November 10, 2017

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Day Sixty-Six: Talking Transparently with God

READ: Read the passage slowly, noticing the raw way Job communicates about God.

JOB 19:13-27
(13-20) “God alienated my family from me; everyone who knows me avoids me. My relatives and friends have all left; houseguests forget I ever existed. The servant girls treat me like a bum off the street, look at me like they’ve never seen me before. I call my attendant and he ignores me, ignores me even though I plead with him. My wife can’t stand to be around me anymore. I’m repulsive to my family. Even street urchins despise me; when I come out, they taunt and jeer. Everyone I’ve ever been close to abhors me; my dearest loved ones reject me. I’m nothing but a bag of bones; my life hangs by a thread.
(21-22) “Oh, friends, dear friends, take pity on me. God has come down hard on me! Do you have to be hard on me, too? Don’t you ever tire of abusing me?
(23-27) “If only my words were written in a book – better yet, chiseled in stone! Still, I know that God lives – the One who gives me back my life – and eventually he’ll take his stand on earth. And I’ll see him – even though I get skinned alive! – see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!”

THINK: As you read Job’s honest description of his situation–what it’s really like–what word or phrase gives voice to some of your own thoughts, feelings, and desires? Perhaps one of Job’s statements bring to mind something in your life that’s weighing on you or confuses you.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I have never felt this kind of rejection. However, I have been put in the position , in our current situation, in which I can see that, did my husband and I not have the relationships that we do, it very well could happen. Not only that; it often does to most people. And, to be even more painfully honest, what’s worse is, I would have been one of the people that would – most likely – ostracize someone who was in the position we are in now.
How easy it is to judge when we’ve not been made to see where we need compassion!
To put a more positive spin on things: I think I’d have to say that this realization has been one of the best things to come out of what we’re going through. Being forced to walk a path that I never thought I’d have to walk because I have been obedient. But not just that: my kids are being forced to walk it as well. This is something my husband and I have discussed at length. If this is something we have to pay for because of sins in our past; FINE. But why make our kids pay the price as well. We are living under the New Covenant. There is not supposed to be any more of this: the sins of the Father are visited on the children to the 3rd and 4th generation.
But see how, even in that statement, I made the same kind of judgment that Job’s friends were making. For the majority of the time I’ve been alive, I have always equated suffering with wrong-doing, with punishment for sin (whether I remembered the sin or not). I’ve always figured that if I was suffering, I was being punished, which means I MUST HAVE done something wrong. So, imagine my shock when, my husband and I were obedient to what we felt like the Lord was calling us to do, and then things did not go the way they are “supposed to”. Then, the confusion is only compounded by the idea that we could pay a price for this for the rest of our lives.
I am thankful for the blessing of friends who have not behaved toward me as Job’s friends behaved toward him. But I am humbled by the knowledge that I have, far too many times, been one of Job’s friends – whether I said the words out loud or not.

