Saturday, March 28, 2009

Job still has somethin' to say...

Job 24 - "But if Judgment Day isn't hidden from the Almighty, why are we kept in the dark? There are people out there getting by with murder—stealing and lying and cheating. They rip off the poor and exploit the unfortunate,Push the helpless into the ditch, bully the weak so that they fear for their lives. The poor, like stray dogs and cats, scavenge for food in back alleys. They sort through the garbage of the rich, eke out survival on handouts.Homeless, they shiver through cold nights on the street; they've no place to lay their heads. Exposed to the weather, wet and frozen, they huddle in makeshift shelters. Nursing mothers have their babies snatched from them; the infants of the poor are kidnapped and sold.They go about patched and threadbare; even the hard workers go hungry. No matter how backbreaking their labor, they can never make ends meet. People are dying right and left, groaning in torment. The wretched cry out for help and God does nothing, acts like nothing's wrong! Then there are those who avoid light at all costs, who scorn the light-filled path. When the sun goes down, the murderer gets up—kills the poor and robs the defenseless. Sexual predators can't wait for nightfall, thinking, 'No one can see us now.' Burglars do their work at night, but keep well out of sight through the day. They want nothing to do with light. Deep darkness is morning for that bunch; they make the terrors of darkness their companions in crime. They are scraps of wood floating on the water— useless, cursed junk, good for nothing. As surely as snow melts under the hot, summer sun, sinners disappear in the grave. The womb has forgotten them, worms have relished them— nothing that is evil lasts. Unscrupulous, they prey on those less fortunate. However much they strut and flex their muscles, there's nothing to them. They're hollow. They may have an illusion of security, but God has his eye on them. They may get their brief successes, but then it's over, nothing to show for it. Like yesterday's newspaper, they're used to wrap up the garbage. You're free to try to prove me a liar, but you won't be able to do it."

To deny that suffering of all kinds has not only a legitimate but a central place in Christianity is to deny the gospel. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," teaches Paul (Acts 14:22) Good men or women must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed.

Here Job has told me that he's unable to justify the permissions of God, but he's still trusting Him. Where is God? Why is He permitting this to happen?

Practice this with me. Look in a mirror...shrug your shoulders...repeat after me..."I DON'T KNOW."

Yes, it seems like those who do wrong get away with it. Those who take advantage of others get away with that. Unexplainable suffering falls into the same category.

There are plenty of events in our lifetime that the Lord could have stopped, but He didn't. This isn't just about the Jewish Holocaust, the wrongs of the Crusade Era, the priests in the Roman Catholic Church who have molested young boys. "I can't justify the permissions of God, but I trust Him." Can I say that? That's a major step especially when you are the one who has lost a child.

Even though God is elusive and mysterious, strange and silent, invisible and seemingly passive, He is trustworthy.
  1. Resist the temptation to explain everything. God knows.
  2. Focus on the future benefits, not the present pain. God leads.
  3. Embrace the sovereignty of the Almighty. God controls.

We can't piece it all together if we tried to. There are times when I'm not able to understand it, and there are times when I won't like it. But, as we're learning from Job, He's not going to ask our permission. And so? We trust God.

"But if you're real, I found myself crying silently to Him, they why? Why did you let these bad things happen to me? Why all the death and loss?

This time the answer came to me.

When those horrible things took place, My heart broke with you. I wept for you as strongly as you weep now."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Voice of Truth...

Continuing on with Job's reply to his friends -

Job 16:17-22 - "Even though I've never hurt a soul and my prayers are sincere! O Earth, don't cover up the wrong done to me! Don't muffle my cry! There must be Someone in
heaven who knows the truth about me, in highest heaven, some Attorney who can clear my name—My Champion, my Friend, while I'm weeping my eyes out before God. I appeal to the One who represents mortals before God as a neighbor stands up for a neighbor. Only a few years are left before I set out on the road of no return."

Right here before us is an example of Job's faith. He already knows (way before the New Testament lessons) that there is one who will go on his behalf before God almighty!! Those who pour out tears before God, though they cannot plead for themselves, by reason of their defects, have a friend to plead for them, and on Him we must ground all our hopes of acceptance with God. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Bob Sorge speaks of Job's shattered vision in his book: Pain, Perplexity, and Promotion. Job 17:11 says that he lamented, "My purposes are broken off" He felt that every visionary goal he had for his life was suddenly deimated. His life goals were destroyed and now he was incapable of formulating fresh vision for the future.

