Archive | April 2015

On Broadway: “My Man, Job”

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 Decide today whom you will serve . . . Joshua 24:15 GNT

Perhaps not many of us would like our life story aired on Television or portrayed on Broadway before a live audience, but essentially that is what living on Planet Earth is all about. We live in a war zone and like it or not, we are all players. And like it or not, many of us may feel like we live in glass houses after loss where our pain is visible to prying eyes even as we try to keep it hidden. Someone else was a player long ago, and today we will observe a bit of his story played out on stage. His name is Job.

“There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil.  He had seven sons and three daughters,  and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand head of cattle, and five hundred donkeys. He also had a large number of servants and was the richest man in the East.”  Job 1:1-4 GNT

 ACT ONE

Lights go out. The audience hushes in anticipation. The curtain rises to reveal a celestial summit in heaven. Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He chooses this public forum to challenge God ~ you might say ~ to another duel. Perhaps like the one back in the Garden of Eden. The one he won ~ he’s quick to remind God ~ just in case He’s had a lapse in memory. But this time, the subject is Job. Why Job?

“Well,” Satan claims, strutting about with his hands on his hips, “Would Job worship You if You didn’t protect him? You’re like a heavenly Santa Clause, providing wealth and goodies to fill his every whim.” “But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!” Job 1:11 GNT

How would you expect God to respond? Would you expect Him to fill His lungs with air and blow Satan to the edge of the cosmos? The audience leans forward in their seats, eager to hear God’s response.

“All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” Job 1:12 GNT

Gleefully, Satan exits. He can’t wait to inflict pain and suffering. It’s his specialty and he gets right to it.

ACT TWO

In rapid-fire succession, one by one messengers run on the scene, reporting to Job so fast it’s enough to keep your head spinning: the first messenger rushes in to report that Job’s donkeys are stolen and his servants are all killed; the second messenger rushes in to report that lightning strikes Job’s sheep and shepherds, killing them all; the third messenger rushes in to report that Job’s camels and servants are all killed; the fourth messenger rushes in to report that a storm blows down the home where all of his children are gathered having a celebration and killed every one of them (Job 1:13-19). Job drops to his knees and wails in agony as the curtain drops upon his grief.

“In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1: 22 GNT).

The curtain rises as the lights go out. Job is sitting in a heap in the dust. He gets to his feet and tears his clothes and shaves his head, as is the custom to display one’s grief. Then he throws himself face down on the ground again and cries aloud,

“I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT).  Great wailing pours forth as he grieves his horrific losses and the curtain drops, hiding his misery. Some in the audience sniffle, sharing his sorrow.

ACT THREE

The curtain rises as the lights go out to reveal another celestial summit in heaven. Again Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He’s scowling, obviously in a rage as he paces back and forth in front of God, like some caged lion. “What’s on your mind, Satan?” God asks coolly. Before Satan could open his mouth to speak, God calmly asks,

“Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil. You persuaded me to let you attack him for no reason at all, but Job is still as faithful as ever.” Job 2:3 GNT

Every muscle on Satan’s body appears to be rippling into one giant knot as he roars so loudly the audio guys hustle to adjust the sound,

 “A person will give up everything in order to stay alive.  But now suppose you hurt his body—he  will curse  you  to  your  face!” Job 2:4, 5 GNT

The audience is deathly quiet as if collectively holding their breath. God had refused Satan’s request to touch Job’s body in Act One. Will He allow it now?

God responds to Satan. “All right, he is in your power, but you are not to kill him.” Job 2:6 GNT

Satan hastens from the scene. He lives for the adrenalin rush every time he inflicts pain and suffering on unsuspecting, naive, weak-willed, worthless, humans. 

INTERMISSION

The curtain drops and the lights come on. The audience is buzzing. Those who thought this was going to be a comedy are muttering to themselves what a waste of money. Some in the audience groaned aloud. They obviously didn’t trust Satan to not “accidentally” kill Job or maim him within an inch of his life. Others are wondering aloud how God could allow such a thing to take place. Poor Job! He lost his entire livelihood, and all his children all in one day! And where was his wife in all this? Certainly he will blame God now!

