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The Good Shepherd – seeking the lost

I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick. – Ezekiel 34:16 (NKJV)

Few days back, I was informed of an impending visit from some of our relatives. As we were praying, the Lord told me that I needed to give counselling to a teenage boy who is going in the wrong way. The Lord also gave me insights into his wounded mind, and gave examples that I must use from my own bitter experiences from my childhood. So, I surrendered myself to God’s will and was waiting for the boy to arrive.

But it so happened that as soon as they came, they had to leave right away to another city. But before leaving, the kid asked me if he could speak to me on Saturday afternoon as he would be back by then. I told that was fine. But again, their travel plans changed and I was informed that he would be arriving late in the night, and if possible, he would like to talk for few minutes with me. I agreed again as the Lord had told me to. Then Saturday night, I was informed that due to traffic problems, they were not leaving that evening, but would be reaching on Sunday morning, and would be leaving within an hour or so. Now, I was in a dilemma, as Sunday mornings are generally hectic and it would be difficult to accommodate time to talk with him, as I would be in the church by 9:45 AM to prepare for the worship service. But, I was assured this time, that they would be in the morning by 7:30, so just few minutes of my time would mean a lot. So, I hurried up all my processes so I could be ready by 7:30. Yet again, the dreaded phone call came, informing us that the traffic was severe than they had anticipated, and hence they would reach our home only by 10 AM.

Now I knew that I won’t be even able to say goodbye to the kid, as I would be in the church, leading the worship when they arrive and leave right after. But it also bothered me that the Lord had told me that I had to talk to the boy and gave words. The Lord is always true to His Word. So, I sought the Lord’s guidance in this matter… and something happened.

I suddenly became too weak and started feeling severe pain. As I told my wife rather eloquently, I had only 4 minor ailments that is bothering me: 1. I am not able to walk. 2. I am not able to stand. 3. I am not able to sit, and 4. I am not able to lie down. Though I am able to joke about it now, at that moment, the pain was intense and severe, I did not know what to do. Could not sit, stand, walk or lie down. What are the things you could possibly do when you are feeling severe pain? So, at the last minute, I had to give the worship to our assistant pastor who has been in training for just such emergencies.

At 10 AM, when the worship was starting, the teenage boy called me, asking if I could spare just five minutes of my time. Though I was in pain, I asked him to come, as my wife just then pointed out that the Lord has been truthful to His Word. As we spoke, he realized how many wounds he has suppressed in his sub-conscious, how he has been blaming himself for what has happened to his parents, how he had been subjected to severe physical beating in the name of being disciplined, and finally how it had led him to abuse his own body. As we spoke, I could see that the Lord was making a breakthrough in the kid’s heart, and we ended up talking for nearly an hour. As he left, I believe the presence and the grace of the Lord was with him, and the Great Physician will heal the wounds of that teenage boy.

However, the one thing that I realized was how in the parable of a lost sheep, the Good Shepherd leaves all the 99 sheep in safety and goes searching for that one last sheep. I never took it literally. But today, as nearly 100 believers were worshipping the Lord, He had made me indisposed so that He could reach out to one lost soul… it made me realize how important each soul is for our Great Shepherd.

If the Lord had asked me my preference, attending the worship of the Lord or to spend the same time counselling a lost soul, I admit that I would have preferred attending the worship of our Lord God. But today, the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, made me realize that every lost sheep in important to Him. All I can say is, “Thank You Lord for the affliction that You gave me this day, so that I could be of use to a dear lost soul. May Your Name alone be praised. Amen.”

Shepherd

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Let the Teacher choose the School – The Wilderness

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I AM. – John 13:13 (NKJV)

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the best Teacher we can ever have. Learning from Jesus is probably the easiest thing to do, as He is gentle and lowly in heart. Learning from Him will find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28). Yet, we often see us not learning the lessons the easy way; we find His yoke to be difficult and His burden heavy – too much to bear. Why? The reason is, often because, we don’t let the Teacher and the Lord to choose the School where we are to be taught.

