Find Your Cave

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but this tends to be a busy time of year for most people. Hosting, planning, buying, shopping…and somewhere in that business we often get lost in, we try to spend time with family, get enough sleep, and maybe even travel a little. Busy this time of year looks different for everyone, but the truth is most of us find ourselves busier than we’d like. And we will tell ourselves “it’s only for a few weeks”. Give it till the end of the year, January will be different!

But is it? Will our schedules really be any different come January, or will it just have a different month attached to it?

I started a new study and its focus is finding a healthy rhythm. The idea is there is a natural God-ordained rhythm for us, and we often get knocked out of it by all the exterior things of life. A rhythm of spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health that is grounded in God.

One of the foundational texts of this study is from David’s story in 1 Samuel. Read this…

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.

1 Samuel 22:1

David was on the run. He was fleeing King Saul who was in pursuit of killing him. David was like royalty in his nation; He killed Goliath, and he led armies in victorious battles. He out-performed the King to the extent that the people sang David’s praises more than the King. Even other nations knew of his greatness, which was revealed when David went before Achish the king of Gath.

Exhausted, I’m sure feeling defeated and alone, David finds himself in a familiar place…the caves of Adullam. It was a place he found refuge in, hidden away from his “busyness” of life. The cave of Adullam was a place where David found some peace, and an opportunity to find his rhythm again.

Maybe this time of year you find yourself feeling like David in a way; always running, feeling like your list of to-dos never ends, with no more time in your day to get done the things you HAVE to get done. And what you need is a breather. Your rhythm is off, and your focus and priorities are misaligned. You need a reset like David did. But, you need to get to a place that can happen. For David, it was a familiar cave. A place to disconnect and break away from the craziness of life to get alone with God.

What’s the Cave of Adullam for you? Where can you go to unplug for a moment and get quiet with God?

David left the cave renewed, and 400 men stronger. He got away, spent time with God, and found himself surrounded by men who walked with him as their leader. His focus was renewed and re-centered on God.

From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, “Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?”

1 Samuel 22:3

David left the cave transitioning from hiding to pursuing. There was a shift in his heart and mind from fleeing King Saul in a panic to pursuing what God would have him do. And this transition came out of a time of rest and a resetting of his rhythm.

This season, take some time to escape to a familiar place and reset your rhythm. Give God the opportunity to speak to you. Give God the opportunity to reset your rhythm and renew your spirit. Don’t enter the celebration of our Savior’s birth exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling defeated. God will speak and refresh. Give Him the opportunity.

The Earth May Know

Throughout Scripture we find at different times, the people of God going before Him in prayer. We get a glimpse into the spiritual condition and desires of those seeking after God, and I believe in each situation there is something of great value for us to learn.

The prayer of King Hezekiah in light of Assyria’s apparent invasion is one that captivates me.

15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

Isaiah 37:15-20

The Rabshakeh of Assyria had come before the city of Jerusalem after capturing the fortified cities of Judah. He now threatened the city of Jerusalem and with it the people of Israel. Rabshakeh’s words struck fear into the hearts of Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah, leaders of the people of Israel appointed by King Hezekiah. The Rabshakeh declared that the Lord had spoken deliverance of Jerusalem into the hand of the king of Assyria, and they ought not to fight the pending outcome of their destruction.

It’s in light of these circumstances that we find King Hezekiah going before God in prayer. A prayer for deliverance, one seeking redemption and protection from a looming empire at the doorstep of God’s holy city. But what strikes me most about Hezekiah’s prayer is the end.

20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

Isaiah 37:20

What I find most interesting here is the focus of Hezekiah’s prayer. While he asked for the Lord to save His people, it wasn’t for the benefit of the people. It was for the glory and recognition of the Lord! The benefit of the people was simply collateral. The fact the people would be saved was an outcome of God being glorified through the earth knowing He alone was the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Hezekiah desired to see God’s people rescued. I believe Hezekiah desired to see the Assyrian army dispelled from Jerusalem’s front door. But of greater desire was seeing God show up, and be recognized by all the nations of the world for who He is. Hezekiah desired most of all for God to be glorified.

This leads me to pause and consider the real motives behind my prayers. When I go before God with a request, what is it that I am truly desiring? Is the outcome I want of greater importance to me than what God wants and receives?

