I Am Joseph

What is the right response to suffering?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately and God has been so gracious each time my heart has a question like this one to guide me to the right answer and example in scripture. In my Bible study, we are still working our way through Genesis. I’ve talked about Abraham, Job, Jacob, and even David on this blog. Are you ready for the next Bible character that I’m finding myself in. If you know your bible, you may be able to guess which one comes next. It’s Joseph! And oh boy, what an amazing story is Joseph’s story. It’s a story full of unfair and unjust suffering, but one that is overflowing with God’s goodness and good purposes!

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’ve kinda created a new little saying that I keep telling myself each day. I’ve been saying “I am Joseph”. As I read the story of Joseph and look at my life, I keep finding myself saying “I am Joseph”. In my Bible study, we were discussing the life of Joseph and the sudden onset of suffering he faced. Joseph went from being the most favored/spoiled child to becoming a slave all in less than a day. I was thinking to myself, “wow, I wonder what it must have felt like to have everything and then lose everything”. Then I literally felt like I had my eyes opened up to the fact that, that is my story. I saw an almost identical pattern in a way my life has been these past few months. Only months ago I was so happy. I was finally on the verge of all my dreams coming true. I was engaged and in the process of starting a life with someone and oh it was bliss. But then it ended so fast. One thing after another came to light and before i knew it, it was all gone.

I AM JOSEPH. I can feel the same hurt and pain and disappointment that he must have felt. All his dreams, gone. All his family and friends gone. His life suddenly taking a completely different route and an unwanted move to a new location. (Okay, wow, there really are a lot of similarities here, granted I still have my family and friends, but I moved to a new area and have been struggling to get connected so I do relate in a way to the loneliness and I do in a way also feel like I lost a family because how close I became to his family).

There really is not a lot of good happening in Joseph’s story, but if you keep reading the story of Joseph there is something very encouraging. It is said at least three times in the book of Genesis that God was with Joseph. In each season of suffering Joseph faced, Joseph had every right to complain and despair. Maybe he did at times, but the Bible never mentions it. Instead Joseph rose to the top of every situation he found himself in. He was greatly blessed and God gave him success in all he did. Even as a slave Joseph rose to high favor. And let me tell you something, you cannot rise to favor if all you ever do is complain about how bad your luck has been.

I imagine Joseph must have known that God was with him. How else could he have had the faith to keep on going without despairing. His pain had to have been great. And I’m not saying he no longer felt the pain and hurt that his brothers inflicted on him. Later in Genesis Joseph says “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” So obviously, his pain during this time was constantly on his mind. But what Joseph shows us here is how to rightly respond when suffering happens and we have no control over it. We must get up and keep going. We have the choice to either wallow in our self pity and despair, or make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. I’ve gotta believe that when we choose the latter, God truly blesses it, just like he blesses Joseph.

God blessed Joseph and gave him favor in each place he found himself in. In Potiphar’s house, he rose to leadership. In prison, he rose to leadership. Then, lastly, in Pharaoh’s kingdom, he rose to leadership. None of these places Joseph found himself in were places he wanted to be. In fact, if he had the choice to go back to his family, I’m sure he would take it without even looking back. I can tell you that there are definitely times in my life that I wish I could just go back to those happy days and forget about the pain. But I have no control over the place I’m in right now which is why Joseph’s story has been so encouraging to me. I’m learning from Joseph’s story that God’s will for me in this season is to keep on trusting Him and to find ways to keep on serving Him even while I’m hurting.

I also want to talk a bit about the end of Joseph’s story. As I’m sure you are familiar with how in the story of Joseph we get to see how all his suffering would one day make sense and play a role in God’s amazing plan. God used Joseph to be the means of saving many nations, including Israel, from a devastating famine. Joseph became a great leader in Egypt, a wise man who was full of integrity. But if he became a ruler in Egypt right away without first spending years as a slave and in prison, I don’t believe he’d be the same ruler. God was using the hard seasons of suffering in his life to teach him how to be humble and also how to lead and manage other people. When God’s time was right, Joseph was given one of the most coveted positions in all Egypt. Truly, Joseph was finally able to say that God had taken all his sorrow away.