Let us go and make a checklist of things needed to be taught for a shepherd boy to be a king. David was anointed to be the next king of Israel. He did possess the qualities to be the king, because when the first time, one of the servants talked about him to king Saul, he said that David was skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person, and the Lord was with him (1 Samuel 16:19). When we realize that this assessment was made before David slayed Goliath; before he became the armorbearer for Saul. But he was raw. He needed to be polished. He was a raw diamond. So, where would he polished? Our expertise would say in the palace of a king and in the battlefield.

Yes, he was in the palace of a king; he slayed Goliath; he led the Israelite armies to many great victories; he married the princess; he became best friends with the prince Jonathan; he had become the son-in-law of the king himself. He was learning everything he had to. And I would have thought when Saul’s time was gone, David was ready to become the king. But, alas, how little I know the School where our Lord teaches.

No, dear friends, it was not in the comfort of the palace, or in the forefront of deadly battles, did David learn the lessons he needed the most; his diamond did not shine yet. It was cut, but not yet polished. For that, David had to follow his Teacher into one place, where we would not have expected one of the greatest kings of history to be schooled – the wilderness of Judah.

The course was as tough as it could come. But the lessons he learned there were the very best, which he could not have learned from the confines of a palace. A battle field would have tested and proved his courage, but the wilderness of Judah made him tender-hearted when two hundred of his men became weary – the same men who were ready to stone him to death just hours before (1 Samuel 30). The lessons from the wilderness made him magnanimous, as he sent the spoils from the Amalekites to those who helped him, saying “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:26). From a raw-cut diamond, he became the best diamond in the world, so that the Teacher Himself was, one day, called as the “Son of David.”

Dear friend, the wilderness we are in, is not a banishment, but is the best form of school we could ever attend. The wilderness may feel very lonely, but our Teacher is with us every step of the way, strengthening us in Him (1 Samuel 30:6). Every thing that breaks us in not meant to kill us, but to become the best vessels to carry the grace and love of the Lord to the world. Every lesson that we are learning is not pushing us away from the Lord God, but to rest on His bosom as John did. Yes, you may not know who you are, but if you are in the wilderness of Judah, your Creator knows that you are a raw-cut diamond, and He has chosen you to become a priceless diamond, that shines amidst the darkness of this world. Yes, dear friend, don’t sulk at the School you are in right now. Let the Teacher decide the School that you need to. Amen. May God bless us all.

John 13_13

Job’s Wife – Bless God and die!

1. Job’s Wife – Introduction

2. Job’s Wife – Balaam’s Wise Utterance

3. Job’s Wife – The LORD Understands Depression

4. Job’s Wife – The Silent Sufferer

5. Job’s Wife – Her Broken Heart

6. Job’s Wife – To Bless or To Curse

7. Job’s Wife – Blessing While Sinning

8. Job’s Wife – Satanic Sarcasm

In the previous blogs, by the grace of God, I hope I have explained how the word ‘barak’ was mistranslated as ‘curse’ in the three instances in the first two chapters of the Book of Job. It still leaves us with that one verse that matters the most. Those words Job’s wife utters in Job 2:9.

And his wife said to him, “Are you still holding fast to your integrity? Bless God and die!” (LITV)

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (NKJV)

Now, if we consider that ‘barak’ means to bless, and hence Job’s wife did say “Bless God” instead of “Curse God”, we have two questions that need to be answered. The first question would be why if she said to bless God, did she add “die” to that? To answer that question, let me talk about a conversation that happened in July this year.

I met this elderly couple who have been ministers of God, for more years than my age is. For a long time, the church they pastored to was considered a beacon of Light and Truth to many people in our town. The church members were delivered from many bondages; the believers prospered; 24/7 someone would be praying in the church; youth would be praising the Lord even at 3 AM; many people were being saved; many believers became servants of God and branched out. It was during this time, the Lord gave them great promises regarding the future of the church and various plans He has for them.