The truth is, more than not my prayers are of a selfish nature. They are requests of wants and needs simply because I am needy and want what I want. I become consumed with myself and lose focus on the bigger picture, what’s of greater importance. What’s more important is that others see who God is when He shows up. That the people around me see God is all that He says He is, whether I get what I want or not. It’s not about me, it’s about Him receiving the honor and glory He is due.

Hezekiah wanted to see Jerusalem rescued, no doubt. But more than that he wanted to see people recognize who God was. With Christmas around the corner, it seems fitting to ask the question ourselves: do I care more about getting what I want, or seeing people come to know Christ? When I take my requests before God this season, what’s the priority?

My desire is for God to be known. That’s the greatest priority, and I want my prayers to reflect that.

Understanding Through Loss

As I finished the book of Job in the Old Testament, there was a passage in Job’s confession and repentance to God that stuck out to me.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:5-6

Job had just finished hearing an answer from the Lord, an answer that came in a way I don’t think he was expecting. When you look at the discourse between Job and his friends, the questions Job asked were for an understanding of why such destruction had come to him. He wanted understanding as to why he was inflicted so much pain and suffering, such loss. But the answer he received was something bigger than himself and his situation.

“Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”

Job 41:10-11

God’s answer to Job’s questions was simple. He was God. He holds all authority, wisdom, and knowledge. Nothing happens without His acknowledgment, and there is purpose in all He does. While Job knew this, I think it would be safe to argue he had yet to understand it. He may have thought he experienced God’s goodness in the receiving of blessing before, but it was through the trial of loss that Job truly began to understand God’s goodness. And it was when the understanding was fully realized, Job knew how great God is. In awe and reverence, Job repents once again finding himself in the dust and ashes.

I’ve often questioned God when my life seems to be in chaos. When the things I have been blessed with begin to fall away. I have a tendency to approach God with arrogance, asking “Why did you take my stuff?” You see, I fail in those times to understand like Job, that I haven’t given God anything. Nothing is mine. Everything under the heavens is His, and He has the authority to give and take at His will, not mine.

Job came to understand fully where his blessing came from. At the end of the day God poured out His blessing on Job, simply because it was in His authority to do so. Just as it was in His authority to allow Satan to rain destruction on Job’s life. Job despised himself for his arrogance in thinking God owed him an answer, a justification for taking his blessing away. How often do we act the same way?

How often do we face hardship and think, “God, you owe me an explanation here!” How often do we question God’s actions, finding ourselves justified in our own eyes? It’s not that asking God questions is a bad thing. Looking back and reflecting more on Job’s words though, I see something deeper we must be cautious of. In seeking an understanding of God’s actions, we must be careful to not question His authority. One seeks understanding, and the other seeks justification. Job’s story teaches me that I have no place to question God’s justification for His actions. If I truly believe He is sovereign, then who He is is justification enough.

Like Job, I may not fully understand the whole picture. But I don’t have to either. At the end of the day, God simply calls me to trust and obey. Trust and obey. At the end of the day, Job trusted and obeyed. And what I love about Job’s story is God honored his faith and obedience with a greater blessing than he had before.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Job 42:10

In the end, Job’s story challenges me with this question: How do I approach God when my life is flipped upside down? Do I harbor arrogance, believing deep in my heart that God has taken my things? Or do I truly seek to understand God’s plan for my life and how this fits in the big picture? One is rooted in distrust and pursuit of my own glory. One is rooted in the trust and obedience of Him.

Fear, Wisdom & Understanding

In one of Job’s late responses to his friends, he addresses the topic of wisdom. He echoes a familiar truth that meets find repeated over and over again in the book of Proverbs.

“And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”

Job 28:28

When tragedy struck Job’s life, he wasn’t free from experiencing the deep hurt and pain, the questions and doubts that creeped up. Throughout his discourse with his 3 friends, he continued to rest on significant truths about God and His ways. This time here is no different. Despite his confusion and frustration with his current circumstances, and the continual accusations from his friends, Job rested in an understanding that a correct honor and respect of who God is would lead to wisdom and understanding.