PRAY: Talk to God about the feelings and thoughts that surface. Be as open as Job as you share them with him. You might write them out to him or just talk to him like a friend – one you’re in conflict with, but one who wants to work through that conflict with you.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that, with you, nothing is wasted! Thank you that, even in the midst of hard times, you continue to work all things for our benefit. Thank you for the assurance in Scripture that says you have a plan to prosper us, and not to harm us. Thank you for making all things beautiful in their time.
For those who are reading this, who are in the midst of a painful set of circumstances, and can’t understand why, I pray for peace and comfort. I pray You would give them glimpses of the work you are doing that they might be able to make enough sense out of what’s going on to keep going. I pray that You would show them where you’re molding them and shaping them, transforming them more into the likeness of Your Son.
For anyone reading this who has been falsely accused and is suffering persecution, for their spouses, for their children and other loved ones: I pray that you would offer them the assurance that these circumstances have nothing to do with how pleased with them You are. Living in a fallen world, in a world filled with sin, sometimes it’s easy to feel like You have abandoned us at our moments of deepest need. Lord, I pray that you would give each of these people the peace that you have not forsaken them, that you are not deaf to their cries, that you are hearing their prayers, and that they have been answered, though they just cannot see the answer yet. I pray for a renewed sense of hope for good things to come. I pray that their relationships with you would be strengthened, taken to a level deeper than they thought they could ever go.
I pray for fresh insights into the nature of your character. I pray that what seem to be like paradoxes in your character would be cleared up as they come to see that you are both just and merciful, that you do not wish that we would suffer but that you have allowed it in order that you might be glorified.
I pray for “AHA” moments: moments where we realize the truth of something we have known with our heads for so long has finally sunken in, finally taken hold, and we are now able to walk with a sense of peace that we have never had before, and with a deeper understanding of how you work in our lives.
Finally, Lord, I want to thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you that we do not have a high priest who cannot identify with us in our suffering. Thank you that we have a representative before Your Throne who knows how badly pain feels because He has felt it. Thank you that we have an ambassador who knows what betrayal feels like because He has felt it. Thank you for descending to Earth, in bodily form, to live as a man, so that you can know how it feels to be here. Thank you for the hope that offers, because, sometimes, just knowing that someone else has been through what we are going through and they made it, is enough to help us keep going. Thank you for those moments when you allow us to see that we are not as far away from you as we feel. Thank you for those times when you show us just a glimpse of what you working out of us and working into us. Thank you for those times when, we get to see the front of the tapestry of our lives, instead of just the knotted back.
And for those times during the refining process when we do not have to sit in the fire, or have to be banged on, I thank you for rest.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen

LIVE: As you go through the rest of your day, pay close attention to thoughts and feelings (similar to or different from those in your prayer time) that arise in relation to events, conversations, and experiences. Tell God about them as they come up, so you’re carrying on an extended dialogue with him all day long.
At the end of the day, take a few moments to remember what happened, in particular what it was like to talk to God throughout the day’s circumstances.

Day Sixty-Seven: Empty Comfort

READ: As you read the passage, consider what might have been comforting for Job and what might have left him more hurt than before.

Job 22:1-11
Once again, Eliphaz the Temanite took up this theme:
“Are any of us strong enough to give God a hand, or smart enough to give him advice? So what if you were righteous – would God Almighty even notice? Even if you gave a perfect performance, do you think he’d applaud? Do you think it’s because he cares about your purity that he’s disciplining you, putting you on the spot? Hardly! It’s because you’re a first-class moral failure, because there’s no end to your sins. When people came to you for help, you took the shirts off their backs, exploited their helplessness. You wouldn’t so much as give a drink to the thirsty, or food, not even a scrap, to the hungry. And there you sat, strong and honored by everyone, surrounded by immense wealth! You turned poor widows away from your door; heartless, you crushed orphans. Now you’re the one trapped in terror, paralyzed by fear. Suddenly the tables have turned! How do you like living in the dark, sightless, up to your neck in flood waters?”

THINK:
Have there been times when you wished people would refrain from giving you perfectly packaged and Christian cliches in an attempt to console you? “Pray harder.” “You’ll have to persevere.” “Oh, God’s just working on you.” “Search for the sin in your life and get rid of it.” “Obey God.” Maybe you didn’t know what you wanted in your suffering, but that definitely was’t it. Sometimes true comfort comes through silence and a hug.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar don’t offer comfort, but instead attempt to convince Job of his sins. This time it’s the social sin of neglecting the poor, hungry, and the naked – none of which Job is guilty of.
Who are the people you interact with on a regular basis who are suffering emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical pain?
What are some ways you can appropriately comfort them in their pain?

PRAY: Who are hurting people in your life? Pray for them, submitting to God’s guidance for how to best serve and minister to them.

LIVE: Consider a friend or acquaintance who needs comfort. Prayerfully approach a suffering individual, asking God to keep you from being someone who merely offers trite words that fall short.

I wrote about this very thing just a couple of days ago, being silent when you don’t have anything helpful to say. I have been guilty of this more times than I’d like to admit. I haven’t done it on purpose. What happens is that I just get so uncomfortable with the pain of the person sitting in front of me that I just ant it go away. I’ve wanted to be able to say something, anything to help them make some sense of a senseless situation. Or maybe, I just wanted to feel like I had done something more than just sit there. Or worse, often, I just wanted to stop feeling uncomfortable myself? How arrogant! The sad fact is, whether my intention was to do harm or not, I have done some harm.