I think that it’s so encouraging to see how God was using Joseph’s suffering to position him in the right place at the right time to bring provision to God’s people. God was preparing Joseph for something greater. And that is what God is doing when we suffer! God is preparing us for something bigger, better, and greater. God is using all the suffering in our life for his good purposes. Often times, like Joseph, we can’t see the whole picture of what God is doing while we are in the middle of it. Maybe all we see is the pain and unending waiting. But we can hold onto the truth that God is going to work all things out our for good and God will be with us, as He was with Joseph.

So yes, I am Joseph! And maybe as you look at your life, you are Joseph too. Maybe God has brought sudden or unjust suffering into your life. The big question to ask yourself then is “what is my response?” Remember, it’s okay to feel hurt and pain. In fact, if you don’t feel any pain as you suffer I’d be worried that something is wrong with you. What really matters the most is what you do with the hurt? Do you dwell on it and let it lead you to despair. Or do you get up and keep on chasing after God and serving him in the place your at, trusting that God is going to do something great through it.

Let us hold onto the truth that God is always with us through every trial we face. Every season of suffering has a purpose that we may not be able to see until the time is right. But we can know this, God is taking us down these hard paths because he wants to prepare us and make us into something greater! God’s purposes for your life are so much greater than whatever it is you have lost, so let’s be like Joseph and keep on suffering well in this life!

A Wrestling Heart

Do you ever wrestle with God?

When God takes you down a path you don’t like or when your face fears that seem like they will consume you, have you ever cried out to God and wrestled with him and asked him to take it away? Have you ever fought God on an issue of the heart when deep down you realize true surrender is the only way? I always get upset at myself for showing such weak faith in God during these times. Surely doubting and not trusting God is not a good sign for my faith. But what if God actually delights in seeing us wrestle? What if our wrestling heart is actually a sign that we truly are among God’s chosen? What if wrestling constantly is actually the only way to a fully surrendered heart for God?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the life of Jacob and especially about the story in the Bible where Jacob wrestles God. If you have been following along with my journey through Genesis, this is the next big story that I am finding so much encouragement from. During my bible study we spent a lot of time discussing this story. I am just amazed and in aw at what took place in Jacobs life. Jacob physically wrestled God! If you aren’t familiar with the story here it is from Genesis;

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  
 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30)

It is believed that this ‘man’ who wrestled Jacob was possible a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Some think that maybe it was an angle of God. But we know that it was no ordinary man that wrestled Jacob that night. I wonder, what was it like? Did this ‘man’ approach Jacob slowly and come out of the shadows, or did he attack Jacob head on with much vigor? What must Jacob have been thinking? Jacob was scared. In the verses before this passage, Jacob is afraid for his life because his brother Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob said the most honest prayer asking God to save him and now he is all alone, waiting.

I can relate to Jacob in this place. He is alone, he is scared of the future, he is at a point in his life where all he can do is wait. Waiting to see if God hears and how God will answer. This is probably one of the hardest places to be. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how hard it is being in a place where you don’t know what God is going to do. Whether God does one thing or another thing in my life, my heart would have so much more peace if I could just know what is going to happen. But no, God hasn’t let me in on what he’s doing, and Jacob didn’t know either how God was going to answer him.

But it was in that waiting time, while he was alone, that God came and met Jacob. The ‘man’ came and wrestled with Jacob till morning. The part about this story that intrigues me the most is that Jacob was actually able to have some sort of advantage in the fight. They kept fighting and fighting and neither one would relent. Even when the ‘man’ touched Jacob’s hip and put it out by just one touch. Jacob had to know then that this man he was wrestling was God, and yet, Jacob still fought. Jacob refused to stop until the man blessed him.

