Adapted from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero. He is is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City, a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-three countries represented.
“My greatest challenge in following Jesus Christ for over forty years has been waiting on God when things are confusing. I prefer control. I understand why Abraham, after waiting eleven years for God’s promise of a son to come true, took matters in his own hands and had a baby the “natural way.” Birthing Ishmaels is common in both our churches and personal lives. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37: 7) remains one of the most radical commands of our day. It requires enormous humility.
Job waited for a long time when the people closest to him quit. They did not have a big enough God or theology to walk through phase two of grieving—waiting in the confusing in-between. Job spent much time battling with his three religious friends—Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad—who were convinced Job was suffering because of his sin. “That is the way God works,” they argued time and time again. “You reap what you sow, Job, and you must have done some bad things. You need to repent so God can bless you once again. You are suffering due to your sin. Trouble comes to sinners.” Job’s three friends represent “classic religion” or “legalism.” It goes something like this: “The reason you are not healed is you don’t pray enough, fast enough, read the Bible enough. You are suffering more than most because you have sinned more.” The problem with Job is that it wasn’t true. He was an innocent sufferer. His friends had no room for the “confusing in-between,” no room for mystery. Like many Christians today, they overestimated their grasp of truth. They played God and stood in God’s shoes. Job had two fights going on: one with God and the other with his friends who kept quoting Scripture to him. They tried to fix Job and defend God, and in their attempt to explain what God was doing (which they did not understand), they tortured Job, who was already in great pain. Do you know what it is like to feel worse after talking with some people who were trying to make you feel better? The confusing in-between resists all earthly categories and quick solutions. It runs contrary to our Western culture that pervades our spirituality. It is for this reason we have such an aversion to the limits God places around us.”