Beauty Among the Ashes – by Rebecca Bauman

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Have you ever suffered from a broken bone or sprained ankle? How about a deep gash from a knife that makes a finger tender and sore for days after the incident? Think about the discomfort that one lousy blister can cause an unprotected heel. A severe burn from the oven will be remembered long after it happened. How is it that such a small speck of dirt embedded in one’s eye can cause excruciating pain? An allergy to poison ivy brings relentless itching. While these are such “minor” life mishaps we all experience, they can create a lot of discomfort!

Some have had to endure much deeper, persistent physical pain due to cancer, serious accidents, or other illnesses. These debilitating conditions can linger days, weeks, months, or even years, causing intense pain and suffering.

Let’s consider the physical suffering Job was called to endure.

In Job 2, God and Satan had another dialogue, and in the end, Satan was permitted to strike Job’s physical body. Verse 7-8 reads:

“So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd (piece of broken pottery) to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.”

Biblical commentaries have varied opinions regarding Job’s disease, but one common theory is Black Leprosy. Another speculation was Elephantiasis, which causes a person’s body to swell to massive proportions. Perhaps Satan created his own horrific disease specifically for Job, with as much physical agony as possible. Intense pain, burning, itching, weeping sores covering every.inch.of.his.body… The exact condition doesn’t really matter.

Job was stricken from head to toe with sores of some sort. Again, we don’t know the exact nature of these boils. They may have been dry and itchy, or perhaps open, weeping wounds. Quite possibly, it was some of both, and Job was not tended to by well-educated health-care professionals who could offer him the latest medications and treatments. No sterile, white sheets to lie on or soothing baths would ease his suffering. Job’s only relief was scraping himself with a broken piece of pottery! Allow that to sink in for a moment. He was sitting on a pile of ashes, scraping himself. Unfortunately, his only “comfort” caused more harm than good, no doubt creating open wounds which allowed worms, maggots, and infection to flourish.

Aside from intense physical suffering, he had no one to comfort him.

His children and servants were all dead, and his wife offered little help. Most likely he was shunned for his disturbing appearance and kicked out of the city, if, indeed he was a leper. Three of his friends attempted to comfort him in his affliction, but instead proved to be “miserable comforters.” (Job 16:2) There’s something so warm and soothing when a loved one enters into our suffering with us. Their very presence in the room can begin to ease our discomfort. Sadly, Job seemed to be completely alone in his adversity.

Spend some time thinking about the most painful or uncomfortable experience you have had to endure. Reacquaint yourself with the pain (for just a quick moment). Remember emotions surrounding the pain. Most of us, when faced with severe, crippling pain or suffering, can think of NOTHING else but our present agonizing pain and how we can find relief.

What did you do to relieve the pain? Did you take pain medication? Go to the nearest emergency room? Apply ointments or creams? Or perhaps surgery was necessary to relieve your pain. Who was at your side, offering support? Finally, recall the moment when the pain was relieved.

All of our stories will look different.

But chances are, each experience has permanently affected us in some way. Sometimes, we can’t fully appreciate a healthy, functioning body until it fails us. Often, we take a good hard look at life during times of suffering and realize what truly matters in life. Most importantly, during times of intense suffering, our faith is put to the test. It is in the midst of those fiery trials that we can learn the deepest spiritual lessons and more fully grasp the love of our Heavenly Father.

Job endured extreme physical suffering with no relief, alone in his grief. He cried bitterly, angrily questioned God, and even despaired of life (Job 3). How appropriate that he sat among the ashes; a stark reminder that his former life, in all it’s glory, had turned to dust. But our Heavenly Father is able to bring beauty out of those ashes, redeeming our darkest moments for His glory!
In the end, Job clung to his faith and was able to bravely confess:

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

May this be the desire of our hearts – that as we go through the physical trials of life, we, too, can recognize His beauty among the ashes and come forth as gold!

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Rebecca Bauman is a happily-married, stay at home mom to four beautiful daughters. Before entering motherhood, she worked as a registered nurse. Although she hopes to pursue nursing again in the future, she feels blessed to be able to enjoy this time with her girls. She loves a good cup of coffee, (well, LOTS of coffee), spending time with friends and family, laughing, and fresh air. For now, in between “mommy moments,” she hopes to develop her writing in order to bless and encourage other women, particularly in the areas of health, fitness, and well-being.

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