I was given the privilege of presenting a lesson for our Ladies Inspiration Day at our church in April, 2004. The subject was dealing with struggles, and I used examples from the book of Job as well as my own experiences to share some of what God has taught me about grief and suffering.
This section introduces my struggle and explains that there is a large element of grief in every struggle. It also introduces the concept that grieving is the process of getting our heads (what we know) in balance with our hearts (what we are experiencing). It introduces Job's struggle and looks at how he initially responded (with his head), how his wife first responded (with her heart), and how I first responded (the conflict between my head and my heart).
by Mindy Wilsford
Copyright © 2004 Mindy Wilsford
It was almost 2 years ago now that the biggest trial of my life began. We found out that our unborn daughter Abigail had Trisomy 18, which the medical community usually says is incompatible with life. The odds said she most likely wouldn’t even make it through the pregnancy. God had mercy on us. Abigail was born alive and she was just beautiful. We had her for 5 incredible days. We got to give her a bath, hold her, love her, and even take her home before she went to be with Jesus. Her struggle was ended; mine was just getting started.
What is your struggle? Is poor health, or a terminal illness? Is it major financial problems? Are you far from family and friends? Are you experiencing family problems or divorce? Has one of your children turned away from God? Are you desperately missing a lost loved one?
Every struggle is different, but they all have something in common: they all contain a large element of grief. In addition to the obvious, physical things, in any trial we are grieving a loss - the loss of our health, our lifestyle, the loss of our dream, or how we thought our lives would be. And grieving that loss is often the hardest part of the trial.
It’s been said that the process of resolving grief is getting our heads and our hearts in balance. That is, truly believing in our hearts what we know in our heads. It is taking what we are experiencing and feeling in our lives – pain, sadness, confusion, anger - and reconciling that with the truth of the Scriptures – “consider it joy”, “all things work together for good”. They appear to be in direct conflict and it takes a lot of time and work to reconcile them.
Time doesn’t heal all wounds; it takes a lot of work too. If the caterpillar just lays in the cocoon his whole life, he will never become a butterfly. If we try to distract ourselves, it may appear that we are doing well. But that’s just lying there in the cocoon. We NEED to go through the struggle to become butterflies.
So I’d like to talk about the reality of trials – not so much the trials themselves but the process of getting our heads and our hearts in balance. I think the best way to do this is with the story of Job.
Let’s start with the beginning of the struggle:
While you’re turning to Job, let’s recall his story: he was blameless and upright. And God made a special point to mention Job’s faithfulness to Satan. And what did Satan reply? Of course he fears you; you’ve given him everything: health, wealth, family! Take the blessings away and he will curse you!
So God told him he could do whatever he wanted with Job except affect his health. So Satan had all his oxen and donkeys, sheep and camels killed. He also killed all his servants. Job had just learned all these things when, in Ch 1 v 18:
18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 "and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!"
Job 1:18-19 (NKJV)
Can you imagine hearing news like this – each thing getting worse? How would you have reacted? I remember my reaction shortly after getting Abigail’s diagnosis. My head told me:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Prov 3:5-6 (NKJV)
But my heart was feeling something else: I was amazed at how angry I was about being pregnant and how much I hated it at that moment. I felt like it was a constant reminder to me and everyone else who knew that my baby was going to die. I also felt like it was such a waste to have to go through all of it. And it was almost unbearable to think about those who didn’t know and were going to ask me cheerful questions about the pregnancy. How could I endure this until she was born? I just wanted it to be over.
And so began my head / heart struggle. Let’s see how Job responded:
20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.
21 And he said:
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD. '
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Job 1:20-22 (NKJV)
Wow! Job spoke from his head. But what about his heart? Let’s keep going.
Now God again points out Job to Satan. And Satan replies that if God takes away Job’s health, then he will surely curse God. So God allowed Satan to afflict him physically and Satan struck him with boils head to toe.
Now Job was in such pain that all he could was sit there. He was miserable.
9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 2:9-10 (NKJV)
Ok, this is where we all shake our heads at Job’s wife in disappointment. But I think she gets a bad rap. Granted, cursing God was not one of her brightest suggestions. But let’s not forget she also lost everything and all of her children, and her husband was really ill. She was deeply grieving as well. Her initial response was not from the head, but from the heart. But I think she ended up getting her heart in line eventually because at the end they have ten more children, so she was blessed along with Job.