As I read through Job’s story going back and forth with his friends I’m reminded of the many times in my life, where I have wrestled with God. The times I felt hurt and abandoned. When I wasn’t getting the answers I wanted in the time I wanted. Pouring my heart and mind out to a God who seemed silent and distant in the moment. And then I’d be reminded of His past provision. I’d be reminded of who He is and what He can do.

And a reverence for Him captivates me.

In the midst of hurt, my fear of the Lord is what grounds me. It brings my perspective back into alignment with reality. Job had to ground himself in the truth of who God is. He had to fight the temptation we all face, to let our circumstances and emotions skew our perspective and undermine reality.

This truth is empowering. When I fear the Lord, when I have a reverence for Him, it shapes my thinking. And I begin to live in a way that reflects trust in God regardless of what I am facing. That empowers me to turn from evil and truly find understanding.

Finding understanding doesn’t always mean having the answers to our questions. Sometimes it just means having peace in the midst of chaos, because we understand who God is and that He is still in control.

Maybe instead of just looking for answers to our “why”, we should look for peace. Maybe we should hit the pause button on our thoughts and emotions, and allow the fear of the Lord to consume us; to remind us of who God really is.

Don’t Settle

One of the toughest questions to be faced with as a follower of Jesus, is why God allows bad things to happen to good people. It’s a question that for years I feared, because it’s easy to feel trapped in a corner. Why would a loving God allow His creation to suffer? I mean, it’s a valid question. It does seem to go against who God is, doesn’t it? And I would agree with that from a very surface level approach to who God is.

Job’s story is one of seeming contradiction to who God is. Job was an upright, holy, blameless man. That’s how God described him to Satan. Throughout the dialogue between Job and his friends we see this wrestling with who God is in light of what has happened in Job’s life. Yet, as Job works through his thoughts and feelings, facing accusations and rebukes from the friends who have joined him, He continues to come to rest on a significant truth.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

Regardless of how he felt about his circumstances, that he was unjustly afflicted, and confused about why this had happened to him, Job understood God was in control. God was in control! And if this is true, if God is truly sovereign over everything, nothing happens without first passing through Him. That means, everything Job faced was approved of by God Himself.

Despite the feelings Job had, he seemed to find some sense of peace and comfort in the truth of God’s control. Maybe you’ve face a situation that felt out of control. You couldn’t understand why what was happening, was happening to you. Maybe you’ve wrestled with the question of why God would allow something so terrible to happen to a good person. Maybe, that’s led you to question God’s goodness and His sovereignty.

I think Job could relate. The difference I see is that Job didn’t allow his questions to turn into doubts. He continued to seek understanding, not settle for disappointment. He still held firm to the truth that God was in control, despite the chaos and pain that seemingly surrounded him. He continued to push closer to God, deeper in his relationship. His pain became a catalyst for his growth.

I find encouragement and personal challenge in Job not settling. He didn’t let his frustrations settle in a heap of disappointments.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
    yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Job 13:15

While understanding God allowed his pain to exist, he continued to find hope in Him. Job understood a deep truth I think we often forget in the midst of our own suffering: God is in control, even when it looks like He isn’t. Even though God allowed his faithful servant to suffer, Job continued to seek after and trust Him. Trust isn’t always absent of questions. And that’s ok, questions are how we learn. Job wanted to understand why God allowed such tragedy to take place. But his questions never got in the way of his faith.

What a lesson for us to learn, to be able to question while remaining faithful. To seek understanding with honor. Despite my circumstances, my lack of understanding, or the pain I face, God is still in control. He is still sovereign over everything. And nothing I face comes to me before passing through Him. I have to find peace in knowing there is a purpose, even if I don’t understand it. And even though He allows me to suffer, it doesn’t negate the truth that He loves me. Sometimes the pain we walk through is what we need most to grow. To grow as a person, to grow in our faith, to grow in our relationship with God. Pain is meant to push us closer to Him, but we have a choice in whether we do or not. Job chose to run towards God. He made a decision to seek Him for understanding and comfort. He was able to do that because he understood who God truly was, and let that truth guide him instead of his feelings and circumstances.

When pain finds you, what’s your response?

Is It Worth It?

is it with it

Does the wild donkey bray when he has grass,
    or the ox low over his fodder?
Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt,
    or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow?