Let’s take a break and look at this idea of wrestling for a little bit. Jacob physically wrestled with God, but I think that in our christian life, we often partake in a similar type of wrestling. We wrestle spiritually with God. When we don’t know what God is doing or when God takes us somewhere that is hard and hurts, don’t we often cry out to him and tell him no. We tell God we don’t want to go down this path, but we also want Him, so we wrestle. We wrestle with our desires for the good things of this world and a desire to want God above all these things. If you take a look at the psalms there are countless times that the psalmist cries out to God in agony. Yet the psalmist always goes back to praising and trusting God.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (Psalm 22:1-5)

This makes me think that God must like this wrestling we do with Him. That when we come to God with our questions and we wrestle inwardly with our conflict of desires, God looks on us and smiles. God is there with us as we wrestle. He wants us to choose Him. He is delighting in the fact that we are wrestling so much about following Him. I wonder how many people God has watched walk away from Him the moment hard seasons come, without even putting up a fight. Fighting is proof that you have something in you greater than them. You wrestle because God has got a hold of your heart, and even though it’s hard and you want to run, there’s something in you that says no, stay, wait. You know that you want God more.

As I was thinking more about this idea of wrestling with God, I thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Easter is coming up in a few weeks so this story may be fresh in your minds. But on the night of Jesus’s crucifixion, Jesus knew the pain and agony he was about to walk through. He wrestled with God in the garden. He wrestled so hard His sweat was like drops of blood. He prayed and asked God if there was any other way. And yet Jesus also said, “not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus was perfect, sinless, but also human. He wrestled with God, he didn’t want to go through all the pain, but Jesus was also fully surrendered to God as he wrestled. This is the perfect example of godly wrestling with God. It is fully surrendered to God and it always ends with a “not my will, but yours be done.”

Is your wrestling with God fully surrendered? When you take your questions and hurts to God, do you end by saying “your will be done”? I don’t know about you, but I find so much comfort in knowing that it’s okay for my heart to wrestle with God. It’s okay to go to God and tell him my heart, tell him how much I hurt, tell him I want out. I know God hears me. But I also tell God, I want Him more, I want to follow him and I trust that whatever his will is for me, it’ll be good.

Okay, this post is getting long. But there’s one last thing I want to share from this story. So back to the story of Jacob. In the end, when morning finally comes, Jacob refuses to let the ‘man’ go until he blesses him. Jacob knows this man has the power to bless him so he clings onto him and asks for a blessing. And he did get a blessing.

Did you know that God is waiting to bless you too. The Bible is full of blessing and promises that apply to us. During the time of waiting when Jacob was scared, he held tightly onto the blessing of God. When we are in these seasons of waiting and wrestling with God, God’s blessings are all within our reach. They are truths that we can hold onto and rest in. If you are worried about the future God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are dealing with a broken heart God promises to be near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). If you don’t see any good in the path your on you can know that God is working all things our for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). So, as you’re wrestling, reach out, find a blessing, and hold onto it. Let the truth of that blessing carry you through and give you hope.

As you go through this Christian walk, remember that a wrestling heart is a beautiful thing to God. God loves it when we take our deepest worries and concerns to Him. We wrestle, yet we remain fully surrender to God. As we wrestle, we find rest in knowing that God’s ways truly are best and his promises to us are good. I pray that as your wrestle, you will find promises to hold onto. Jacob had no idea that the next day Esau was going to welcome him, not attack him. You are on the verge of God’s blessing and I know it’s hard. I’m in the dark too during this season in my life. But keep wrestling, and keep choosing God, and God will bring you safely through the night into a new day full of his blessing, just like he did with Jacob.

Shining Faith

True faith shines the brightest when we reach our lowest low.

I’m realizing something. The more I study the Bible and read about all the different people in the Bible, I see a pattern. All God’s people who were known for their great faith were not perfect people. They didn’t have perfect lives. They didn’t instantly have the faith that can move mountains. But they did have one thing; a strong resolve to follow God and obey God’s voice in every circumstance.

At my church the pastor has been preaching through the book of Hebrews and he currently is in chapter 11. The great chapter about faith. This chapter in Hebrews speaks of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David… to name a few. All these men went through many long seasons of waiting and suffering. All of these men also made some very bad choices that lead to some terrible sins. How is it then that these men are all listed in Hebrews 11 as great men of faith?

