I want to die…

When I read the Bible, I can’t help but wonder certain silly questions like,

  • “Did Adam have a belly button?
  • Did the serpent speak with a lisp?
  • Was Boaz built like Fabio?

I get these certain images in my mind of what the person or event looked like and wonder how close I am to the truth.   I read about some of the amazing events that occurred (parting of the Red Sea, fall of Jericho, etc) and wonder what it must have been like to actually have been there.

I read the stories that involve legendary men like Elijah, Jonah, Job, David or Paul and marvel at what occurred in their lives.  The truth is, they probably didn’t think they were very legendary at the time.  They were just ordinary men who did extraordinary things when their lives were yielded to a miracle making God.

What would it have been like to be the Prophet Elijah?   The miracles God performed through him were truly remarkable.  He caused the rain to cease for 3 1/2 years simply by praying (1 Kings 17:1).  He resurrected the widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:22).  He called fire from heaven on the altar and then  slayed 850 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:38).  He parted the Jordan River (II Kings 2:8).  So significant was his impact on earth that his assistant’s (Elisha) only request was that when Elijah died, he be given a double portion of his spirit (II Kings 2:10).

What would it have been like to be the Prophet Jonah? Though he was initially disobedient and rebellious, the book that bears his name ends with Jonah leading the largest revival ever recorded in the history of the world.  (Interestingly, the city that Jonah was called to preach to was named Ninevah, today known as Mosul – located in modern-day Iraq.)  If a preacher today could preach one sermon and convert an entire city (over 120,000 people) – he would be on the cover of Time magazine and interviewed on every major network – not to mention immediately become the Pastor of the world’s largest church.   That was the accomplishment of this reluctant evangelist.

What would it have been like to be Job? The greatest man in all the East. Wealth, beyond imagination. His whole life was just one giant blessing – from his business to his family to his walk with God. So pure was Job’s heart that God was led to showcase His “blameless and upright” servant before an exclusive heavenly audience. If he were a businessman today, Job would be a CEO for a Fortune 500 company and at the top of the “World’s richest man” list.  Financially, he was the Bill Gates of the Bible.

What would it have been like to be King David? A shepherd boy turned king. The youngest in his family and the ruler of God’s chosen race.  A poet, a musician, a writer, a warrior. A man who killed a lion & bear with his bare hands. A man whom God used to save his nation from imminent slavery.  Without David’s pen, we would not have most of the book of Psalms.  Though his life was beset with many sins, he was undoubtedly blessed by God and would be forever known as Israel’s greatest king.

What would it have been like to be the Apostle Paul? One week he is killing Christians. The next week he is one of Christ’s most devoted followers. Even while in prison, he had an audience with the kings of the culture, Governors like Felix & Festus. Because of God’s writings through Paul, we have 13 books of the New Testament. A church planter, discipler and pastor – we owe much of Christianity’s impact in the first century (and beyond) to this one man.

What do these men all have in common?  For starters, they all were considered righteous.  They all were (eventually) enormously successful.  They all were used by God in mighty ways.  They all made a significant impact upon their culture.  But there was one more attribute they all had in common.

Surprisingly, they all, at one point, wanted to die.

  • Fear of Jezebel caused Elijah to desire death after his amazing victory over the prophets of Baal.
  • Job wanted to die after experiencing unimaginable loss – even regretting the day of his birth.
  • Jonah would rather die than see an enemy people enter the family of God.
  • David often despaired of his life when chased by his enemies, as recorded in the Psalms.
  • Paul wanted to die while being persecuted in chains (Philippians 1:21-23).

You expect losers to want to die.  You expect quitters to want to end their life.  You expect people whose lives don’t amount to much to desire the next life.  But not Christians!  Not successful people.  Not people who have been used by God.  Especially not legendary men of the Bible!

Yes, sometimes even Christians struggle with depression.  Sometimes even successful people want to end their lives.  Even the legendary men of the Bible wanted to quit at times.

Have you ever felt like dying?  Ever want to call it quits?  I have – many times, even recently.  As recent as tonight.  Like Job, I have experienced painful loss.  Like Paul, I have been persecuted by enemies.  Like David, I have seen the devastating effects of my sins.  Even tonight, I feel crushed by the weight of my past.  Like Jonah, I have wrestled with not wanting to do what God called me to do.  I have desired, many a time, to just be gone from this hurting planet.   “Why am I stuck in traffic“, I think, “when I could be on streets of gold?

The older I get, the less I want to be here.  The more time I spend on earth, the stronger my desire is for Heaven.

I’m not alone.  I have many friends who are, right now, struggling with enormous daily problems; financial, emotional, relational, physical.   It seems everywhere I turn, people are hurting.  There are times when life is just overwhelming and the easy answer is to end it all.

But we keep going.  We put on a smile at breakfast even as we attempt to help little ones rise from the dead (aka sleep).  Killing a bear would be easier than helping a child get ready for school.  We get dressed every day in spite of the Goliath waiting for us at work.  We can barely part the laundry let alone think about parting the Red Sea.  We try to do what God calls us to do, in spite of the physical or emotional pain.   Some days, just getting out of bed is an accomplishment.

In a lot of ways, whether you know it or not, you are in good company.  Men like Elijah and David and Jonah relate to your struggle.  They too, wanted to quit but didn’t.

Here is the good news.  Your story isn’t over yet.  There is still time on the clock.  The last chapter has not been written and the movie credits have not scrolled up.  Today may be hard but God is not unaware of your struggle.  The miracles of the Bible are still available today.  The only difference between you and the Prophet Elijah is time.  The same God that helped David kill the lion and the bear is the same God that helps you pay your bills and drive your kids to soccer practice.  Your tasks may seem different, but the lesson is still the same.