But for the last 20 years or so, things took a rough turn. Except on Sundays and Fridays, when there are appointed times for worship and prayer, no believer would come to pray. Many believers suffered severe financial losses. Those who came to the church with myriad of problems were not delivered any more. For few years, there was no baptism at all in the church. The church members seem to be lost. The ministers themselves have fallen on hard times for quite a long time.

When I was talking to the elderly ministers, I was talking about the great promises that the Lord has given them and to my surprise, they were not giving much importance to those promises. They told me that they were not focussing on those promises anymore. They had had a good run. For many years, the church was thriving, the members were prosperous, and God had used them to save so many souls. They are grateful for all those blessings. They have decided to spend the rest of their lives to thank God for the good things He has done in their life, for letting them do His ministries faithfully for so long, and to await either the Second Coming of our Lord or the sweet deliverance of death. They have, they declared in a firm voice, absolutely no compunctions about the various promises not fulfilled. They had a fruitful life, they are thankful for that, and they have decided to bless the Lord for all those good things He has in their life and to prepare for death.

“Bless God and die!”

I hope that conversation has made it clear what it means to ‘bless God and die.’ Job’s wife was not telling him to blaspheme God and then to commit suicide. She was telling him, instead of hoping that things would change for him, he must bless God for all the good things he had enjoyed in his life and be prepared to meet his Creator.

Now that may sound alien to us, but the Bible does have a record of such an instance. As we know, the 11th chapter of Hebrews is known as the “Hall of Fame of Heroes of Faith”, and for a good reason. But if we read carefully, we will see certain oddities in the names of the heroes, and also what things are considered to be “of faith” by the Spirit of God. Most striking of those oddities would be what had been recorded for Jacob.

There were many incidents in the life of Jacob, where he exhibited great faith in trusting God against all odds. Yet, the Scripture records the final moment of Jacob, as an act of faith, that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And that record is:

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. – Hebrews 11:21 (NKJV)

Jacob, as he was dying, leaned on the top of his staff, which accompanied him in his lonely walk when he ran away from his brother, and worshiped the Lord; apparently Jacob, knowing his death was imminent, was blessing God for all the good things He had done in his life, and died.

This was what Job’s wife was asking him to do: Bless God and die!

However, that leaves with still one more question to answer… Job’s response to that. God willing, we will see discuss his response tomorrow. Peace be with us all. Amen.

Hebrews 11_21

To suffer for Christ

“Unto you it is given . . .to suffer” (Philippians 1:29).

God keeps a costly school. Many of its lessons are spelled out through tears. Richard Baxter said, “O God, I thank Thee for a bodily discipline of eight and fifty years”; and he is not the only man who has turned a trouble into triumph.

This school of our Heavenly Father will soon close for us; the term time is shortening every day. Let us not shrink from a hard lesson or wince under any rod of chastisement. The richer will be the crown, and the sweeter will be Heaven, if we endure cheerfully to the end and graduate in glory.
Theodore L. Cuyler

Job’s Wife – Her Broken Heart

1. Job’s Wife – Introduction

2. Job’s Wife – Balaam’s Wise Utterance

3. Job’s Wife – The LORD Understands Depression

4. Job’s Wife – The Silent Sufferer

Who can bear a broken spirit? – Proverbs 18:14 (NKJV)

Imagine the life of Job’s wife just a day before calamity struck her family. Her husband was prosperous, well-respected – both in this world and in the presence of God, and he was the greatest of all the people of the East. She had seven sons and three daughters, who lived in such a unity. Each son’s birthday was celebrated by all the brothers and sisters together. From what Job said later, we understand that they treated their servants well, and in turn they were respected well. From the outset, it would look like that she would be the poster woman for “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31. Life was good. Serene. Blessed.

Then 24 hours later, she had lost everything. All her children were killed; all their valuable were raided by the enemies and all their servants were dead. Just in 24 hours, her life changed from being perfect to completely void. Yet, the Scriptures do not record her of wailing, or cursing God, or berating Job for their losses. Even when Job said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21, NKJV), she did not rail against him. She suffered her losses stoically, reflecting that she was, indeed, noble in nature.

