Gratitude

I have actually been working on this post since July 26th.  The problem is I have a painting in my head I need to get onto paper.  Likewise, I have a post I need to get into the computer.  So, while I’m painting I am thinking of my post, and vice versa.  So I am compromising, my netbook is sitting on the edge of my painting table.  I hope this doesn’t affect the quality of either of them. 

Weekends at church I sit in the front row and take notes.  I do this for a number of reasons, the main one being I will remember what the pastor said more clearly if I take notes.  Sometimes my notes just consist of a word or two, sometimes I write volumes.  I do tend to go back and review what I’ve written sometimes, especially if the topic is related to something I’m writing about here.  I don’t see a lot of people taking notes in church but there are more than I expected. 

Gratitude is a huge subject.  The importance of gratitude has recently been impressed upon me.  For the past few weeks every passage of scripture, every devotional, every book, every conversation somehow tied back to the topic of gratitude.  Okay, some of the references were a little oblique but they managed to point me in the direction of gratitude all the same.  For that reason I thought I would sit down and work out my thoughts on the topic of gratitude.

First, I thought I’d start with the dictionary definition.  I got this from Dictionary.com:

grat·i·tude

  /ˈgræt ɪˌtud, -ˌtyud/  [grat-i-tood, -tyood]–noun

the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful: He expressed his gratitude to everyone on the staff.

Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English < Medieval Latin grātitūdin-  (stem of grātitūdō ) thankfulness, equivalent to grāt ( us ) pleasing + -i- -i- + -tūdin- -tude

—Related forms

o·ver·grat·i·tude, noun

un·grat·i·tude, noun

 —Synonyms
thanks, thankfulness, appreciation, gratefulness.

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.
Cite This Source

Word Origin & History

gratitude

c.1500, from M.L. gratitudo  “thankfulness,” from L. gratus  “thankful, pleasing” (see grace).

The quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.  And when I look up thankful it says “feeling or expressing gratitude”.  I felt like I was running around in circles.   Until I read the rest of the definition: appreciative.  Well, now I could look up appreciative and then appreciation and end up circling back to gratitude again.  So I decided to stop looking up definitions and look in another direction. 

You know where I went next.  Yup, the Bible.  So I plugged the word “gratitude” into BibleStudyTools.com and selected “NIV.”  I got two references.  Acts 24:3 says, “Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude.” and Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  I know they discuss gratitude more than 2 times in the Bible.  Why, I know I plugged the word into another search engine and got pages and pages of references.  Now let me see, where did I put that list???

Hmmm, I got three double-columned pages of references but when looking at them the references don’t always include the word “gratitude.”  Great, I love synonyms, they help clarify meanings.  So here are the references I found to be most helpful to me.  Your list may be different, as I said, I found three pages of references, 2 columns per page. 

  1. Gratitude is commanded: Psalms 50:14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High.”
  2. Gratitude should be offered through Christ: Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 
  3. Gratitude should be offered in the name of Christ: Ephesians 5:20 “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  4. Gratitude should be offered in everything: Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
  5. Gratitude should be offered always:  Ephesians 5:19,20  “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  6. Gratitude should be given for the goodness and mercy of God:  Psalm 106:1  “Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” 
  7. Gratitude should be given for the nearness of God: Psalm 75:1  “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks, for Your Name is near, men tell of Your wonderful deeds.”

There are so many examples of gratitude in the Bible.  I believe it is because gratitude is something the Lord wants us to remember and hold onto and practice, practice, practice.  There are many benefits to making gratitude a regular practice in your life.  Chief among them is the positive influence gratitude will have on your life.  I know that when I practice gratitude it saturates my life with peace and serenity.  It drowns anger and hostility.  Gratitude prepares the way for joy and happiness in my life. 

On my “Obeying” blog I am attempting to list up to 5 things everyday that I am grateful for in my life.  These five things can be large things or little things.  They just need to be things that I can go to the Lord and express my gratitude for.  I challenge you to do the same thing and see what a change gratitude can make in your life.

Posted in Faith, Gratitude, Hope, Love, missions, Praise | 5 Comments

James 1:2 – 4

One of the most difficult questions asked by believers and non-believers both is, “Why did God allow this to happen?”  Or the same question in one of its many variations: “Why does He allow pain and tragedy in our lives?”  “Why do young and or innocent people die?”  “Why does He allow divorce? separation? illness? accidents? poverty? hunger? malnutrition? child abuse? spousal abuse? Why? Why? Why?”  I must admit, I am right there with them, asking the same questions.  I’m not a Biblical Theologian but with a little help from my pastor and a few other sources, maybe I can help with this question, maybe. 

