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When you are hurting, how should you respond?

On December 22, 2000, my father took his own life. His wife, whom he had married just 3 years before (and who is not my mother) told me the news about an hour after it happened. While telling me, she kept taking the blame. She honestly thought it was her fault, and she was understandably devastated.

As I broke the news to some other loved ones that night, everyone I talked to was, of course, shocked at first. But the interesting thing was that every person I discussed this with on that night and the next day quickly shifted their concern to how this was going to affect my father’s wife, his sister, and his mother.

The fear that we all had was that it could (literally) kill his mother, who was in her 80’s, and loved her son dearly. Another fear was that his wife would never quit blaming herself. Finally, his sister, who was doing a great job of reclaiming her life after a long bout with alcoholism, would find the load of having to care for these other two ladies, plus continue the fight against her own addiction, too heavy to bear. All of the people I discussed this with had the same question: How are these ladies going to respond to this painful event?

I would suggest that that is a valid question, not just for these three women, but for everyone who has ever experienced a painful event. How should you respond to pain?

Nowhere in Scripture are we promised that this life will not have pain. When I say "this life," of course, I am referring to the fact that when we leave this life, those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior will spend eternity with the God of the Universe. There are many promises associated with that life, not the least of which is "there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain" (Rev 21:4). But in this life, there will be painful events.

One Man's Story

In fact, the hurts that this life has to offer are not evenly distributed. Some people have more pain than others. There was once a man, whose name was Job, who probably had as much pain in his life as anyone who ever walked the earth. He was a godly man, and God had blessed him with many children, as well as many material blessings. Back then, there were no banks, so a person’s wealth was measured by how much land and livestock he had. By those measures, Job was as wealthy as anyone. He was the Bill Gates of his day.

When he lost it, he lost it all at once. In one day, he lost his wealth, his servants, and even his children. A short time later, Job could not even say, “Well, at least I have my health!,” because soon his body was covered in boils, and he was in incredible agony. His wife told him he should just end his life by cursing God, and get it all over with. However, Job had an interesting response, one we all can learn from. He told her that he knew that God is a good God, and he wasn't about to turn away from the One who could heal his hurts. However, it isn’t what he said to his wife that should get our attention; rather we should look at what he said to his friend Eliphaz:

Job 23:3

"Oh that I knew where I might find Him[God]"

Job knew that the only thing to do is to find God, the God who had always come through for him, and he was determined to find Him. The book of Job goes on to reveal that Job did, in fact, find God, and he was healed. In fact, his material blessings were restored to him many times over, and he had many more children, and had a long, fulfilling life.

One Woman's Story

Just as we can learn much from Job's response, we can learn equally from another person whose name is not known to us. She had been dealing with hemorrhaging for 12 years, and she heard that Jesus was nearby. She, like many others, had heard of His ability to heal the sick with just a touch, and she went to find Him. When she did find Jesus, the crowd surrounding him was such that the best this woman could do was to touch one corner of His clothing, but it was enough to heal her completely. When Jesus saw her, He told her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your affliction."

(Mark 5:34)

What do Job and this unnamed woman have in common? They both pursued God in order to get healing. When I have been in the presence of people who are hurting, I keep hearing phrases about how they "believe in God." The fact is, just having a warm, fuzzy feeling that God exists does not do the trick. We have a God who has created us for the purpose of having a genuine relationship with Him.

Perhaps a better word than relationship would be "friendship." Suppose you and I decide we are going to be friends. The only way I can be your friend is to have conversations with you, to say things to you, and to hear the words you have to say, because what comes out of our mouth tells others what kind of a person we are. It works the same way with the One who made us. He created us for the very purpose of establishing that relationship with Him, which is far beyond a simple belief that He exists. There has to be an effort by us to, as Job said, go find Him.

The good news in all this is that He has made many promises which are attached to our seeking Him out. When we say to Him, “Lord, heal my hurts,” He will come through for us. Make no mistake: the phrase “Time heals all wounds” sounds nice, but has no grounds in reality. God heals wounds. If time itself did the trick, there would be no explanation for those who are still bitter and devastated over events which occurred many decades ago. God heals wounds, and He has promised He will do so. The 41st chapter of Isaiah contains perhaps one of the most powerful, and comforting, of these promises:

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

At the funeral, I read the above verse to my father’s loved ones. The difference is, I personalized it for them. I read it this way:

“Do not fear, Theresa, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, Ray, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Freddie, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you Lyda, with My righteous right hand.”

When you are hurting, I strongly urge you to read this verse, and personalize it. Even more important, I encourage you to follow the example set by Job and the woman in the 5th chapter of Mark. Go after Him. He will not be hard to find. He will not hide from you. And He will comfort you, uphold you, and heal you.

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