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Posts Tagged ‘Job’

In my first post on Richard Baxter‘s The Cure of Melancholy, I laid out some of Baxter’s practical tips for those in the throes and fog of depression. Now, I want to walk through his tips for those who are trying to help those struggling with depression. Again, he has some great thoughts for us.

1. As far as you can, avoid those things that displease them and cause them to stumble. He has some strong words for us husbands here:

A husband that hath a such a wife [one that is struggling] is obliged to do his best to cure her, both in charity, and by his relatively bond, and for his own peace. It is a great weakness in some men, that if they have wives, who by natural passionate weakness, or by melancholy or infirmity, are willful and will not yield to reason, they show their anger at them to their further provocation. You took her in marriage for better and for worse, for sickness and health… Your passion and sourness towards a person that cannot cure her own unpleasing carriage, is a more unexcusable fault and folly than hers, who hath not the power of reason as you have. If you know any lawful thing that will please them in speech, in company, in apparel, in rooms, in attendance, give it to them: if you know they are displeased, remove it.

2. Divert them and interrupt their drifting thoughts! I appreciate what he says here:

As much as you can, divert them from the thoughts which are their trouble; keep them on some other talks and business; break in upon them, and interrupt their musings; rouse them out of it, but with loving importunity; suffer them not to be long alone; get fit company to them, or them to it; especially, suffer them not to be idle, but drive or draw them to some pleasing works which may stir the body, and employ the thoughts. If they are addicted to reading, let it not be too long, nor any books that are unfit for them; and rather let another read to them than themselves.

He recommends books from Richard Sibbes, also recommended here by my friend and pastor.

3. Set the great truths of the gospel before them which align most with what they’re struggling with. Baxter encourages us to read them encouraging books.

4. Help them find a solid pastor both for counsel and to sit under their preaching.

5. Gently seek to convince them of how much it grieves God to doubt His love. Listen to Baxter’s thoughts here:

Labour to convince them frequently how great a wrong it is to the God of infinite love and mercy, and to a Saviour who hath so wonderfully expressed his love, to think hardlier of him than they would do of a friend, yea, or of a moderate enemy; and so hardly to be persuaded of that love which has been manifested by the most stupendous miracle. Had they but a father, husband, or friend, that had ventured his life for them, and given them all that ever they had, were it not a shameful ingratitude and injury to suspect still that they intended all against them, and designed mischief to them, and did not love them?

6. Introduce them to strangers and strange company. This is an interesting suggestion to say the least! I think part of Baxter’s heart is to help folks struggling with depression to take their eyes off of themselves.

7. Engage them in comforting others that struggling more than they are. Why? Baxter’s thought and experience is that this will help them understand they are not alone in their struggle, that their struggle is not unique or incurable.

8. Do not neglect medicine! Depression may be just spiritual, might be just physical, or it might be both! Baxter encourages us to not rule out either.

The Cure of Melancholy is a great read and I highly recommend you read it, especially husbands. It should encourage us that depression and deep discouragement is nothing new and is not particular to our time and culture even. Baxter was dealing with same things in himself and in ministering to others almost 400 years ago!

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If you have been following this blog for very long, you have likely figured at least one thing: I gravitate towards the Old Testament. From Jacob to Ahab to Job, I consistently get more encouragement from my time in the OT. I see real life there. I see the gospel and the foreshadowing of Jesus everywhere. I identify with sinners like Judah. I see hope for God to use me in the life of a man like Jonah. I grieve and learn with Job in his suffering and loss and wrestling with who this God really is. So when I saw this post from Tyler Kenney at Desiring God, I just had to highlight it and draw attention to it. Tyler’s thoughts:

It has been my experience, in talking with fellow evangelicals, that many of us are quick to equate the Old Testament to mean little more than what the Pharisees thought it meant in Jesus’ day. It is a book of Jewish religion, and if there is any Christian doctrine in its pages, it is veiled to the reader who hasn’t first become acquainted with the New Testament.

We tend the view the OT as outdated and not useful anymore. It’s too confusing; I don’t have to obey any of Leviticus anymore anyway, right? What relevance would 1st and 2nd Kings be to me? We’re not a nation anymore and besides, I would never do what those kings did and let all that happen. Ezekiel? Way too hard to understand.

So why not skip the OT altogether and just stick with the New?

That would make sense if mere doctrinal information is all we are after. If all we want from our Bibles is to learn Christian dogma in its most developed form, reading the NT alone would probably be sufficient. It practically teaches every doctrine covered by the OT, and then of course it adds some crucial material of its own.

But we want more from Scripture than just a systematic theology, don’t we? There’s a reason we don’t settle for catechisms and dissertations in our devotional lives. We want faith and hope and encouragement and love, not merely a catalogue of things we ought to believe. And how do we get those things?

