flat in those days.) “Can you order the clouds to burst for rain?” (Now we have the technology do that.) “Will lightening bolts come down at your command?

“Did you give wisdom? Can you predict rain and floods?” (We can do that now, too, but it wasn’t possible at that time.) “Can you teach the lioness to hunt and feed her cubs? Are you the one who feeds ravens?”

Job’s answer is next week. But I think God as made very good points. Job and the rest of us can never hope to fathom the depths of God. How can we challenge God when we can’t even comprehend God? That is what God is telling Job. That is what God is telling us. We cannot wrap our minds around who God is and what God can or cannot do. Compared to God, we are rather insignificant.

Job’s friends offer the common thinking about suffering – that sinners are punished by God. I hear this same argument today. God does not confirm this theological view. God merely objects to anyone trying to put words and ideas in God’s mouth. We are not capable of talking for God. Job’s friends are also incompetent to speak for God.

Jesus reaffirm’s the divine opposition that God punishes sinners with afflictions in the story of the man born blind in John’s gospel. Then, as if to emphasize the point, Jesus dies for the sins of the whole world. We are united with God. God does not punish us for our sins.

What Job does show us is that even good people can have bad things happen to them. Conversely, bad people can prosper. So, where’s the justice? Jesus made it clear that there will be a judgment, if not in this life then in the next.

Job, more or less, sat in his afflictions. He did not seem to do anything but scrape his skin with a potsherd and defend himself to his so-called friends. But what can we do to get through grief and loss?

Allison Daily offers some suggestions. She had a brother who committed suicide. Her husband was driving with his first wife and their two sons when a boulder fell on their car killing everyone but him. Allison knows grief and loss.

Here are her nine suggestions: 1) Step Gently on the Road to Healing. The road to true healing is a tough one and there are no rules when it comes to healing your grief. The good news is that you can get to a place of peace, healing, and even happiness after you have lost a loved one.

2) Be Easy on Yourself. Give yourself a lot of space. Cry when you need to cry, laugh if you share a funny memory. Listen to your body and let your emotions take you where you are.

3) Communicate Your Needs. Let the people around you know what you need. If you want visitors, say visitors are okay; if not, post a note outside your door asking people to come back another time During times of loss, people are often at a loss of what to do for the one grieving. Know that you are most likely going to want different things each day—sometimes each hour, and that is okay; it’s part of the process.

4) Find Extra Help. A counselor you respect or feel comfortable with can be invaluable. He or she is your partner in grief. One of their jobs is to give you a safe place to just grieve, where no one expects or demands anything of you. A therapist can help you sift through the choices, and decide what’s right for you. There are also many support groups that meet the different needs of different kinds of loss. (Snowline Hospice offers free grieving groups.)

5) Give Your Heart a Break. Losing someone you love is the hardest thing to experience in the world. Grief needs to be distracted because it is so all-consuming. Check in with yourself, see what feels okay. Try new experiences.

6) Honor the Memory. It’s important to create a place in your life that allows you to fully express or share your love for the one you lost. Share or give away something that belonged to your loved one.

7) Rediscover Exercise. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get your body moving, and for those who don’t have an exercise routine, try something small even if it is a walk around the block. Movement of the body helps “unstick” your grief.

8) Read About It. It’s comforting to read about someone who understands what you are feeling. Read a book or article by people who had similar experiences. You don’t always have to read the entire book to be able to gather a few helpful ideas.

9) Celebrate the Life of Your Lost Loved One. It’s an important part of the grieving process to look back at the things that meant the most to the one who is gone and define what they were to you and to others. Whatever you choose, from the small and intimate, to the large and communal, the important thing is that it should represent a meaningful connection to the one you lost.

Bad stuff happens to good people and bad people. Loss is part of life. Grief is a process that is only defined by the one who grieves. No matter what it is that afflicts us, God is a constant companion on our way.

We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, give us the gift of strength to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, remind of us our special relationship with you, walk with us always, and weep with us when we weep, through the one who wept at the grave of his friend, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Text: Job 38:1-7, 34-41 (NRSV)

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2     “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

3     Gird up your loins like a man,

I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

5     Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

Or who stretched the line upon it?

6     On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

7     when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beingsa shouted for joy?

34     “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,

so that a flood of waters may cover you?

35     Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go

and say to you, ‘Here we are’?

36     Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,c

or given understanding to the mind?d

37     Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?

Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,

38     when the dust runs into a mass

and the clods cling together?

39     “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,

or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

40     when they crouch in their dens,

or lie in wait in their covert?

41     Who provides for the raven its prey,

when its young ones cry to God,

and wander about for lack of food? [1]


a  Heb sons of God

c  Meaning of Heb uncertain

d  Meaning of Heb uncertain

[1]  The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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