When Your Name Is Job

Seriously.

That’s not my birth name.

It’s not my nickname.

It’s not some weird family term of endearment.

In fact, if there is a biblical name I hate more than any… If there is a biblical story I despise more than any other, it is the name and story of Job.

I don’t want to hear how I am a modern day version of Job. It makes me sick. It makes me angry. It gives me questions for which I am still impatiently demanding answers.

I read Job’s story and find it utterly horrific that God would allow, much less encourage the kind of faith testing Job endured.

But as hard as it might be to wrap our minds around it, since the day mankind choose sin and self over righteousness and God, Satan has owned the power and authority to wreak havoc in our lives.

Satan did it in Job’s life.
Satan did it in mine.
And maybe not to the extreme others have had to face, Satan is still doing his best to wreak havoc in all of our lives. Mine and yours included.

It’s bad enough when it comes through the destruction of tragedy… it’s more than bad enough when it comes at the hands of wicked evil men.

But the truth is, it happens more often as a result of our own personal choices and decisions.

For every person whose family is murdered, destroyed–whose life/lives are damaged beyond comprehension, there are thousands and thousands–untold numbers–who face destruction, heartache, and grief as a result of their own making, be it poor choices or systemic failure.

There are people all around us who look to be successful, even “faithful” church folk. There are good friends and family whom we know and love… and they are hurting, struggling, dying on the inside.

And they are often ashamed.
Ashamed of their own weaknesses.
Ashamed of their own doubt.
Ashamed of their own lack of faith, belief, and trust.

I know this to be a fact.
I know it because I am one of them.

Regardless of how we got here, we are here. And we are most likely not going away.

So the question for the church is this: what are you going to do with us? My experience is that the church can do just as much damage, cause just as much pain. Platitudes will not fix us. Neither will hoping we go away. And expecting us to fix what is broken ourselves may be a lost cause.

Yeah…

When you are dealing with broken people, it doesn’t really matter how they became broken, does it?

It shouldn’t but it often does. Sometimes we see the nastiness of broken lives and because they did it to themselves, we try to extract our pound of flesh–to add some more punishment.

Really? Isn’t that what God would have us do?

No.

In case you didn’t catch that, no.

If you are stubborn like me, we’ll say it again, no!

Everybody who has received mercy, who has been given grace, should be a conduit of the very same.

Really.

Besides, turn about is fair play and one day it might just be you caught in a bad place…

I once preached for a church where those in leadership refused to allow a baby shower for any unwed mother. The one place where this broken life should find help, hope, understanding, and forgiveness became a place that piled on even more shame.

If you or your church wants to be a beacon of hope for the lost and weary, you could honestly begin and maybe do your very best work right there in your own family…

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

You save more lives with love than condemnation.

Thank you for helping save mine.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

26 thoughts on “When Your Name Is Job

  1. One of your remarks may have been meant for me because I have trouble with it. The giving of baby showers for unwed mothers. I don’t have any problem with helping an unwed mother, or loving a child or its mother if born out of wedlock. I want to hold up her hand and I will accept you calling me judgmental if that is what it is. However, a baby shower is meant to celebrate the birth of a baby – and I am not sure we should celebrate the birth of a baby born out of wedlock. I am very conflicted with this. I see on FB time and time again where young women are being congratulated for being pregnant – and unmarried. Some of those doing the congratulating are single mothers who were never married. When we sin, we can be forgiven for that sin but we still reap the consequences.

    • Aren’t you glad people don’t treat all of our mistakes that way? I certainly am! It’s a baby! A year later would you help celebrate its birthday? Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. But the sin was 9 months earlier. If I am judged, I would rather it be for having to much mercy and grace. From experience let me assure you, that young mother will never forget how she is treated–and it may set the tone for her and her child’s life! I appreciate your reading and the dialogue.

      • I understand we should as Christians stand up for what is right. But I cannot see how any good would come by not having a shower for an unwed mother. If God forgives her, shouldn’t we. And I know some might say OH it’s not that I don’t forgive her, I am afraid this would be seen as condoning premarital sex. I feel having a shower for her has nothing to do with condoning this sin. It has everything to do with showing someone the love of Christ. This breaks my heart and I believe it breaks Gods heart too. I can assure you this woman would not be closer to God because she couldn’t have a shower in the church. There are many ways we can “make a stand” if you will, against premarital sex but ostracizing a young woman is NOT the way to do it.

