I have learned so much in this past year… mostly about suffering LOLZ, and you’d be astounded if I told you the events that’ve taken place. But I’ve learned what it truly looks like to walk with Jesus in the valley of all valleys. I’ve learned what lamenting is, and how to be thankful despite the fact that I receive seemingly terrible gifts (like the death of my dad) while my friends are receiving all of the gifts I’ve been begging for for years (like husbands and babies and whatnot). I’ve learned how to humble myself and accept whatever comes my way with a heart that says, “I am Your servant, do with me what You may.” But truthfully, one of the most valuable lessons so far has been about what it looks like to be a comfort to others in their time of need.
You see, this past year has held just as many miserable comforters as it has trials. My immediate family was all but abandoned when we were blindsided by a problem that none but one of us knew existed. The innocent members of my family were treated with the hostility that was only due the one guilty, even though our world was, too, turned upside down while we alone were left to clean up the mess that none of us had made. Not to mention that my best friend, the girl that I would’ve made my maid of honor had that day ever come, quite literally told me that my “situation was beyond help except for God and a counselor” and that I was on my own, effectively ending our friendship while I had already lost so much. So, believe me when I tell you that I know the hurt of walking through difficult seasons with miserable comforters.
And do you know who else knew this pain? A man named Job.
Job is equally my favorite and least favorite book of the Bible. It’s my least favorite because I loathe suffering. I would easily be the happiest woman on planet earth without pain… I do not thrive on drama, I do not like negative emotions, and sunshine is my primary love language. And therefore, an entire book of the Bible committed to the suffering of one of God’s most precious children is not where I want to spend all of my time. Give me Psalms, please. The ones filled with songs of God’s faithfulness and exchanging the sackcloth of mourning for joy and sparkly crowns, if you will.
But over this past year I have grown to love the book of Job. I have learned to see myself in the suffering and look to Job as an example of perseverance. I’ve become the best of buds with Job. He’s taught me how to walk through suffering with a faith that says, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” (Job 13:15). I’ve learned that I can speak my confusion to God and that in my suffering I will be refined like silver, simply because my sin will come to the surface and I will finally be able to see it to put it to death. But also, Job, too, had miserable comforters. One of his best friends accused his children of bringing their deaths on themselves. Another heaped shame on Job, claiming that Job must have done something wrong in order for God to allow all of the bad in his life. Another told Job that his outcries were annoying and then literally said that Job deserved even worse than all of the pain he had already lived through. Are you kidding me?!
And Lisa Harper says one of my favorite things about the book of Job pertaining to the main reasons we study the book of Job.
“We study the book of Job because dealing honestly, wisely, and compassionately with human pain is an integral part of the job description of a Jesus follower… To love well is to comfort well. It isn’t an option, it is a calling.”Lisa Harper
Wow. So true.
And let me tell you why this is so important: in the hardest year of my life, the worst moments were spent in the wake of miserable comforters, and the best moments, moments that encouraged me and moments I will treasure for the rest of my life, were spent in the arms of (or on the phone with) amazing comforters.
I will never ever forget my best friend that stayed up talking with me til’ midnight the night my dad was found dead. I will never forget my other best friend that drove hours just to hold my hand at his funeral. I will never forget my other best friend that cleaned my apartment, filled my fridge and freezer with food because she knew I would be too sad to grocery shop or cook (or eat lolz), and left flowers and a card on my kitchen table. And I won’t forget the countless friends that sat with me, cried with me, listened to me, fed me food and free lattes, and reminded me where my help comes from.
This is important because when we learn to comfort well, when we learn to sit with our friends in their pain instead of fixing them or abandoning them, we are the hands and feet (really more like the arms and hugs) of Jesus to His mourning and suffering children. Jesus says that we will know His disciples by the love they have for one another, and that includes being the type of man or woman that sticks like glue even when friends are walking through seasons where they are less fun, less encouraging, less happy, and have less to offer.
Let me insert here a lil nugget of food for thought: if you have been a miserable comforter in the past (read: if you have abandoned a friend in their time of need or dealt with their pain in a way that increased their pain instead of being soothing salve on their broken heart), there is grace for you. We are not going to do this perfectly, but I would encourage you to sit at the feet of Jesus and truly repent. I would encourage you to pray for wisdom for how to be a better comforter, because our God loves to give us wisdom when we ask. And I would encourage you to ask forgiveness from the friend that you hurt, in a way that takes responsibility for your actions and offers the salve that you were called to give them in the first place (read: not excuses or defenses or justifications). I can guarantee you that Jesus never left them and offered them the compassion and grace they needed, but there is too much beauty and blessing in reconciliation to ignore the call to live at peace (as far as it depends on you) with everyone. And if you ask for forgiveness and they don’t give it to you, that’s on them. You are called to obedience, not to change hearts… only Jesus can do that.
And to my sisters (and brothers) that are also in seasons of hurt or loss, I want to encourage you that you are not alone. I am with you and Jesus is with you. I am confused, too. I am hurting, too. But we rejoice in this, that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18), and that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness and eventually the crown of life promised to those who love Him (James 1:2,12). There is hope for us yet!!! And until glory comes, we can walk through our suffering repeating the words of our brother Job before us: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” (Job 1:20).
All my love,