Then one day, she saw her loving husband covered with boils, from bottom to top, sitting in the middle of the ashes, scarping himself hard with a potsherd. It is one thing to suffer a sudden loss, but to suffer a war of attrition, where you are witnessing your loved one suffer, right before your eyes, without an end in the sight, is entirely a different thing; such an attrition will break even the strongest of the spirits. And who can bear a broken spirit?

If you have seen your loved one suffering in pain every day, withering away daily, right before your eyes, with no hope whatsoever, you already know how difficult it is.

Our Immanuel, Jesus Christ, knew that the death and the eventual burial of Lazarus was going to bring great glory to our Father, that the Son of God also would be glorified, and that Lazarus would come back alive and his entire family was going to rejoice. Yet when He saw Mary and Martha were weeping, John records that the Lord groaned in the spirit and was troubled (John 11:33) and eventually, the Lord Himself wept (John 11:35). If our Lord, knowing what He was about to do, groaned in the spirit and was troubled, and if the Lord Himself wept, then imagine how much He understands how brittle our hearts. Jesus knows our weaknesses more than we do. And He sympathizes with us and is compassionate towards our broken spirit.

Suffering and afflictions are at times hard. But waiting without any sliver of hope is also equally hard. If afflictions affect our body and mind, attrition breaks our spirit. It is with a broken spirit, Job’s wife uttered those six words. But, even then, she did not speak against the Lord or even against her husband. As they say, something was lost in translation. God willing, may the Spirit of our Lord lead us to the Truth as it is in the Scriptures.

Proverbs 18_14

Job’s Wife – The Lord understands depression

1. Job’s Wife – Introduction

2. Job’s Wife – Balaam’s Wise Utterance

The Lord our God created us. There is nothing in us that would surprise the Omniscient God. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord knows everything about us. We cannot hide anything from our Creator. Everything is naked before His eyes. Even from far off, He understands our thoughts. Even before we speak a word, even as it is formed in our tongue, the Lord knows. That’s why David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (Psalm 139:6, NKJV).

In His mercies, our Father in Heaven also understands depression. Whether it was Moses, the great prophet or David, the man after God’s own heart, they had suffered depression. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, declares Solomon (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Even the great heroes of faith suffered from depression, as things did not turn out as they expected. As time ran out, they had to endure their hearts losing their confidence.

In his utter depression, a broken-hearted Elijah pleaded with God to take his life as he was not better than his ancestors (1 Kings 19:4). And there is something we need to notice here. Though Elijah said that prayer in depression, the Lord never reprimanded him for that. More importantly, He did answer Elijah’s prayer: the Lord did take away Elijah, except not in the way the prophet wanted. This is our God. This is our Father in Heaven.

The Lord understands depression. When we utter certain things because we are depressed, He knows the broken heart behind those utterances. When we say few things that we would not normally say, our Father in Heaven knows that we are saying such things because we are downcast. What the Lord does not like, what He hates is murmuring against Him. But a broken-heart, the Lord does not despise. In face, the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Our Great Physician binds those who are heart-broken, and heals them.

Of course, the greatest depression we see is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Savior Jesus Christ came for one purpose – to die on the Cross, so that we are saved. Yet the night before, He suffered so much in his anguish, he sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Our Teacher’s soul was so deeply grieved to the point of death, in His depression, He asked the Father “to remove that cup from Him.” But regaining His composure, He added, “Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). Again God our Father did not reproach His Son for that prayer. Since we know that our Lord Jesus is without sin, His utterance “to remove that cup from Him” was not a sin.

It is in this light, we need to look at the utterance of Job’s wife. By the Spirit of God, hopefully, before we finish this series, we will be able to see that her ‘irate’ directive to Job was actually very similar to the prayer of Elijah, and to an extent, and I am saying this with utmost humility and trepidation, is similar to our Lord’s prayer asking that the cup be removed from Him.

But to reach that point, we need to understand one of the well-known words in the Bible; a word we all know well for nearly a decade now, thanks to the American politics.