      • I said I was conflicted. A long time ago when i would become angry at church members who had what I call “straight backs” and I felt they were judgmental (like the Pharisees) , I began to realize that the love of God and mercy should be extended to them as well. I found it much harder to extend that mercy than to .extend it to a young woman or man involved in the sin of fornication – and conceiving a child out of that union. Our mercy often comes in the form of political correctness and my conflict is caused as I struggle to understand what God’s will is in these situations. To say I am ostracizing a young woman (Susan) because I do not believe we should “celebrate” the birth of a child born out of wedlock with a baby shower, is a stretch in my opinion. Les, I cannot judge the motive of why your elders did not allow baby showers for unwed mothers – but am sure they felt it was a right thing to do. That the young woman did not want to go to “the church” may speak louder about her than about “the church.”. Jesus was there when they brought the woman caught in adultery (but not the man) and he asked about her accusers. They had left but he just told her to “go and sin no more.” I see no celebration here even though he obviously forgave her. I am almost 81 years of age and I became a Christian after I graduated from high school. I was never taken to church/worship a day in my life. I have seen the church go from being a “peculiar people,” “people of the book,” to being so much like “the world” that I can tell no difference except possibly that we go to church three or more times a week. I have taught all ages through the years and spent more years with teens than any group. I have just recently decided to stop teaching a ladies class on Sunday mornings because of health issues. I taught in the public schools and at MUW for 30 years – coached volleyball, basketball and track and field. in addition to teaching physical education. I have seen a lot but there is sadness because I see fewer and fewer Christians who are known for our love for one another or our willingness to be different from the world.

        I must add that I have been horrified by your story Les. I applaud you for your struggle to overcome the hurt and disappointments since it all happened. May the God who created the world we live in give you strength to continue. until you find peace.
        . . . .

        • Hi Joan,

          In my younger days, I too was conflicted over these types of situations. So, I totally understand how we can come to such conclusions.

          Actually, I’m glad that you say that you are ‘conflicted’, because that means that deep down inside of you (below all of the logic and rationalization), there is a burning sense of mercy and grace that won’t be extinguished. I mean, if it hasn’t been stamped-out in 81 years, then I think it is here to stay! 🙂 And, that’s a good thing!

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that logic and rational thought are all bad – I’m a Mechanical Engineer for goodness sake – I make a living with logical and rational thought! 🙂 Even before I went to Engineering school, I was a logical thinker…I guess I always have been. Unfortunately for me, being a logical thinker makes it that much easier for me to fall into and even be comfortable with a more legalistic viewpoint. From a cognitive standpoint, logical thinkers, like me, find it easy to make sense of and embrace “cause-and-effect”, “rules and regulations”, “actions and consequences”, etc. It just makes sense.

          Then, a couple of decades ago, I started down a different path…you can call it a “come to Jesus moment” if you like. It definitely wasn’t a “come to religion” moment…you see, I’ve gone to church since I was in-the-womb, as they say. I already knew about church; I already knew about religion; I already knew all of the Bible stories. However, while I knew _about_ Jesus, I didn’t really _know_ Jesus. I really don’t claim to know Him very well yet; it’s a process, and I try to get to know Him a little better every day.

          If only one thing has been impressed upon me, then it is Matt 22:36-40:

          36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

          37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          In verse 40, Jesus makes it crystal clear that these two commandments, _together_, are really the crux of the entire Bible. [Incidentally, I like that word ‘crux’ in this context because it is Latin for ‘cross’.]

          Jesus came to love. Jesus is love. Jesus wants us to love Him. Jesus wants us to love each other. I don’t think we can ever go wrong by choosing love over anything/everything else. Unlike cause-and-effect, it may not always make sense to us, but it is what heals us.

          My dad once made a statement that I think was very profound. Upon my complaining about how things weren’t fair, he said, “Bill, when you think about it, you don’t _really_ want things to be _fair_, now do you…?” He was right; I don’t want things to be fair. I want things to be more than fair; I want to take Jesus up on His promise, and (from where I stand) His promise is way more than fair! 🙂

          Love!

          -Bill

    • Joan- I really appreciate your comment and your desire to make a stand against sin. But as I think about my own life, some of the most significant changes I experienced came from those times when people loved me in spite of how undeserving I was. I think this is one of those times when we need to hate the sin but love the sinner, and actively show that love. Who better to be in a position to help someone who has messed up, both the mother and the father, than someone who through a baby shower in essence says, “We’re here for you and want to be a blessing to your new family.” It’s our chance to regift the grace we have been given.

      • Tim, thank you for responding. My point was that we can show mercy and love and great kindness to people (like us) who make mistakes/sin without celebrating. IMO, a shower is a celebration. I hasten to add that I have attended such showers in our church but still am troubled.

        • Joan you are to show love to all! This baby has done nothing wrong and is a child of GODS, you speak as though you are without sin, however no man or women in this evil world is without sin. Does that mean you should be thrown out of the church? I thank GOD for HIS GRACE, and CHRIST JESUS shed blood that forgives our sins or we would all be going to hell. The difference you are trying to make but are failing at is we are to love and as far as forgiveness that is between them and CHRIST JESUS,GOD and THE HOLY SPIRIT! You are not to ppromote premarital sex by giving out birth control, or how about fighting againest abortion! Would you feel better if the mother had murdered her baby? Sound like to me something is hitting very close to home for you to feel like you have some kind of judging rights. You do but only about yourself, not anyone else!