I remember sitting in a Youth Group meeting the Monday evening after September 11, 2001.  There were at least 10 teenagers there, including 2 of my own.  We were all sitting there, no one was in the mood for the silly games and playful antics that so often filled the first half of our meetings.  Most of us, the teens especially, were still numb and in shock from the happenings of a few days before.  Our leader, Debbi, made the decision we should just all sit and the leaders, myself included, would answer any questions the teens had to the best of our ability.  The problem was, when the teens asked why God had allowed this tragedy to happen, none of us could sufficiently answer the question.  It has been a question that has haunted me ever since.

Last month the pastor of our church started a series in James.  He has entitled it, “Wise Up” calling the Book of James the Book of Proverbs of the New Testament.  If I remember correctly, James is one of the first books of the New Testament I read straight through after my divorce.  I read it straight through because of James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.   So when this new series was announced I was very excited.  I love the book of James and consider James 1:2-4 to be my “life verse.”  Is that sad?  A verse about trials and hardships as my life verse.  Oh boy.

Another verse I love is Jeremiah 29:11.  This verse is familiar to a lot of people, even quite a few non-Christians: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Both these verses speak volumes to my heart.  But they speak even more when you read them in context, not just as isolated verses.  If you read them in context you understand more of what the Lord is trying to tell us here.  So let’s step back to Jeremiah 29:11 but this time I am going to quote through verse 14: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”  Doesn’t reading this verse in context give it more flavor, more dimension?  This was a message God sent to His people after being taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.  He was telling them that there would be an end to their exile, in 70 years.  He was telling them to disregard the false prophets telling them this exile would be short.  He was telling them to build homes and families and to seek peace and prosperity in the land to which they had been exiled.  God had a plan and a purpose for a 70 year exile.  He wanted His people to know that it would be 70 years before they went home but He would watch over them and make them thrive in the meantime.  As the Babylonians came and took the people of Judah into captivity many people asked why.  Those who resisted, those who fought against the Babylonians are the ones who refused to listen to Jeremiah when he explained. 

Where am I going with this?  What does Jeremiah have to do with James?  Well, six weeks ago our pastor explained it this way, “Whenever a trial comes into your life it always brings you the potential for something good.” (italics mine)  He also said, “That something good is the opportunity for our faith to grow up.”  Read James 1:2-4 in context:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass way like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  James promises us that if we practice joy through our trials, if we hold steadfast to our faith and look to the future outcome that we will be blessed with the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.  Our Christian faith will blossom and mature.  We may never completely understand why we are going through the trials of our lives, for God’s ways are higher than ours.  But the trials in our lives will always bring us the potential for something good.  We just need to trust God and hold fast to His promises. 

I have another little note here.  Trails are not messes.  Trails are not something we create with our messy thinking and poor decisions.  Trials are things that are out of our control.  If we crash the car because we were speeding, that’s a mess.  If a drunk driver crashes into us as we are driving down the street, that’s a trial (for us, not the drunk).  If you lose your home because of bad financial decisions, that’s a mess.  If a tornado comes and rips your home off its foundations, that’s a trial.   If we make a mess in our life we need to confess it and ask for forgiveness.   If we encounter a trial we need to face it with joy, no matter how hard that is.  God never said it would be easy, just possible with Him at your side.  Here’s a tip: practice giving thanks when faced with a trial.   The word gratitude is derived from the word grace and a person who practices gratitude is filled with grace.   It will be difficult but I will attempt to face any future trials in my life with grace.

Wishing you joy and peace in your life.

Posted in Gratitude, Hope, Love, pain, questions, Spiritual maturity, tragedy | Leave a comment

I’m Baaaack!

I took a break for a while.  Mostly because I was headed off in a different direction and mostly because I wasn’t sure what I was doing here.  So, I’m still not sure what I’m doing here but I’m just gonna follow the Lord’s lead and see what happens. 

I have another blog here on WP.  You can find it here if you really want to.  I’ve been writing almost daily there.  I was going to stop writing here altogether and just keep writing there but for some reason this blog called me back.  We shall see how things work out.

