Posts Tagged ‘Job’

Gods handWhether I like it or don’t like it, whether it’s fair or not fair, whether it’s convenient or not, I am a child of the Living God and this is my journey. When calamities happen to people (losses, illness, or trauma) and we did nothing to set the stage for those things to occur (we didn’t drink ourselves into stupors or ride the edges of cliffs), then peace comes only from knowing that God is God. And like many others, I too have been given a set of circumstances to navigate and learn and grow and maybe, just maybe, help someone else.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind. . . . [Job 12:7-10, NIV]

Throughout these months of grieving over Mike’s death, eight months ago now, people have asked me if I was angry yet. I suppose the implication is that I would become angry at Mike for dying or God for allowing it. But in neither case do I find these to be good material for anger. That’s not to say I haven’t had an array of other emotions like disappointment, sorrow, loneliness, and even misery, but anger, not so much.

Well, that’s not totally true. I did cut loose on my son one day for being so self-absorbed and insensitive to my chaos and insecurities and bafflement. But really, what twenty-two year old would do much better? He’s already boxed up his feelings about his father and he’s uncomfortable with any further displays of anguish. (He can save these up for the therapist down the road.) And perhaps, if I had to analyze that horrible episode, my ravings and tears and emotional collapse into a heap on the floor could have been anger as well, pent up and explosive.

I scared myself that day. I fasted soon after. For a week. Looking for the center of God in me. Again.

In the end, there was only the same certainty, God’s hand is on my situation and with me. My years are not over yet and time will reveal what is still intended for me to know, to live, to walk, to understand. Job figured it out. I guess I can too.

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God listensI have been told, eventually, I would grow angry over the loss of my husband, who died so unexpectedly. It’s only been a couple of months and people may be right, but today, I can’t really generate emotional wrath. With whom should I be angry? Should I blaze at Mike who experienced the widow maker, when a specific artery to the apex of the heart was blocked and caused nearly “sudden death” (or certainly within minutes). Should shake my fists at adult children who didn’t even know their father was home? Should I chastise myself for being out of town . . . again? Or, the most common fury, at God, who allowed or orchestrated this moment. But if Job couldn’t get away with it, why should I? “I know you can do anything; no plan of yours can be opposed successfully. . . . I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand, wonders beyond my comprehension.” [Job 42:1, 3, CEB]

Instead, I see God’s hand manifesting in my daily life now in a way that I never did before. Into my confusion, God still is. Into my sorrow, God speaks. Into my fear, God breathes.

Come close and listen, all you who honor God;
I will tell you what God has done for me:
My mouth cried out to him with praise on my tongue.
If I had cherished evil in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.
But God definitely listened.
He heard the sound of my prayer. Bless God!
He didn’t reject my prayer; he didn’t withhold his faithful love from me.
[Psalm 66:16-20, CEB]

Back in the day when I used to speak to women’s groups and conferences as well as perform my one-woman show, I would share my testimony. And at the end of the story, I would always remind them that I was the “woman at the well,” “the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her hair,” the woman caught in the sin of adultery.” And now, in my widowhood, I am her again, for I am thrown into His mercy.

Today, I am able to stand against the bitterness that stole Naomi’s heart [Ruth 1:20] and instead, I take the refrain of Ruth, ““I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” [Ruth 3:9b, NIV] It’s enough for today.

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Job and God and Me

Watercolor by Tammy Groves Thornton

Watercolor by Tammy Groves Thornton

We all have challenges in life. That’s the nature of the journey. How will we answer?

Job arose, tore his clothes, shaved his head, fell to the ground, and worshiped. He said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb; naked I will return there. The Lord has given; the Lord has taken; bless the Lord’s name.” In all this, Job didn’t sin or blame God. [Job 1:20-22, CEB]

We’re in over our heads. With each growth spurt, another adversity. Strength is earned. Patience is earned. Perseverance is earned. And woven through them all is the seeming paradox of surrender, trust, and abandon of control.

