Finding Hope In Tragedy
At our son Paul’s college graduation my world began to turn upside down; tragedy snuck up on me. After six months, Paul also developed mononucleosis. Mono for each led to myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Juli later developed multiple chemical sensitivities and experienced vasculitis, a painful inflammation of her blood vessels upon chemical exposure. For years, I resisted facing it, but my son and daughter-in-law’s medical condition forced me to change my thinking, my habits, and my relationship with God. We never know when we will confront an overwhelming, inescapable demand to deal with tragedy. Although initially disappointed with our son Paul, eventually I had to face the unavoidable. But eventually I found hope through tragedy reading biblical Job.
Although the crises come less often these days, Elaine and I still never know when our son will need us to pick up a prescription or, unable to leave Juli, ask me to buy plumbing supplies on a Sunday morning because he accidentally broke their water pipes.
Hope Through Tragedy Reading Job
“Can I find hope through tragedy reading Job?” you ask. As we hunt for ways to grapple with personal tragedies, many people turn to the most famous story of personal tragedy we know—Job. “Job is my favorite book of the Bible,” people tell me. “The things that happened to him…” they say, their voice trailing off. Job’s story helps them put their problems into perspective; in light of Job’s tragedies, theirs seem minuscule.
But reading Job’s story for consolation, insight, or perspective creates difficulties. Like most of us, I tune in better to the prose of the story than to the poetic dialogue. As a result, when I read the book, I grasp the storyline at the beginning (the first two chapters) and at the end (the last chapter), but I find the disputes between Job and his friends tedious. I bog down in their well-meaning, but hurtful counsel, even when I read some elements of truth in what they say. I also find the long speeches toward the end wearing. What’s the point?
I’ve studied these sections again and again, though. And in them I see huge benefits. I found hope through tragedy. I write, therefore, to help us benefit from the large central section, the part we tend to skip. After careful study, that’s where I found the greatest treasure to deal with my tragedy. In the poetry of the dialogues with his wisdom colleagues, Job’s recovery comes to light. When I face the worst life brings, teasing out the life-lessons from Job’s inner experience through the middle of his story gives me hope. If Job gets better, maybe I can, too. If you need hope to recover from your tragedy, maybe Job’s story can also provide that hope for you. When tragedy confronts you as a disappointment to your expectations in the end may help you also face the unavoidable.
Where is God?
When we’re going through tragedy, one important question arises: Where is God? Easy answers, like He’s the sun above the clouds, trivialize our hurt; complex answers, like God’s omnipotence (He does what He wants), frustrate us; yet receiving no answer at all may seem to confirm our worst suspicions—God has forgotten us, abandoned us to Fate. If you’ve questioned God’s presence in tragedy, however, you’ll find in Job’s story at least the kernel of an answer. Job not only feels abandoned, but with great eloquence, he tells God about it. And, in a surprise, God responds, though not in the way Job expects.
Whatever tragedy we’ve experienced, Job’s story can encourage us, because through it we become aware of God’s very real presence. But it also warns us that the Sovereign Lord is not subject to our demands for answers. The answer Job receives rocks him every bit as much as his tragedies.
Hope for Our Story
Job’s story, then, is our story, key to finding hope through tragedy. Along with observing his response to tragedy, we will see people today in tragedies similar to his. We’ll learn about their faith amid horrible life circumstances. Through no fault of our own at any point tragedy can disrupt our lives, cause untold grief, and, if we survive, change us forever.
In the book from which this material is excerpted (see below), modern-day fellow sufferers let us in on their real and poignant struggles as they faced strange physical illness, a natural disaster, a serious mental disorder, and insurmountable grief. They’ll show us how they’ve come to live a new normal— and how, even as victims of tragedy, they can and have recovered. Job’s story and theirs can provide you the hope you need for your recovery. Because they recovered, you can too. When unusual physical illnesses immobilized Paul and Juli, tragedy hit our whole extended family. When two state police officers with unwelcome news rang her doorbell, tragedy ambushed Melissa. Tragedy struck Andrea and her family when Hurricane Katrina’s waters flooded their city, church building, and home.
[Resources: For more stories of how people today found hope through their tragedy, read Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours at https://amzn.to/2mLvCeB or order to the left of this page through PayPal. Linda Kruschke also blogs on life and death, faith and fearlessness, music and poetry at https://anotherfearlessyear.net/my-blog-posts/ Our son Paul writes of his own experience with this same illness at https://www.gordongrose.com/chronic-fatigue-…fs-ii-guest-blog/ Photo: Picture: Xanadu II, Oscar Wilde House, Our Very Messy Room, Tobin, Flckr.com]