This reminded me of myself. My plans, my purpose as a woman - this was what I was created for, wasn't it? If I couldn't successfully carry a child to term, then what was I supposed to do? It's in the place of dependence upon God, that {we as women} can begin to realize how many of our past goals were not received from the place of intimacy with Jesus. I wanted to have two children, and I wanted to have them by the time I was 30. That didn't happen. It's when we realize we need to depend on Him, we can rethink and begin to see that our lives can be much more fruitful if we wait, listen, and obey what God has in store for us rather than pushing ahead with our own ideas.*

After we had gotten the go-ahead to still continue to try and get pregnant, and we were told there were no medical reasons for us not to try again, I can remember thinking, "Okay, nothing is medically wrong, but...this body has failed me 3 times already, why should we try again? What makes me think this time will be any different?

There is nothing like hope in the truth to clarify perspective and keep you going. Enduring a painful journey can be done a lot more easily if you embrace truth as your companion over doubt. Truth reminds us that God is alive and just and good.

When others have come to us to try and comfort us, and they "just don't get it", remember:
  1. When we respond, listen to what they're saying and consider the character of the critic. STAY CALM. Calmly take it all in. Job did this, which prepared him for further response.
  2. Respond with true facts and accurate information knowing the nature of your accuser. SPEAK TRUTH.
  3. Use examples that represent reality and balance, trusting your defense to the Lord. LEAN HARD.
  4. Refuse to let the accusations discourage and derail you, remembering they are nonsense and lies. GET TOUGH. Trusting God is not naive presumption. Wisdom must always be applied to a life of faith.

Francis Andersen - Job: An Introduction and Commentary
*Bob Sorge - Pain, Perplexity, and Promotion: A Prophetic Interpretation of the Book of Job
Charles Swindoll - Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Job's Reply...

There are nine chapters in the book of Job that speak of the advice, "comfort" and judgement that Job's friends came to present to Job in his despair. In answer to them, I counted 19 chapters of Job's various replies to his friends' words. This is what I'm going to try and briefly focus on for the next few entries -

Job 6:2,3 - "If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—no wonder my words have been impetuous."

These three friends had come in and tried to wrap up Job's pain in one neat and tidy package. The things is, to be a good counselor requires enormous timing, great wisdom, a long rope, and great understanding. Job is pleading for all of that as he asks his friend to consider what he's been through. "I don't think you'd say these things, Eliphaz, if you sat where I sit." There are times when others' words only make our troubles worse. They're not evil people, they just don't have sufficient understanding, so their advice becomes skewed.

Job 6:8-10 - "All I want is an answer to one prayer, a last request to be honored:Let God step on me—squash me like a bug, and be done with me for good.I'd at least have the satisfaction of not having blasphemed the Holy God, before being pressed past the limits."

Job needed to hear from God himself, so he openly questioned God. God doesn't mind our search for understanding. It's okay to approach Him and ask Him "why?" when it comes to the heartbreak and tragedies we experience. Just make sure you can accept His answer ~

John 9:2,3 - "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man nor his parents sinned, " said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

Instead of continuing to ask, "Why?" would you change your question to "For what purpose?" And then continue to trust God even if the miracle does not come in the way You think it should.

Job 9:17-18 - As it is, he knocks me about from pillar to post, beating me up, black-and-blue, for no good reason.He won't even let me catch my breath, piles bitterness upon bitterness.

In 2002, I had experienced my 2nd miscarriage, and was experiencing my "Job moment" , or so I thought. Little did I know that it was only just beginning. The miscarriage in February only began what I have labeled in the past as my true "Job Experience", for shortly thereafter, my brother, a police officer in a small town, was being accused of taking part in something that was so incredibly insane - we, his family could only shake our heads and wonder when the stupidity would finally end. Not any time soon. His job was at stake, his reputation tarnished, and if the truth didn't come out, there was a serious possibility of jail time. "While this was happening" (sound familiar?), I had still another miscarriage - losing our third child. Recovering from that, and at the same time learning way more than any woman should have to know about her own fertility...because all of that just wasn't enough in our lives, we received a phone call late one night letting us know that my step-dad had been killed in a freak car accident on his way home that day. Yes, 2002 was not my "Job Moment". It was my "Job EXPERIENCE"!

I felt like Job in the above verses - beaten up, black and blue, and no time to catch my breath before the next thing hit.

In chapter 12, Job shows us that even amidst the calamity in his life, he still knows what's going on . He had no answer to why he was being made to suffer, but he knows that somehow and in someway, even though God seemed to be absent from his world, HE IS STILL IN CONTROL! There is no research of report that can outweigh God's opinion. No scientific discovery or medical advance that surprises Him. When we look for guidance, we must recognize that God's wisdom is superior to any the world has to offer!

