What to say when the world caves in.

August 6, 2008

“Be ready to bow in humility before the impenetrable acts of a Sovereign God.”

“Job is victorious when he understands that God is not punishing him (as his own heart and his friends assume), but rather that He is teaching him something wonderful about Himself.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick was the speaker for General Session #1. She spoke on “What to Say When the World Caves In: Counsel from the Book of Job.” (I’ll just be highlighting certain points from the message … If you’d like a copy of the full notes, let me know! I’d be more than happy to email them to you.)

She said something at the beginning of the session that touched my heart: “That this would be the beginning of laying down our lives for the sisters in our local congregation.” I thought of the sisters at my church when she said this. It’s not a waste of a life to lay down our lives that they might draw nearer to Christ in love and trust; if we did nothing else but this our whole lives, our lives would not have been in vain …

Job’s friends were “sorry comforters,” according to Job, and had not “spoken of [God] what is right,” according to God. The counsel they offered to Job reflected the legalism in their hearts. They thought they had God figured out — that He always repaid the good with good and the evil with evil. “All of us are legalists at heart,” said Elyse. “Many of us tend to think that God is chronically displeased or disappointed with us.” In short, we forget the cross of Christ and the wrath poured out on Christ that God’s loving favor might be poured out on us.

But we can’t always assume we know what God is doing. We cannot assume that we have Him all figured out, that we can accurately interpret life’s trials according to our often-warped view of God and His dealings with man. We can’t expect that He will work in the future as He has always worked in the past (note: we cannot expect His methods to be the same, but we can be confident that His character never changes).

Here are some of her notes on what kinds of mistakes we can making in counseling (note: whether counseling other or counseling ourselves while speaking within our own hearts):

1. We can assume that God always, and in every case, responds in the expected way; that He has the same plan for everyone. We can treat Him like a scientific formula rather than as the omniscient and Sovereign God of the Universe. In other words we can miss the depth of God’s inscrutable wisdom and counsel.

2. We can assume that there is a direct one-for-one correlation between suffering and righteousness forgetting the Suffering Servant. If Eliphaz [one of Job’s friends] had observed Christ on the cross, what would his assessment have been?

3. We can forget that God’s perspective on justice differs from ours, the way it did with Job and the Son. If Bildad [another of Job’s friends] had seen the Lord suffer before the Sanhedrin, with whom would he have sided?

4. We can mistakenly assume that suffering is punitive rather than redemptive forgetting that God sends both blessings and afflictions as an act of love: “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13; Lamentations 3:38). “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity” (Job 36:15).

5. We can assume that we know everything about God’s providence (1 Corinthians 13:4-5a).

It was a fitting message for that weekend. I was feeling somewhat “out of sorts” that weekend, burnt out and somewhat calloused. The world didn’t exactly cave in on me, but the reality of my grandpa’s death began to settle in.

Grace sat next to me a couple of times, and during one of the praise times, my heart began to ache as we (strangely) sang a lot of songs that spoke of heaven. After the songs and after the message, I turned to Grace and said, “I think I’m just starting to grieve now …” And I did. For about an hour and a half, I just cried. And she cried with me. A lady from behind us, whose heart was heavy with family issues, hugged me and cried with me, too. Then we prayed together, and that woman (she had, I think, a Russian name, but she said to call her Helen) spoke such tender words of truth and comfort …

Afterward, I thought to myself, “If Job had friends such as these …”

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2 Responses to “What to say when the world caves in.”

  1. garnet Says:

    : ) thanks for updating these tia

  2. tia Says:

    yeaa :] let me know if you want the full notes to any/all of these! i think they have the sessions/seminars audios online now for $2 per …

    i’ll post the next one tomorrow. then it’ll have to be next tuesday, since i’ll be camping tomorrow evening to monday evening! :]


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