For that realization, I have to say that this situation we’ve been living through has been a blessing. Another blessing is that I can even say that. This time a year ago, I’d have never been able to say that anything about this was a blessing. I had found a good thing or two that happened as a result of being allowed to go through our ordeal. But, to say that the whole thing is a blessing: NO! Not a year ago. Not almost 2 years ago now.

Yesterday, I was faced with a friend whose husband has been sick for a very long time.
He is currently in hospice care, and has been once before. He’s been close to “going home” many times. My friend was pretty certain that all she wanted for her man was peace and the healing that being called home to Heaven could bring. Yesterday, she had to tell me that he is getting close to the end. As prepared as this woman has been saying she is, when she stood before me yesterday, she was a mess. She and I did not get to know each other until after our situation started, and ever since, she has been a source of inspirational comfort for me many times. She understands suffering and has not had trite words to offer me. Yesterday, because of what I’ve had to go through, I was able to stand in front of her and have more than trite words of Scripture taken out of context and Christian cliches to offer her. It was no less painful standing before her, watching her heart break, but I didn’t feel like I just needed to make it go away because I was uncomfortable. I was able to look at her, allow her to feel her pain, allow her to be the most important person to me right at that moment, and respect what she was going through and how she was feeling, without feeling the need to minimize it or make sense of it.

I have known since this whole thing started that everything I would go through would help me when I started working as a counselor, but I had no idea it would help me to become a better friend too. Even if that’s all I get from this, if it keeps me from being one of Job’s friends to one of my friends, what a gift that would be to those who I call friend!

Day Sixty-Five: The Mystery of a Mighty God

READ: Read the passage. In Job’s response to his recent tragedy, notice the powerful feelings that underlie his words: fear, anger, grief, and hope.

JOB 9:2-4, 14-23
(2-4) “The question is, ‘How can mere mortals get right with God?’ If we wanted to bring our cases before him, what would chance would we have? Not one in a thousand! God’s wisdom is deep, God’s power so immense, who could take him on and come out in one piece?
(14-20) “So now could I ever argue with him, construct a defense that would influence God? Even though I’m innocent, I could never prove it; I can only throw myself on the Judge’s mercy. If I called on God and he himself answered me, then, and only then, would I believe that he’d heard me. 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. If it’s a question of who’s stronger, he wins, hands down! If it’s a question of justice, who’ll serve him the subpoena? Even though innocent, anything I say incriminates me; blameless as I am, my defense just makes me sound worse.
(21-23) “Believe me, I’m blameless. I don’t understand whats going on. I hate my life! Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude that God destroys the good right along with the bad. When calamity hits and brings sudden death, he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent.”

THINK: What phrase in Job’s lament stands out to you? Spend time meditating on it. Mentally chew it the way you would chew a piece of gum–repeat it to yourself, pausing each time to see where it leads your mind and emotions.

PRAY: Keeping your phrase in mind, picture God in the room with you. How do you relate to his presence? Maybe you sit in reverence at his power, wisdom, and justice, realizing you’ve forgotten or minimized those qualities lately. Maybe you feel anguish like Job. Maybe you open up to your desire for a rescuer, for Christ’s mercy.
At the end of this time, recall what this experience held for you. Write down for future reference anything that seemed significant.

LIVE: During the next week, before your begin your times of prayerful reading, recall your picture of God in the room. Recollect who he was to you and retain this image of him in your mind during each prayer time. Let that aspect of God mingle with the God you relate to during the week.

Such powerful words Job uses here. There was a time when I would have thought that talking this way to the Creator would have been tantamount to heresy, to begging God to strike me down. There have been times when I have felt this way that I’m not sure, had I said what I really wanted to say, that He wouldn’t have struck me down. But, the longer I walk through this life, and the more hardships I see and live through, the more convinced I become that being just this honest with God, yet not disrespectful of His Power and Glory and Majesty, are precisely what He wants from me. After all, would I not be this honest with my earthly father? If I had been as hurt and betrayed as Job felt, wouldn’t I spill my guts to my earthly father, in hopes that he’d be able to help me, or comfort me. Of course, I would. And if I would be this honest with my earthly father, when he can’t possibly know what I’m thinking, why wouldn’t I be this honest with my Heavenly Father when He already knows it all anyway.

