Date: October 31, 2021
Sermon Title: “Grown Folks Business”
By Minister Kimberly Braxton
Focus Scriptures: Job 42
2) Pray for those who hurt you
3) Mourn Your Losses
4) Experience Joy
Let us pray
Lord, thank you for this day and this opportunity to explore some of the truths you have placed for us in your Holy Word. We are grateful for your presence and ask that you continue to linger here. Make yourself comfortable. Lord speak through me and deliver your message exactly as you need it delivered. For your word has the ability to save, to sanctify, and set the captives free. Lord we know you are omnipresent so I ask that you reach out and touch all of those who are under the sound of my voice. Whether in the sanctuary or out in our virtual worship space. Nothing is too hard for you. I submit to your divine authority and confess, “Lord, I yield. Have your way.” In Jesus’ name we pray believing it is already done.
I love music and one of my favorite genres of music is the blues. I mean people singing about no good cheating wives and low down dirty dog men. Everybody has money trouble, and they are just struggling. And they make struggling sound good. But there is one blues singer that I loved named Susan T. She sang a song called, “It hurt so bad” and by the time she got to the end of the ballad, the guitar solo, and the painful screaming you just knew she was in pain, she was suffering and it hurt so bad. The song was a masterpiece. The blues takes pain, suffering, and loss and polishes it up and makes it palatable for the listener. And for 2 and a half to five minutes You can feel the singer’s pain and experience their suffering from a safe emotional distance.
And although suffering, pain and loss are a part of the tapestry of our lives we really don’t like to talk about it. It’s one thing to listen to a song about a man whose wife left him, took his dog and ruined his credit. It is another thing entirely to talk about the trauma, loss and suffering you are experiencing. In fact we actively avoid having these uncomfortable conversations. There is something in the human psyche that needs pain and suffering to be explainable. Suffering needs to be quantifiable, there needs to be a purpose, a reason for the suffering and most importantly there has to be clearly defined end.
Let me give you an example - - a woman is expecting a baby. When it comes time for the child to be born there is a period of labor, that intense period of discomfort, and then there’s the moment when the not so tiny human is born either. The end. So when the suffering is recounted it goes along the lines of “I was in labor x amount of hours, the baby was born at Y time, and the new tiny human weighs so many pounds and ounces.” In this illustration,
the pain was quantifiable, there was a purpose for the pain (the tiny human) and there was a definite ending. It’s all so neat and tidy.
But what happens at the other side of the tale - - we don’t speak as freely about post partum depression, the possible complications, the period of recovery when organs shift back to their original positions and hair starts falling out. Those aspects are glossed over because to explain them, to give them a purpose is too difficult. It’s not neat and tidy. See in order for us to understand and accept pain there needs to be a reason for it. A type of cause and effect. And this belief is what brings us to the Book of Job this morning. This understanding of pain and suffering as being caused by a particular event is called Retribution Theology. Simply stated it means that bad things happen to you when you sin. When you are “good” only good things will happen to you.
Look at the text. Job and three of his “friends” Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar believed in this ideology and they each used it to try to make sense of Job’s situation. This ideology is what caused Job so much grief and consternation - - According to Chapter 1 verse 8 Job was described by God as “…there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Job had God’s stamp of approval. He was a good man, a righteous man, blameless, he not only offered offering for his sins but also for his children’s potential sins. A type of preemptive repentance… How does that even work? But that’s not the point.
The point is in Job’s understanding of how God works in regards to suffering he should not be on the receiving end of this discomfort. He was indignant, angry, confused and frustrated. He wanted to have a conversation with God to plead his case. The Old Testament version of “Asking to speak to a manager.” When you receive poor service. Have you been there? Wondering why all this misfortune, pain and suffering came to your house, knocked on your door, came into your house, and made itself comfortable on your good sofa.
We don’t like to talk about this aspect of suffering and in church we have rituals in place to avoid having these types of conversations - - ask someone “How are you doing?” what’s the response? “I’m blessed”. I mean if you’re really, really saved your response would be “I’m blessed and highly favored. On my way to heaven and enjoying the trip.” Even if someone is struggling they would rather suffer in silence then admit aloud that they are suffering. Why? It is
undercurrent of Retribution Theology. To admit you are struggling, suffering or experiencing some sort of trauma you most likely will be met with a strong measure of judgement and condemnation instead of compassion and consolation.
Can you imagine having someone blaming YOU for the pain you’re experiencing in your life? Having them look you straight in the eye and telling YOU that YOU are the cause of the particular trauma you are experiencing? Piously they say, “If only you had enough faith this would stop.” “If only you could get yourself together and start living right all this would stop.” The Audacity and utter ignorance!
But this lack of compassion is not without precedent. It’s in the text - - Job’s friend’s Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar originally came to Job with the intention of comforting and consoling him but in the end they made his suffering so much worse. They blamed Job for his hardships and losses. It was gaslighting – old testament style.
See Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and even Job all had the same underlying belief when it came to suffering. Bad things only happened to sinners. Job you claim to be a righteous person but if you were good you would be blessed. Since you sinned (and did not repent) you’ve been struck with suffering. This brings us to this morning’s text – Job Chapter 42. This passage is filled with too many lessons and I can’t preach the entire thing without having to
stop for food and beverage. For the sake of breavity let’s cover the major points.
