When I was a senior in high school a youth leader prayed for me. She said God was comparing me to Job, specifically, his suffering. I remember thinking at the time, What an odd thing to say…why would God say that? Job suffered a lot and his story was sad. There’s no way that was right. She must’ve misunderstood. How could I ever be like Job? He was a great man of God that suffered greatly. I’m not worthy to be compared to him. After pondering this for about…a day I moved on and didn’t give it much thought.
About two months ago I was listening to this podcast. The host was interviewing a blogger. She likes to think of her blog as “a little corner of joy and encouragement in a world filled with so much negativity.” I smiled and shook my head. Her goal is amazing and beautiful, but that is just not the kind of writer I am. People love this woman’s blog because who doesn’t want more positivity in a world of negatives? How could I as writer ever put my work out there? Joyful encouragement isn’t my niche as much as I would love for it to be! Then it got me thinking…what is my niche as a writer? A few words came to mind: raw, honest, real,…pain. Pain? Who wants to be known as a writer that writes about pain?
A few days later I brought it up with one of my very good friends. I told her the whole backstory about the encouraging blogger and how I started thinking about my niche as a writer. “This might sound bad but…” she kind of hesitated, “suffering? And suffering well, but some people need to hear that and read that. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading your writing and it always ends on a hopeful note.”
Suffering, I thought. As I drove home and talked to God it finally clicked. I remembered that simple little prayer from over six years ago, “God is comparing you to Job, Natalie.” I thought of all the things the Lord has taught me and continues to teach me about suffering and how to do it well. I’ve learned so much, but I’ve always wrestled with the book of Job. Why did God allow him to suffer so greatly? Just because the satan (Hebrew for “the accuser”) asked for Job to be tested? God Himself said Job didn’t deserve this! So why did this happen?
For years I thought the answer was in the book of Job and maybe I just missed it or didn’t understand it. I mean towards the end Job demands for God to explain Himself, but even though God shows up He never gives Job a direct answer. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what God’s response to Job actually means. God shows Job the universe and asks if Job was there when He created it all. The Lord shows Job all the details of the world that He manages and asks Job if he wants to do it. God helps Job realize that God and His rule of the universe isn’t so black and white. He’s complex and the world He created is intricate and complicated as well, so who is Job in his finite understanding to claim God is unjust? God’s world is a beautiful, extraordinary, orderly, breathtaking creation! But it is also dangerous, wild and imperfect. God’s answer to Job as to why he is suffering is that the world God created is not designed to prevent suffering. Humbled, Job is at peace knowing He can trust God and His wisdom even in his suffering because God’s understanding of justice and the universe is far greater than his own.
Now that I know and finally understand the book of Job I see so much of myself in it. I’ve cried out to God time and time again, “Why is there so much suffering?” He’s never given me a direct answer, but He has revealed to me that it’s not as simple as it seems. He is a complex God. If He was an ocean, I’m just a cup filled with a small amount of water. I may never understand why God allows suffering, but just as Job was I am humbled knowing God is in control and that gives me peace even in the suffering.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. Have a platform to share my writing and experiences (for over a decade actually!). But then it became so mainstream and everyone had a blog. At least that’s the reason I would tell myself I couldn’t have one anymore. The truth and main reason I haven’t done it? Fear. There’s an inevitable vulnerability and reality check (for myself) that comes with my writing. That can be scary to share with people because 1) people will know what really goes on beyond my smile and 2) what if people don’t like the honesty? The raw, honest, life-isn’t-always-so-great-even-though-I-have-Jesus writing? What if it’s too real?
But as I learned more about the book of Job over the past couple of months and prayed asking God if this is something I should really do I felt a conviction. People need the encouragement of joy and love and positivity, but they also need encouragement in the suffering and struggle. Knowing you are not alone can sometimes be the greatest encouragement. It’s all about balance. So I’m stepping out in obedience and faith praying God would use my love for writing and the things He is teaching me to help others around me. I’d love for you to join me every Thursday afternoon for new posts!