The other blog is more missions focused but it speaks about my gratitude journey as well.  That is explained there as well.  I’ve been greatly blessed since I last wrote here, I believe in part because I have started paying closer attention to the blessings in my life.  This may feel a little schizophrenic for a while but I think I will write my Bible musings here and my missions and gratitude musings on the other blog.  They are going to overlap a bit and that’s okay.  We’ll see how this works for a while.

Posted in Blessings, Faith, Gratitude, Hope, Love, missions, Praise | 2 Comments

Women’s Retreat

Last weekend was my church’s annual Women’s Retreat.  I was anticipating this weekend for a long time.  My friend, Deborah, her sister Kathleen and daughter Jewells were all going to accompany me this year.  I took Friday off work so we could take our time as we drove up to Tahoe, stopping for breakfast and lunch as the whims hit us.  I learned some new stuff about myself on that trip.  Some of it I am still processing.  Some of it I like.  Some of it I dislike, immensely.  I’m still working on it…

More later, maybe even today…

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Warm and Dry

With Tati in town, the current weather and the upcoming trip to Mexico I have been reflecting back on my trip to Brazil in July of 2009.  I am blessed, I am extremely blessed.  One of the blessings that has been bestowed upon me is the knowledge of that blessing.  You see, there are many people who would look at my life and not see any blessings whatsoever.  They would only see the heartbreak and sorrows I have gone through.  My trips to Mexico and Brazil have served to bring my blessings into sharper focus for me.  They have shown me how many of the things I take for granted are really blessings from the Lord.  Things like a roof over my head.  Things like the quality of the roof over my head.  My roof doesn’t leak.  My roof keeps me warm and dry.  I may not enjoy the company of all my roommates but we are a family, a very strange family but a family nonetheless.  I may not have all the latest and greatest “must-have” possessions but I have enough to live a comfortable life.  I have friends, family, my dog and a job.  I am truly blessed.

One afternoon I sat in a living room in Brazil.  This room was smaller than my current bathroom (which is pretty big for a bathroom).  In this room were stuffed 2 couches and an entertainment unit filled with electronic equipment.  There was hardly any floor space in that room.  This was the living room, and the largest room, of the 3 room home where 14 people lived.  Down the middle of the room’s ceiling ran a beam and from that beam dripped rainwater.  It dripped onto my lap as I sat on the couch.  It dripped inches from all that electronic equipment and pending disaster.  I live in a master suite that is bigger than that family’s entire home.  Yes, I am blessed. 

One evening in Brazil I attended a home church.  I’ve written before about this family, the husband and wife who are now caring for their daughter’s young child.  The family whose home was invaded in the middle of the night by corrupt policemen.  They came to take the daughter away and kill her because she was dating an honest policeman.  Yes, I am extremely blessed.

I am sick today.  I have a raging migraine headache that is so bad I am nauseated.  I have been sleeping most of the day in my warm, dry bed.  I have access to medicine and I have paid time off of my job.  These are blessings that many people in Mexico and Brazil and other places around the world do not have.

Thank you, Lord.  I am grateful for these and the many other blessings in my life.  Show me how You want me to express my gratitude.

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New Blog!

So I’ve been subscribed to several other blogs lately and most of them appear to be located here on WordPress rather than on Blogger.  So after much thought and a few recommendations I decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress.  I have imported posts from 2 of my three blogs and they can now all be found here under the reflections title.  Okay, right now that’s mostly because I don’t know how to separate them out yet. Changes may come in the future, but they may not.  After all, my on missions ramblings and my reflections on the Bible are all in the same ball park.  I mean, they are all my musings on God and how He works in my life and yours, right?

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Back to Genesis

If you are a new follower, welcome! and for those of you following me from my old Blogger blog, I’m so glad to see you, welcome old friend…

In the past few weeks I have been revisiting the book of Genesis. My original postings were a verse by verse examination of the first chapter in Genesis but, not being a Bible scholar, I found the task became rather daunting rather quickly.  So I decided to stop biting off more than I can chew and examine small chunks as they came to me.  Another reason for a “reboot” on Genesis is a new perspective I have on some of the material.  You see, the pastor of my church has been presenting a series on Genesis.  I love it when Pastor Brad teaches.  He often makes me sit down and revisit ideas I’ve held onto for years.  Sometimes I’ve held onto those ideas with a stranglehold.  This series is no exception to that.

