By Jordan Rowley
Within our world, our communities, our church, and our very own lives there are often moments of intense pain, immense sorrow and incredible confusion. The majority of believers at one time or another experience those “why, God?” moments; those times when perhaps it’s difficult to trust Him and seemingly impossible to worship Him. For example, just imagine the moment your doctor tells you that your cancer is no longer in remission; imagine the day when the career that you’ve spent years training for and worked up the ladder towards is suddenly taken away; imagine the freak-accident that destroys everything you’ve ever hoped for; or how it would feel to hear from your child that not only does he or she not believe in Jesus anymore, but they hate everything about God. These are heart-wrenching, real-life scenarios to think about! And I believe it’s important that our hearts be prayerfully prepared. Come what may, you and I ought to have these words of Job settled in our hearts.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” – Job 13:15a
We know the story of Job. He was a godly man who had just about everything taken from him. He’d been attacked by a number of enemies who killed his servants and stole his livelihood. He’d experienced freak accidents that killed not only what was left of his animals, but took the lives of all of his sons and daughters! And later on even Job’s health was taken too. If we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that no matter how mature we may be in our faith or how much we may love the Lord, our response would likely be absolutely nothing like Job’s. Upon hearing the news of his servants being slaughtered, his goods being plundered, and his children being killed Job responds in this way:
“Then Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.”
– Job 1:20
Job worshiped! In the moment of such painful news, Job could have easily questioned God or become angry with God or even simply been confused by God. “God,” Job could have said, “why me, why have you done this to me,” or, “God, You’ve gone too far, You’ve taken everything from me. I can no longer serve and follow You,” or, “God, I don’t understand how You could allow this. Weren’t You the one who gave me all these things? This doesn’t make sense!” But instead, Job worshiped. Job already had settled in his heart that God was the sovereign Giver of every gift – including life itself – and could freely and justly do with those gifts as He willed. So Job continued,
“And he said, ‘naked I came from mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” – Job 1:21-22
All that said, the challenge is simply this: what will our response be when moments of intense pain, immense sorrow and incredible confusion enter our lives? I pray that we’d be a people prepared with hearts that have already settled upon the sentiments of Job declaring, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!” I pray that we are a people who have fully counted the cost and decided that Jesus is worth it all – and that He and He alone is all we’ll cling to. No matter what happens to our careers, our health, or even our children, I pray that we are people who surrender everything fully to God and can in fact worship Him no matter what this life brings our way. No matter the crisis, may we faithfully and fervently hold firm to our Lord. Amen.
by Collin Zweigle
“Slow down, slow down
Grab a coffee here with me
And take a second to breathe
Slow down, slow down
Let's be quiet for a while
And I will try to make you smile
...lyrics of singer Mike Mains, an artist I got to see perform at a music festival in Lebanon, PA in the summer of 2011. One night this summer Megan reminded me of the words of this song and said, “If there was ever a song that was written just for you it’s that one.”
Do we ever slow down? Do we even know how to?
In Mexico people take siestas in the middle of the day. A similar practice is seen in Spain when the afternoon sun is nearly too much to take, so everything shuts down and people just relax. Hassidic Jews actually keep the sabbath, refusing to cook or shop or work at all on Saturdays. But Christians in the U.S., in Northeastern U.S. specifically, a region known for work ethic and innovation, do we know how to do this, to slow down? What is this rest and relaxation we hear people talk about? What is vacation? I haven't had one of those in years! See, in our culture we don't really have the space for this “rest.”
Jesus had a habit of leaving his disciples regularly to go and pray and meditate in the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Sure, this often resulted in the disciples getting themselves into a pickle of one sort or another, but Jesus clearly needed and greatly valued rest. Now, if Jesus went out of His way to find a place where He could have a little peace and quiet, why do we view taking some “me time” as a selfish thing? We wonder why we have high blood pressure and sore backs. If we truly valued rest and time spent in places and environments where we have the space to rest, we would probably be surprised by how easy it is to hear God’s voice. And when we came down off the mountain we’d be actually able to help calm whatever storm brewed up in our absence because we would be rested and ready for action.
Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) I want that yoke. I want the burden that's as light as a feather; the kind you can barely feel on your shoulders as you carry it because it's been carved, shaped, altered, and designed to be just right for your shoulders, neck and back. I want that burden, the backpack that fits just right. I want His burden, not mine.
But where do I get this burden, His burden? Well if I'm carrying my burden around on my back there’s no way I'm going to be able to pick His up. That's why the psalmist wrote, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NLT) It's only then that my shoulders will be freed up to carry that easy and light burden that God has prepared just for me.
So what are you carrying on your shoulders today? Cast it off! Take a break! Yes! This might be a reproof for people like me who are really bad at taking a second to think and pray and really sense where our own hearts are at. But how will we truly be able to minister in Jesus’ name unless we allow Him to minister to us? See, the vessel needs to be refilled. I can’t just keep pouring water through the same coffee grounds each day. I need to grind fresh beans each time I brew a cup, otherwise the coffee will be over-extracted and bland. Let’s let the Lord give us fresh coffee beans this summer, eh?