What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said
I wish I was never born.
I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.
My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.
Illness And A Crushed Spirit
Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)
Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.
It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.
And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said things, depressing negative things. Things he thought he would never say. He said he wished he were dead. He said he wished God would kill him. He said he wished he were never born. He said God was against him.
“The body and soul live so close together that they catch each other’s diseases,” C. S. Lewis said.
Job’s spirit was crushed: because of his disease.
What Job Did When Illness Crushed His Spirit
What Job did, when he found his spirit crushed by his disease, and other tragedies, was to completely abandon himself to God. He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) As bad as it is, Job said, whatever God decides to allow in my life, even if He decides to slay me, I’ll trust Him. When the disease came he trusted God, with as much abandon as he could muster.
And he also hoped. He hoped in God. As bad as it was, he held out hope. He said, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25) Job saw God as his redeemer. Job saw God as the solution to his illness. God was where his hope rested.
Where Can I Find Trust And Hope In God?
I’m sure it wasn’t easy but in the midst of his illness Job found a way to hope and trust in God. Here you’ll find three things to help you hope and trust in God.
1) God’s ways are higher.
If you really think about it, it doesn’t make sense that God would always make sense, to us. It doesn’t make sense that we mere mortals would always be able to make sense of what God does in our lives. Oresto, the four year old boy in the photo at the top of this post, survived the earthquake in Haiti, in part, because his hand was amputated. This photo was taken the day after the surgery. Look at Oresto’s face. What do you think? Does Oresto understand why his hand had to be amputated?
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God asks Job and his friends. Who created the oceans? Who created the multiplied trillions of snowflakes, every one of which is unique? Who created hail? Who created lightning? Who created rain? Who makes seeds sprout? Who created the animals of the ocean, earth, and sky: whales, and lions, and raptors? Who created the constellations in outer space? Who created the billion plus galaxies? Who made the “dying star throw its cosmic tantrum” called the Helix Nebula? (see Job chapters 38-41, CalTech.edu: No two snowflakes alike, nasa.gov: Helix Nebula)
Just as four year old Oresto doesn’t understand everything his surgeon does, we have to realize, this side of heaven, we’re never going to understand everything about a God like that. After all, at least Oresto and his surgeon are both human. The gap between the God who created the universe and all that’s in it, and you and I, is infinitely greater than the gap between a child and a surgeon. God knows best, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.
Job understood this to some degree, even before God addressed him directly. He spoke about it in Job 12:13-25.
2) God Told Us Everything Is For Our Good
God tells us He’s for us, and that He uses everything for our good. One of the most well known verses where we see this is in Romans 8:28.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
But we also see it in the lives of God’s men and women in the Bible. The life of Joseph is one of the best examples. We see him betrayed by his family, then betrayed by his master’s wife, then tossed into a dungeon and forgotten. But God used all of it to save multiplied thousands from starvation. (Genesis chapters 37-50)
God told us he uses everything for our good, even our illnesses and injuries. And He gives us examples in His scriptures. We can rest in those words and examples. We can hope in those words and examples. And we can trust in those words and examples.
3) God Proved His Love For Us
Finally, we can know with complete certainty that God loves us. We know because He gave up His own son to provide a way for you and I to live with Him in heaven. His son Jesus did nothing but good while he was here. Like Job he liked to rescue the weak from the wicked. But because he was greater than Job, he healed people, he fed multitudes, he revealed God to people. He loved people, and for awhile, the people loved him. Jesus was nothing but good, yet the religious authorities hated him because he won over the hearts of the people. His close friend betrayed him. He was mocked by the authorities and ultimately rejected by men. He was beaten and scourged to the point where his back looked like hamburger. And then he was nailed to a cross, where he died, for you, and for me.
I could never do that. I could never give up one of my sons, to go through that. Not for your life or for anyone else’s.
But God did.
So we know. We know without a doubt that He loves us. If He did that for us, we can endure illness for Him, knowing that He’ll only do what’s best for us, even if it costs Him His only son.
And even if we don’t understand it.
CalTech.edu, No two snowflakes alike
Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)
Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012
Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014
Steve Mays, Overwhelmed by God, Regal Books, 2014
Image via Save the Children – Creative Commons
At least one scientist says, that among the smaller crystals, some snowflakes may be the same. (see livescience.com, Maybe Two Snowflakes are Alike) But even this guy says “It is probably safe to say that the possible number of snow crystal shapes exceeds the estimated number of atoms in the known universe.”