Saturday, October 24, 2015

Miserable Comforters - Don't Be One

Job's three friends became miserable comforters.

"I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are!
Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?
What makes you keep on talking?" Job 16:2[NLT]

Job's friends knew him, yet at the point of his greatest need in attempting to comfort him, their words became like swords that inflicted severe lacerations. After the first round when Job heard their arguments, but did not agree with them they became more vitriolic. It was almost as if they were upset that he still maintained his integrity - it was no longer about Job but about them.

First they wondered if he did something that would cause all of this calamity to fall on him. Remember Job was a righteous man - God and the Devil knew it, so the answer to their query was Job did nothing wrong. Job was not afraid to speak up in his defense; he knew he was a righteous man, but he questioned God because the degree of his suffering was incomprehensible to him.

Because Job never veered from his convictions - his friends went in harder. They called him names and accused him of many things (Job 15-21). They called him:

  • Wicked
  • A Windbag
  • Pious
  • Proud
  • Stupid
  • A sinner
  • A maggot
  • A worm

In spite of these harsh words Job continued to stand up for himself and was never cowed by his friend's words. A weaker person than Job may have taken some of these friends words to heart.

In chapter 16:2 he calls them miserable comforters and after the final round of speeches from his friends he wonders what has gotten in to them: "Where have you gotten all these wise sayings? Whose spirit speaks through you?" Job 26:4[NLT] (Go Job!!!)

All of Job's trials including the words of his friends were meant to make him turn his back on God, but Job was a man of integrity and stood his ground. In spite of his grief and his downed spirit he knew his friends were wrong, unkind and not very encouraging.

Sometimes when we are going through things, the very people that we think will comfort us with their words, don't. Sometimes pride gets in the way and the comforter can no longer empathize. Sometimes even without pride, it's hard to walk in another's shoes and really feel what they are feeling.  Sometimes we think our advice is so good we wonder why our hurting friend rejects it. Perhaps the time wasn't right - they just needed you to be there. They needed the gift of your presence, not the presence of your voice. Perhaps you were a miserable comforter to a hurting friend or you were the recipient of words that wounded more than helped. Let's learn from Job's friends - let's watch our words as we attempt to comfort our friends. Let's speak less and listen more. Let's be slow to rush to judgement.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9 [NLT]

What can you learn from Job's friends during his greatest need?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Potty Training

Potty training made me realize that parenting was going to be a bit more complicated than I anticipated.

Before I had children, I determined that they would be well behaved and obedient; they would have good manners, excel in school and be all around good children, all because this is what I wanted.

And then I had children.

Potty training the first child - my son, was a bit of an adventure. Everyone said boys are harder than girls so I anticipated some difficulty. It was a Saturday and I placed him in underpants. I told him when he had to use the bathroom to go to the potty or to let me know when he had to go;  at this point in time I don't remember. What I do remember was him not understanding initially, so when he had to go, he stood right where he was and made a puddle.  I remember spanking him on the butt and telling him the next time he has to go, go to the bathroom. Well that spank worked, and by the end of the day he had the hang of it and there were no more accidents. Soon he was potty trained.

Looking back- I realized that this child wanted to please.

Then came my first daughter. Potty training her was a non-event. It was time to be a big girl, and a big girl she became. I don't remember any accidents or protracted discussions.

Looking back - I realized this child was efficient.

So by now when the third child comes along I figure I'm a pro at potty training. I've potty trained two children and we're still standing. I approach potty training this child, a girl, with confidence, which I would soon learn was misplaced. I did everything I did with the first two but nothing worked; absolutely nothing. This child was content to wallow around in her filth even though she knew it was time to be a big girl. I remember giving up and saying to myself, "I've never seen an 18 year old in diapers, so I'm sure we'll eventually figure this out." What saved me was her preschool teacher; basically she had more patience than I.

Looking back - I realized this child was strong-willed.


Before potty training, I never took in to account the individual personalities of each child. After potty training I was keenly aware of this and learned that the approach needs to be tailored based on the child. I'm glad I had this light-bulb moment when they were quite young. Though we are all made in the image of God, each of us has our own unique personality - we are variations on a theme. I realized that I couldn't rely solely on my knowledge, but I had to rely on the One who made these children. The point was, whenever I thought I knew something, I was humbled by a child teaching me to do things a different way. The child was never in charge, but as a parent I was willing to make adjustments to get the best result.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 [NLT]

Did you learn anything profound from potty training your children? What preconceived notions did you have about parenting before becoming a parent?

Update - I have 4 children; it's not that I didn't learn anything from potty training her but she is a work in progress so I didn't mention her. By the time she came around I learned not to rely on prior knowledge but to approach this with no pre-conceived notions. She is not as strong-willed as child #3, but seems to be a combination of #1 and #2. Suffice it to say, I did not forget her. To my attentive readers - thank you for noticing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Friendships - Three Good Friends

Job was a lucky man - he had three good friends. When his friends heard of all the calamitous things that had happen to him, the three of them made a plan to see their beleaguered friend. When they saw him they sat with him for seven days and said nothing.