ACT FOUR

The curtain rises as the lights go out. What horror met the audience’s gaze. Sitting before them is Job, squatting in the middle of a garbage dump. The vaporous stench rolls out over them, and the tidy guests in the first few rows are either fanning themselves with their programs or covering their noses with their laced handkerchiefs.

Job is covered from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet in nasty, seeping boils. He takes a piece of broken pottery and carefully scraps the puss from his sores. What a miserable condition. His wife is watching him with her hands on her hips, shaking her head from side to side. It’s hard to know whether she is trying to be encouraging to her husband or not. And when she finally opens her mouth, her voice is high pitched and shrill,

“You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?” Job 2:9 GNT

Lest we desire to criticize Job’s wife too harshly, she has lost her children and her livelihood too. No doubt she could have said just about anything but that last sentence. It had to inflict even more pain on her suffering husband.

Even though Job was miserable, he did respond to his wife, and right to the point. “[Woman] you are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Job 2:10 GNT

God knew His man pretty well, didn’t He? He was being sorely tested by the enemy, but remaining faithful in spite of all the trouble and loss and suffering and sorrow and in addition, nagging from his wife. The curtain drops and the lights come on.

ACT FIVE

The curtain rises and the lights go out. We see that Job is still sitting in the garbage dump. The smell is still overpowering. He’s still scraping his sores and looking most miserable. From a distance we see three men approaching. Our program says they are his three closest friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. As they draw closer, they appear to have shocked looks on their faces. Apparently they hardly recognize their old friend.

“They began to weep and wail, tearing their clothes in grief and throwing dust into the air and on their heads. Then they sat there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, because they saw how much he was suffering.”  Job 2:12, 13 GNT

Sidebar: Sweet silence from dear friends in a time of sorrow. Perhaps some of us can relate. I may have experienced maybe a few minutes, but never a few days like these friends. I applaud their endurance and faithfulness. It would have been best if they could have stayed silent, but they did not. Perhaps Satan worked thru them to bring even greater pain on their mutual friend. I’ve experienced such behavior. Likely you have too, from those who profess to love you?

Job’s friends dialogue through most of the remaining chapters where they: challenge, accuse, and blame Job, assuming that he must have offended God and he should scour his conscience until he has made proper amends . . . until God speaks, and when He does, He challenges them with knowledge too great for them to comprehend and they all bow their heads in silence.

“When God speaks, the power of His word puts our life and our questions instantly into perspective.” Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter (background) Note on Job 38:1

The curtain drops and the lights come on for the last time. The play is over. The patrons are rather subdued as they file out quietly, as if in deep thought. Perhaps some expected this to be a divine comedy of sorts, while others can relate, perhaps having experienced similar reactions from friends during their seasons of grief.

EPILOGUE

This is just a portion of Job’s life, but throughout his story, he remained faithful to God during both good times and bad and Satan lost this huge challenge. Perhaps during his lifetime, Job never got all his questions answered and he, like some of us, must wait. Job trusted God so much, had such a good friendship ~ a special one-on-one relationship with Him ~ that he could speak the words below. He wasn’t particularly special. God longs for this same kind of relationship with each one of His children. I choose a close relationship like this with God. I’d like to trust God enough to say these words to Him too. How about you?

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job 13:15 NIV

“The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first. Job owned fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, two thousand head of cattle, and one thousand donkeys. He was the father of seven sons and three daughters. Job lived a hundred and forty years after this, long enough to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And then he died at a very great age.”  Job 42:12-17 GNT

Tethered by grace

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT

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I don’t know if you’ve ever put your life in the hands of someone who harnessed you into a contraption, like a parasail. It wasn’t against my will since I actually paid good money for the experience! The parasail is tethered to a boat and the boat takes off at breakneck speed pulling you high into the sky. You have no control over the parachute; you go wherever the boat pulls you. You are supposed to enjoy the ride and the breathtaking views from high over the ocean, and if all goes well, you are promised a soft landing ~  if you follow instructions.