Psalm 34_18

Faithful in this world

The student in the lower grades who is always idly dreaming of the time when he will be a senior, and thus neglects his present studies, will never be prepared to take his place with any distinction in his senior year. If we scholars in the larger school of life are so fascinated by revelations of the unseen world that we lose interest in the present one, we will never be prepared for its highest enjoyment.

Live a faithful, overcoming Christian life in this world today, and you will be ready for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Rebuke the devil, but take responsibility

A believer recently came to our church and was complaining to the ministers of God, how the devil has been sabotaging his business; whatever he earns is lost because the devil is creating one loss after another. How his family members have become sick one after another and hence could not take care of the business and all these are because the devil is working against him. And the ministers of God also prayed, rebuking the devil in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, I have suffered enough due to many demonic attacks, and moreover, our ministry itself is deliverance ministries. So, I am not going to say that devil cannot do anything to saved Christian, who obeys the will of God. If Satan could hinder the plans of Apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:18), then he could certainly hinder our plans. But there comes a point where we blame everything on the devil, instead of taking responsibility for our actions. There are times what we reap is what we sow. The same Apostle Paul tells in no uncertain terms in his Epistle to Galatians.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. – Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

Now, this believer is known for his avarice. He already has few lands, but when he got a chance to buy one more land next to his home, he borrowed money from many and bought it. Some people may say that it is the right thing to do. But there are couple of problems.

Before this, he borrowed money from two women in our church. One is a widow and the other one suffers from marital problems because she has become a Christian. Both are tender hearted and when he asked them for money, they gave him happily; the second lady even lent him some of her jewels, with the assurance that he would return them within 6 months. Since her husband is against her going to church in the first place, if he comes to know that she has given her jewels to some believer as a loan, she would be in serious trouble. The widow is also in a poor situation as she has two daughters who are going to college now. She also gave the money, again hoping to get her money back within 6 months. Now, it has been 3 years since that, and he does not even talk about the money he owes to these poor women. Yet, he went ahead and borrowed more money from others to buy a land, and still had the temerity to stand in the church and witness that the Lord has blessed him with a land, while these two innocuous women watching him helplessly. The ministers of God have told him repeatedly to pay back those hapless women, but he does not care.

Then two years back, he bought a pickup truck for his business purpose – this time, he managed to get a loan from the bank and he needs to repay it in instalments; that debt will be cleared in another 2 years. Even then, some people pointed out that it was a costly venture and he would trouble making the payments; but he assured them that with his two sons and his wife working hard with him, he would be able to pay all those instalments easily.

But then last year, he went ahead and bought another pickup truck, again in a loan from another bank and again, it is going to take him 4 years to pay back that debt. His reasoning is if he has two trucks, he and his sons would be working around the clock and would be rich sooner and will be able to pay back all the debts within a year or two.

Then he became terribly sick and the doctors have advised him not to work hard. His wife became too weak from years of hard work and not eating properly. One of his sons met with an accident and is incapacitated for few weeks from driving a vehicle. The other son, who is a good student, got an apprentice from the Government of India and left.

Now he is having trouble to make the payments. Whatever they earn, they have to spend for the health of one or the other person in the family. Since he loves to take shortcuts to make a profit, he did not get the Fitness Certificate (FC) for his trucks; now a honest officer has been transferred to our area and is fining any vehicles which do not have a current FC. Since the FCs for this believer’s trucks have expired 5 months back, he has to pay a huge amount as fine now.

So, it is the devil that is making so many losses in his life. He wants to give to the ministries and support the church, but the devil is trying his best to stop this believer from doing that.

Yes, we can blame everything on the devil. But the LORD knows the truth. God cannot be mocked. We reap what we sow. It is time believers take responsibility for their actions. Our father Adam and mother Eve tried blaming others for their sins; but the Lord saw through their “blaming others” tactics. What makes us think we can fool the Omniscient God now?