Then they opened their mouths - and it all went downhill from there.  Thankfully the friendship survived.

It's great to have friends that can be there for us through the good, but especially the bad. The Bible speaks a lot about friendships; even Jesus had his disciples who were followers and friends. John 15:13-15[NLT]

Job's friends were intentional - when they heard, they got together, and traveled from their homes to be with him. Imagine this, in the time before cell phones or email. The communication was not instantaneous and yet in spite of the elapsed time they made a plan to be there for their friend. Whenever they got there it would be the right time.

Job's friends shared his grief - .When they first saw him they cried loudly - these were some emotional men! Then they sat with him for seven days and seven nights and said nothing for they saw that his suffering was great - this is the epitome of being there for a friend. Your presence alone is a wonderful comfort; nothing needs to be said.

Job's friends were male - we make a big deal today about female friendships and the need for girlfriends, but a little known fact is that men need friendships also and Job had this in spades. Men can be vulnerable and open with each other (in their own way) and reap the benefits of friendship.

Job proved to be a very good friend, for at the end of his trials Job prayed for his friends in spite of some of the things they said to, and about him, and then Job was restored. Is there a correlation?

11 When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. 12 When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2: 11-13 [NLT]

Human beings seem to do better when they have friends around; it's as if we were wired for this interaction.

How many of us have three good friends? How many of us can forgive our friends and remain friends with them?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

On Being a Wife - Job's Wife

"Why don't you curse God and die?" This is what Job's wife said to Job at the height of his suffering. Job had recently lost his livestock, his children, and his health. Job's wife was there as he was going through all of his losses, because she also lost possessions and her children also, but not her health. The loss of her children would be just as painful as the loss of Job's health; she was suffering in conjunction with Job.

Curse God and die - was this the raging of a mad woman or someone who was overly concerned for her husband?

If God knew Job was a righteous man, surely his wife knew. She knew his heart. Seeing him at his lowest point and not being able to do anything for him, she probably blurted out what she thought would release him from his misery - death. And since Job was so righteous the only sure fire way that she could think of for death to occur would be to curse God, anger God, reject the very deity that Job has been so faithful to his whole life; because in her grief, she had a warped view of God.

But Job's response indicated that he knew that she wasn't literally suggesting he do so - he said she speaks like a foolish woman, not that she was a foolish woman. Job knew his wife was not a foolish woman but again in her grief, she sounded like something she was not. Job was a smart man and recognized that. Because whatever his response and reaction to her, the Bible says, "In all of this Job sinned not."  He didn't sin in his response to her.  Sometimes in wanting the best for our spouses and doing all that we can but yet not feeling their pain, our anguished thoughts may not come out as clearly as they should. According to Job's wife, death would release Job from his suffering.

The Bible doesn't indicate that Job's wife suffered a greater fate for her words, and we know that Job was restored and went on to have ten more children. When we are suffering in marriage, the whole unit suffers, but we may not always express ourselves poignantly in our deepest grief to each other. This is where knowing each other's heart and having a solid foundation is important. This is why you never stop talking and communicating with each other.

If you've lashed out at your spouse because of their pain, I hope your spouse receives it in the spirit it was intended. I hope they understand that it pains you to see them suffer and if you could you would do anything humanly possible to stop their pain. I hope they don't respond in kind to you. I hope you get the opportunity to come back and clearly express yourself and perhaps ask forgiveness. Tricky times wreak havoc, but let's use it to come together, not pull apart. .

But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. Job 2:10 [NLT]

What can you learn from Job's wife?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Suppressed Rules

The other day, at a busy 4 way intersection the traffic light ceased to work. Now while this may seem like a recipe for chaos and mishap, quite the opposite occurred. Somehow everyone knew to be more cautious and to take turns so that accidents were prevented. A non working traffic light at a 4 way intersection, functions the same way as a 4 way stop sign.This is something you learned in driver's ed, but rarely have a chance to use.

Expecting chaos and not having any, provides a feeling of relief and it's because we can fall back on what we know.

As I drove through the intersection I realized that this could only happen because every driver was familiar with this unwritten, suppressed rule of the road.

They are other situations in life, where we know what to do, but because its occurrence is not common, we neglect it. Also what's rare for one might not be the same for another. So in my case it's dealing with elderly parents - managing care and being mindful of their emotional state. This is new to me (I don't have any grandparents). But I know it's part of honoring my parents, so I do it. I've also learned that the parent child relationship is enriched when you're adults - pretty much nothing is off limits and the older generation offers an interesting and sometimes much needed perspective.

Suppressed rules revolve around what should be done in the situation.- things people sometimes don't like to hear under normal circumstances and remind us not to take our "normal" for granted; because at some point your normal can change.

Don't wait for a broken traffic light to remember to be courteous to other drivers on the road. In the same vein don't wait until something or someone is gone to realize that you didn't handle with care.

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous.[a] Be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 [NLT]

So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 [NLT]

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7 [NLT]

Your normal can change in the blink of an eye. Are you ready?