I’ve read the Bible off and on for years.  I’ve had various chapters and verses read to me in church.  I’ve read the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelations and not understood much. I’ve read it with and without commentaries.  I’ve read it in a chronological format, formatted to support women, to support addicts, to support archeology-philes and on and on ad nauseam. So this much I’ve always seemed to know: the Bible is God-breathed and God-inspired.  God’s word is truth.  And most importantly, (at least in my opinion), the Bible is God’s love story to us… His children.  That us is everyone, believer and non-believer alike.  God loves each and every one of us, whether or not we believe in Him, whether or not we love Him, whether or not we are sinners.  Oops! Let me correct that…  we are ALL sinners and He loves us all in spite of our sins.  In spite of our sins.

Do you get that?  It’s very important that you do.  You see, here’s the important part…  We are ALL sinners.  Everyone sins, we can’t help it, its human nature.  I don’t care if you believe in sin or not.  I don’t care if you refuse to acknowledge that you are  a sinner.  The Bible says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23 and if the Bible says it, I believe it.  Sin started in Genesis chapter 3.  Sin started in Genesis chapter 3 and has progressed steadily ever since.   In Genesis chapter 3 our need for redemption became apparent.  Fortunately, God had a plan for that.

 

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Flavia

 

The weather was not cooperating, it was cold and rainy. Our bus got stuck in the mud Friday evening and we had to walk most of the 5K between the highway and the camp. The mud was thick and gooey. My footwear was not up to the walk so I did it in my bare feet. Diane did, too. We walked and talked with Tati (Taw-chee) on the way up the hill. Tati was one of the regular workers at Camp California. Diane was a frequent visitor. This was my first trip.

The bus bringing the children Saturday morning got stuck, too. A few of us took a car down the hill to walk up with them. We had two days with the children, to feed them, to teach them and, most importantly, to love on them. We swam with them, did arts and crafts with them and played with them. We took hundreds of pictures, smiled till our cheeks hurt and gave out hugs freely and indiscriminately. Now it was Sunday morning and we needed to head back down the hill with 75 kids in tow. The buses still couldn’t make it up the hill. We were going to have to walk them out. No problem.

As we were packing up our things at the camp we were told to pack a smaller case with only the necessities for the next day, maybe two. We were going to have to carry our small case with us and hope the rest of our belongings would be able to make their way to us soon. As usual, I over packed and my “small” case was quite heavy. As I slogged along in the mud my struggles with my case must have been quite apparent because it was not too long before I felt a small tug on my arm. There stood a young girl of about 11 or 12. She indicated to me that she wanted to help me carry my bag. I was positive my bag was too heavy for her. We debated about it back and forth, with gestures and signs because I spoke little Brazilian Portuguese and she spoke even less English. Finally we compromised. As we trudged down the trail together we traded the bag back and forth. Companionably, we held hands and tried to communicate with each other, laughter being the best language there is.

I think about Flavia quite often now that I am home from my mission trip to Brazil and Restoration Ministries. I wonder how she is doing, whether she has enough to eat, whether or not she is healthy and warm. I was able to visit Flavia’s home, I did not actually go inside but we stood in the street outside her home and visited briefly with her family. Flavia lives with her parents and four siblings in on of Sao Paulo’s favelas. Her life is not easy. Her life makes me realize how blessed I truly am.

Last week I received an email from our Pastor of Outreach and Extension at church. Translated that means Jeff is our Missions Pastor. Lakeside was hosting a Zone Latin America dessert and Tati was going to be speaking. The email was an invitation to have cheesecake as we learned about mission opportunities in Latin America. Of course I made plans to go, I wasn’t going to miss seeing Tati again for the world.

Frankly, I was a little disappointed in the turnout. Other than Pastor Jeff and myself there were two other people there. Mike and Jim are both heavily involved in missions at out church, I have served with both of them several times in Mexico, Jim went on the same trip to Brazil as I did, and both Mike and Jim have been to Brazil on trips I was unable to attend. I wasn’t disappointed with Mike and Jim, they were actually there to share about the Costa Rica trip they had just returned from. That is a story for another post. I was just hoping to see some new faces.