I think that we all wish somehow that we could attain such great depths of faith without doing all the hard work of trusting God through every circumstance. That would be everyone’s dream goal, right. To know God deeply without having any of the hard trials and suffering in our life. It’s a great idea but it isn’t really realistic. Because I’m beginning to see that the reason all these men are remembered for their faith is because of all the trials God took them through. They walked with God through the fires of life and never stopped choosing God even when things were hard. They came out with shining faith and even though they sometimes made mistakes, they always turned back to God.

Here’s the thing about faith. Suffering and trials make faith grow. When God’s people cling to God through the hard days and rough waters of life, they become stronger. God grows their character and makes their love and resolve for obeying God even stronger than it was before. Suffering and trials cause God’s people to draw nearer and dearer to God. Here are just a few verses from the New Testament to shed some more light on the purpose of suffering and trials;

"Count it all joy my brother when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
"In this you rejoice, if now for a little while, if necessary, you have been tested by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

Shining faith is something that is made, not given. Granted, there may be a few cases where God gives people supernatural faith through the work of His Spirit. But more often than not, having great faith is a process. If we want to be remembered for having great faith then we should be prepared for trials and suffering. And there will be times when we make mistakes and fail, just like all the men in the Bible did. Oh what a wonderful thing it is that God promises to only remember us for ways we serve him!

So let us be encouraged that God doesn’t remember us for our mistakes. All the great people of faith in the Bible were sinful people and they sinned. They were broken people. But God remembers them by their faith, not their mistakes. God will remember us for our faith too!

To be broken is only the beginning of being used by God for great things. Trials, suffering, and seasons of waiting in our life are the building blocks of great faith. When trials come, rejoice. When suffering comes, draw near to God. Whatever path God takes you down, stay focused on God. This is how your faith is grown. If you simply allow God to lead you through the trials of life, before you know it your faith will be shining for all to see, just like the great men of faith in Hebrews 11. So let us strive each day for this shining faith that God gives to his dearest of children.

Encouragement for Waiting

Well, I have talked about Abraham, and Job, and David.

All great men of faith whose stories I found out all correlate with mine in some way. And now I want to talk about another Bible character whom I am just now finding out I have another connection with. I have been studying the book of Genesis with my bible study group (I attend an international bible study called BSF) and we are currently reading through the life of Jacob.

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and a twin to his brother Esau. Jacobs story is a messy story. His family life was full of sin and issues, not much different from families today actually. Isaac favored Esau even through the Lord had said that Jacob, the younger brother, would be the one blessed. One day Isaac had the crazy idea to try and bless Esau instead of Jacob, which led to the crazy story of how Jacob deceived his own father into giving him the blessing.

Long story short, Esau wasn’t happy and Jacob was sent away in order to save his life. Jacob had to face the consequences of his sinful choices. Now he was alone and far from his home. The Bible tells us that Jacob was a home-body and that he loved his mother. Sadly, he was never going to see his mother again. I’ll pause here for a moment to say something. Sin never gives us what we want without devastating consequences. Jacob may have got the blessing, but now he was alone and fleeing for his life. Things would have been different if he trusted in God’s timing.

When we choose sin, at first it may seem okay, but sin will always come back to bite us. It’s almost scary how much my life is like a reflection of what Jacob is dealing with. In a way, I can relate to how Jacob must feel. He is alone, in a new place, and those he loves most are no longer with him. There was sin issues in the relationship I had. Even though it wasn’t my sin, but rather his sin in our relationship, it still resulted in both of us getting hurt. Now I find myself alone, in a new place, and far from the one I love, just like Jacob. In both my case and Jacobs case, it was due to sin issues in the family and relationships.