Granted, you may have some big problems to address.  I know I do.  But you also have a BIG GOD at your side.   David did not look at Goliath and think “He is too big, I’ll never hit him.”  Because of God, David looked at Goliath and thought, “He is so big, I can’t miss.”  David didn’t kill Goliath because of “five smooth stones.”  David killed Goliath because He trusted a God who could aim.   God still aims today.   And He uses what is in our hand to do it.

Today, as you go out into battle – trust that you are not alone.  Trust that there is a God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

HIS power.

At work.

Within us.

Are you accessing that power?   Ask Him for it.

Paul did.  David did.  Jonah did.  Job did.  Elijah did.

So can I.   Yea, even me.

So can you.  Yea, even you.

How to help a hurting friend

I have a close friend of mine who is hurting. Really hurting.  In fact, I seem to have several friends that are struggling on different levels.  Some are struggling physically with an ailment or a disease.  Many are struggling financially.  Most are struggling emotionally.   When times are hard, people are hurting.

When I think about someone who understands how painful life can be, I think of the biblical character named Job.   In the book that bears his name, we are told that Job was the “greatest of all the men of the east.”   He is married with ten children, extremely wealthy and described as “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.”   By all accounts, Job is a good man living a blessed life.   That is, until the sixth verse of chapter one when everything changes.

God initiated a conversation with Satan about Job and his many unique attributes, mentioned above.  Satan, being the accuser he is, argued that the only reason Job was “good” was because God was blessing him.  Take away the blessings (wealth & health) and Job would cease to be good.  To prove him wrong, God allows Satan to do whatever he wants to His servant, Job so long as he spares Job’s life.   What happens next is truly unbelievable.   Within a matter of minutes, Satan orchestrates four “freak accidents” that end up taking the lives of all his children and causing him to go bankrupt overnight.   To make matters worse, Satan eventually afflicts Job with painful boils all over his body, “from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”  To relieve the suffering, Job “took a potsherd (broken piece of pottery) to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.”  

Job went from being the greatest man in all the east to being the most miserable – in less than an hour.   On our worst day, none of us have ever had to endure such tragedy and painEven Job’s wife encouraged him to “curse God and die.”   Nice comforting words from someone who is supposed to be your closest earthly friend. 

Job is now alone.   All his children are dead.  All their homes are destroyed.  All his livestock (and therefore his business) are gone.  He no longer has the support of his wife.  As a sign of mourning, he tore his robe, shaved his head and is now sitting in a pile of ashes.  And if that is not enough – he is in excruciating pain trying to deal with bloody, open wounds on his entire body.    Imagine the physical and emotional pain.  Imagine the loss!  Job is unaware that all of this is occurring because of an invisible divine dialogue.   All Job knows is he is hurting and struggling for hope.  Even in the midst of this, Job does not lose his faith in God.

Enter Job’s three friends; Eliphaz, Bildad & Zophar.  What these three men do is leave an example for us of what to do (chapter 2) and what not to do (chapters 4 to 37) when someone is hurting.   The passage is in italics.  The lessons are in bold.

Oil painting by Ilya Yefimovich-Repin – 1869

Job 2:11 – “When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.”

Lesson #1: The friends went to Job as soon as they heard he was hurting.  Do you do that?  Job’s friends did not wait for Job to be in a position to call for help.  Oftentimes, the people who are hurting can’t reach out for help.  The pain is too deep and the wounds are too sensitive.  They need for us to come to them.  Job’s friends went to Job.  Are you THAT kind of friend? 

Lesson #2: Their initial goal was sympathy and comfort, not advice.  Job did not need advice.  He did not need a sermon.  He did not need anyone to tell him why they thought God was allowing this.  He simply needed someone to be with him during his darkest hour offering silent support.  When his friends opened their mouth (chapters 4 to 37), Job lost his comfort and wavered in his faith.

Job 2:12 – “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.”

Lesson #3: Job’s friends did not lose their kids.  His friends did not lose their jobs.  They were not in physical torment.   And yet, they joined Job in his suffering and communicated their solidarity with him.  If Job’s heart was breaking, so was theirs.   How well do you identify with the suffering of your friends – even if you have never experienced what they are going through?  Romans 12:15 says to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  The goal is to be compassionate and empathetic, regardless of someone’s situation.  Are you THAT kind of friend?

Job 2:13 – “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.   No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Lesson #4: Job’s friends got on Job’s level and stayed with him for as long as they could.  The lesson is not where we physically sit.  The lesson is not staying for a week after each tragedy.  The principle is getting on the same level as your hurting friend and seeing them through the pain completely.   Throughout the Bible, the number seven is a number of completion.  It’s not the seven days that is important, it’s the fact that Job’s friends were communicating – “We are here for the long haul, Job.  We are here for you – regardless of how long this takes.”  Anyone can offer initial support.  Anyone can send a card or give a few bucks to assist.  But are you the “I will sit with you until your pain is relieved” type of friend?  When lives fall apart, it can get real messy.  It’s not easy loving a hurting friend.  Are you THAT kind of friend?

An update and a word of thanks…

(Three years ago, my world came crashing down.  In a matter of months, I lost virtually everything dear to me.  In those early days, there were only three things that kept me going; my faith in Christ, my family and a few close friends.  Though I had hundreds of friends, only a handful took the initiative to come to me, cry with me, “tear their robes” and stay until the situation improved.  A special thank you to my family and the following friends: Mike, Brady, Brian, Jonathan, Ken, Wendy, David & Ginger, Dawson & Kasey.  Without you, I would not have made it off my ash-heap.)