One of the individuals who most positively affected my life is Pastor Bob Sheldon. He was the assistant/youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Westerlo for much of my childhood and throughout my teenage years.
Pastor Bob preached once a month in a conservative Baptist congregation in bright purple suits (and not just for shock value). He oftentimes performed enacted sermons in which he would dress the part and tell the sermon in narrative form – sometimes enlisting teenagers to assist.
He held bible studies at his home which were key in helping me approach and understand the biblical text. He oversaw innumerable Sunday evening meetings and outings. Teaching us to serve at the Capital City Rescue Mission, taking us on grand adventures (with spiritual purpose) to Kingdom Bound, DCLA, and Snow Camp each year.
Pastor Bob exemplified quiet strength while also demonstrating the struggles of one who faced more than his fair share of crises. I don’t think he really talked much about these crises – at least to me – but you could see them in the lines on his face, the occasional slump in his shoulders, and the sabbaticals he would take to renew his connection to God.
During this current crisis I contacted Pastor Bob for support – and he has again demonstrated the sort of character I want to have and the sort of person I want to be. Every so often throughout this crisis I’ve received a note or card in the mail – just a few words of encouragement letting me know that I am thought of and prayed for.
The most recent card included a handout from a sermon he had preached – on Job 42 with a number of “quotables” regarding suffering. I wanted to post a few of the most meaningful to me here. I hope you find them as encouraging and challenging as I do…
- “The book of Job teaches us not to despair in our losses. It teaches us not to be too proud in present blessings. It teaches us what it means to have faith in God.” – Rev. Burton Huth1Pastor Bob’s mentor.
- “Maybe you are caught in painful circumstances that seem unbearable. Your insides may hurt so much that you fear falling apart. It could be a health issue, relationship, lost dream, spiritual upheaval, death, or unrelenting addiction. Know this: How you respond to this dark hour is critical. Don’t run. Embrace the pain and find God in the darkness.” – Terry Wardle.
- “The book of Job says: do not be surprised if you find yourself confused, doubting, afflicted, all but crushed. It does not mean you have lost favor with God.” – Mike Mason.
- “Job’s faith was unshakable because it was the result of being shaken.” – Abraham Heschel.
- “Yet in the Madding Maze of things, and tossed by the storm and flood, to one fixed trust my spirit clings; I know that God is good!” – John Greenleaf Whittier.2I will admit, I have not and do not always know this…though I return to it.
- “One bold message in the book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at Him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment – He can absorb them all.” – Philip Yancey.
- “Be patient. Let events run their course. God is not through with anything yet. Who knows what might yet unfold.” – John Claypool.
- “When we can’t figure out out, we have to faith it out.” – Bob Harrington.
- “God did not answer all Job’s questions, but His very presence caused Job’s doubts to melt away. Job learned that God cared about him, and that He rules the world. It was enough.” – Philip Yancey.
- “Reading Job prayerfully and meditatively leads us to face the questions that arise when our lives don’t turn out the way we expect them to. Every time we persist with Job in rejecting the quick-fix counsel of people who see us and hear us but do not understand us, we deepen our availability and openness to the revelation that comes only out of the tempest. The mystery of God eclipses the darkness and the struggle. We realize that suffering calls our lives into question, not God’s. The tables are turned: God-Alive is present to us. God is speaking to us. And so Job’s experience is confirmed and repeated once again in our suffering and our vulnerable humanity.” – Eugene Peterson.
(Okay, so that was almost all the quotes)