Galatians 6_7

So

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. – John 11:5-6 (NKJV)

As the narration shifts to the sufferings that the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the ordeal they had to suffer, the Bible tells that Jesus loved them. Yes, dear friend, all these pain, sufferings and afflictions that you are undergoing, is not because the Lord has ceased loving you, but because Jesus loves you.

At the very heart of all Lord’s dealing with you, is His loving heart; the very foundation of our Lord leading you through this valley of death is His loving hand. Eternal God is your Refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)

The situations may be as dark as they can be; the reasons for the delay in the Lord’s deliverance may be mysterious to you; but dare to believe in the unmerited, infinite, immutable love that God has for you, that He showered on you on the Cross when His only Son was crucified for your sake.

Human love tries its best to avoid pain, especially to those who we love the most. That’s why the sisters informed Jesus that “he, whom You love, is sick” (John 11:3). From their understanding of how love works, they were very sure that Jesus would do everything to heal Lazarus and prevent them from any pain. Yet the Bible tells us, “Jesus loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus. So… He stayed two more days.”

So… how much import is there in this one little word. So… Jesus delayed not because He did not love them, but because He loved them. So, He delayed. It is His divine love that kept Him from sending His Word and heal Lazarus at once. It is His immutable love for them that kept Him from rushing to their home, take hold of Lazarus and healing him. Dear friend, as the Lord delays His deliverance, when everyone is telling you that the Lord has forsaken you, that He does not love you anymore… remember this. “Jesus loves you. So, He delays.”

Why does He delay? Because He knows that this situation will not lead to your death; this will not be the end of your life; but this path is allowed in your life for the glory of God; that the Son of God will be glorified through you (John 11:4). You will become a living testimony to the love of God. Many will see what great things that the Lord has done for you, and they will accept Him as their Savior – because of you. Yes, the Lord loves you. So….

John 11_5-6

The LORD rules over everything

Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? – Job 2:10 (JPS)

As I wrote yesterday in my blog, I was pleasantly surprised by the blessing that the Lord gave me. But something else happened, that disquieted me. After the phone call, we were about to start our morning prayers, and clearly I and my wife were very nervous. How would the day be? Would I be able to travel for a whole day? How about eating out? We were very nervous and even thought of asking our cousin to postpone the trip. Then as we started to pray, something happened.

Suddenly the Spirit of the LORD moved us to realize our errors. Say, if the LORD has given a severe affliction yesterday, like I had to endure last year, what would have we done? We would have accepted it as a lesson that the Lord is teaching us, that He would give enough grace and strength to go through the trial, we would have praised Him for considering us worthy to stand such a trial and we would have thanked Him for the lesson He taught us using the trial. Yes, we would have accepted the evil from the hand of God, because we know His loving hand is behind the rod that chastens us.

But the moment a blessing comes our way, something good comes our way, we are wary of so many things that could go wrong. Our attitude is so tuned out, that till we started praying and the Holy Spirit made us realize, we did not understand that this good, this blessing is also from the same loving hand of our Father. That He may choose this very blessing to teach a valuable lesson to us. That He would give enough grace and strength to go through the day. That if I praised Him for the affliction, then I must praise Him more than ever for this blessing; thank Him that He considered this poor man’s prayer and is showing me a favor that I do not deserve; that even in this blessing, the good Teacher has a way to teach His lessons.

Yes, the Lord rules over everything – both good and bad; whatever reaches you, who is under His mighty arm, reaches you only because God our Father allows it; whatever we receive, an affliction or a blessing, it is only because our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ has given us enough grace to sustain, to endure without falling.

So, for the last one year, the Lord taught me that He is the Ruler over everything and whatever He allows in my life is aimed at my sanctification and edification; but my mind has taken it only for the afflictions and trials. Yesterday the LORD corrected my learning. God our Lord is the Ruler of EVERYTHING. And, if we humble ourselves, we can always learn from our blessings as well as from our afflictions. True devotion is not only accepting evil from God, like Job did; but also accepting the two-fold blessing in an equanimous manner, just like Job did. Amen.

Job 2_10