Job 6:5-6

I’ve been taking a slow walk through Job’s story. Taking time to read, reflect, dialogue with God, and learn some valuable lessons for my life from Job’s experience. Reading over his first response to his friend in chapters 6 and 7, these verses stuck out to me. I had to come back and re-read them several times.

Job’s response to his friend Eliphaz is in large part justifying his complaints to God. Have you ever complained about something in life? That’s probably an easy question to answer. It is really more of a rhetorical question because the reality is everyone complains about something. I know I do, a lot more than I should. And that is why this verse stuck out to me, I finally realized after reading it several times.

See, Job is really asking rhetorical questions here. Do we complain about good things? Do run after things we don’t really like or want? Look at the animals who have food, they don’t complain. Look at tasteless food, we don’t eat it without making an attempt to make it taste better.

Job is reminding his friend he has a just cause to bring before God. He just lost everything.

The question this raises in my own reflection is really simple. Are the things I bring before God really as important as I like to think they are?

As I said, I complain a lot. But the reality is, more often than not I complain about things that are unimportant. I tend to make mountains out of molehills when I bring my troubles to God. And it’s not that God is too big to deal with my little issues, or that I shouldn’t bring all of my cares and worries to God. But when I allow them to take greater precedence than they should, am I really honoring God in bringing it to Him the way I do?

Job lost everything, and he cried out to God. His friends, in their “wisdom”, rebuked him for it. But to Job’s defense, he wasn’t crying out to God over a small issue. This was his future, his offspring, wealth, and even his own health. He wanted to understand why such a gracious God seemingly turned His back on him. To his friends, Job was complaining to God for what they perceived as discipline for choices either he or his children made. But God himself declared Job was a righteous man, in whom no blame could be found.

When I read Job’s story, the dialogue between him and his friends, between him and God, I see a man struggling with his emotions trying to understand why God would allow such suffering to strike him. It makes me really think about complaining about my headache like it’s killing me. Or when I’m in a situation that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Or being disciplined for choices I made.

Are the things I bring before God of real importance? Or do I allow what are really just inconveniences to become of greater importance than they should? It’s not about “wasting God’s time”. That’s not it at all; it’s about focusing on things that really matter. How much time do I spend focusing on, and complaining about, things that I make more important than they really are?

And how much time and energy of genuine communion with God does that rob Him and me of?

Job’s life was flipped upside down. I think that’s a worthwhile issue to talk to God about. And whatever you’re facing might be too. My challenge is simply this in reflection of Job’s words: let the truly important things take precedence when coming before God. Let’s fight the temptation to make the small things big things. And let’s be sure we take the big things to God in a way that honors Him, seeking understanding over complaining.

Should I Speak?

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

Job 4:1

I hate it when those close to me are facing hardship. Not just because I see them suffering, but because I often find myself struggling for the right thing to say. I often feel I have to say something, that the moment requires my encouragement.

When I look at the interaction of Job and his friends, I see at first what I struggle with. After sitting for days in silence, Job finally speaks. But what his friend’s hear is lamenting, they might have even said complaining. It becomes clear in Eliphaz’s initial words he felt Job was being impatient with God. His words in verse two of chapter four seem to indicate some hesitation to speak, thinking Job may respond to him the way Job has responded to God in his lament.

“If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
    Yet who can keep from speaking?

Job 4:2

Eliphaz takes time to do something I think is important to note. Before really diving into his reflection on Job’s circumstances, he commends Job for his influence and impact on the lives of others. Eliphaz speaks of how Job has encouraged, uplifted, and strengthened others when they have faced hardship. But now he is apparently crumbling in the midst of hardship of his own. Eliphaz sees his friend struggling to make sense of his circumstances, and angry at God. Despite the encouragement Job had offered others in their pain, he seemed unable to aid himself. What Eliphaz struggled to see at this moment was one who is suffering will often struggle to encourage themselves. Eliphaz missed an opportunity to offer the very encouragement Job needed, and instead began to rebuke him.

But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
    it touches you, and you are dismayed.
Is not your fear of God your confidence,
    and the integrity of your ways your hope?