1. First thing – and I’ve already hit around this point. The purpose of the book of Job is to REFUTE retribution theology. Suffering and Loss are not always indicators of a sinful life in the same way that Prosperity and Abundance are not always markers of someone who is blessed and highly favored. Life is not so black and white. It would be wonderful if people’s pain could be neatly compartmentalized and explained. However we know from the previous chapters it was revealed that Job believed that his suffering was not justified. He repeatedly questioned why these awful things were happening to him. And his friends in essence said, “You need to repent for your sin” and even when Job kept
insisting that he had not sinned. Chapter 34 verses 5 through 6 ““Job says, ‘I am innocent, but God denies me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.” When God finally came to speak with Job Chapter 38 he never answered his question of “why me?” He did however let Job know in certain terms that He is God, He is Sovereign and He is Just. And Job’s cries for fairness and justice fall short when compared to a God that is the embodiment of Justice. In the end Job had to come to the realization that knowing the “why” behind the suffering was not as important as knowing and trusting God.
Now we as the readers knew what Job didn’t have privy too. We saw the conversation between God and the Accuser. Job’s suffering could be classified in the category of “Grown folks business”. An infinite and divine God having a conversation with eternal beings. Discussing thing that there is no way Job’s finite understanding could grasp. Job did not have the right to sit at that table or participate in that discussion. How could he? He is a finite human and God is infinitely divine. They are not equal. So in the end Job repented not for some imaginary sin that his friends accused him of but because in the middle of his trial he was questioning God’s sovereignty and justice. He did not have enough faith to trust the ambiguity of not knowing the why behind the suffering. To experience the trauma and all the loss that accompanied it with the lingering unanswered questions. To walk through the tension of having full faith in God but still struggling to trust God. Verse 5 through 6, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” I’ve said it before and it bears repeating suffering is not always an indicator of a sinful life. Only God can judge correctly. Be careful when you attempt to assign your version of God’s Judgement to someone’s suffering based on the limited insight of retribution theology.
2. Pray for your critics. Verses 7-8, “7 the LORD said to Eliphaz the
Temanite, “I am incensed at you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job. 8 Now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. And let Job, My servant, pray for you; for to him I will show favor and not treat you vilely, since you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job.” Now honestly this is one I consistently struggle with. When I am called to pray for people that have wronged me or caused me harm it feels like my tongue gets stuck on the top of my mouth and my lips become sealed shut. I have to laugh because piety was once so mad at someone that had cut me deeply I wouldn’t even say his name. He was only referred to as “Redacted”. I’m just being honest because this act of praying for your critics, your enemies is not easy. I think we all know that if I was in Job’s place there would have been one final discourse with God, “You want me to pray for these people that accused me of grievous sin? That dragged me and my reputation through the streets of Uz during the lowest point of my life.
Where I confront pain and death face to face and eye to eye. These
people added more trauma and more distress to my life and you want me; the wronged party, to pray for these? Naw, I’m good. You can go on judge them accordingly (v8)” But what does Jesus teach us as well, Luke in 6:27-28 ESV “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” AGGGHHHH this is some grown folks business.
In the text it reads that the Lord would only accept Job’s prayers
However, since it was Job in the act of praying for them he showed them that he wasn’t the wicked person they accused him of being and more importantly he was obedient to God. And the act of praying for your enemies comes back to the issue of trust.
Can you trust God to lead you and keep you even in the uncomfortable areas of your life? When He asks you to do uncomfortable things like praying for an enemy, volunteering your time in service can you put your entire trust in His vision? Even when it makes you feel uncomfortable.
3. Mourn Your Losses - Mourning is uncomfortable and no one ever
looks forward to grieving but don’t avoid it. Look at everything that Job lost – his wealth, his children, his possessions, his health, and even his friends. Trauma like that can’t be glossed over with a quick “hallelujah anyhow!”. I love the translation from the JPS that reads “all his brothers and sisters and all his former friends came to have a meal with him in his house. They consoled and comforted him for all the misfortune the Lord had brought upon him.” Grieve your loss. Feel the pain. If you need help there is no shame in seeking professional assistance. Find a counselor, a therapist that can equip you to process all the emotions that arise when you have to deal with grief and trauma. Do the work so you’ll be able to enjoy what’s on the on the other side. Because weeping will endure for a night but JOY comes in the morning.
4. Finally Enjoy Your Blessings – After the mourning Job was able to move on in later part of his life. Verses 12 through 15 list the many blessings that the Lord provided for Job. Notice, Job was not entangled with bitterness and anger about what he lost; he did not rehash the speeches his friends made to him during the lowest point of his life. He worked through the pain, mourned the losses and now he was free to enjoy the blessings. Once again I go to the JPS in Verse 17 and it reads,“17 So Job died old and contented”. It is easy to get stuck in the past in that feedback loop of “but why Lord” Instead I want to challenge you to trust the Lord. Remember Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and
a future.” --- Let us pray.