Likewise, if I was going to a physician or a counselor, wouldn’t I also share all that I could, in hopes of finding a cure, or receiving some sort of help or therapy or advice that would lead me out of the darkness I was in? And yet, how often do I refuse to go to God?

But…that’s not what strikes me about this passage. What sticks with me here is how Job accuses God of being aloof from the despair of the innocent. I don’t know that I can even count the number of times I’ve felt that way since our mess started. Like God was just sitting up there on his throne on high, completely untouched by all the heartache and pain down here, particularly mine.

I’m not sure that aloof is the right word. At least, not now. But, it’s precisely the word I’d have used as recently as about 6 months ago. I don’t believe that God is aloof. I think that he is saddened by the fact that His Creation lives with the effects of sin, every day. I think it pains him when those who were created in his image have to suffer. But, because He is God, He can take those hard times and touch circumstances and use them to transform us more into the image of Christ and to do so in such a way that it is utterly unmistakable that HE is the one doing the work!

I heard something in class today, that helps me keep this in perspective. I’ve known it all along I guess, but had forgotten somewhere along the way.
Christ suffered here on earth, what makes us think we won’t.
Something else I believe: if there’s no God, then there is no hope that any of the suffering we experience will ever make any sense or ever come to any good use.
Where I am now is at the point that I am choosing every day to have faith that God is telling me the truth. I am choosing every day to picture God, sitting in the room with me, telling me He understands that what I’m going through is hard, but also that I can do it. I will make it through this. I picture Him telling me that He wants me to trust Him with all my ugliness since He’s already seen it, and loves me anyway. I picture Him asking me to share with Him those thoughts very thoughts that would make me sound just like Job does in this passage, and trust that He is not going to kick me out of the kingdom or tell me that I can’t come Home when He calls me. I picture Him asking me to believe Him, to believe in Him and to have Faith that I can believe the Bible is true when it says He loves me and does not show partiality. I picture Him saying to Satan, “Have you seen my servant, Patty? Look at her.” Then, I picture Satan looking at him, saying, “well, of course, you’ve protected her for her whole life. Why wouldn’t she love you. Take her life away from her. Take her husband away from her. Then see if she doesn’t turn her back on you.” I picture the same scenario with my husband in Job’s place, with my children in Job’s place. Then, I pray for strength to carry on, trusting that God will not leave us or forsake us, and that He will trade our ashes for beauty, one day. It has been promised, and I will choose to trust it daily, until I can learn to rest in it.

Day Sixty-Four: Giving Comfort

READ:  Read the passage aloud slowly, keeping in mind that Eliphaz from Teman is speaking to his friend Job, who has just experienced the death of his children and the loss of all he had.

JOB 5:17-21

(17-19)  “So, what a blessing when God steps in and corrects you!  Mind you, don’t despise the discipline of the Almighty God!  True, he wounds, but he also dresses the wound; the same hand that hurts you, heals you.  From one disaster after another he delivers you; no matter what the calamity, the evil can’t touch you–

(20-21)  “In famine, he’ll keep you from starving; in war, from being gutted by the sword.  You’ll be protected from vicious gossip and live fearless through any catastrophe.

THINK:  Read the passage again and put yourself in the place of Job, who listened to these words.  How do they fall on your ear?

Read the passage again and put yourself in the place of Eliphaz.  What feelings and attitudes fill you as you speak these words?

  1. What makes a comforter really helpful? Is telling the truth enough?
  2. What did Job need from Eliphaz?
  3. What might be in the heart of a person who preaches at someone who is so far down?

PRAY:  Ask the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to give you what is needed to truly comfort despairing people.  If you want guidance for your prayer, ask the Comforter to give you tools to help people in trouble go to him.  Ask him to give you tools to draw them out to say to him whatever they need to express.  Plead with the Comforter to make you his messenger, to prevent you from moralizing and giving advice.

