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Job’s story is a classic. He was a good man who went out of his way to take care of other people. His life takes a drastic turn for the worst, and he literally starts living a fate worse than death (in my opinion). He loses his children and all of his temporal possessions, suffers immense physical anguish, his wife urges him to curse God and die, and his friends turn on him as well. Losing my children would probably destroy me, and if Conner told me that I should die, it would probably finish off whatever was left of me. I have a pathetic pain tolerance so kudos to Job for surviving.
The suffering of Job
One of my favorite things about Job is his willingness to talk about his suffering; I feel like so often in our lives, we equate being “meek” with silently swallowing what’s happening to us.
This verse isn’t technically in the assigned chapters, but I’m going to be sharing it as part of the whole message of Job. I feel very strongly that it adds to it.
1 My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
I don’t believe that Job was ever suicidal, but I do believe that he didn’t want to be alive anymore. He talks about how he wishes he had just died from birth. These are intense emotions, and he’s willingly sharing them.
Has there ever been a time in your life where you’ve felt like you couldn’t fully express the difficulty you were experiencing? Have you ever responded with, “I’m fine,” instead of, “I need help”? Have you ever scolded yourself for hurting during a trial, reminding yourself that you need to have a better attitude, to have an eternal perspective? I mean, there were times when I didn’t even feel like I could fully express myself in my journal. I wanted to be more faithful and trust the Lord more fully and rise above the difficulty I was experiencing.
It’s kinda funny because Job’s friends (and some random guy) gave him the same advice that I often tried giving myself.
21 Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
22 Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
When I would feel myself starting to give in and fall apart, I would tell myself the same things. “Stop hurting, Autumn. Draw closer to God. Receive what He’s trying to give you. Repent. It will get better.”
And I feel like this is very common. We shoulder our burdens for a while, but then they start to grow heavier. We feel ourselves starting to break down a bit, and we grit our teeth and remind ourselves to be grateful.
There is a lot of wisdom in trying to be grateful during our trials. There is a lot of wisdom in seeking out meekness and reminding yourself to draw closer to God during your trials. There is truth in the idea that we can be grateful for the gifts that our trials bring to us.
However, when we take those principles out of their proper bounds, we’re going to find ourselves in trouble.
How does the Lord feel about this?
So Job is openly complaining about what’s going on, and his friends are trying to help him be more faithful. Interestingly enough, this is what the Lord says:
Job 42:7 And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
I think this is the coolest idea, and it’s an idea we don’t talk about nearly enough. The Lord is frustrated with the friends who are telling Job to repent and be more meek. The Lord is praising Job, commending him for speaking what’s right.
This is often the opposite of what we talk about at church or in our homes or even to ourselves.
So what is the Lord trying to teach us here? What can we learn from the fact that the Lord was not upset with Job for being open about his trials?
Emotions and repentance
In my mind, the Lord is trying to teach us the role that emotions can play in the process of repentance. Now, when I speak about repentance, I am generally talking about the entire process of becoming better. It’s not just about saying sorry; repentance is about becoming like God.
Suffering was always meant to be a part of the Plan of Salvation; it was an absolutely essential, irreplaceable, paramount aspect of the Plan of Salvation. Without that suffering, we would not have the ability to grow into what the Lord wants us to grow into.
To say this more clearly, I want to differentiate suffering from trials.
Trials are an important aspect of the Plan of Salvation, but suffering was always meant to be a part of it. Life is not just a test; it’s the avenue by which we become. We weren’t supposed to come here, experience trials, and ace them. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ don’t only give (or allow) trials to test whether we’re going to be righteous or loyal enough. That is an essential aspect, but it’s only part of Their purposes. They also give (or allow) trials because They want us to suffer.
Sounds debatable and incongruent, but let me explain further.
They want us to suffer, not just for the experience of suffering, but because of the repentance and growth that comes with the suffering. They don’t necessarily desire our suffering specifically, but They are very willing to let us suffer if it means we can become like Them. They desire our happiness, and They’re wise enough to know that suffering is an ironic part of that.
The suffering is a crucial aspect. When we try to snuff out the suffering completely, we are taking away some of our repentance process. Even if we’re trying to remind ourselves to constantly have an eternal perspective and to be meek and accepting, we can actually be hindering our true acceptance of the Lord’s will. If we’re blocking out the emotions, we are blocking out the repentance.
Let’s look at the example of the Savior. He is the epitome of meekness, so I figure He’s a great place to look.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior was perfectly meek and accepting of the will of our Heavenly Father. However, part of accepting Heavenly Father’s will meant experiencing suffering. Christ didn’t try to block out the difficult emotions in order to be more meek. We didn’t hear Him constantly saying, “You’re the Son of God. Accept His will. Be grateful. This is only going to last for a second.” Instead, He leaned into that suffering. He felt it completely because He loves us. He had to feel it completely in order to fully bring about the atonement.
Feeling our suffering and accepting our suffering does not make us less meek. In fact, I would almost argue the opposite. Trying to block out the suffering with constant scoldings to be more righteous means that we’re not fully accepting the suffering that was meant to be part of the Lord’s plan. If we’re not fully accepting His will, we’re not actually being meek.
The Lord wasn’t angry with Job for suffering; why would He get mad at Job for suffering when it was always part of His plan? We should not be angry with ourselves for suffering, and we should not be afraid to discuss it with God.
I am reminded of a verse in Doctrine and Covenants about Job. Joseph Smith was experiencing trials beyond what I have ever experienced. His family and his people are suffering while he is experiencing false imprisonment. And Joseph decides to turn to his loving Father in Heaven.
Some of my sweetest moments with the Savior have occurred when I have allowed myself to fully experience the suffering, to sit in it and not try to bully myself into rising above it. My sweetest moments of gentle chastisement from the Lord have come when I have turned to Him in my sorrows rather than trying to rely upon my own strength. And as He reminds me to have an eternal perspective, I simultaneously receive peace. Ever since I have come to know the Lord on a more personal level, I have never felt diminished or chided by Him when I’ve turned to Him for help. There was a time long ago when my concept of the Savior was skewed, and I would feel punished. But I have not felt that way since I have truly come to know Him.
Now there are limitations to this principle just like other principles. You can take this principle too far just like any other principle. There are times when it’s appropriate to “embrace” that suffering that the Lord allowed as part of the Plan of Salvation. But there are also times when we do need to stand up and have faith. There are appropriate times to fall apart towards the Lord, and there are appropriate times to chin up and trust Him. Sometimes it’s very difficult to distinguish which circumstance you’re in. I don’t know your personal situation and so my advice amounts to this: Develop that personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and He will let you know.
He loves you. If He rebukes, it is because He loves you. If He allows you to suffer, it is ultimately because He wants you to be happy. Turn to Him. He knows what to do, and He knows you.