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Notes on Suffering From Job, By Chambers & Peterson

Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.
-Job 1:20-22

This is a follow-up on why we can not and should not try to fix people.  (You Can't Fix People)  There is a whole book on this in the Bible, called Job.  It is the story of a good guy who had bad things happen to him.

Here are notes and quotes, full of sage advice and Christ centered wisdom about how to approach suffering, from first Oswald Chambers, then Eugene Peterson.

These are some notes or quotes from Oswald Chambers book on Job called, Baffled To Fight Better.
  • The sympathy which is reverent with what it cannot understand is worth its weight in gold.
  • It is not what a man does that is of final importance, but what he is in what he does. The atmosphere produced by a man, much more than his activities, has the lasting influence.
  • (A) man may utter apparently blasphemous things against God and we say, “How appalling”; but if we look further we find that the man is in pain, he is maddened and hurt by something. The mood he is talking in is a passing one and out of his suffering will come a totally different relationship to things. Remember, that in the end God said that the friends had not spoken the truth about Him, while Job had. 
  • All we can know about God is that His character is what Jesus Christ has manifested; and all we know about our fellow men presents an enigma which precludes the possibility of the final judgment being with us.
  • The pseudo-evangelical line is that you must be on the watch all the time and lose no opportunity of speaking to people, and this attitude is apt to produce the superior person. It may be a noble enough point of view, but it produces the wrong kind of character. It does not produce a disciple of Jesus, but too often it produces the kind of person who smells of gunpowder and people are afraid of meeting him. According to Jesus Christ, what we have to do is to watch the source and He will look after the outflow: "He that believeth on me,...out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).
  • There are things in our heavenly Father's dealings with us which have no immediate explanation.
  • There are inexplicable providences which test us to the limit and prove that rationalism is a mere mental pose. 
  •  The Bible and our common sense agree that the basis of human life is tragic, not rational, and the whole problem for us is focused on this (in the) book of Job. 
  •  Job 13:15 is the utterance of a man who has lost his explicit hold on God, but not his implicit hold, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him." That is the last reach of the faith of a man. 
  •  Job's creed is all gone; all he believed about God is disproved by his own experiences, and his friends when they come, say in effect, "You are a hypocrite, we can prove it from your own creed."
    • But Job sticks to it, "I am not a hypocrite, I do not know what accounts for all that has happened, but I will hold on to it that God is just and I shall see Him vindicated in it all."
  • God never makes His way clear to Job. Job struggles with problem after problem, and providence brings more problems all the time, and in the end Job says, "...now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5): all he had hung onto in the darkness was true, and that God was all he believed Him to be, loving and just, and honorable...
  • Will I trust the revelation given of God by Jesus Christ when everything in my personal experience flatly contradicts it?"


These are notes from Eugene Peterson's book, The Message: Job: Led by Suffering to the Heart of God.

  • Job was doing everything right when suddenly everything went wrong.
  • He refuses to accept the role of defeated victim.
  • Job does not curse God.
  • Neither does Job explain suffering.
  • He does not instruct us how to live so that we can avoid suffering.
  • Suffering is a mystery, and Job comes to respect the mystery.
  • Perhaps the greatest mystery in suffering is how it can bring a person into the presence of God in a state of worship, full of wonder, love, and praise.
  • Even in his answer to his wife he speaks the language of uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth: "We take the good days from God- why not also take the bad days?"
  • Sufferers attract fixers the way road-kills attract vultures.
    • These people use the word of God frequently and loosely.  
    • They are full of spiritual diagnosis and prescription.
    • It all sounds so hopeful.
    • But then we begin to wonder, "Why is it that for all their apparent compassion we feel worse instead of better after they have said their piece?"
  • The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God's presence in our suffering but it is also our primary biblical protest against religion that is reduced to explanations or "answers".
  • Many of the answers that Job's so-called friends give him are technically true.
    • But it is the "technical" part that ruins them.  They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy.
  • In every generation there are men and women who pretend to be able to instruct us in a way of life that guarantees that we will be "healthy, wealthy, and wise."
  • He (Job) rejects the kind of advice and teaching that has God all figured out, that provides glib explanations for every circumstance.
  • Job's honest defiance continues to be the best defense against the cliches of positive thinkers and the prattle of religious small talk.
  • Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandized in success stories.  It is refined in the fires and storms of pain.
  • We cannot have truth about God divorced from the mind and heart of God.
  • When we rush in to fix suffering (people), we need to keep in mind several things:
    • 1.  No matter how insightful we may be, we don't really understand the full nature of our friends' problems. 
    • 2.  Our friends might not want our advice.
    • 3.  The ironic fact of the matter is that more often than not, people do not suffer less when they are committed to following God, but more.
  • When these people go through suffering, their lives are often transformed, deepened, marked with beauty and holiness, in remarkable ways that could never have been anticipated before the suffering.
  • Instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering... we should begin entering the suffering.
    • Entering the mystery and looking around for God.
  • We need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them, and if they will let us- join them in protest and prayer.
  • Pity can be nearsighted and condescending.
  • Shared suffering can be dignifying and life-changing.

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