LIVE:  Rest your mind on someone who is in deep trouble.  Pray only the word PEACE for them–no suggestions, no fixing, no rescuing.  Just trusting.

I have been Eliphaz so many times in my life I cannot even count.  Maybe that sounds weird coming from a counselor.  Maybe it just sounds insecure.  It ought to.  Because for myself, I can say that when I have sounded like Eliphaz it has been because I have been extremely insecure.  It has happened most often when someone is sitting in front of me telling me a sad story of something that has happened in his (or her) life, and I’ve wanted to say something so desperately to make sense out of all of it.  As if I could.  I’ve wanted to make it better.  I’ve wanted to be comforting but never felt like I had words enough to express my deep sorrow.

Then, my life went sideways.  I had plenty of people to talk to, plenty of people willing to listen, who actually cared when they asked me how I felt.  And the people who helped me the most were the ones who had no idea what to say, and said so.  Or, they said nothing at all.  They didn’t try to make sense of my life for me.  They didn’t offer me trite passages of Scripture, taken out of context.

But, then, there were people who did have something to offer.  You know who they were?  The people who had truly suffered in their lives.  The comfort they offered, through a well-timed passage of scripture that helped them while they were suffering:  that was golden!  But…to be honest, I don’t even remember most of those scriptures.  What I remember most was the overwhelming sense of being heard and understood.  I had been comforted with the comfort they had received when they most needed it.  Their spirits ministered to mine in my deepest hour (or hours) of need.  It was in those moments that I felt most loved!

It was in those moments, too, that I learned the benefits and blessings and comfort of just sitting with someone who is hurting.  Of being willing to hear anything that needed to be said.  Of being willing to sit in the uncomfortable silence if there weren’t words enough to express the hurt.

I don’t think I will ever know all the whys concerning our situation.  Finally, I’m getting to the point that I don’t feel it will be necessary.  What I do know is that this situation could not have been better timed in my education as a Christian counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist.  Before this thing happened in my family’s life, I had serious doubts.  I doubted if I was pursuing the right line of education.  I doubted if I would ever be able to help anybody.  I didn’t doubt enough to quit.  But then…I don’t quit.  By the time you have as much money invested in something as I have in this, you don’t quit.  Even if you don’t do anything with it, you don’t quit.  Even when life knocks you sideways and you feel like you have no business trying to finish something as “high-falootin'” as a Master’s Degree, you don’t quit.

So, I didn’t quit.  And now, here I am, in the last of my classes, and – because of this thing that has happened in my life – I am certain that I have pursued the right line of work.  Not only am I certain that I am in the right degree field, but I am convinced that I did not actually choose it.

In fact, the last time I was here at Liberty, taking the first two of my four intensives, people asked me why I chose the Marriage and Family program instead of the License Professional Counselor program.  The only answer I could give:  I didn’t, actually.  It chose me.  In the first place, I had no idea there was such a thing as a Licensed Professional Counseling program when I first signed on at Liberty.  But, I knew that I wanted to help families.  My husband and I had both lived through our own parents’ divorces, and we were making it, so I also wanted to be able to offer my services to struggling couples.  So…the first person I talked to suggested the Marriage and Family program and that’s what I took.  It was just as simple, and unplanned, as that.

And now…here I am.  And once I decided to stop whining about the valley God decided to lead me through, I began to see the beauty all around me.  It seems weird to say it, and I don’t know quite how to explain it, but I have come to see beauty in the midst of suffering.  Or, in the vulnerability and the sweetness of the depth of relationships that suffering can have if you let God do His Work.

Don’t get me wrong.  The process of suffering is ugly.  It hurts and it doesn’t make sense most of the time.  But, if you can look past what’s on the surface, look past the walls people are putting up, and sit with them long enough to trust that you are safe, you will start to see the real person underneath.  You will come to a place of being able to love that person as God loves them.  And you will see their true beauty.  With some people it happens faster than with others.  But, fortunately, when you grow up with people who’ve been deeply hurt, you learn really quickly not to let walls and angry barks scare you away.  You learn to stick with it, because you know, deep down in your soul, that every person is worth listening to.  BUT, you have to get over yourself, and your urge to fix them.  They don’t need fixing!  They need to be heard.  They need to know that someone values them the way their Creator does.