How often is the Old Testament preached on in our churches? (The last 2 months, actually, in my church!) Most folks I know have not even read the entire OT and tend to avoid it. There’s definitely something to be said for understanding the New Testament and the gospel. But isn’t sin still sin? We tend to say that the God of the OT is different and harsher and more condemning? Really? Who talked more about hell and eternal punishment and gnashing of teeth? That’s right, Jesus, in the New Testament! The OT is full of seemingly harsh physical punishments and consequences but the NT highlights the even scarier doctrine of hell.

But there’s no grace in the Old Testament! Really? There’s no grace in how God blesses and pursues men like Jacob and Ahab? Take a closer look at Ahab’s life, a man proclaimed the most evil king ever. Take a look at Job’s life even and recognize how in the OT, God is still the same God who wants relationship with us, wants us to be satisfied in Him, and will eventually crush all sin by taking the punishment and guilt on Himself. Maybe His glorious grace is not completely or fully revealed there in the Old Testament, but it’s there. Look for it. The people of the OT were real. Those things actually happened. Read it that way.

The more I read the OT, the more I see how indispensable it is for fostering the encouragement and faith I need to thrive in my walk with God. And my challenge to you in writing this post is that you would approach the OT as a complete, competent, and relevant work for you in its own right.

The OT is not a deflated sail that needs NT air to get moving. Sure, there is more revelation beyond Malachi, and yes, we shouldn’t try to just forget the NT when reading the prophets. But let’s not use what we know from the apostles to reinterpret or silence what the prophets themselves have to say to us. They were writing for us in the first place, you know (1 Peter 1:12).

Don’t fear the Old Testament. Read it. Process it. See His steadfast love there. See people not that different from you and me there. Most of all see His glorious grace there.

Read Tyler Kenney’s full post here: “Thoughts on Evangelical Neglect of the Old Testament”

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This is part 2 on Job 1-25, read part 1 for the foundation and the initial discussion of grieving.

Grieving is hard (continued)

Why do we need such grief? Death feels wrong and reveals how we were never meant to experience it apart from the destructive result of our sin. Yes, Jesus defeated ultimate death at the cross. Yes, death has lost its sting. But it is still loss. To lose someone close hurts immensely. To merely blow off any loss in this life as trivial, is to be callous. Suffering is not good and Jesus came to ultimately wipe it away but while we walk in this earthly life, in our flesh, suffering is our life and our calling. However, nowhere does God call us to become stoic unemotional beings. Jesus certainly was not a stoic when walking in our shoes. Jesus empathizes time and time again. This life will always be bittersweet: news of a friend’s stillborn baby coupled with news of the birth of a child to friends after years of battling infertility. We might enjoy a delicious steak and glass of wine for dinner one evening but then deal with immense ailments the next month. We have sweet times of closeness with God followed by hard times when we can question if He is really there. We get enough of a glimpse of the goodness of God but not so much so that we would cling to this life. Grieve with Job when you read the book of his namesake. His friends do this initially but then make foolish attempts to reason with him.

Grief is not assuaged by logic

Job’s friends do not speak for a whole week when first visiting him. This is an enormous grace on their part! However, they then try to diagnose Job’s problems, try to fix it, at the same time they are trying to understand this harsh episode of suffering for themselves. They are his friends! They are foolish, and it is so easy to forget that they are his friends who are trying to enter into his suffering. The problem is that they try to fix things, to reason with Job. They end up isolating him even more. Even if they were completely right, would it matter? Would it have been helpful to Job? I don’t think so. Job needed encouragement, even if that meant letting him process thoughts that were not necessarily truth. I am not professing to completely understand the book of Job, but I do have some understanding of grief. The way Job’s friends do not listen to him would likely have made a scoffer of me as well. Job did not need reproof or reasons or logic to get through the fog. His friends did not get this.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27 ESV)

Grief is only assuaged by our Father

Notice that I said assuaged not answered. Does God tell Job about His confrontation with Satan? Does God truly answer any of Job’s questions? Nope. In His words to Job, God seems to merely assert His infinite power and wisdom over Job’s. However, God reveals Himself to Job! God meets Job exactly where He is at! Even if God did not restore much of what Job lost, I think Job would have been satisfied. Job 38-42 is not a prescription, just as grief and loss are not the same for each of us. To me it reveals that suffering is ultimately answered not in logic or in reason or in some pat answer but through the presence of God by way of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel gives us the hope we need to freely approach our heavenly Father with our hurts and loneliness. The Gospel gives us the knowledge that we have not merely a savior but also a brother in Jesus who walked in our shoes, knows us, understands us, empathizes with us, even in our loneliness. The Gospel gives us the truth that we have the comfort in us, the Holy Spirit; a presence better than even having Jesus with us in the flesh. Job shows us that grief is not easy, is part of being human, and that ultimately assuaging it is a job of God and God alone.

Why did Job suffer? A refinement of his righteousness? Drawing him more personally near to God? Glorifying God and rubbing Satan’s face in the sand of Job’s choosing the truth and choosing to still wrestle with and walk with God? Giving us a small faint picture of the innocent suffering of Jesus in Job’s life? The answers don’t nearly assuage as much as meeting God personally and intimately.

Additional resource: “Job: Five Sermons on Suffering”

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