Are you sad about something that happened in your past? Did you have a godly dream in mind that never came true? Do you still feel a bit of negative "energy" from your past?
For me, yes, yes, and yes.
And this is the main reason that I wrote about Job's daughters a few posts ago. I had that line "He gives and takes away" stuck in my mind from "Blessed Be Your Name." (Matt Redmon version). I did a quick Bible search to find it was Job who declared, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).
Years ago I found myself in a place where I wanted God to give. I had a dream in my life for a "happily-ever-after." I set all my hopes on this godly dream I had envisioned.
I became a Christian after my divorce in 2001. It wasn't long after becoming a Christian that I knew God's will was for my marriage to be restored. He is, after all, the great Restorer and the "Repairer of Broken Walls" (Isa. 58:12). What on this earth is impossible for Him?
I prayed. I fasted. I held a dream for marital restoration like a gold collar around my neck that rested right over my heart. I set my hopes on this godly dream. I knew it was the very heart of God, as it involved acts of both divine and human forgiveness. I had no doubts. And I held on tightly to this dream... for year after year after year after year.
Both God's divine and His providential wills are mysteries. We may not understand why God gives and why He takes away, we may not understand His ways, His thoughts BUT along the way we are called to trust Him anyway, to bless Him anyway, to accept those things we cannot change anyway.
It seems that we are called to hope in God, not in godly dreams, not in godly desires and outcomes.
Well, sometimes this is easier said than done.
There is a beautiful stretch of 20 acres and a historic farm house built in 1850 in Franklin County that one of my sons and his wife have inherited.
Peace and tranquility hover over this place and reside in the open spaces as well as the more remote hidden sanctuaries and secret gardens.
There are pine trees galore in thick forests and open and rolling fields where cattle could roam. Birds flock to and deer gather in this wooded paradise. The two-story white house sits majestically on a slight hill way off the main road and demands your attention when you come to the clearing at the end of a long, graveled lane that is canopied by trees and tall wild bushes. Several out buildings with untold treasures sprinkle the back yard. Boy, did my kids have fun growing up there! They learned, laughed, cried, discovered, climbed, ran, worked and studied there. It was such a lovely place to raise a family.
This farm and all it represents (home, family, marriage, unity, strength, wholeness, self-sufficiency, living on the land, fresh air, simple living...) were intricately woven into the godly happily-ever-after I was chasing.
Just a few years ago, however, in my mind and heart it became a symbol to me of my own failure, of loss, of regret, and of deep sadness--a godly dream of restoration gone awry.
Needless to say, I knew I needed to change my view, to reframe the "farm," so to speak, because it is now my adult children's home! I visit this farm I once owned almost every week to help them renovate the house and grounds, and I come head to head with wave after wave of memories--a deluge of really delightful memories as well as a few more uncomfortable, not-so-wonderful memories. And the later type was starting to get the best of me.
Memories can suffocate us if we allow them to. The enemy of our soul counts on it! The good news is that I am no longer willing to let the past control my ability to breathe, to enjoy this rich blessing to my children.
I needed God's peace in my heart, a new perspective, a new picture frame in my mind's eye for the "farm." It has taken me a while, but I am learning to use my Truth trump cards to replace the, let's just say it - toxic thoughts - in my head.
We know that Job was righteous in God's eyes - although in the end of his story, it seems that God gave Job a pretty good mental workout with questions such as “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? (38:4), and we know that ultimately Job repented for some attitude he was harboring in his heart.
In Job's life God gave
and God took away
and took away
and then He gave again.
Somehow Job never cursed God--he held to his passion to bless the name of God instead. Job's hope was in GOD, not in any GODLY DREAM he had pictured and idolized (ouch!). In their relationship, Job recognized that God was God and that he himself was not.
I, on the other hand, had so much riding on my godly dream, and since it wasn't coming to fruition, I did find myself "cursing" God and harboring a lot of resentment and distrust (I could easily have been Job's wife! - geesh!) I had placed all my bets on my dream, my way, my thoughts, my conclusions, my desires, my will--then because my dream was godly, I just knew God would comply with my wishes.
Unwittingly, I mistook my idolatry for strong, Christian faith.
Rico, where are you? I need a bit of Rico Relief! Of course. You are there, Rico--rummaging inside my closet trying to chew on my shoes and pull my clothes off their hangers. I know that darlin' guilty face!
Back to the point: How do we learn to trust God with no strings attached? How to we turn tragedies into triumphs?
