Meditation on Job 38:1–7 (34–41)
Pastor Karen Crawford
The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, OH
Oct. 17, 2021
Link to live-streamed service, including message: https://fb.watch/8Js-bLzvP4/
I like to read autobiographies. How about you? I enjoy hearing people’s stories, especially the stories of people of faith. I am reading Jen Bricker’s story— Everything Is Possible: Finding the Faith and Courage to Follow Your Dreams.Jen, author, aerialist and speaker, believes that everything happens for a reason and for a good purpose. Everyone has unique gifts or superpowers, as she says, to fulfill God’s call on their lives.
Jen was born to Romanian parents in a hospital in Salem, Illinois. Her heart was on the right side of her chest instead of the left. And she was born without legs.
Camelia, her birth mother, never actually laid eyes on her. “That’s because my birth father, Dmitry, didn’t allow it,” Jen says, “not even for a split second.” A relative says the doctor who delivered Jen told Dmitry that she would die.
“All I know is that he took one look at this tiny infant with two appendages where her legs were supposed to be and decided she’d be better off with someone else.”
Jen isn’t angry about it because they gave her the greatest gift of all, she says—a family that needed her as much as she needed them. Her mother had given birth to 3 boys and desperately wanted a girl, but couldn’t have anymore.
“This was exactly how God planned for it to be,” her adoptive mother, Sharon Bricker, began telling her when she was old enough to understand. “You were an answered prayer, a miracle, for us. They gave us a gift. They gave us you.”
After she was placed with the Bricker family, doctors at a St. Louis hospital gave a bleak prognosis: they wanted to make a bucket for her to sit in. They said she would never be able to sit up, crawl, or move from place to place without being carried. “My mom sat in the doctor’s office and cried her eyes out. But my dad did not agree with their prognosis,” Jen says.
They took her to Shriners Hospitals for Children in St. Louis, and the news was more encouraging. “Mr. and Mrs. Bricker,” the doctor said, “this little girl is going to do things you never imagined would be possible.”
Jen had two surgeries before she was 5, but her strong, confident personality didn’t allow physical challenges/differences hold her back from doing everything she wanted to do. And she wanted to do everything! She learned to talk, spell and read at an early age. She excelled in many sports—swimming, basketball, volleyball, softball, roller skating (she did it standing on her hands) and her favorite of all—gymnastics.
At 6 years old, she decided she would become an Olympic gymnast when she saw Dominique Moceanu on TV. Dominique was tiny, dark, and Romanian—like Jen. I told myself, “One day, that will be me.”
But the focus of her book isn’t all on her dreams or accomplishments. It’s about hers and her family’s faith forged through trials and difficulties. It’s about forgiveness, healing, and finding joy. She wants to inspire others to find God’s purpose for them and not let anything hold them back. Her message is “dream big; embrace what God has given you; bring light where there are shadows; spread hope, faith, love and peace.”
The simplicity of her prayer life spoke to me as much as her empowering story. Many people struggle with prayer and worry needlessly that they aren’t doing it “right.” As if there is a right or wrong way. We only have to look to examples of ordinary people of faith who have nurtured a personal relationship with the Lord and walk with Him each day. Jen emphasizes honesty, trust, and vulnerability when she talks with God.
“Just open your heart and speak what’s in it,” she says. “For me, praying instantly brings me back to my purpose and connects me to Him. It’s a feeling of instant peace and calm. Jen, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to stress. God’s here. He’s listening. He’s got your back.” Let your heart do the talking,” she says, “God will get the message loud and clear.”
The Bible is full of examples of the faithful talking with God. They speak from the heart, embracing honesty and vulnerability before God. I think of the prayers of Moses, leading God’s people through the wilderness, terrified that the people were going to stone him! Or the prayers of Abraham, whom James calls a friend of God.
Abraham was constantly waiting for God’s answer —looking up the stars, longing for the offspring that would be so numerous they couldn’t be counted.
