He began pouring out his heart to us. His life had consisted of more horror, abuse, and rejection than many of us can even imagine. He then also began sharing about some of the crimes he’d committed…he had never told anyone else about them because he was afraid he wouldn’t be accepted or even liked anymore…
She had tears streaming down her face as she shared some of the struggles her family has been going through. The pain and loss has been extremely difficult, but that’s really not what’s been the hardest part of her journey. The most painful part has come from fellow church members…
A friend of mine has been struggling with chronic health conditions that have been hard to diagnose and find answers for. Since her condition isn’t an obvious handicap, she’s had to face misunderstandings that often come with these circumstances. Some of her greatest hurts have come from those who should’ve been her greatest comforters.
I recently wrote a blog on “When the Church Wounds Its Own.” In it, I talked about what our response should be when we are hurt by someone within the church. So, this week, I want to talk about the correct way for those in the church to respond in order to help those who are wounded.
Recently, as I’ve been reflecting on the book of Job, I’ve seen a similarity between Job’s “friends” and some within the church today. I’ve also been able to see that, as Job’s friends, we may have excellent intentions, but sometimes we end up hurting rather than helping those who are going through difficult times. Especially when their trials, struggles, or health conditions seem to continue with no end in sight. When we can’t CORRECT their problems we often begin CONDEMNING them instead.
In the earlier part of Job’s loss and devastation, his three friends were sympathetic and great comforters, but they didn’t stay that way for long. In fact, we can learn a valuable lesson from them as we see they were the greatest encouragement and biggest help when they were simply there for him rather than trying to fix things. Like Job’s friends, we need to see that we are better comforters when we learn how to keep our mouths shut rather than criticizing.
You probably remember the story of how Job’s friends began blaming Job for his losses. (Job 22:4-11) “Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment? Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it. Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee; Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.”
In these verses we can see what Job’s friends thought about his situation. They were saying that Job surely must have some hidden sin or he didn’t do something right in order for God to allow Job to face these terrible losses.
Doesn’t this sound familiar? This seems to be the natural tendencies we also have today, doesn’t it?
In our minds, we want to believe that if we obey God, we will receive His blessing and bad things won’t happen to us. We seem to think that pain and loss is the result of disobedience, and that God’s protection from bad things is our reward for obedience.
When devastation comes, or when healing doesn’t happen, we are prone to believe that there must be a spiritual problem in that person’s life. No other option agrees with our (wrong) theology. My friend, as we can see in Job’s life, this isn’t always the case. Our obedience + God’s fairness does not always equal God’s protection.
Let’s get this straight. You can be serving and following the Lord 100% with no known sin in your life, yet suddenly encounter a terrible loss and tragedy. You can also be living a sinful life or even commit crimes, yet, all your business deals work out, your plans succeed, and nothing bad comes your way. God says,“…That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45) If we recognize that the ungodly man can prosper, why do we have a hard time accepting that a godly man can also face extreme losses without it pointing to a sin issue in his life?
If you ever face a life-changing loss and extremely difficult situation, how would you like for your friends, family, and church family to treat you? Would it be painful for you if they treated you like Job’s friends did; trying to find the reason for your pain? Would you rather have them criticize your wrongs or care for your hurting heart? Which approach would be the most likely to draw you towards Jesus?
I wish every churchgoer could be fully aware of the tendency that we have to wound each other. We want our churches to be a safe haven for the vulnerable, wounded, and hurting, not a place of “backbiters,” criticizers, and rebukers.
In response to what Job’s friends said about him, this is what GOD said about them: “And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath…” (Job 42:7)
Throughout the book of Job, we can see that Job was living for God when he experienced his tremendous tragedies. Job 1: 8 says, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Now let me ask you…if God allowed His servant Job to face what he did, don’t you think there could be other “blameless” individuals who are going through tough times today?
In saying all of this, I also do recognize and believe that there are many things caused in our lives as a result of our wrong choices and sins. And it’s important that we deal with our sins. However, I believe we’ve become out of balance in our churches and are better at judging than comforting.
Let’s keep that in mind when we see others facing pain and loss. Instead of trying to “help” identify the sin that is supposedly causing this, let’s focus on sharing their burdens and caring for their hurting hearts. We are all on the same team. We should be each others biggest encourager! This is how the church should handle its wounded.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)