Job 4:5-6

In the midst of Job’s questions of God’s goodness, Eliphaz rebukes him for his apparent lack of faith. More than that though, Eliphaz saw the circumstances Job faced as potentially his own doing. Eliphaz’s theory in the next several verses indicates that those who remain righteous and holy don’t face calamity. Therefore, Job’s hardship must be because of Job’s own evil doings. You reap what you sow, thus Job is reaping calamity that he at some point has sown in life. The problem with this theory though is that it’s not entirely true.

All throughout Scripture we see righteous people face hardship. The truth is hardship finds the just and the unjust. Often, it seems as if those who don’t follow Jesus have a great life! Eliphaz rests his theory’s authority on his own extensive observations. The problem here is that his observations were personal, not universal. Nor does his authority trump God. While we can gain a great deal of wisdom and knowledge from our past experiences, our experiences will never hold authority over God’s truth.

I see myself in Eliphaz. And I think if most of us were honest, a lot of us would. His need to speak and seemingly correct his friend’s perspective of the situation is something I often struggle with. I know I would after sitting in silence for several days! But I think our desire and impulse to offer “advice” can often overshadow wisdom and discernment when it is needed most. My desire to speak words of wisdom cannot be greater than my dependence on the Spirit to lead me. Sometimes the best thing I can offer in my friend’s time of hardship is a silent presence. Sometimes it’s a prayer for peace and clarity. Sometimes it’s a meal, or helping get their kids around. Sometimes it’s doing a task that needs done, and they don’t have the strength to do it at the time it needs done.

Sometimes, supporting my friend in their hardship is keeping my mouth shut and allowing the Spirit to work.

The reality is I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know why God allows the things He allows to happen in our lives. But I do know it’s for a purpose, that He would be glorified.

Eliphaz in this first exchange allowed his own personal thoughts, observations, and beliefs to fuel his response to Job, instead of relying on the wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit. It’s an area I need growth in, and I suspect many others are like me. When our friend is suffering, let’s first go to God for them in prayer. Let’s first raise them up to the Lord before speaking a word of “advice” to them. Let’s seek wisdom and discernment from the Lord, and trust Him. His truth is of greater authority than my experience. He has the big picture when I only see a drop of paint. Let’s learn and put into practice a valuable lesson from Eliphaz, that we allow and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in bringing comfort to those around us who are hurting.

From Grief to Lament

I’ve always found myself able to easily identify with David in the Psalms. They are often so raw and honest, where he is pouring out his heart and mind to God. Whether it’s praises or laments, David rarely restrains himself in expressing his thanksgiving or disappointment to God. Reading the Psalms has taught me some valuable lessons. One of great importance is that God can handle my baggage. He is big enough to hear my frustrations, disappointments, and hurts just as much as my praises, celebrations, and excitements.

I see a similar rawness when I look at the lament of Job in chapter 3. Here is a guy, wealthy and blessed beyond measure, and after losing everything in the first two chapters we find him surrounded by 3 friends who have joined him in mourning. Chapter 3 of Job’s story is one large lamenting of his birth, which I find so interesting. Here is a man, who in the first two chapters we see a strength in the face of adversity that might make us wonder if this guy is even real. But then we see Job let his guard down, and really begin to process his grief. It’s raw, it’s real, and for me it’s identifiable.

“Let the day perish on which I was born,
    and the night that said,
    ‘A man is conceived.’

Job 3:3

I’ve lost a lot of things in my life. I remember vividly the day my dad died 12 years ago, waking up at 5:23am sitting up in bed, and then my phone rang. I remember seeing my grandpa that same night after getting into town, and him passing two days after my Dad. I remember times when life felt like it was falling apart, nothing was going right, and I struggled to wrap my mind around how I was going to get out of the pit of depression.

But I have never lost everything like Job. While I can find his experience relatable, I’ve never experienced something exactly like him. To see this man who two chapters ago was on the ground worshipping after losing all of his wealth and children now lamenting that he was even born, leaves me reading in the emotions myself.

I see in Job’s expression the same comfort and trust I see in David’s throughout the Psalms. Job in the processing of his grief knew God was big enough to handle it. Job knew God was able to take the rawness of his feelings and thoughts. But what I find interesting in Job’s lament is not once does he blame God. His lament is riddled with questions, and isn’t that often our own situation? We find ourselves asking why. Questioning not out of disrespect for our Creator, but a genuine seeking of understanding. We find Job in chapter 3 reeling in his grief, his guard down, having an honest and intimate moment with his Creator God.

