Hercules and the Hydra - or - What is your line?

I admit that I like the way Philip Yancey describes suffering and the problem of pain in his book, Where is God When it Hurts. He compares it to Hercules battling against the Hydra. When one head is chopped off, another two or three seem to come up in its place.

Shingles seemed to be bad. Very bad. The rash and pain were extreme. But then, to have that go away but then to have the “invisible pain” continue seemed cruel. I would NOT want to have the visible rash continue, but at least people knew something was wrong. 

But that all seems so trivial in light of God’s Word.

Take Job as an example. His suffering was extremely public. Considered the greatest man in all the east, the news of his losses would have traveled quickly. 1,000 oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by the Sabeans. 7,000 sheep gone from the “fire from the sky”. 3,000 camels taken by the Chaldeans. All of the servants (except three who were messengers) died. And then, the house where his children (seven sons and three daughters) were feasting collapsed and all of them died.

How did he respond?

Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1: 21

Over the years, I have experienced a few challenges with jobs, relationships, and even my children. But nothing – NOTHING – could ever come close to what Job experienced. And, I think everyone who knows me knows this: my response wasn’t the same either…

And so, I had my sandals on as I tried to imagine what happened to Job next. The Bible tells us that Job had painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (2: 7). The Bible is not a medical journal, but I couldn’t help but think of shingles when I read that verse.

Then how did Job respond to this new level of physical pain and agony? He said:

Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? Job 2: 10b

Some might argue that this is a variation of fatalism – a belief that what’s going to happen is going to happen – but I think it’s better defined as extreme faith.

If you’d like a definition, I’d define extreme faith as “regular” faith that can move mountains (Mark 11:23). This has nothing to do with the twisted teaching that is prosperity gospel (which is no Gospel at all). This has everything to do with a person’s willingness and desire to go boldly as the Holy Spirit is leading.

While I could walk down this road with you for a bit, I want to keep focused on the idea of perseverance through suffering. Therefore, in that journey, I’ll come back in a few days as we continue to walk with Job and three of his friends.

For now…

What would it take for you to stop praising? Is there a “trouble” that, if it came upon you, would cause you to run from God rather than to Him?

While that may seem like a scary question to contemplate, it might be worth it as you are seeking a stronger faith in your own walk. Allow the Spirit to speak into your heart and encourage you to go deeper and grow stronger.

Yours in Christ,

Marty