THAT’S WHAT TRUE COMFORT LOOKS LIKE.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank you for coming down out of heaven to make a way for us to be able to get there.  Thank you that you made a way for us to have peace on this earth, even in the midst of trials and suffering.

Thank you that you do not leave us alone until your work is completed.  Thank you for your patience.

I pray, now, for those who are hurting today.  I pray that you would comfort them.  I pray that you would send them people to comfort them and hold them, and let them be as ugly as they need to be.  But, most of all, I pray for them peace.  I don’t know all the answers.  Nobody does, but you.  So, only You can offer the peace that passes all understanding.  For all the hurting in the world, for anyone reading this that desperately needs your Comfort right now, please rain it down upon them right now.  Make it unmistakably obvious.  Make it tangible even.

Thank you for loving us!

In Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen.

Day Sixty-Three: Reflections on Week Nine

Admittedly, it’s been longer than 9 weeks since I started writing out these devotionals.  Life happens and things like quiet time and bible study, far too often, get pushed to the side.  One would think that I’d have figured out that self-preservation doesn’t work if I’m not actually taking care to preserve myself by way of keeping my sanity a priority, but…….

So, anyway.  Here we are at Week 9.  I’m wrapping up the third of my 4 intensives.  This one has dealt with group counseling.  And ya know, you just can’t get a feel for what counseling is going to be like until you do it – both the participation and the facilitation – and this week, I’ve done both.

What I’ve come away with has been pretty remarkable.

Before I begin with the reflection part, let me give some background.  I have actually been enrolled in this class before.  Last summer.  However, when I signed up, the person on the other end of the phone did not tell me that a month would be enough time to get all the work done IF I was trying to take another intensive as well – which I was.  So, after 3 weeks of trying to bust my tail to get all the work done, I decided that I needed to withdraw from both of the courses.  I believe this was the Sovereign Hand of God leading this decision.  My husband had just been sent away and the kids and I had just moved to our new residence.  I was trying to unpack and wrap up work for 3 other classes I was taking.  I was overwhelmed, stressed, emotional and – pretty much – just running on autopilot.  All I was trying to do was push through to get the work done.  I wasn’t really learning it.  And my wounds were still so fresh that, had I come to the class last summer, I would not have been able to participate the way that I have this year.  Everything would’ve been about me, and I would’ve brought the group atmosphere WAAAAAY down.

Now, for what I’ve learned.   We just cannot go through life on our own. This is not really a new revelation.  It’s something I’ve heard many times before.  But what I realized this past week is that there is a life the group develops that is uniquely its own.  Learning that – seeing it first hand – and pairing it with the knowledge that we have been designed to be in relationships, adds an element to group counseling that makes it very different from individual counseling.  It’s a very rewarding experience, and I am thankful NOW that Liberty has required these intensives as part of their degree completion plans.  My education would not have been complete without them.

But, what if we take this lesson beyond the scope of my classes and counseling.  What if we extend it to the real world and how we do life here on this earth.

What if we were intentional about our relationships?  What if we sought to be the best version of ourselves in all of our relationships instead of just letting things happen with whomever may cross out paths?  What would our lives be like if we really prioritized the most important relationships in our lives?  What might that look like?  How would our relationships with our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends change?

What if we started by prioritizing our relationships with The Lord first?

What if we took the command to love him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength seriously?  Is it possible that the whole “loving our neighbors as ourselves” might be just a little easier?  And even if it wasn’t, wouldn’t it make choosing to stick with those relationships a little easier?  Because, then, we’d be staying for a different reason!

One thing we’d learn really quickly is just how much we truly value life.  We’d see just how seriously we take the notion that ALL MEN are created in the image of God.  You.  Me.  The homeless guy on the street.  The sex offender.  The terrorist.  Yeah!  All those folks!  I am no better than my fellow man.  BUT…by that same token, I am also no worse.  And comparing myself to any standard other than that of Christ is holding myself up to a faulty measure, and I will come away with a warped sense of my own worth and yours.

I think I could probably go on, but I am going to try to put into practice some wise words I read earlier today:

Once you’ve made your point, stop talking.