A teacher friend, who was a senior class sponsor, invited me along for spring break. I saw it as a bit of a vacation away from the grind and so did she, but she knew the trouble the kids could get into . . . but that is not what this post is about. It’s actually about two adult women who did not follow instructions. Now before you go gettin’ too smug, haven’t you ever not paid attention when you were supposed to?

We were going double on this sky ride thingy and she was in back where the rip cord was located. I figured she should pay more attention to the instructions since she would be guiding our return to land and since I was in front, I should have no responsibilities whatsoever, right? Then suddenly we were up and away! The sky was a gorgeous blue with puffy white clouds and the water was so clear . . . way down, down, down below. I tried to not think about how high up we were. I tried to feel safe . . . tethered by a skinny rope . . . oh, what was I thinking to agree to do this? Was my insurance premium paid up?

We jabbered to each other as we took in all the scenery from high in the sky. With our aerial vantage point, we tried to pick out our hotel from all the hotel roofs we had to choose from. Needless to say we lost all track of time. Noting we were circling back toward shore I glanced down at the people “specks” and thought I saw one of those speck’s wildly waving its arms. Was that our guy giving us the signal to pull the cord and land this bird? I hollered at my pilot who was busy jabbering away. She concluded the frantic waving could not be intended for us since, in her estimation, we had not been up here long enough. Certainly the ride should last longer, shouldn’t it? I was more doubtful, but overruled since I had “no responsibilities whatsoever.”

Now we are approaching the shore again and the speck is larger this time and I could clearly see it was a guy flailing his arms and jumping up and down and his mouth was moving too, but we couldn’t hear what he was saying, which was probably a good thing. Again I yelled to my pilot who finally looked down for herself. Yep. Looks like he’s trying to get our attention. So she yanked on the cord and we started our decent. I guess I should tell you that the students on the beach were howling with laughter at the two of us. They got an earful of what was intended for us and they totally enjoyed watching two adults being bad examples and getting into trouble.

Needless to say, our landing was not a smooth one and we both got wet, but at least we were safely on the ground again . . . and got a lecture from the boss man. And as my husband likes to say, “I’ve done that twice, first and last!”

Perhaps I can attempt a spiritual application here. We are created in God’s image, in fact, we can look at our attachment to Him like a spiritual umbilical cord; sort of like the rope that attached the boat to our parasail. But like our unwillingness to follow instructions, I might tell God to leave me alone; to go pick on somebody else, that I can take care of myself. But an attachment to God is a good thing. I might even consider it my lifeline; another one of God’s gifts of grace.

“Grace brings us into a life that is greater than what sin could ever offer us. Grace extends the hand that lifts us out of the miry clay, throws the rope that pulls us from the deepest pit, and lights the flame that brings us out of the darkest cave. Without His grace we were without hope, without the assurance of heaven, and bound by the fear of death; by His grace we abound in hope, we rejoice in the certainty of the resurrection, and we glory in knowing that the very best is still ahead.” Roy Lessin, “Today is Your Best Day”, pgs. 91, 96

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.    Jeremiah 29:11, GW

 

 

 

 

Why not me?

We all have “why” questions, don’t we? Maybe you’ve stepped outside on a clear, dark night, looked up into the star studded sky, ablaze with twinkling stars, and shouted, “Why me? Why MY child?” But there’s not the faintest whispered reply.

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He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Psalm 147:4 NIV

I’m re-posting for the benefit of new readers. Sadly, there will always be new losses. Someone reading reading this for the first time or even for a second time and feeling comforted in some small way, would be my hope. Loss is hard. We all experience loss in one way or another. Pain is pain as they say, and whatever tops your list of pain will be the worst at this point in your life experience. You cannot compare yours with another’s, but you will find similarities which will give you the opportunity to journey beside someone else for a time who truly understands how you feel.