And all the while his 3 friends are sitting with him in silence. Seven days they did this before what we read in chapter 3 transpires! It makes me step back and think when was the last time I was present and supportive like this to a friend who was hurting? Have I ever? Often my instinct is to speak, give some type of advice I think is “helpful”. But for seven days and nights Job’s friends sat with him in silence, AFTER tearing their own robes and covering themselves in ashes.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

Job 2:11-13

Job’s friends met Job where he was at, they mourned with him where he was at. They didn’t come in spouting off their thoughts and advice in a failed attempt to comfort their friend.

They sat in silence with him, until he was ready.

Sometimes our hurt needs silence. Sometimes our hurt doesn’t need words but just needs to exist for a moment. That doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to reside there forever, or that letting bitterness take root is acceptable. But the reality is that at times the hurt is so great, we just need to sit. And then, we get raw and honest with God.

I’ve never experienced hurt and grief so deep I’ve lamented my own birth as Job does. But I can appreciate the authenticity he displays in the midst of his grief. Job demonstrates for me, much like David in the Psalms, the power of authenticity in the midst of hurt. God can handle the rawness of my heart. He is big enough to hear my frustrations, my why’s, disappointments, and hurts, just as much as He hears my celebrations.

When was the last time you poured your heart out to God?

When was the last time you let your guard down around your friends in the midst of your pain?

When was the last time you allowed your friends to mourn with you, and support you through your grief?

I don’t see in Scripture this idea that we have to hide our feelings and put on a face of perfection like nothing ever bothers us. I see a call and examples of being authentic, being real and honest with God, and allowing others to come alongside us in support through the pain.

Maybe you need to find friends who will support you like Job’s did. Maybe you need to get real with God about the hurt you feel. You need to stop just sitting in the grief, and express it to God. Expect ups and down. Don’t be surprised when you think the grief is over, and then it hits you again.

But don’t get stuck in it. Continue to push forward even when you feel like giving up. Fight the temptation to wear a mask. Go to God, be authentic in your time with Him.

He’s big enough to handle anything you bring to Him.

Placed for a Purpose

I’ve done many different things over the last 15 years. Church and para-church ministry, mental health, substance abuse, para-education, medical, otr truck driving and training, and transportation safety and operations. There were many times I didn’t enjoy what I did. I felt incomplete, a lack of joy because I wasn’t doing what I thought I should be. What I believed God was calling me to wasn’t happening quick enough.

It took years for God to open the door and allow me to be in a place I know is fully completing my calling. And it took a very simple realization I believe, before God opened that door.

There are times and seasons God will place you where you don’t want to be. That doesn’t mean there’s not a God-given purpose for you being there.

I remember specifically doing para-education and despising what I did. Deep down, I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t the people, but the work. I found no joy in what I was doing. But the bigger problem was that I allowed may lack of joy to influence every other aspect of my life. And in doing so I failed to see and meet the purpose God placed me there for.

I’m reminded of the story of Esther, in which I think we typically attribute lessons to the lives of women. But I think the application can be broader. The reality is she found herself in a position she didn’t want to be in. She wasn’t looking for it, didn’t really want it, but had to accept it. And in that, she realized God placed her there for a reason.

The question then for her was the same for us. What do you do with the opportunity God has given you?

What I had to realize and accept was, that where God placed me wasn’t really about me. Sure, it was a God-given opportunity to learn and grow. But as a follower of Jesus, my life is about serving Him. Honoring Him. It’s all about Him. Often times I fail at that, often because I begin to think it’s all about me.

Esther could have easily done that. And maybe she would have if it wasn’t for her cousin to encourage her, remind her Who’s she was.

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14

Esther had a God-given purpose for being where she was, when she was. Her people, the Jews, were about to be destroyed. She could have done nothing, and possibly faced the same fate. But something about Mordecai’s words helped her discover that purpose and the strength to take action.

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther 4:15-16

I didn’t face an extermination of my people. Nor did I face the possibility of death for taking a stand. I did however fail to understand my purpose at the time, and take action to fulfill it. The lesson learned from Esther is a late one for me, but it’s one I applied moving forward.

