This week’s lesson is entitled “This Can’t Be Happening.”
Very appropriate, as this was my reaction for quite some time in the beginning.
Three things I’d like to highlight this morning; the first is. . . I ♥ Job. Right now, after dinner most nights, The Bull pulls out the Bible and reads a chapter or two from Job. (Most are pretty short chapters.) What I love about him is that he has gone through great pain and horrible, unimaginable losses. He hurts, physically and emotionally; and yet he still holds on to the LORD.
Several years ago (uh, like 12? how did that happen?) I read through the book of Job for the first time during the wintertime. In Alaska. When it is cold and dark for almost half the year. I found it to be depressing and definitely not one of my favorite books. It was not a good winter.
This time as we are going through the book, I am finding it very different. It’s wintertime again. (It’s snowing right now, big puffy flakes, as I am typing this!! I love it!) But this time I’m not alone and reading through this book.
I understand Job so much right now, having recently miscarried (in October; at 16 weeks; this would have been our baby’s birth month, for those who are new to my story.)
I wish I’d had the time to read the whole book this past week. We are in the middle of the book in our family reading. So far, Job has lost all his oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels; also all of his children: seven sons and three daughters. He has sores over his entire body. His wife has despaired, maybe thinking that their losses (because, you know, she has lost her wealth and children too. . . and I don’t imagine that watching your husband in physical agony is much fun either!) are evidence that God has abandoned them?
Job is grieving and his three friends try to convince him that his losses have resulted from sin in his life; if he would only repent of his sin, the pain would go away. (Except that we know that’s not true; from reading chapters 1 and 2 we get a good sense of why all this happened to Job.)
They started out well, mind you; they sat with Job in the dirt for a full week, silently sitting with him in the midst of his overwhelming grief. But when they opened their mouths. . . well, that’s when we get in trouble, isn’t it? (Yes it is. I know this one.)
Job started out sharing his pain with his friends, expressing his pain. Before long he has to try to reason with them and convince them that even godly people have pain in their lives. Some of the things Job says as he shares his grief are just amazing. I really, really “get” it right now. The pain in his words is horrifying:
- Chapter 3: I wish I’d never been born; I wish I were dead; “why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:16 NIV) –oh dear LORD, that is my child, my Shelomith.
- Chapter 6: If only my grief could be weighed; it would be heavier than the sand of the sea (Job 6:1-2)
- Chapter 10: I despise my very life; therefore I will complain and share the bitterness of my heart (Job 10:1)
And yet, he has such amazing faith and hope, too:
- Chapter 1: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21-22 KJV)
- Chapter 2, in response to his wife’s suggestion to curse God and die: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10 NIV) (I imagine him saying this gently as he holds her, as best as he can with the sores I mean, while they weep together.) (I guess I have a good imagination.) (Do you ever wonder why somebody doesn’t do a movie of the story of Job? It’s not as glamorous as Moses leading the people through the Red Sea, or Esther going before the king. But still. . .)
- Chapter 13: Though He slay me, I will still trust Him. I will defend myself to Him and this will be for my deliverance, since ungodly men do not dare to go before Him. (Job 13:15-16)
- Chapter 19, one of my all time favorites: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27 NIV)
In the end, God shows up and speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and rebukes him (chapters 38-21.) I don’t understand why God chastises him. What has Job done wrong? Maybe I will understand better once we’ve read the whole book? I guess Job gets proud of his knowledge?
(Of course, I think it’s great that while God rebuked Job, He was angry with three of Job’s friends who had not talked truthfully of the LORD, as Job had.) (Job 42:7)
And in the end, God blessed Job again with twice the possessions he had before he was afflicted. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more beautiful daughters. (Job 42:10 and 12.) Verse 11 says that everyone came near to comfort and bless Job.
All’s well that ends well, I guess? He lost a bunch; he gained a bunch. Of course, replacing sheep and donkeys is much easier than replacing sons and daughters. I’m not really comfortable with the pat ending of the book. I wonder if he always thought about the children who had died, even after having more children. (And I wonder if his wife was the one who bore to him the “new” ten children.)
Anyway. . .there I go again with the questions we can’t answer. 🙂
The second major part of this chapter (for me) is of denial. I know a little about this one. On the day that I miscarried, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. with what I thought were gas pains. I assumed that the chili I’d eaten the day before was returning to haunt me. Except that the pain would not go away, not even a little bit. I wondered briefly if something might be wrong with the baby, but I quickly dismissed this thought. I’d never had any problems before, after all. It happens to others but not to me, right? 😦
I tossed and turned in bed for almost a half hour, trying to get comfortable; then, afraid I’d wake up The Bull, I gave up and went to sit at the computer for a few minutes. Then I went to the bathroom, thinking that it would help. It was then that my water broke, but I was still convinced that it was really bad diarrhea. When the baby came out, I could no longer deny that something was wrong.
And for a day or three, I felt like I was walking in a dream. (I remember sitting there holding my baby, The Bull sitting next to me, and my midwife sitting across from us, asking her, “Is this really happening?”) After several days I realized that this was no dream, this was actually happening. By then we had seen our baby; our sons had seen our baby (we did not think our two year old would understand what she was seeing); the children each got to hold him wrapped in the afghan I had knitted for him; we had buried him and planted a tree in his memory. I had lost a lot of blood and was physically dizzy and weak (that lasted almost three weeks.) We had made many phone calls and sent lots of emails to tell family and friends that I had miscarried. Our senses were flooded with this reality.
And yet, after all that, later that week as I laid down, I pushed on my abdomen to see if maybe, just maybe, there was still a baby in there. There wasn’t, of course. I think that was when I really accepted that our baby was gone, that I was no longer pregnant with my fourth child.
There were many, many small losses. Not joining the “four club,” as a dear friend had called it. Putting away maternity and baby clothes. Seeing our three children so gentle and loving with a friend’s new baby later that month–knowing that they would have been great big siblings but now are not going to have a chance. (Especially the youngest; a month before I miscarried she was very clingy, wanted to be babied, wouldn’t let me hold anybody but her. I wondered how she would accept a new baby in the family. She grew out of that stage and now I know she’d have been a wonderful big sister.)
The hardest part, I guess, is remembering how much I complained!! Man oh man!! I don’t think I really enjoyed his pregnancy much at all, the nausea and exhaustion lasted for almost two months. Instead of considering the joy of a new life and the wonder of a new little person being knit inside of me, I complained. I don’t think I really enjoyed him or loved him.
One last thing from this study: Romans 8:28. I memorized this verse just three months before my first husband died and it carried me through that dark time. Well, a couple of years ago I realized that this verse is only part of the wonderful promise. Verses 29 and 30 go with it. (And the rest of the chapter is awesome, too, with the promise that nothing can separate us from His love.)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
This isn’t just a “pie in the sky” someday type of promise, this is a right now, here and now promise. God works all our things for our benefit. He uses the hard and painful things in our lives to make us more into the likeness of His Son. And that’s just scratching the surface!
Next week: “Why Me?”