Tati is currently in the States on a fund-raising trip. She was commissioned by WorldVenture as an IPM (International Partner in Ministry) last December. She is here for five months looking for new contacts, individuals, small groups or churches, who would be willing to partner with her as a national missionary. Although she is attempting to raise support she is also sharing her testimony in the hopes that God will use it to touch people’s hearts and bless them. Jeff, Mike, Jim and I got to listen to Tati’s testimony last Monday evening. She has a beautiful story, full of hope and promise that she is willing to share with anyone. She is traveling around California and is even willing to travel to other states to share her testimony. If anyone is interested in hearing Tati’s testimony please leave a comment on this post and I can put you in touch with her.

So back to Flavia… Tati was using a book as a visual aide with her testimony. This gorgeous book has pictures of Tati and her family as well as pictures from Restoration Ministries. As she flipped through the book and commented on the pictures one picture in particular jumped out at me, a picture of Flavia. She is doing well and going each week to Restoration Ministries to do a Bible Study with Tati and a few other girls. (I am assuming someone else is filling in for Tati in her absence.)  Flavia is 13 now and from her pictures is just as smiley and sweet-natured as she was when we spent our brief time together. Tati filled me in on a few brief details of Flavia’s life since my return home and gave me some ideas of what I can do for her.

That evening was such a blessing to me. It is my sincere hope that the evening will end up being a blessing to Flavia as well. You see, it is my belief that supporting Tati is supporting Restoration Ministries. Supporting Restoration Ministries is supporting the people they work with in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Seeing Tati again reminded me of the strong faith and beautiful hope I saw reflected in the faces of those I visited with in Sao Paulo. I saw people live and carry on their daily lives in conditions we can barely imagine. I saw families living in homes we wouldn’t keep our pets in. I saw crime on the same streets where the children were playing. But most important to me is the faith and hope I saw shining in the faces of the people in Sao Paulo. I have said it before and I will say it again, I feel that being born and raised here in the United States, here in this land of plenty has put me at a distinct disadvantage. The people in the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as well as people in similar circumstances all over the world, have learned what it truly means to completely depend upon the Lord for his provision in EVERYTHING. I feel it is our responsibility as professed Christians to love on and support those who are doing God’s work in areas such as these. We are called to love. We are called to love sacrificially. What better way to show that love than to support those who are spreading His Word? What better way to show that love than to pray fervently for their work?

How will you reflect God’s love today?

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sleepless in Loomis

So I’ve not been keeping up with my writing at all.  I feel guilty about it.  I can’t figure out why I feel guilty about it, it must be the Catholic upbringing.

It’s coming up on time for another trip to Mexico.  I was just reflecting on my last trip.  I was miserable.  I had just broken off a relationship with a man I was head over heels for and still crying over him.  However, I didn’t want anyone to see how miserable I was over some guy who’d treated me so miserably.  I was so busy hiding my pain I forgot to lean on the Lord for my solace and comfort.  Once I remembered that I got over him really quick, the guy not the Lord.

Once I got back on my feet I did some introspection and am not sure I like what I saw.

I read a variety of blogs, some of them I follow rather “religiously.”  One I really enjoy is written by a gentleman named Spence Kennedy.  You can find him here: Siren Voices.  Spence writes real posts, descriptions of little slices of his life, completely awesome writing.  Anyways, in his most recent post Spence writes of how he began to feel very sick while  riding a train home.  And to quote him upon arriving home, “An atheist, I thank God with every fibre of my being that I am home, miraculously brought back here, away from the train of despair, to this blessed place where I can be myself and do whatever I need to recover.”   The little piece I found so amazing was actually not written by Spence but was in one of the comments to this post.  Jacksofbuxton said, “A friend of mine, a doctor, once told me that when serious illness strikes atheists find God and people of faith temporarily lose theirs.” 

I was stricken, is that how I live my life?  Do I choose to walk with God only when my life is going well?  Some of my past behavior certainly supports that theory, but some of it definitely does not.  The important thing is… how am I going to live my life in the future?  Will I choose to walk in companionship to the Lord or will I choose to go my own way?  I stand at a crossroads, but then, in reality, every moment of every day is a crossroads.  Some days the choice of which path to take is easy, other days it is the most difficult decision of my life.  Lately, it has been difficult.  But Jesus never promised us easy, He only promised to walk with us.  So today I am going to be like a young child, I am going to run up alongside of Him, grasp his hand and follow Him down that path. 