Our pastor challenged us at the beginning of the year to choose a single word around which to focus our time and energies. I took this intention to heart and chose the word Simplicity. But in order to kindle a simpler life, I must examine the roots that produced the other lifestyle–the chaos and the busyness, the stress and over-commitments. A lot comes from the accumulation of stuff. Now, in the face of losing a loved one, the stuff no longer holds much power or significance. There’s a wind blowing through me and I’m letting go.

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Art by Neon Rauschen

Conceptually, I can’t really wrap my head around omnipotence, infinity, or the universe. And not just because of the vastness, although that plays a part, but mostly because the idea is so very non-human. We are bound by many sets of limitations whether self-imposed or a product of our very nature. We are encased in skin and held up by a skeleton of bones and we are locked in time. Both of these parameters keep us out of the God realms.

 Job answered the Eternal One.
 Job: I know You can do everything;
        nothing You do can be foiled or frustrated.
You asked,
        “Who is this that conceals counsel with empty words void of knowledge?”
    And now I see that I spoke of—but did not comprehend—
        great wonders that are beyond me. I didn’t know. [Job 42:1-3, The Voice]

I didn’t know, Job says. And I say, he couldn’t know. We’ll never know, not while we’re walking the earth.

Oh, we’ll get glimpses of truth, snippets of the secret knowledge, flashes of insight even. But the “why” is not for us to understand. I am reminded of a Corrie Ten Boom story when she was a little girl on a trip with her father and she wanted to carry one of the pieces of luggage and her father denied her. It would be too heavy for her.

And so it is with omnipotence: the ability to see through time and space and change, the beginnings and the ends.

For this reason, we are asked to trust in God, the Eternal One, the Omniscient. It’s the old iced tea commercial, where we are asked to fall backward into the water, without looking. It’s the more recent cliche of choosing to be “all in.”

I am still not there. I don’t understand my own reticence. Somewhere along the way of my life, I have learned skepticism and fear of being fooled or deluded. I continue to test the waters first, walking in slowly, just in case there are surprises underneath, ready to nibble my toes and ankles. I do not plunge.

But I will. I know that too. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but I am certain that I will have my Job revelation too. And in that day, in the same way that “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” [Job 42:12a], so I will experience saturation in omnipotence.

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Artwork by Nathan Johnson

Artwork by Nathan Johnson

This question, “where were you?” changes its meaning by the emphasis put on each word. “WHERE were you?” versus “where WERE you?” versus “where were YOU?” And what emphasis did God use when he first spoke to Job?

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?Tell me, if you understand. . . . “ [Job 38:4, NIV]

Is it about place or time or person?

I’m pretty sure it’s about person, that neither Job or you or I were present in the time of creation energy. We can describe and count and observe and hypothesize, but we’ll never really “know” or understand Godwork.

Partially, the problem is that we continue to anthropomorphize God. We keep making very big and very wrong assumptions about God as though a jealous God is like a jealous man or woman. Or that fearing God is like fearing cockroaches or stink bugs. Or that listening to God is like listening to U2 or Taylor Swift. These words are human words used to describe human feelings and activities. It’s simply not the same with God.

I used to believe that Abraham had the God thing down. After all, didn’t he negotiate the salvation of his cousin Lot from the clutches of Sodom (or was it Gomorrah)? Really? Did Abraham actually bring up something that God had not considered? Was Abraham bargaining with God or was he really bargaining with himself, the value of human life against virtue and right living.

And so, here we come to Job who finally hears God, a God who asks Job question after question after question in order to lock in a simple truth: God is God and human is not God. Creator envisions creation; human lives in it, molding what is given. We do the same with our lives. We have much freedom in the managing of our persons. But the spark of life came from God alone.