But now let’s get back to the story for some more encouraging news. While Jacob is alone and traveling to a new place he stops along the way to sleep. He lays his head on a rock and he has a dream. You probably are familiar with what he dreamed. In his dream he saw angels descending and ascending on a ladder and God was at the top of the ladder. God spoke to Jacob in that dream and told him this promise;

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28:15

What an amazing promise this is! Jacob must have felt so encouraged after hearing God say those words. God was basically saying to Jacob that he is still with Jacob in this new place and he has a plan and a purpose for Jacob in this new place. God tells Jacob that he will bring him back to his home again when the time is right. I know that God is speaking the same promise to me in my life too. God is with me in this new place and he has a plan for me still. Even though this isn’t the place I want to be right now, I know that being here is a part of God’s plan for me and that God won’t ever leave me.

I find comfort also in the fact that God told Jacob in his dream that he would one day bring him back to the land he had left. And as we see in Jacobs story, after many years away, he eventually does return home. This is my hope too, that this promise is going to be true for me too and hopefully it won’t take as many years as it did for Jacob. Right now I don’t understand what God is doing in my life or why he took me to this new place, but I do believe that God will once again return me to the joy that I had before, whether it physically means returning to the place I left or finding a new home up here (of course I pray and long for the first option most 😉 ).

So, in conclusion, Jacobs story in Genesis gives me hope and encourages me to keep on persevering. It reminds me that even when I feel alone and am missing those whom I love, God is always with me. This story reminds me that God has a purpose for me while I am in this new place and in his perfect timing and perfect way, he will bring me back to the place where my heart longs to be. I can rest in God during this season of waiting and be confident that God is always working things out for my good.

The Purpose of Waiting

I realized something the other day

I was having my quiet time with God in the morning with my coffee. I’ve been reading from a devotional called “Embraced” by Lysa Terkeurst. The devotion for the day I read talked about the life of David. I love the story of David. His story in the Bible is so encouraging, definitely one of my favorites. As I was reading the devotion though, something happened. I saw myself in the life of David! I had a rough weekend, it being Valentines week and not being able to be with my guy. So my heart was hurting and feeling a lot of pain. The correlation I was able to make with David’s life and mine was the perfect little pick-me-up for my soul. I know God loves me so much because he always shows me just the right Bible story/verse when I need them.

Anyway, like I said, I saw myself in the life of David. David was God’s chosen king for Israel. He was a man after God’s own heart. But even though David was called to such a important role in God’s kingdom, David didn’t get to be king right away. David had to wait for God’s perfect timing. And David’s life wasn’t easy while he waited. Saul threatened David many times and tried to kill David. Much of David’s life was spent in hiding from Saul. I don’t know if you ever get this vibe from reading the Bible, but it seems like God is always asking his people to wait. He takes his people through seasons of waiting before he lets them step into their calling.

Why is God constantly making his people wait? What good does waiting do for us? There are so many times in our lives that God takes us through seasons of waiting. Waiting for the right guy to come along when it feels like you’ve been single forever, waiting to have children when you have struggled long with infertility, waiting for guidance when you find your life at a crossroads. I could go on and on. I have had many season of waiting in my life and here I am in another one.

One thing I’ve learned is that waiting draws us closer to God in new ways. During the times when our hearts are breaking, God becomes our comfort. When our future’s a big looming mystery, we learn to fully trust in God as we move forward. Waiting is a time when God comes near to us and strengthens our faith. Waiting is how God prepares us for what is to come!

Let’s go back to the life of David. The rough season that David spent waiting to be king, was a what made David into the amazing king we see in the Bible. The time David spent as a shepherd taught him to lead people humbly and with devoted care. His time running from Saul made David into a warrior who relied heavily on the Lord for every move. Without the seasons of waiting, David would not have been the man after God’s own heart that we know him to be.

One more little aspect about David’s life I found encouraging, was there were two times that David had the chance to kill Saul and end his waiting. But David would not kill the Lord’s anointed. He trusted God so much that he knew in God’s timing and God’s way he would become king.

Oh wow, I just got to say, this is just so encouraging to my heart! David’s faith inspires me so much! I know that there have been times in my relationship I’ve wanted to ignore God’s voice telling me to wait and make things happen on my own. How easy it can be for us to ignore God’s call and try to make things happen in our own way. But the story of David in the Bible has showed me that a heart that is devoted to God is a heart that is fully surrendered to God and it is a heart that is willing to wait for God’s perfect timing. And it’s so encouraging to know the seasons of waiting we go through are never in vain. God is using the times of waiting in our life to prepare us for the calling he has for us in the future.