Tati, one of my friends from Restoration Ministries in Brazil will be at Lakeside’s 11:00 a.m. service on Sunday.  I am not sure I will be able to raise enough support to make it to Brazil again this summer but maybe if I start now I can go again next…

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I will Praise You in this Storm

Several years ago I was discussing reading the Bible with my pastor.  I was just recovering from a breakdown and he was counseling me.  I told him I had never read through the Bible and as part of my recovery I wanted to draw closer to the Lord and lean on Him.  My plan was to begin at Genesis and read straight through to the end.  Pastor Lee advised me to change my plan.  He advised me to start with the book of Job and then the book of John.  After I read that he would direct me in the next direction I would go.

After reading the first chapter of Job, I thought that Pastor Lee’s advice was a little strange.  Why counsel a seriously depressed woman to read a story about a man who loses everything?  After I read the second chapter I was wondering if Pastor Lee was trying to goad me to suicide.  But here’s the thing, I completely missed the importance of Job 1:21.

For the last 8 weeks we have been studying Spiritual Warfare in my small group.  Last week we revisited Job 1 & 2.  Last week I learned the secret to surviving Satan’s attacks.  Today I had an opportunity to put what I learned into practice.  Let’s just say I need more practice.

Do you remember the story? 

Find it here

Wow, pretty intense, eh?  There is so much wrong, so much completely unfair with this story.  Why is it even in the Bible?  Well, I think because it illustrates two very fundamental aspects of Christian character.  Let’s take a closer look at this story…

God brought Job to Satan’s attention.  Job is a man of wealth and integrity, two attributes that don’t normally go together.  He is referred to as blameless and upright, a man who feared God and shunned evil.  Satan accused Job of fearing God solely because of the hedge of protection He had placed around Job.  It is easy to love God when your life is going well, when you have no challenges or heartbreak.  Satan made it a point to bring this to God’s attention.  He also made it a point to infer that Job wouldn’t worship God if his life wasn’t so blessed.  So God gives Satan permission to strike at Satan’s possessions and everything Job has.

We all know the story.  Just as a messenger gives Job the bad news about his oxen and donkeys the next messenger comes up.  As that messenger gives him the bad news about his sheep the next messenger comes with bad news regarding his camels.  The bad news comes in like waves, wave after wave of bad news.  Job loses all his oxen, all his donkeys, all his sheep and camels and almost all his servants.  And then the ultimate news, the worst of all… his oldest son’s home has collapsed, killing all seven of his sons and all three of his daughters.  Job is left penniless, mourning the loss of his beloved family.  All he has left is the clothing on his back and his wife, a wife who encourages him to curse God, virtually ensuring his death.  If Job is not in the pit of despair I wonder how he can be considered human.  That is a lot of loss to endure all at once.

So here is the first thing that Job teaches us, the first thing that I think is vitally important for good Christian character.  Let’s read Job 1:20 and 21 together. 

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Wait a minute!  This man just lost virtually everything and he’s praising the Lord!  Is he crazy?  Who in his right mind praises God for the devastating losses in their life?  Apparently, Job did.  Job had his priorities right.  He knew that everything he had, all his possessions, all his family, did not belong to him but rather to God.  We cannot claim possession of anything in this life.   NOTHING!  Nothing except the one thing the Lord gifted us with.  The freedom to choose a saving faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  As Christians who profess that Jesus is the Lord of our lives we need to praise Him for everything, all the good, all the bad, everything.  I’m not saying that it will be easy.  I am saying it is necessary, even required of us.  God intends those things for our good, no matter how painful and devastating they are at the moment we are immersed in them.  I know because I can say this from experience in my life. 

And the second thing?  Look at Job’s friends:

11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job’s three friends met together and went to go sympathize with and comfort Job.  They saw that Job’s suffering was so great they did not know what to say.  So they sat with him in silence for seven days.  When a friend is going through a calamity, when they are attacked with heartbreak or loss sometimes the best thing we can do for them in just sit in silence.  We don’t need to fill the air with empty platitudes, we don’t need to help them fix the situation or find reasons.  We just need to be with them, to offer support and comfort with our presence.

There is so much more to this story and so much more we can learn from this but I’ve already taken a week to write this much.  More is on the way.

I want to close out this blog with a video to one of my all time favorite songs. 

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