I spent 5 months going through fertility test after fertility test to figure out why my body was betraying me. As a self-proclaimed "internet junkie', I scoured the world wide web while I was going through tests to figure out what was being done to me, why it was being done, and what the answer would tell me. I needed to know why, and I knew that somewhere, someone could explain it to me, and if I had to obtain a medical degree to understand it, I would do it.

In the end, there was no explanation - at least not a medical one. My doctor's words were, "Everything is good, go out and get pregnant!" (Easy for a man to say!) Why we had to go through the heartbreak and loss of those three babies is deeper than any medical reason, and I know that one day it will be completely revealed to me. But at that point, when I heard the doctor say, "Everything is good", I could rejoice in simply knowing that there was nothing medically to prevent me from bringing my 2nd child into this world.

Nancy Guthrie - Holding On To Hope
Charles Swindoll - Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance

Saturday, March 7, 2009

With "Friends" Like These...

For seven days & nights, Job's friends sat with their dear friend - saying nothing, just being there for him. Ahhh...if only they would've stayed like that...

Proverbs 25:11 - "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances."
- This is NOT what Job was going to experience!!

Eliphaz was the first to speak up - Job sat before him stripped of everything, his heart torn and exposed, his words desperate, and his friend could only offer him an explanation of basically "you reap what you sow." If Job lost his wealth, possessions, and children (can we relate?), surely it was because of something he had done. But this is NOT what we need to hear when we're needing comfort after losing a child. There is NOTHING that we did to cause us to miscarry. The insensitivity of Job's friend, Eliphaz, is that of someone who has never know the level of brokenness that Job was in.

His next friend, Bildad, went so far as to inquire "How long will you continue with this?" Really? How many of us who have lost a child have been questioned as to how long we're going to grieve. There is no time period that we can follow. Six years after the fact I found myself grieving unexpectedly! Grieving is perfectly natural and our right as parents.

The third friend, Zophar, does no better. All three of these friends come to Job and sit in judgment of him, trying to explain the tragedy Job has experienced. Warren Wiersbe makes the following statement in Be Patient - "How sad it is when people who should share ministry end up creating misery...How tragic that these three friends focused on job's words instead of the feelings behind those words. A Chinese proverb says, Though conversing face to face, their hearts have a thousand miles between them.' How true that was at Job's ash heap."

When we are grieving, the last thing we need is rebuke and condemnation. I didn't need to be told that I may have "overdone" it while caring for my first-born and perhaps had caused my 2nd and 3rd miscarriages. What I needed was reassuring comfort and genuine sympathy - grace!

"Lord, if you are teaching us anything through Job's endurance, teach us the value of grace. Teach us about demonstrating grace. Show us again that grace is always appropriate. Always needed."

Mike Mason - The Gospel According To Job

Monday, March 2, 2009

What's The Point?

Remember how Job's friends came to him and simply sat with him in silence? It was Job who broke that silence when he "cursed the day of his birth" in Chapter 3.

The fact is, there is a point at which anyone can simply throw in the towel. It's not about abandoning your faith ~ We just get thoroughly sick and tired of trying to put a good face on things, when there is nothing good about what we are facing! This is not sin; it is just plain honesty.

The true believer does not always rise from his knees full of encouragement and fresh hope. There are times when one may remain down in the dumps even after crying out to God. What He wants from us is not the observance of religious protocol, but just that we be real with Him. What He wants is our heart.

1 Peter 1:7,8 - These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

Do I love him? Genuinely? If I can say "yes", then I know I've been through something and saw Him faithful. My situation did not kill me, but made me very much alive! (Ephesians 2:4-5 ... "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.")

Shortly after the loss of my first baby, I found myself entering into the Christmas season, and I had bought a special angel ornament as a remembrance of our child. It was in the early weeks of December that I found myself at home and putting the Christmas tree while having another one of my "discussions" with God...probably much like what Job had said. I cried (some more), and went full kilt into the anger stage of my grieving process. For it was when I had hung that angel ornament on the tree, and I stood there looking at it - mad because I felt like I shouldn't even have an angel ornament on there to begin with! I was so angry at that moment, I took hold of the center of that tree and just pushed it over as hard as I could. The tree - ornaments, lights, and all, went over in a heap.

At the end of Chapter 3, God doesn't say to Job, "Shame on you for venting your emotions!" God could handle Job's words, and He understood why he said what he said. In the same way, He understood my anger when I knocked over the Christmas tree. Unfortunately for Job, his words are on record for preachers to talk about for centuries. Mine are now here on the pages of this blog, read by only a handful. Even if you've had only private moments between you and God, He can handle it all, so let it all out. Tell Him all that's in your heart. You can never get over grief completely until you express it fully.

Mike Mason, The Gospel According To Job
Nancy Guthrie, Holding On To Hope