Suffering Deserved?

Job 6:24 “Show me how I have erred.”

Observation: Job had endured from his friend Eliphaz a discourse that fixed upon Job blame for his own suffering. He was saying, “Job, I’ve known you for years and I’ve seen the many good deeds you’ve done, but these calamities have come for a reason. Think harder; what have you done to deserve this?”  Job touches the same idea in today’s reading by saying, “Show me where I have erred.”

Application: How natural is the heart’s tendency to think, as my world collapses around me, that I have gotten what I deserve. After all, if I touch the hot stove, I get burned. When I cover walls with crayon art, I get smacked. I utter profanity and find my mouth sternly filled with soap, accompanied by the threat, “Just wait till your father gets home!”  I am taught to believe that I am in the wrong and doom is deservedly just around the corner. 

Even so, there is merit in learning the difference between a hot and cold stove, that paper is a more appropriate medium for drawing than kitchen walls, and that edifying discourse is more desirable than profanity. These are lessons I need to learn in order to survive and do well in life. But God’s goal is unfathomably deeper than for me merely to survive. He looks past the blisters on burnt fingers, beyond the stupid or immature things I have done or said. He is after the heart.  His interest is to plunge deep within, to pierce the dark shell I have built as a response to life’s hurts. 

I too often spend energy raising a defensive bulwark against further pain, further disappointment. Circumstances of life may have been so profoundly difficult that I have created a cocoon of self-protectiveness, but when pain once again penetrates, as it so easily seems to do, something within sighs that I had it  coming. “Show me how I have erred,” I plead. One aspect ofChrist’s crucifixion I have never heard discussed is the very posture of being nailed to a cross. With arms outstretched, it is the posture of greatest vulnerability possible. No opportunity there to curl into a defensive ball, to shield oneself from the crowd’s brutality. Just take each blow until You have bled out, Jesus. Undeserved? Yes.  Essential for a higher good? Profoundly, yes. Am I not called to be like Him?

Prayer: Lord, You know my tendency to recoil, to want to run away from painful circumstances. Yet You simply stretched Your arms wide and voluntarily  yielded to the cross for my benefit. That’s why the cross represents such victory, isn’t it?  Strengthen my resolve, Lord, to yield to whatever crosses You call me to bear. I do want to be conformed to Your image.

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