Week of Monday, January 24­ – Sunday, January 30
Spread Hope – Man as Provider
“Oh that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” – Job 19: 23-27 ESV

His name was Jozef “Jef” De Veuster, a Belgian priest who was sent in 1873 to minister to lepers in Hawaii. As soon as Jef arrived on Molokai, he began trying to build friendships with the residents of the leper colony, but at first they rejected him. He poured himself into this ministry, building a small chapel and holding worship services. But hardly anyone came. After 11 long years, he thought about giving up. On a December day in 1884, Jef inadvertently put his foot into scalding bath water, causing his skin to blister, but he felt nothing. The lack of sensitivity could mean only one thing. He had contracted leprosy. But instead of quitting, he returned to his work in the leper colony with an even greater devotion.

The news of the missionary’s disease spread through the community within hours, and soon the lepers—hundreds of them—had gathered outside his hut. They understood his pain and despair. The following Sunday when the priest arrived at the chapel, the small building was filled to overflowing. That was the beginning of five years of fruitful ministry, even as his skin and ultimately his body was being destroyed by leprosy. What made the difference? Now the lepers knew that he understood their condition. There was no question about whether he cared or not. Then Jef, the priest who became known as “Father Damien,” could tell them effectively about his living Redeemer, Jesus, who offers hope beyond suffering and death.

Father Damien made the most of his suffering. No wonder the good people of Hawaii decided to place a statue honoring Father Damien in the U.S. Capitol. In the Old Testament, Job towers above the rest when it comes to suffering. As we’ve been reading, Job endured the devastating loss of his health, his wealth, and his family. Here in America, we are embarrassingly frustrated with what are called “first world problems,” like feeling bad when someone says something negative about us on social media, the room temperature is not just right, or our phone battery dies on us while streaming a video. For most of us, the worst discomforts we face each week are trivial, to say the least. Getting acquainted with Job and what he experienced gives us some needed perspective. Better yet, it’s not only what Job experienced but how he responded that provides us with direction on how to get through the real difficulties of life. It also helps us as Providers offer others hope in the midst of it.

Despite his suffering, Job had a confidence, a hope he could write down with an iron pen in stone: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself.” Job knew that suffering and death are not the end, that his Redeemer is alive, and somehow, one day he would live again, and see God. That’s real hope!
When we walk through real suffering, like Job did and Father Damien did with the lepers on Molokai, the real challenge is to avoid turning inward and growing bitter. Both men could have given up, but both men became inspirations. That is not to say that these men did not have moments when they were anxious and even complaining. In fact, both men did have periods when their human nature came through just as most of yours and mine would today. The difference is that in the midst of suffering, they not only looked upward with hope, but they also pointed others to our living Redeemer. So men, spread that hope!
  • When you assess your “discomforts,” do they really rise to the level of suffering? 
  • When you do experience real, intense, and prolonged suffering, do you have a tendency to turn inward and grow bitter? How can you flip that attitude upward in hope and trust in God?
  • Ask God to help you in the midst of suffering to provide perspective and hope to those you influence. Ask Him to help you become an inspiration to others.