I like Job. At various times in my life I related to his seemingly relentless suffering. Yet I could only aspire to navigate the trials with such fortitude and grace as Job displayed.
The Bible referred to Job as “blameless” and of “complete integrity.” He not only “feared God” but he “stayed away from evil.” Job was wealthy by many standards and considered the richest man in his area: he had seven sons and three daughters, 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and many servants.
In the first chapter of Job it is recounted where all his oxen and donkeys were stolen and all his farmhands were killed. Before that messenger could even finish sharing such devastating news, another messenger arrived to declare that all his sheep and shepherds were killed in a fire. While the second messenger was speaking, a third messenger arrived with the news that while Job’s son and daughters were sharing a feast, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness, hitting the house from all sides, causing it to collapse and kill all Job’s children. While many of us would blame God, Job did not. In devastation and grief, Job tore his robe and shaved his head, then did what most of us would consider unthinkable: he fell to the ground and worshiped God.
As if the loss of his livelihood and all his children wasn’t enough, God then allowed Satan to inflict Job with illness in the form of painful boils from head to foot. At that point even his wife suggested that Job should curse God and die, but Job did not relent. Again sinless in his response, he replied by saying that it was not right to only accept good things from God’s hand and not be willing to accept anything bad.
Three of Job’s friends came to comfort him and share in his anguish. Their initial response was to loudly wail, tear their robes, then sit silently on the ground with him for seven days and nights. Then something interesting happened. After seven days of silence, in Job 3, Job finally speaks, but he begins to complain and he cursed the day he was born. In Job 4, Eliphaz tried to speak life to Job when he reminded Job, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?” (Job 4:5-7)
In the waiting for God to intervene in his desperate times, in his humanness, Job began to struggle. He began to question the purpose for both his life and his suffering, and wonder how much longer he would have to endure. Zophar offered a key insight to the question regarding the purpose in Job’s pain: “Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help” (Job 11:18-19).
Oh how I appreciate the vulnerability and transparency with which Job shared with his trusted friends. While God considered him blameless and full of integrity, relentless suffering took its toll on Job. Job was a man—he wasn’t perfect, and he certainly wasn’t Jesus. He had his limits, he had his doubts, he had his questions, and when he reached the end of himself he even had his complaints—plenty of them. Through his trials that would test any man, he didn’t cave to the peer pressure to curse or blame God, yet he was real and honest about the gravity of his suffering.
Recently, our family has gone through a succession of difficult life circumstances, one right after another. Some that I don’t yet share about publicly because they impact other family members so it isn’t just my story to tell. But just in the past year, our family has managed my own 12 week bout of pneumonia, an accident resulting in a concussion, a complete staff turnover at my practice, and the same day that my book “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” released, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. More than a couple people have jokingly asked if I have felt a little like “Jobette.”
As an author, speaker, and neuropsychologist, I live a bit of a public life. I share fairly openly about my life, and believe there is value in being vulnerable and transparent. That was the impetus behind writing “Hope Prevails”: I believe that in sharing my story, others will find comfort and help.
Just the other day a friend delivered a meal to our home to help ease the stress of mealtime during a chemotherapy week. As she set the meal on our kitchen counter, she asked, “How are you two? I mean really?” We shared the latest in terms of treatment, and how our boys were coping with the impact of cancer and office fallout on the family. She followed up by saying, “I talk about you two all the time. As long as I’ve known you, almost 20 years, you’ve constantly inspired me with your faith, despite what gets thrown at you. You still have a smile on your face. What if this didn’t happen for you or your faith, but for others’ faith to grow?” Hmmm. In essence, what if this isn’t about you—what if it’s about encouraging others through your own trials?
We walked past the taco fixings and the still-hot, gooey goodness of fresh-baked brownies on the counter as I escorted her to the door, but while our parting was brief, her words kept coming back to my mind. What if, just like Job has been an inspiration to me, our suffering is an opportunity for us to inspire and encourage others?
Wouldn’t that just make the enemy mad, bring beauty for ashes, and give God all the glory?
God is not a cruel God. He weeps when we weep. He does not want to see His children suffer. I am convinced that because He promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), that there is a purpose for our pain, and encouraging others may just be one of those purposes.
How might your suffering be an encouragement to others?
Because of Him, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
“I often see the long-term and devastating effects of the hard to define, hard to leave behind, ravages of depression. It seeks to wear down and wear out our hope. When longing to help another caught in despair, I’m acutely aware of how inadequate I am to help them, realizing that Christian platitudes and casual verses only serve to make them feel more alone or misunderstood. In Hope Prevails, Dr. Michelle Bengtson provides some profound wisdom for us all. By sharing her own transparent journey of recovery, Michelle offers a break-through approach that focuses on the spiritual component of recovery as a means to overcome. This book finds the cross roads between treatment and faith. What you hold in your hand is a rare gift. It’s hard to find a person who will be so honest about his or her own struggle in order to help you with yours. It’s a double blessing when that person also possesses the expertise, experience and grace to meet your needs. I recommend this book, and this woman, to those caught in the trap of depression. There is hope and it does prevail.” ~ Jan Greenwood Pastor of Pink, Gateway Women ~ Gateway Church, Southlake Texas, Author of Women at War