I’m not quite sure where the saying came from about something going ‘pear-shaped’. I googled it – but not much help there; with Wikipedia listing more than ten possible sources. The term first seems to have been used in the air-force for planes trying to do a loop – that often looked more pear-shaped than circular. Another suggestion that I could relate to is that party balloons are round when they are blown up but when they deflate they become pear shaped. So when someone’s life-expectations become deflated we talk about things going pear-shaped.
In my daily devotions I’ve just started reading again about that man in the Bible for whom life went well-and-truly pear-shaped. He lost his sheep, his cattle, his servant and all ten of his children in a single day. And then on top of that he lost his health as well. The only thing he didn’t lose was his wife. I’m tempted to say that he would have been better off losing her as well, for all the help she was to him. Her advice was to curse God and die. However, that would probably be a little unfair on Mrs Job – after all she too had lost her ten children and everything else as well.
The book of Job should be required reading for people who find their life going pear-shaped. It grapples with the question why bad things happen to good people. Job’s friends come with the typical solution that there must have been some sin in Job’s life that he hadn’t dealt with. The answer at the end of the book is quite a different answer. Job and his friends have asked lots of questions but in the end the Lord God has a few questions to ask too. Job’s response is to shut his mouth and simply trust God.
Job is just so relevant at present. In our congregation of less than 200 members we presently have six people undergoing treatment for different forms of cancer. In several instances the cancer is so far advanced that it’s now just a matter of palliative care. When things go pear-shaped in this way there are significant repercussions. The ripples go out in ever-widening circles. It’s not only the people themselves that are affected – the spouse is too. And so are the children, and even the grandchildren. I count 32 people in our church directly impacted by cancer.
I was talking to one of the palliative care patients this week and he asked me: How do people cope with this sort of thing if they don’t believe in God as their loving Father in heaven? I replied, “They don’t”. I told him about the lady in the nursing home who died screaming obscenities at heaven for the unfairness of her having to die from cancer. On that same night, at the other end of the nursing home, another elderly died singing God’s praises with her family – well, for at least as long as she could anyway. What a difference!
The fact is that we live in a world that went pear-shaped after The Fall in Genesis 3. Pear-shaped is the new normal for planet earth so we shouldn’t be surprised when it impacts us personally. But the good news is that there is a Redeemer who experienced the ultimate pear-shaped reality of hell in order to begin to restore life to all that it was meant to be. That means that we have a hope and a comfort that sees us through our most difficult trials.
The wonderful thing is that Job knew that too. The high point of the book of Job is that lovely exclamation in chapter 19: I know that my Redeemer lives. Jesus lives and that makes all the difference in the world.