Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | November 11, 2010

The Contemporary “Job” Experience

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East…..

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’ While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’ While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’ While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you’…

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 1:1-3, 13-19; Job 2:7)

Job. The man that many refer to as the one who suffered more than any other. Through a series of catastrophic events, Job lost his wealth, his livelihood, his children and then his health, which rendered him completely unable to provide for himself or anyone else. Although it’s abundantly clear that job suffered much, there’s a contemporary “Job” experience I want to talk about. The suffering can be just as painful and intense as Job’s, and in many cases, even more so. I’m talking about the pain and suffering that comes through separation/divorce.

Those who have never experienced it should be thankful that they have avoided one of the most painful experiences known to man. For those who have experienced it, their stories are real; some worse than others but all with their share of pain.

Many theologians believe that Job’s suffering experience lasted about seven months. But divorce is an experience where the consequences and suffering are typically felt many years beyond the actual separation-divorce moment. And although some may have been fortunate enough to have had a friend or two walk with them  through the experience, it is typically a very lonely, private suffering where encouragement and support is hard to find.

Families divided. Financial resources completely exhausted. Possessions lost. Children uprooted and separated from parents and in some cases intentionally alienated from a parent. Emotional & mental distress. Physical ailments associated with the emotional pain. The effect on someone’s ability to produce. I can go on, but you get the picture. It’s the contemporary “Job” experience.

There’s someone I know who has suffered much through his separation/divorce. In the very beginning and at one of the lowest points of his experience, those closest to him began to hurl their judgments:

“Then Job replied (to his friends): ‘I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you…'” (Job 16:1-4)

There was also the pain & humiliation he experienced when learning of 3rd party relational involvement. His home was foreclosed on. The bill collectors were calling. His children were suffering. Then one day he had a nervous breakdown at work, and by doctor’s orders had to take a leave of absence, coming very close to being hospitalized:

Then Job replied, “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas…” (Job 6:1-2)

Not long ago he visited a close relative who happened to ask him how he was doing with recent events. After testifying  how God’s grace had brought him through thus far, he was met with a sharp reply that went something like this:

“Well, so much for your God! You were better off before you got involved in that whole ‘Jesus’ thing…..”

“Then Job’s wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

There is someone elses story I want to share. For sake of privacy and out of respect for his kids, I won’t use his real name. Jack’s experience was incredibly painful. We first met about 10 years ago, working together in the automobile industry. He and his wife had young children and when they planned a birthday party, My wife and I were there with our kids to celebrate with them.

I recall when Jack first began to chat with me about marital problems, and those problems quickly grew worse. Jack had a huge heart and desperately wanted things to work out, and was taking steps in the right direction. I remember giving him several books, offering counsel to him and suggesting the counsel of others. But it takes two willing parties for a marriage to continue.  Infidelity didn’t help with the situation, either. They divorced, and his ex moved into her boyfriend’s 500k mansion about 400 miles away with their kids.

Jack’s life began to spiral downhill. He lost his job in the auto business. Then he was in the mortgage business for several years, but a weakened economy forced him out of that. He suffered from depression. Then he had some other jobs but they never lasted; I believe the depression had such a foothold that holding down a job wasn’t possible. We would get together periodically over lunch for the sake of mutual encouragement, but I could tell he wasn’t doing well. Support from friends was minimal, and  help through faith/God/church wasn’t taken seriously. The one thing that was bringing him the most pain was his situation with child visitation. He had not seen his children for 8 months.

His home was ultimately foreclosed on, and then I hadn’t heard from him for quite some time. I tried calling about a half dozen times, but he wouldn’t pick up the phone.

Then one day I bumped into Tom, a gentleman who owned a restaurant that Jack frequented. I asked, “Have you heard from Jack at all?”

“Jack died,” replied Tom.

I was in utter shock. Tom went on to explain that after the foreclosure, Jack moved into an apartment, and he began to “party very hard.” One day, a neighbor saw his door open and looked inside, and there was Jack, lying on the floor, dead.

The coroner’s report said my friend died of cardiac arrest. But that’s not why Jack died.

My friend, at 42 years old, died of a broken heart.

There are many people in my sphere who have tasted the pain of divorce, and I myself have experienced it. I remember becoming frustrated, wondering why God was allowing the pain to continue. I decided to contact a friend by email to vent. The main theme of my rant was, “Will the pain from it ever end?” The reply I got wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. But it was what I needed to hear, and I think it may prove helpful to others that are experiencing pain from divorce. Part of the reply is below:

“I understand the divorce dynamics. My wife’s ex-husband sued us three times for custody, slandered us, slandered me, alienated the children from us. Our eldest boy left home when he was 12 and did not talk to us for 20 years. Our daughter left when she was 16 and did not talk to us for a somewhat shorter time.

You have to take it. You have to believe.

The good news, that for us, after 20 years of rejection and pain, our family was gloriously restored, and our daughter  never spoke to her natural father again and called me her Dad for the rest of her life. Pain today . . . Redemption tomorrow, if we don’t lose faith.

I can give you the details some time. It is a glorious story, but I can tell you what, when your wife curls up in a ball and makes unhuman noises like an animal as her children are taken away from her . . . Well, let me tell you . . . That’ ain’t easy.

Thinking your son is going to show up some day with a gun and kill you is not fun.

Not having a word, not seeing a grandchild for 20 years is not fun.

Jesus was slandered and rejected by those in his family. Jesus did not receive “justice” . . Neither will we.   We will receive redemption and resurrection. Being able to endure injustice and to enter into faith for resurrection/redemption, is the essence of Christianity.

It is part of being conformed to his image.”

What a great word.

The response I received brought to my remembrance something that the Apostle Paul stated:

“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead..” (Philippians 3:10-11)

If you’re a Christian, I’m sure that you, like me, have heard various teachings on knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection….oh yeah….bring it on!!!

But wanting to know him by sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings….well….I haven’t heard that preached enthusiastically of late, or ever….

We want one (the power of His resurrection part) apart from the other (the sharing in His sufferings part). But we cannot truly know Him without experiencing both.

In order to be conformed to His image, we cannot…we will not escape suffering. Jesus Christ suffered, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps. (1st Peter 2:21). Suffering by experiencing and feeling the very same things Jesus did is a part of knowing His heart.

Let me close with some final thoughts. Because we live in a fallen world, all kinds of sufferings come. How we respond to them will determine the end of the story. Will we trust God to mold us and change our heart through our suffering experiences, for His glory? Will we endure, and believe that although we are experiencing the pain, that God is our helper who is for us and not against us? As my friend stated above, although there may be pain today, there is redemption tomorrow, if we don’t lose faith.

And that was the outcome with Job. In the end, He was gloriously restored, receiving twice as much as he had before, being blessed in the latter part of his life more than the first. And he even was blessed with additional children.

Job kept his faith in the midst of his sufferings, enduring the hardship. And ultimately, he received redemption/resurrection.

So can we.

So, my friends, I say to you what my friend said to me:

Endure hardship, and believe.



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Responses

  1. Harry, Just great, and so “authentic” as it comes from the heart as only it can from those who have been, or are in, the fire of the reality of it all.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Relationship Over Religion and commented:

    I decided to re-blog this from 2010; for my friends and those in the blogosphere who are experiencing the pain of separation/divorce.

    Like


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