For my scant few years, maybe they will be as many as 100 or maybe only 85 or even less, I cannot know. But for this time, I am given the opportunity to partner with God in gratitude, sharing in the work of creativity and love and joy and relationships. Or not.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” [Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT]

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ifJob finally stops his long recitation of sorrow and lays out a series of If/Then statements. In chapter 31, he makes at least sixteen if statements, all articulating what he has been accused of by his friends and family (as a reason for his current sufferings) and Job basically says, if it’s true that he did any of these things, then may others benefit from his mistakes, may people change their paths, may more harm come to him, and so on. It’s a fascinating end to his arguments, and the chapter concludes with “The words of Job are ended.”

Scripture example:
If ever people in such conditions did not physically bless and thank me
        for warming them up with the fleeces of my own sheep,
If I ever used my civic strength to condemn the fatherless
        simply because I knew I had allies in the courts;
Then let my arm be pulled from its socket!
        Let my forearm be snapped off at the elbow for raising it against the orphan! [Job 31:20-22, The Voice]

It’s a strong presentation. But it’s also a bit of a prideful one. He’s so sure. Job is just so sure that nothing in his life would warrant his current circumstances.

And of course, for those of us reading, we already know how the story began and ends. Ultimately, he was right. Job had not sinned or lied or cheated. He had feared the Lord and acted accordingly.

But the one thing he did not consider was that God is sovereign and ultimately, can choose or not choose, do or not do as God wills. God cannot be held to logic or democracy. It is not for us, human, to necessarily figure it out. Most people don’t particularly like that concept, but I think it’s quite true.

There is, of course, if/then in our own lives as well as sowing and reaping. We don’t have God’s latitude, except for the divine intervention of the Christ, the Messiah, whose mission was to break the ongoing if/then of our cultures and our races.

ifthenThere is good power too in if/then. We don’t have to throw out the baby with the proverbial bath water. It’s a core theme to a type of goal planning and success. It’s a way of talking to oneself or scheduling one’s day and the reason it has power, the “if” statement presents an accomplishment or finished task that then frees the mind to move on to the next thing, the “then.” For instance, “If I have finished writing this blog post, then I can read those articles on Journaling” or “If it is 7:30 pm, then I can spend an hour on Facebook.” (For more on this concept, How To Use If-Then Planning To Achieve Any Goal.)

Interestingly enough, there is currently a Broadway Musical about to be launched in March 2014 called, of all things, If/Then. The story seems to revolve around different paths in a life. Most of us have played that game in our heads, what if I hadn’t married this particular person and gone to college out of state instead. Then, who would I have become?

I really didn’t get any deep insights here, but I am aware of the power of “If.” It carries with it an assumption or set of conditions and I think, perhaps, I have been building the wrong if statements in my life. I just want to think about it. You?

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DelusionHow often have you heard this? It’s a catch-all phrase people say who bristle at the more impugning Christian-eze about everyone being a sinner, needing to be saved, and so on. Honestly, they think to themselves, why do I need a Savior? I’m a good person, I’ve never killed anyone or abused a cat or intentionally done harm to someone else. Job had a little of this attitude going too.

God forbid that I should justify you—saying you [Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar] are right [in your accusations against me]; till I die, I will not put away my integrity from me.  My uprightness and my right standing with God I hold fast and will not let them go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days and it shall not reproach me as long as I live. [Job 27:5-6, Amplified]

What is the appropriate reply? I’m not sure. Is it for me to try and convince the other person of his/her shortcomings, immoralities, or misdeeds? Is it for me to point out their personal abuses like overeating, smoking, or other chemical intake? Is it for me to mention their self-absorption, their miserliness, or their pride? Am I to be the one to point out their luxuries while others starve, their health while others die, their contentment while others suffer? Should I mention their debt or over-spending? Should I mention a lack of empathy or compassion for others not like them? Should I mention words of judgment or lies or flattery?

For these things, I stand charged each day. I don’t need anyone to tell me because I know. And I ask forgiveness. I am no better than you. And maybe no worse. But I see the truth of me in the mirror of Christ while also seeing a potential for true “good.”

This is the beginning wisdom.

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