“Asia flooding plunges millions into misery,” reads the August 8 AP headline. The story reports floods in northwestern China, Pakistan, and North Korea. Details include accounts of death, hunger, homelessness, missing persons, and towns without power or communication buried in mud. We can only faintly imagine the human misery.
To illustrate disasters in Job’s life, I collect stories of misery. Whatever disaster befalls us, Job represents the worst: losses of multiple businesses, employees, and children—in quick succession.
He also lost his health. Like most of us, I feel heartbroken, helpless for him and for people in misery today. A family member also lives with daily misery. Job himself describes his misery. In a curse on his life of suffering, he says, “May the morning stars [of my birth day] become dark . . . for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes” (3:10). So who doesn’t have “trouble”? Commentaries I consulted, however, translate trouble as the much stronger “misery.” His misery is so great he wishes he had never been born. As I read the book, I watch him struggle to survive, argue with friends, and petition to confront the Almighty. In the end, on all three counts, he succeeds! God heals, restores, and blesses; he redeems Job’s misery.
As a pastor for 25 years and as a pastoral counselor in clinics more than 12, I saw many people in misery. Their marriage, family, and mental confusion plunged them into such emotional turmoil they could no longer deal with their situation alone. As we worked together, however, they shared their misery, worked their treatment plan, and began to improve. Their misery dissipated; they got better! Acknowledged or not, from their distress God brought redemption.
In continuous physical pain from Myalgic Encephalopathy (formerly Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), Juli, my daughter-in-law, finds God redeems her misery. Because she also suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities, she experiences severe pain when exposed to even small amounts of chemicals otherwise innocuous to others. Last week, for example, by my use of the wrong shampoo prior to entering her house, I inadvertently caused her pain.
How does Juli cope with her misery? In a letter to a man who recently lost his eyesight, she suggested he pray with her: “Heavenly Father, I have more pain than what I know what to do with. I don’t understand Your purpose in allowing this kind of suffering in my life. But Your ways are higher than my ways and Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts, so I will do my best within my limitations to offer all my time, energy, and will to serve You.” Though we continually pray fervently for her deliverance, we don’t know if God will eventually heal. What I do know is that as she helped another sufferer God redeemed her misery.
What misery do we face: foreclosure, joblessness, business failure, retirement dwindled, an alienated family, a sudden death? Only in his sovereign time and way we, like Job, will find God, our misery’s redeemer.
adapted from: The Christian Journal of Hope Medford, OR September 2010
Gordon S. Grose, Ph.D.
Writer, Speaker & Messenger of Hope