And then there’s the prayer life of Hannah, unable to bear a child, praying for a miracle in the temple. She reveals her vulnerability when she doesn’t care what she looks like—praying emotionally, moving her lips without making any sound—to the point where the priest Eli accuses her of being drunk!
God answers all who persevere in prayer and faith. God answers all! Abraham and Sarah will have Isaac. The people of God will have water from a rock, bread from heaven, and eventually reach the land flowing with milk and honey. And Hannah will give birth to the would-be prophet and priest, Samuel.
In the 42 chapters of Job, we hear cries from the heart, honesty and humility from the one who was “blameless and upright,” fearing God and turning away from evil” though he was faced with great loss. The death of his children and loss of herds and flocks, servants, property, all his wealth—and then his health leads him to such grief and pain that he wishes he had never been born.
Job stirs us to lift up the age-old question, “Why does God allow suffering? Why do terrible things happen to good people?”
In today’s passage in chapter 38, the Lord finally breaks a long silence and answers his servant, Job. It’s about time! We have slogged through page after page of dialogue between Job and his 3 friends trying to make sense of what has happened and what all this must mean theologically. In the end, they come up with nothing, only that it must be his fault.
When the Lord finally answers “out of the whirlwind,” I am relieved that our Creator is speaking, but I don’t understand. How could his questions for Job about Creation and the wonders of God answer Job’s question of, “Why has God allowed such suffering?”
God sounds angry to me, and I don’t know the reason for it. Job is only being honest and vulnerable with the Lord whom he loves and fears.
He sounds angry to a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, too. “Is this the loving God that we know,” writes Timothy Adkins-Jones in Christian Century, “puffing out their chest and putting Job in his place? Is this the response we need when managing our own suffering? We aren’t God, we weren’t there, and we can’t make lightning? It angers and pains me.”
But then he finds himself rereading the passage through a lens of love. And so do I…..And it changes the meaning.
The One who is speaking of the wonders of Creation truly cares for us in our afflictions. Our compassionate God desires to comfort us when we grieve and help us to trust Him completely for everything.
God is reassuring Job and all of us that we aren’t supposed to understand what God knows. It’s not only OK that we don’t know God’s plans; it’s part of God’s plan!
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord in Isaiah 55:8-9. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Jen Bricker, author, aerialist and speaker, has experienced great blessings, many of them unexpected, in her life.
She has overcome challenges to do amazing things and inspire others to share their superpowers with the world. And it was a wonderful surprise when she discovered that Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu is her biological sister and that she has a younger sister, Christina, as well. The reconciliation of the family, stirred by a letter from Jen, was nothing short of a miracle.
The Moceanu daughters didn’t know that Jen existed; they didn’t know she was born without legs or that their father had left her at the hospital. Dmitry has since died of cancer.
“I hope he found peace and took comfort in the fact that God is good,” Jen says, “and wanted our family to finally be whole.”
The only way to grow her relationship with her new found sisters, she said, was to invest time in it—talking things through and being open and honest with their feelings.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly how we grow our relationship with the Lord, investing time, talking things through, being open and honest with our feelings, trusting that we won’t understand all the mysteries of God—and that’s part of God’s plan.
I leave you with the words of a young lady born without legs, abandoned by her birth parents, but loved and cherished by God and destined to be an aerialist, author, speaker, and follower of Jesus Christ: “Dream big; embrace what God has given you; bring light where there are shadows; spread hope, faith, love and peace.”
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and for the mysteries that are all part of your good plan for us and the world, mysteries that we may never understand. Thank you for your desire to be closer to each one of us, to spend time with us, and for us to be honest and vulnerable with you in our prayers—trusting you enough to humbly but boldly share our hearts, questions, and feelings. Let us follow in the example of your faithful servants, Job, Abraham, Moses, and Hannah. Lord, help us to be more like Jen Bricker and others who are courageous and fearless, willing to take risks for your glory and for the sake of your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.