Friday, November 11, 2011

On Job, Suffering, and Empathy

Today I decided to tackle Job. I've been putting this particular book off since the beginning. It's never been an easy story for me to stomach, and honestly I get pretty angry with God at what he allows to happen. With this in mind, and all the baggage I carry around, before I even opened my Bible this morning I wrote out a prayer. It's now such a familiar prayer, I've asked so many times over the past few months, for eyes to see and ears to hear, that I might learn what God wants me to learn.

With my hand grasping tightly to God's, I dove right in.

First of all, I love this different format. A prologue and an epilogue? I haven't read those words in what seems like ages. And the setting for these epic conversations between God and the Accuser, with all of the angels standing by- I get so, so excited at any mention of angels. And Leviathan (in Job 3:8), too.

What strikes me the hardest this time around, is not Job's reaction to his suffering, but the reaction of his friends. I've always focused on Job, his righteousness, his faith, his constitution. But this time, I'm learning so much from his friends.

The first seven days of his suffering and mourning, they sit silently with him, participating in his pain. And how heroic! How wonderful! This is the kind of friend I think we all long for.

But then they open their mouths.

And I am so convicted, because I know I've done the same thing. I've been convinced I knew the whole situation, and that I had all the answers. I think of the Christian I used to be, so cocky yet pretending to be humble. I knew just what to say in every situation, and I wasn't afraid to put my two cents in- and then some.

That's the funny thing about suffering, though, isn't it? It gives you a whole new perspective; it teaches you empathy. I am so ashamed of the person I used to be. The selfish, self-centered, know-it-all, judgmental hypocrite. 

2007 was my year of suffering; but through it I experienced the greatest joy as well. I was trying to figure out how to live with vertigo, and seeing every specialist imaginable to find the cause of it. I met Eric, we made some questionable choices, and I got pregnant. My best friend and roommate kicked me out of our house, and our life-long friendship abruptly ended. I also lost my job, and my health insurance along with it. The church I'd grown up in turned its back on me, looking down their noses at me for not "making it right" and marrying Eric immediately, even though I didn't know him all that well yet. We decided to move in together, against the wishes of my church and my parents. Nothing was stable, nothing was solid; the only thing I held onto was that Jesus loves me, and that was enough.

It got better; life leveled out. A friend helped me get the life-saving job at Borders, I qualified for Medicaid and WIC, Eric turned out to be an absolute saint and my soul mate. While we did have some fights, my mom was always there for me. I found an amazing church, that welcomed me for who I am, not the choices I make. And Caleb, my sweet, amazing miracle, was born.

I learned a lot that year. (And continue to learn.) Empathy was the biggest lesson. Rather than looking down my nose at someone, I want to learn their story, who they are. I want everyone I come in contact with to know love, the love that Jesus has for me and everyone else.

I'm learning that it's okay to just sit in pain with a friend who's hurting, and keep my big mouth shut. Sometimes you just need someone to cry with, and that's okay. I don't need all the answers.

Painting above is "Duelo" by ReevolveR 


Jennifer said...

Beautiful, Lianne.

Jake and Megan said...

this was really inspirational lianne, thank you for sharing everything you did.

Stacy Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing this. What a wonderful story to be able to tell -- how you've found joy in suffering.

I know you're a reader, and I want to suggest a book that you might really like -- it has a lot to do with suffering and the beauty that comes from it. It's the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, and here's the link:

Thanks again for sharing your story. :)

This Mom's Heart said...

This is beautiful and convicting. Unfortunately, I think "Christians" do the most harm to each other, and it's because pride is such an easy trap to fall into. We all know best. I am so glad that God does not leave us where we are, but continues to refine us so that we more clearly reflect Him. I love how the Bible speaks to your heart differently each time you read it- it really is living and breathing, isn't it? :) It never fails to amaze me. Found you via the Thoughtful Thursday blog hop.


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