Just think for a moment of all the people you can help and encourage once you get to the other side of your waiting season. Think of how much closer and sweeter your walk with God will be because you learned to trust Him fully during this time of surrendering. No matter how hopeless you’re situation is, we have such an amazing God who is using all things for His glory and His good. Just like with David, God has a purpose for our waiting. God is going to use our time of waiting to prepare us for what comes next. In God’s perfect timing our waiting will come to an end. But until then, we need to keep trusting, keep choosing, and keep chasing after God.

Counted Worthy

I have been thinking a lot about the story of Job.

The story of Job is right in the middle of the Bible. It’s one of the most interesting stories in the Bible because in it we get to see behind the scenes where Satan is talking to God and this helps us understand why we go through trials. If you haven’t read the story of Job, I recommend reading it, just for curiosity sake. It’ll intrigue you.

The book of Job begins with telling us all about Job and how he was blessed beyond imagination. And he also was a man who loved and obeyed God. But then the story gets interesting as we get to see how Satan comes to God and has a request to make about Job;

One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:6-12)

Wow, Satan has noticed Jobs faith and obedience to God and Satan is so bold to say that Job only worships God so devotedly because of all the ways God has blessed him. It is a honest assumption. I could look at Jobs life and make a similar conclusion. What’s amazing is that God actually lets Satan take everything away from Job. If you keep reading you will see how one by one, Job loses everything. All his possessions and all his children, gone. And then we get to see Jobs amazing and humble response. His response to all of these hardships is;

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.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

To lose everything and still be praising God, now that is a faith to aspire too. It didn’t make Satan happy. Satan went right back to God with another request. This time he asked to take away Job’s health and inflict him with diseases. And God allowed it again! Job lost his health and he became very sick with sores and boils all over his skin. Job’s own wife and his friends were even telling him to curse God. But this was his response;

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:9-10)

Again, I am just overwhelmed at how Job is able to still praise God and glorify God when he lost everything. Job was a righteous man. He didn’t sin or do anything that caused him to lose all these things. He wasn’t suffering because of the consequences of sin or his choices. Job was never told the reason why God allowed him to be afflicted with so much suffering. I can’t imagine what thoughts and feelings must have been going through Jobs head. He trusted and followed God all his life and this is what God dealt him. This must have been very discouraging. Yet Job didn’t complain, he still praised God and refused to despair at his unfortunate circumstances.

What is my sufferings compared to the suffering of Job. My heartache is small and insignificant to losing everything. Yet I can’t say that my natural response has been to praise God. Like Job, I feel as if I have done all that I could to follow God and obey God. It’s always been my hearts desire to please God. I didn’t sin or do anything to deserve the pain in my life right now. I have cried out to God and asked him why. Why did he do this to me when I all I wanted to do was follow him? The biggest question that has been on my mind with my life right now is why God would let me get so close to my hearts desire and give me all these good things, like a new family whom I love dearly and a new home that I was beginning to make my own, just to take them all away. I don’t know the answer.

But like Job, I know that God truly is the one who gives and takes away. God is the one calling all the shots and He doesn’t always tell us why he does things or allows us to walk through the fire. And like Job’s story, suffering and pain is not always a result of us sinning, it happens to the most blameless of people. I think that suffering often happens to those whose faith in God is great because God wants to test their faith and show to the world how great their love and devotion is. This is what he did with Job. God knew Job was strong enough to lose everything and still praise Him. God knew that Job would be faithful to him even when his friends urged him to curse God and die. God wanted to make a spectacle of Jobs great faith for everyone to see and also to kick Satan in the back. God looked down and he counted Job worthy enough to walk through the fire. Worthy enough to suffer for the cause of God’s plan.