I had been on my grief journey a few years when I penned these words below. So perhaps it is fair to add a disclaimer by suggesting that if you are new to your grief journey, this might be a piece to set aside for later. It takes time to see the big picture perspective. As always, be gentle with your healing.

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Remember my prayer, Lord? Save my children at all cost? I never thought praying that prayer would lead to death. But that’s what happened. I was forced to bury one of my children after death by suicide. Out of my tears and agony I sobbed, “Why me , Lord. Why? He had his whole life before him. Why now, when it seems he was lingering in the valley of so many decisions?”

Silence. No answer came. I slogged on, picking up the pieces as best I could. Life is for the living, but I was barely breathing. As bad as my pain has been, would I wish this gnawing grief on anyone else? The answer had to be, “No.” So should my question instead be, “Why not me?”

To which Jesus seemed to answered softly to my heart, “This is the work of Satan. I created and love each and every one of My precious children.”

“But is that all the time I get with him, Lord?” I implored. “Sorry, but it wasn’t long enough. Not even close.”

I pause and take a look back . . . I grew up Christian, always assuming good things come to those who pray, but my heart shattered that day into confetti-like bits of flesh, and I fell on my face begging God to extend His mercy. Who else could understand my wailing and tears? Are You listening, Lord?”

Long, long ago before Adam and Eve were created, the heavenly council met somewhere in the heavens. There had to be a back-up plan ~ just in case the humans God was going to create would choose to follow a different path. Who could do the job? Who would willingly volunteer to give up life to pay the ultimate price sin demanded?

Jesus pushed His chair back from the table and stood up. “I’ll do it, Father,” He said. “If sin demands blood, then let My blood pay the ransom.” And it was done. Council adjourned.

Fast forward about four thousand years to the Garden of Gethsemane. The dreaded cross looms just ahead and Jesus is on His face, begging His Father for mercy.

Father, if possible, let there be another way, but if not, I will keep the promise I made long ago. They are worth every drop of blood I must shed for them.”

Now zoom forward to the present. The scene is full of indescribable pain and tears as parents, siblings, and friends say “good-bye” to a son, brother, and friend they loved so much. But we weren’t alone in our sorrow. We were wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus, while He gently wiped the tears from our eyes with His nail-scarred hands, the victorious reminder of the price He paid long ago, forever releasing humanity from the grip of sin.

“It won’t be long,” He seemed to whisper softly in my ear, “Soon I will come and raise him up and you will have all of eternity together. Please cling to My promises. Please try to comprehend that He had been in terrible pain for so long. The enemy took pleasure in harassing him. His grip on life . . . and on Me . . . were weakening. I could not bear to watch Satan make fun of him any longer. It was time to let him go to sleep. He’s safe and at peace, and I have the best part of him ~ his DNA. So don’t worry. He will be so much better than you ever remember him. His face will be lit with the glory of His Heavenly Father and you will recognize his beautiful blue eyes and his cute little chuckle with his delicious sense of humor, when something strikes him funny. I made him once . . . I will make him again.

Yes, My child, you are right when you can finally ask, ‘Why not me?’ I couldn’t stand his pain . . . and yours hurts Me too, but we have each other and you will continue to grow in My love. You will also continue to grow in your understanding that this world is a war zone between good and evil and sadly, many more of My children will become casualties of this war before I return. Satan is hell-bent on taking as many with him as possible, but remind those who have lost precious loved ones, that he does not have the last word, I do.

I, alone, know the hearts of all My kids. 

I, alone, know who is safe to save for all eternity, and that is what matters most. 

There are many who need to hear your story. They are everywhere, trying to bear their terrible grief in silence, guilt, embarrassment and shame. They need to hear from your lips, your story. They need to hear about My love that will never, ever let them go.”

Love you,

Jesus

Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.  Isaiah 57:2 NIV

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  1 Thessalonians 4:16 NIV

~ shared from the book, “Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations with God after the Tragic Death of My Son”

This entry was posted on April 3, 2015. 2 Comments