Day Sixty-Two: God Gives, God Takes

READ:  Read the passage, noticing God’s involvement in the story and circling God each time he is mentioned.

JOB 1:1, 8-11, 21

(1) Job was a man who lived in Uz.  He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion….

(8) God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job?  There’s no one quite like him–honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.”

(9-10) Satan retorted, “so do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart?  Why, no one ever had it so good!  You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does–he can’t lose!

(11) “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his?  He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”….

(21) Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.           God gives, God takes.  God’s name be ever blessed.

THINK:  Notice the interaction between God and Satan.  Does it bother you that God is bartering with Satan with Job’s life?  Is this the God you know?

Notice the words of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.  God gives, God takes.  God’s name be ever blessed.”  If you lost everything–family, fortune, and eventually your health–would you be able to say such a thing?  Why or why not?  What would have to happen for you to utter similar words–and actually mean them?

PRAY:  Spend time meditating on the gut-honest yet God-honoring words of Job.  Let your emotions serve as a backdrop to your prayers.  Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you in the silence.

LIVE:  Today as you use different objects (your car, computer, TV, and so on) and as you enter different places (your home, school, workplace, and so on), consider how you might respond if God instantly removed an item without explanation.

What’s funny is that I’ve read this passage many times and have always so compartmentalized what happened to Job in terms of the conversation between God and Satan and how Job had all his land taken away that I’ve missed many of the correlations to my own life sometimes.  Sitting in my current situation, it’s easy to make a comparison of my life to that of Job, in terms of my husband because he’s really the one who has had everything stripped from him.  However, now that I think about it:  I’ve had just enough stripped from me to make me be able to see this passage differently, to make me able to see the correlation.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had many things wrenched away from me.  But, every time, after the hurting was over, and after I’d finished whining and complaining about whatever it was that I lost, I was able to see that loss was not the prevailing theme.  I had gained some things too.  But what’s more important is that the value of the things that I have gained far outweighs the hurt that losing them caused.

To date, most of the things that I’ve lost or that have been taken away from me, have not been given back to me.  Some of those things, I wouldn’t want back.  Some of those things I like to think I might want back, but I cannot imagine that my life would be better if I got them.  So for now, there’s only one thing that has been taken from me that I know I will receive back, and can hardly wait until it is returned.  My husband.  But, until then, I know that God is working in the both of us, preparing us to be even better for each other than when we were separated.  But not just better for each other.  Better for the work he has planned for us as a couple when he returns.  Better servants.  Better friends.  Better parents.  And more humble.  More submissive to God’s will and plan for our lives.  Ready to answer whatever call he has placed on our lives because we will have conquered something that we never thought we could have.

So…until that glorious day, I will continue to walk, with my head held high, waiting expectantly, hopeful that it is sooner than later, but with the knowledge that whenever that day comes, I will be fully prepared for it, and the world my husband and I will re-enter as a couple will have been being prepared for us.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you so much for all you do for us.  Thank you for this world that you have so lovingly created and that each one of us has been created in your image.  Thank you for loving us so much that you gave up your son to die on the cross that we all might have a chance to spend eternity in paradise with you.

Be with us Lord.  You know that we are just dust.  You know how easy it is to get attached to the fleeting things of this world, and how easy it is to forget that we would have nothing but that, by grace, you have decided to gift us with all that we have.  Lord, help us to be thankful for everyone and everything in our lives that we have received from you.  And help us to see that THAT is everything we have.  Help us to remember to hold all those things and all those people with an open hand so that it doesn’t hurt quite so much when you ask for them back, or when you require that we sacrifice them.

Thank you, Lord, for everyone who has stopped by this humble, little blog and decided to return.  I have no words but the ones you give me.  And Lord, please, when the words do not come from you, don’t let them come at all.

I thank you for today.  For every breath I was given.  For every breath my children took.  For every breath my husband takes all the way over in Kansas.  I thank you for my family.  For my friends.  For my mentors.  And Lord, I thank you for the people who have hurt me, because that hurt has caused me to have to turn to you if I am going to heal.

I praise your Holy Name.  And all this I pray in your son’s precious name, the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.