How do we reframe our godly desires with desires for God alone? How do we really say and believe and put into practice, "Not my will, but yours be done, Lord"?
Have you ever had a godly dream that you can now recognize as a target for misplaced hope? I would love to know about your "farm" and how you reframed your thinking.
Stay tuned for a few answers I've discovered coming soon!
The topic of RESTORATION is multifaceted. A few possible synonyms for restoration are repair, refurbishment, reconditioning, rehabilitation, rebuilding, reconstruction, and remodeling. Notice the prefix "re" which means "again" or "back."
We've been considering the names Job gave to his three daughters after he came through his trial. He named the first a name meaning "Day by day," and to the second he gave a name whose root means "to scrape."
His third daughter he gave a compound name of sorts: Qeren Hap-puwk or in English something like: Keren-happuch which means "horn of antimony."
The symbolism here is so rich. Let's break down each word in the compound. First Keren.
This word means "horn," "strength," and "light." The first time this Hebrew word is used is with Abraham in reference to the ram (the sacrifice God provided for Abraham in place of his son Isaac) caught by its horns in the thicket (Gen. 22:13). You may also remember that the acacia wood altar carried by the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt had four horns on each of its corners (same word in Exo. 27:2).
If we dig deeper to the root of this word, we find a verb that means "to shine" or "to send out rays or to display or grow horns." This verb is used only three times in the Old Testament to describe Moses's face and how it "shown" after he spoke with God on Mt. Sinai and obtained the two tablets (the second time) on which were written the commandments (Exo. 34).
The second part of Keren-happuch's name basically means "to paint," and is used to describe the black make-up women in earlier times wore around their eyes. I learned that "antimony" is a chemical element, lustrous and grey in color.
So what do we do with all of these details that provide such a rich foundation for Job and his choosing to name his daughter in this way?
Not only did Job learn to live life with such gratitude and appreciation for each day he was given, he also never forgot how God had never left him through such extreme adversity. Now we see a few more adjectives to describe Job's final transformation and restoration into a man God had strengthened as a result of his trial.
We see Job's fortitude sustained by God and erupting and bursting forth from the ashes of his devastation, agony, grief, and pain.
My grandmother was a modern-day Job. Although she did not lose her possessions, she did lose six of her ten children and two husbands to death in her lifetime. Her faith never waivered. Instead, after each passing, a new layer of her strength in God was revealed, even brighter and more prominent than the one before. Her grief must have been immeasurable, unfathomable...but God's glory shown like the brightest rays of the sun against the backdrop of the darkness she had experienced.
Do you know what her favorite Bible verse was? It comes from John 1:1 in the New Testament: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
She told me once that this verse said it all. God was there in the beginning. God gave us His Word (both in the written form of the Bible and in the person-hood of Jesus Christ). Not only that, God later gave His Son to be lifted up on a cross and later lifted up from death. She said, "What more do we really need to know?"
Job knew about sacrifice. He knew grief and despair, agony and turmoil.
But he also knew the remarkable beauty of restoration.
Did you know that "in all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters" (Job 42: 15)? Each daughter was a profoundly lovely reminder to Job that he served a God who taught him
Have you ever met this God who restores?
Please know that you are not alone in your pain and loss. Not only do we have the promise of everlasting life after we die, we also have the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, right here and right now to help us come to full restoration while we live on this earth.
We can be made new, rebuilt, refurbished, if you will, and the results are positively beautiful.
Finding comfort after we lose someone we love may be the hardest challenge we may ever face in our lifetimes. In some cases, it can take years to come to a place of complete acceptance. The grieving process is highly personal, and the emotions to process the new reality run the gammit. The time of mourning also varies and is unique for each individual.
In searching the Bible for instances when someone grieved over the loss of a loved one, I wondered: What did they do? How did they respond? Where did they find comfort?
Below are a few ideas of healthy, heart healing ways to find comfort when we are mourning. There are a few things we can do to help ourselves heal and to find comfort in God as we grieve. If we turn to worldly distractions and counterfeit comforts, we will likely only delay our journey toward health and wholeness.
Sometimes we find comfort that only comes by way of physical touch and intimacy.
Isaac was very close to his mother Sarah. After Sarah died, the Scripture tells us how Isaac was comforted by his new wife Rebekah: "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death" (Gen. 24: 67).
Needing to be touched and held is a natural desire when we are hurting. We need someone to step beside us and show us empathy and compassion. The act of hugging is mutually beneficial as often other family members or friends are also grieving; a simple hug helps both parties.