Where God placed me is for a purpose He ordains, it’s not about me. I may be a benefactor of that purpose, but it’s ultimately about Him. But I will never realize that or be able to fulfill it if I can’t find joy in where God has placed me.

Maybe like Esther, you find yourself in a place or position you didn’t expect, maybe you didn’t even want. You might feel stuck in a situation that doesn’t jive with your plans. Maybe, your situation is just tough, and feels unfair. God has you there for a purpose. To grow, to make a difference. The question we each have to wrestle with is will we choose to find joy where we are, or allow bitterness to set in?

One will lead to life, the other to more pain and frustration.

Responding to Hurt

The last two weeks have been long with some really high highs and low lows for our family. We’ve had some great highs with our oldest making the Freshman Volleyball team at school. We’ve had some lows saying goodbye to our dog Harley after 13 1/2 years of life. Seasonal allergies have begun to hit hard making for long nights with the youngest. And on top of it all, I’ve been trying to maintain some routine of working out regularly and eating more healthy.

Life continues to be full of obstacles, and blessings. In the midst of these challenges, I have spent time diving into the story and life of Job in the Old Testament. He was a man not unfamiliar with blessing.

There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

Job 1:2-3

Scripture makes it clear that in his time Job was one of the wealthiest men alive. He had experienced great favor from the Lord. Not only was he blessed with children, but he also had a great number of livestock and servants. Scripture also makes it clear that Job possessed a character and devotion to God. In the verses before we see Job feared God, turned from evil and was blameless and upright. His character and integrity were one of holiness. Of greater importance to him than his possessions though was his faith and commitment to the Lord.

This commitment to God was exactly why he is allowed to be inflicted by Satan not once, but twice. It’s the first time he is attacked by Satan that I find most interesting. Job’s response to four messengers reporting tragic news to him demonstrates how deeply rooted his character and integrity were. After learning of the loss of his livestock and his children at the hand of Satan, Job responds in a way Satan did not expect.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:20-21

Job does four things that strike me as significant in the response to hardship. First, upon hearing the devastating news he arose. There is something powerful about getting up in the midst of hardship. It’s easy to stay where you are, to allow the hurt and the disappointment to take hold and swallow you. It takes fortitude to stand up, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes strength to take a step forward in the pain. Job seemed to understand something truly powerful; staying where he was in the midst of the pain would not benefit him in any way. He had to get up, he had to do something.

After rising, we see Job express his agony in a way uncommon to us today. Scripture says Job tore his robe and shaved his head. For us today, this may seem extreme. Maybe even a little odd. In Job’s culture tearing one’s robe was how pain and deep agony was expressed. For Job, his robe was also a symbol of status. Job’s action of destroying a highly valuable and symbolic item of clothing was a significant action. It was not done lightly, and signified an outward expression of the deep sorrow and pain he was experiencing internally. Saving ones head was often a sign of repentance. I imagine Job was now wrestling internally with grief, pain, confusion; the questions that must have been swirling around in his head. Trying to understand why his children died. Job’s action of repentance demonstrates his understanding of God’s holiness and his brokenness. Unsure of the reason for this immense loss, Job is quick to repent before the Lord.

Then Job shifts gears, and I’m sure this is where Satan was really caught off guard. Without skipping a beat, Job falls to the ground in worship! Not anger, not bitterness; Job ultimately responds to the tragedy in his life with worship! How often do I face hurt and tragedy in my life on a much smaller scale, and struggle to respond in worship? My bent is to hold onto the hurt, to allow bitterness to take root and grow. Job demonstrates the product of well-grounded character and integrity, a faith deeply rooted in a sovereign God. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t wrestle with real, intense feelings. It means he knows they don’t control him, and makes a conscious decision to worship God. And the best part?

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:22

Job faced adversity most of us never will. He lost everything in a single day. Despite his experience, and what the world today would say justified turning his back on God, Job stood firm. In the midst of his hurt, he remained faithful.

I’ve walked away from these last two weeks in my own life with a new perspective. I have a fresh understanding of how I can and should walk through my pain. If Job can walk out of losing everything, worshipping God, and being found without sin in his response, so can I. If Job can worship when it hurts, so can I. And in light of the incredible blessings God has shown me, I should. When I face hardship in the future, when the pain feels greater than I think I can handle, let me remember Job’s words of praise.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21