The topic of this blog has been upon my heart the last couple of days. As the owner of the Chronic Disease Survivors group here at CB and someone who ministers to those touched by chronic disease (either their own or that of someone they love), I talk with a lot of people who are walking with God through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I have heard some amazing stories and marvel at how God turns their darkness into His glorious light!
I stand in awe of so many of these people. Despite difficult circumstances, they cling faithfully to God. Here at CB you see them writing some powerful, thought-provoking blogs, writing comments which encourage, uplift and strengthen. I bump into them in chat and see them faithfully praying for others. Unless they told you, in all probability you would never know how ill some of them have been/are. To me, these people along with those who face the continual onslaught of adversity in one form or another, are true heroes of the faith for they refuse to give up, rather they cling to Him tighter than ever proving the power of Christ within their lives. God is bigger and brighter than the Valley of the Shadow of Death! Is that not wonderful!
I must admit, however, that even as I write this my heart is breaking with grief. You see, I have been reminded of another battle those who are afflicted face. They face a battle where one should not be... right within the Body of Christ. Far too often I have cried with wounded people who have been attacked by the very people who should be tenderly upholding them and walking beside them... brothers and sisters.
This "story" has a familiar ring to it. The Book of Job. I would encourage anyone who seeks to lay blame for disease or affliction upon the afflicted to carefully and prayerfully read this book and take it to heart. God does hold us accountable for what we say or do or say and I think He makes His feelings about this sort of practice in the Book of Job.
First of all, in regards to the question as to whether or not God permits affliction to come upon us, I believe the first and second chapter of Job makes it very clear that He does. 6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.
7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied.
10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.
11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."
12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:7-12 (NIV) When that fails to cause Job to sin against God, we see another instance of the enemy coming before God once again. 1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.
2 And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
3 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."
4 "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life.
5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."
6 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Job 2:1-7 (NIV) I do not know how much clearer this could be. The enemy obtains permission from God to afflict Job, in fact, it appears that he must obtain permission from God in order to do so.
You might argue this was the Old Testament but the last time I looked, the Old Testament is also a part of God's Word. Healing was only for the New Testament? Well, the problem with that argument is there is clear evidence of healing in the Old Testament; the widow's son and Naaman just to name a few. Healing took place in both the Old and the New Testament.
Job's wife urges him to curse God and die. Job's three friends come, supposedly to help him but instead they pile heaps of coals on his head... only for his benefit of course. Job maintains his innocence even as they try to blame him for his circumstances.
The end of the Book of Job clearly shows us God's response to that "heaping on of coals for one's own good", in other words, blaming the afflicted...
7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has."
9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer. Job 42:7-9 Does God eventually heal and restore Job? Of course! In HIS time! Whether in this world or the next, God will do things in HIS time and we must remember we are NOT God. To presume to dictate what God can or cannot do as well as when and how He should do it would be to set ourselves up as God.
We have no idea how long Job endured affliction. What we do know is that God permitted/allowed affliction to come upon Job. God faithfully brought Job through his afflictions and God is NOT pleased by those who seek to blame those who are afflicted for their situation and insist it is due to lack of faith or sin in their lives. This is not K saying this; this is what God's Word says. God was so angry with them that Job was the one who had to come before Him on behalf of his "friends". God would not even accept a sacrifice made directly by them. This is serious! We would do well to consider the story of Job very carefully before passing judgment upon and speaking against those who are afflicted within the Body of Christ whether it is through persecution, illness, poverty or any other sort of affliction. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:18-20 I have seen some amazing fruit borne by those who are afflicted. May God help all of us to faithfully bear fruit as well... in the good times as well as in the bad times.
My bible study leader's family and extended family is going through the Valley right now. They don't need to be beaten down right now, they need to be lifted up. Thanks for reminding us of that, K. :)
As one of those who has and I am sure will continue to walk through that valley, all I can say is AMEN and AMEN.
It would be very easy to simply give up when faced with physical woes, but I and many others have chosen to remain faithful no matter what our physical condition may or may not be. I view each day as another gift from God to share His love and mercy. Each day I have the strength and ability to give is a day I consider to be blessed by God.
Thank you k for speaking truth in love regarding this subject.
May the Lord lead each one through the valley as no one escapes, and let this be our prayer with reliance on God rather than self as K reminds us:
Lead me, lead me, Savior, lead me lest I stray;
Gently down the stream of time,
Lead me, Savior, all the way.
2.Thou the refuge of my soul
When life"™s stormy billows roll;
I am safe when Thou art nigh,
All my hopes on Thee rely.