Watching the chaos in Afghanistan after the foolish Biden Administration pullout was both heart-wrenching and concerning. Seeing hundreds of people chase airplanes at the Kabul airport, and some fall from the sky after trying desperately to get aboard, reminded me that life is fragile and filled with times of desperation and evil.
I’ve only witnessed (on live television) these compelling scenes a few times in life. The first was the fall of Saigon on April 1, 1975, that brought the full curse of communism to Vietnam. The second was on 9-11–twenty years ago next month–when international Muslim terrorism destructively visited our shores.
We must up our prayers for both Afghanistan and America.
Yesterday I personally experienced a “Job” day that I’m sure is common to many. Here are some lessons from Job–both at home and afar.
Lessons from Job–Both At Home and Afar
It’s interesting and timely that I’m reading the book of Job this month in morning devotions. It comes along every summer for the past forty-nine years and never ceases to challenge and enlighten.
Reading two Old Testament chapters a day (along with a psalm and one from the New Testament), I’m able to read the entire Bible from cover to cover each year. Job takes twenty days of thoughtful reading each August.
Job always challenges me.
I’ve never come close to suffering like Job. He lost his children, wealth, and health in one day (or in a short amount of time with some literary license). He went from immense wealth during the time of the Hebrew patriarchs to abject ruin (Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible).
Even his wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). He didn’t. If Abraham is the father of faith, then Job is the father of honest perseverance.
The older I get, the more I want to be like Job.
My life is pretty “secure” at this point with a wonderful wife and family, a modest but well-used and paid-for American home, three ministry outlets (missions, college teaching and home church), many friends (hope they’re not like Job’s) and the promise of eternal life.
I’ve never suffered as they did in Saigon, New York City and now in Afghanistan. But I’ve seen and ministered to suffering people all over the world.
Yesterday, a small taste of suffering hit my own life as Kabul was falling.
I arrived at Faith International University to do my normal Monday responsibilities of communicating with students, grading papers, and interacting with other professors and staff. I learned on arrival that our fifty-year-old heating/cooling unit in the “West Wing” was broken beyond repair and must be replaced.
It’s been a hot, dry summer in the Northwest that I’ve called under my breath “The Summer from Hell.”
It just got a bit hotter.
Then the phone rang, and I learned that a close friend’s car broke down and needed my help. I quickly left my university routine to help diagnose the problem, find a mechanic, and make some arrangements. During that time other friends showed up at our home who were in distress, fighting and crying, and in deep need of reconciliation and love.
We reached out to them the best we could–and helped the others get their car to a shop.
Still reeling from these encounters, I went to visit my mother who is in rehab for a broken leg (part of the “Summer from Hell”). She had experienced a difficult day in therapy, and I needed to bring a supervisor into her room to settle her spirits.
While driving home I got a call that a key participant in an upcoming event I’m organizing needed to cancel–changing everything. Then I realized that in loaning a car to my friend with the breakdown, I’d given him my entire key chain and didn’t have any of my keys for tonight’s work and the rest of the week. I climbed into our only car left, traveled to a nearby town and picked up my key chain.
On the way home I wondered if I should have stayed in bed today.
On top of it all, I’m still dealing with a physical condition that causes constant pain–a small taste of Job.
Shirley usually prays for both of us as we go to bed. She especially intercedes for me to not experience “demonic scares” during the night which have been a problem at times.
I’m not as spiritual as Martin Luther. When Lucifer supposedly appeared in his room one evening (just like Eliphaz in Job 4:15?), Luther yawned and exclaimed, “It’s just you.” Then he laid back down and went to sleep.
My demonic encounters (maybe dream-based) always come from the same dark corner of our bedroom. I see a being (not recognizable, but sinister) lunging at me as if to take my life. I often cry out or even jump out of bed to turn on the lights. Then I realize I’m dreaming, settle down, and go back to sleep.
I haven’t experienced these encounters for many months (thanks to my wife’s prayers), but last night, of all nights, God let one slip through. As I lay in the bed afterwards thinking about the negative attacks and experiences of the entire day, I felt a teeny-weeny bit like Job.
And prayed for the people of Afghanistan who were really experiencing an unleashing of evil.
(My first email the next morning came from a student who claimed to not only have lost her paper that was due, but that her entire computer program she wrote it on had vanished. No, the dog didn’t eat her homework.)
Another Job experience.
I look forward to meeting Job one day in heaven. He’s probably already acquainted with Floyd McClung, a beloved YWAM leader, who died recently and suffered greatly the last five years of his life. Floyd’s early autobiography recounting his ministry along the “Hippie Trail” in Afghanistan is titled “Just Off Chicken Street.” It would be a good read now that Afghanistan is back on our prayerful radar.
What are some of the lessons we learn from Job?
First, that suffering, in deep and smaller forms, is common in our fallen world (1 Corinthians 10:13). We all experience it in our lives–and must prepare our hearts to bear it.
Second, it’s okay to be honest with God about your pain. Job spends many chapters of his book “complaining” about his life, his lack of understanding, having a pity party, and getting some sincere but unwise advice from well-meaning friends. God can handle the honest inner dialogue. He knows and understands pain better than anyone in the cosmos.
Third, we must persevere to the end of our lives in unflinching faith in God. “Though slay me me I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). Lose everything, but never faith in the Almighty.
Allow suffering (pressure) to not push you away from your Maker, but as J. Hudson Taylor learned, to “press you even closer to His breast.” Those who handle suffering with faith stand out as the greatest saints I know.
In the end, suffering in this world is designed to birth and develop godly character in our lives that we will keep for eternity (Romans 5:3-5). We don’t learn best when our lives are “secure.” We develop spiritual muscle when we patiently move through suffering to an even deeper trust in God’s sovereign grace and salvation.
Just like Job–both here and afar.