    • This is in reply to the women who is in no means anyones judge! Remember the way you judge, is the way GOD will judge you, A SIN IS A SIN, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS…. So if you have never lied, hated, became angry, ect….. I would not be judge a baby of all things, seems to me JESUS said suffer the little children not! Did you get the NOT part! I’d be asking for forgiveness if it was me.

      • God help us all, I am well aware of the scriptures you quoted about judging. Unfortunately, you did not read or “judge” my comments correctly. Where did I mention anything about “judging a baby?” My remarks were related to the giving of a shower for an unwed mother because showers are intended to celebrate a birth and I said I was conflicted about celebrating the birth of a child (not the child itself) I did not know we were comparing sins but you must admit the consequences of some sins are worse than for others. Or do you deny that? Of course I have sinned but I do not say that proudly.
        The same Jesus that said Love of God is the greatest commandment also said that if we love him we will obey his commandments.
        E.B. I am terribly sorry you were hurt by the leadership of your church. A minister of a congregation I attended once said “We (in churches of Christ) shoot our wounded.” I do believe that is less true now than it once was but we are called to be “a peculiar people – in the world but not of the world.” I see few lines of distinction/separation now. I also believe that those of us who respond to these blog posts are called to show that same mercy and love to those with whom we disagree.

  2. Les, your comment (“that young mother will never forget how she is treated…” brought to mind an infamous quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What an incredibly astute observation! How true, how VERY true! Besides scripture (of course!), this is a secular quote that would behoove a Christian (or anyone for that matter!) to tuck in the forefront of their minds.

    • Susan, I do remember that but it just does not include an endorsement of baby showers for unwed mothers. That is all. I do not have to buy a gift and attend a shower (but I do) but I can still show love and kindness to the unwed mother and to her baby before and when it arrives. Love is shown in many ways. . Some people truly have trouble accepting love when they still feel guilty about an event or situation, also.

  3. Phillip Yancey shared an encounter a Chicago pastor had with a drug addict who was prostituting her own child for drug money. When the pastor asked her if she had turned to the church, she replied, “The church? Why would I do that? I already feel bad enough about myself.” Sort of like (or exactly like) what Jesus said about not coming to condemn the world because the world was condemned already. We preach redemption and freedom from sin. We offer an exit strategy. God is making his appeal through us. And his appeal is that we accept his offer of mercy and pardon.

    • Gordon, I am familiar with some of Yancey’s writing and I know that as Barna concluded in his research of why young people are leaving, one of the reasons was that we are too judgmental. A number of years ago, I was on a Christian School Board with a young woman I had known for a long time. She had attended the congregation I did for many years with her husband and children. She and her husband divorced and she remarried a short time later and then divorced again. She had gone back to school and finished her terminal degree and was a school principal in the area. I tried to get her to come back and worship with us again. She said, and I paraphrase, “I cannot do that because I would feel that everyone just saw the big D on me.” The problem was not really the “church” but her guilt and guilt is a difficult thing to live with. As far as I know she continues to attend another congregation and has never remarried. I moved and have been out of contact with her but I consider her a dear friend. Sometimes we lay blame that is ours on “the church” but it our guilt that causes us to make false assumptions. We cannot believe others forgive us because we cannot forgive ourselves.
      I said I was conflicted by my inability to fully accept showers for unwed mothers. We have moved off into many areas and although I have been guilty of making accusations against “the church” I know in my heart that sometimes the problem is me and I don’t want to accept that. I do not believe however that my failure to endorse showers for the unwed equates with unforgiveness, or lack of compassion and mercy. I think it is limited to my inability to celebrate a birth outside of marriage. I don’t believe you would find anyone, except maybe my sons and a few students, (I taught school for 30 years) who would say that I was unforgiving or really judgmental (in the worst sense of that word.”

  4. I heard you speak in Ash Flat Arkansas this past weekend. You were so inspiring. You have a gift, and I hope you continue to be able to tell your story. It was painful for you and it was painful to hear, but it touched me and so many others!

  5. I was the unwed mother. The shame I had already placed on myself was flamed by the judgement being placed on me. There was no grace, mercy or more importantly, Love, shown to me by the leadership.
    Gratefully, there was an amazing, God fearing women, who stood up and said “NO” we will love her. She will have a shower and we will show her the grace, God gives us all everyday.
    I thank God daily for her and her husband.
    I pray daily, in my changed life, that I have the strength, faith and grace this couple had!

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