Even receiving affection from our pets (Rico has not made the blog in a while - so enter Rico, stage right) can be deeply rewarding and comforting.
When we grieve over the death of a loved one, we need people to help us, rally beside us, support us, cry with us, laugh with us. We need our tribe. We need empathy and tenderness in our relationships, and physical touch and affection can be a powerful step in the healing process.
Sometimes we find comfort in solitude and rest.
When Jesus's cousin, John the Baptist, was beheaded, it is written that Jesus encouraged his disciples saying, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mar 6:32). Luke writes "Taking [the disciples] with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida" (Luke 9:19).
Jesus made a habit of visiting His heavenly Father often to pray and commune with Him. How critically important to seek comfort from our heavenly Father who also gave His son over to death on a cross. Do we think He understands what we are feeling?
We can comfort ourselves a bit by slowing down and refueling our tanks. Some of us are battle weary. We are just worn out. Maybe we were the care givers for our loved ones, maybe their passing was long and drawn out. And the days following the funeral, we find ourselves positively spent, empty, and listless. Or maybe their death was sudden and unexpected. This might be a good time to pause, to face our feelings, and to recollect our thoughts as we attempt to come to grips with our new reality.
Can we seek the One who can fill our empty tanks and then rest in His presence and power?
Sometimes we find comfort when we face our own transgressions and our need for forgiveness.
King David, a man after God's own heart, had serious family issues. When he received the report that his son Amnon was dead [killed at the hand of his brother Absalom for raping their sister] "...the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground..." ( 2 Sa 13:31).
Later when his son Absalom was murdered, we see David responding in this way: "The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2Sa 18:33
I really wonder when in the grieving process that David reckoned with his life, his missteps, and faced the consequences of his choices regarding his family. I'm sure he suffered a few, "if only's" and "why didn't I's" along the way. He may have been overcome with regret.
Many of us have unresolved guilt and regret mixed and deeply interwoven into our grief. Unfortunately, some of us are quick to blame ourselves for the death of the one we love. We think maybe there was something else we could have done to have prevented our loved one's passing. Where do we find comfort then? Sometimes when we mourn, it seems that we must also confess our fears, our regrets, our anger, our blame, our self-focus in order to move on.
After Absalom died, David mustered the courage to return to business as usual, so to speak, and to regroup the nation back in Jerusalem. Yet what can we say of David?
David penned so many of the most beautiful psalms. He poured out his heart to the Lord and consistently affirmed the truth of God's character in each song. He never wavered in His affirmations, and one might assume that this belief gave him great comfort in his humanness as he repented and mourned.
Sometimes we find comfort by praising God.
When Job received news that all of his sons and daughters had died together, his response seems supernatural to me: "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.' Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God" Job 1:20-22.
Job demonstrated unrelenting faith and trust. He never gave way to anger toward God or sank to the depths of self-pity, or How could you, God? or Why, God, why? Job went so far as to bless God's name. When he received the devastating news, he knelt down and worshiped his God. He found comfort in his strong relationship with the Lord.
My Grandmother is the perfect example of someone who praised God in her grief. She lost seven of her ten children and two husbands to death in her lifetime, yet she never lost her faith or blamed God. She chose to cling tighter to God each and every time. She never let go. Oh to know her private conversations with God and the comfort she received from Him. She also knew her loved ones were going to a better place.
Sometimes we find comfort when we see the bigger picture.
Jesus encouraged His disciples to rejoice in His leaving them as an act of love because He was going to His Father (John 14:28). He also reminded them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth..." (John 14:16). Jesus knew that sorrow filled their heart, but He encouraged His disciples, "it is to your advantage that I go away" (John 16:6).
As Christians, we have the wonderful privilege to abide in the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, and Intercessor. The Holy Spirit, who hears our prayers and rushes in to breathe life into our weary, saddened souls. He strengthens us and encourages us. He is always with us. He reminds us that this is not our home--we are sojourners, longing for the happily-ever-after.
...and [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; ”
In the midst of our grief, we can find blessing.
In His well-known sermon on the mount and from the list of Beatitudes, Jesus declares: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mat. 5:4). Although being blessed when we mourn seems counter-intuitive, there is a divine promise of comfort involved.
I hope and pray that you can receive that blessing, friend and that you will count yourself grateful in this trial. And then, when the time is right, you will reach out to comfort others in their grief.
I have remembered Your ordinances from of old,
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