I can’t help but wonder, is this what God is doing with my life? When I suffer things and lose things simply because I am choosing to follow God, is it because God is counting me worthy? Have I been counted worthy enough by God to walk through the all trials he has put before me? Maybe God has given me greater pain and heartache because he knows I can take it and I can still praise him through it, like Job did. Is there a similar scene going on in heaven, with Satan and God when it comes to my life? I can’t help but get this feeling like God is using this in my life to be a spectacle to those around me, to those watching. As I walk through the fire, God is my strength, and as others are watching they will see my faith. Oh what an amazing perspective this is to have! I suffer because God has counted me worthy! I can lift up praises to my God even though my heart aches because oh what joy it gives my heart to know that God looked down and saw that I was worthy enough to walk through this hard season of waiting. This is the reason why I can praise my God during this confusing and painful time in my life!

But there also one more aspect to Jobs story that should be added before I finish. If you jump to the end of the book of Job you will get to see how God restores all of the things Job lost, and God restored it back twice as before;

the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver a and a gold ring.
12The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.  (Job 42:10-12)

God never does tell Job why he went through all those trials. But after Job remained faithful to God during the hard times, God gave everything back. Just like with Job, God doesn’t tell us the why behind every trial we go through. But God promises to be with us and promises to never take us through something we can’t bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). And I also believe that just like Job, when we are faithful to God during these hard times, God will bless us beyond our imagination at the end. Even if those blessings don’t come until we are in heaven one day, it’ll be worth it. Because to be counted worthy to endure suffering and pain for following God is a reward enough in itself.

If you are enduring any form of suffering or trial, I pray that this story in the Bible can encourage your heart as much as it does mine. It is a reminder to keep on praising God, to keep on choosing God, because God is using this pain in your life for his own purposes. Even if God never tells us ‘the why’ behind the things that take place in our life, we can trust that His ways are always best. Keep on following and walking with God through your hard seasons and know that you will be blessed beyond imagining when you get to the end. Rejoice that God has counted you worthy to walk through the fire and suffer so that He might be glorified through your example.

Lastly, I again want encourage you to read the story of Job and let the story of Job’s faith encourage you. And I wanted to share my favorite verse from Job. This verse is such an encouragement to my heart that God’s ways are always best and we can trust God even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2

I Want God More

There comes a time in everyone’s life where we must ask ourselves a question?

Do I love God enough to forsake the things that mean the most to to me and follow Him? And then after asking that question, do I have the guts enough to do what I must do to follow through in obedience?

I have been thinking of the story of Abraham… It think it’s ironic that my bible study group has been studying Genesis and we just finished up Abraham’s life. What a testimony this man of faith had. I’m thinking of the time that God asked him to take his only son, Isaac, up to the top of a mountain and to sacrifice him. Abraham must have thought this to be a weird request from God. But not once does it say in the Bible that he questioned this request from God.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-3)

Abraham didn’t even hesitate. The very next day he took Isaac up the mountain with intentions to sacrifice him. I have to say, I am amazed at such faith. I wonder what Abraham must have been thinking. He must have been holding so firmly to God’s promises and the things God told him, that He was willing to do this thing. Such faith is inspiring! There was no promise Abraham would get Isaac back, but because of God’s promise to him, he must have believed that somehow, God would restore Isaac back to him.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:9-12)

Abraham reached that point where he was willing. He took the step of obedience without hesitation and was about to sacrifice his son. But then God intervened and rewarded him for such great faith.

God wants to ask us that same question that he asked Abraham. I don’t know what it is in your life that you hold so dear. I know what it was for me. God desires us to give that thing over to Him, just like he asked Abraham to do. And just saying that we surrender isn’t enough. I believe that a huge step in us surrendering to Him is to follow through with a step of obedience. I can look back on my life and see that I’ve said the prayer “I surrender” over and over, but never truly taken the steps of obedience.

Today I did something hard, but I know it’s what God wanted me to do. Even though I have truly surrendered this relationship that I desire to God, I have felt like there was one more step I needed to take. I returned the ring (my engagement ring). I believe that this was my step of obedience, like Abraham. I am completely giving the future of this relationship to God. But I am encouraged in Abraham’s story, how God looked down and said to Abraham “now I know you fear the Lord.” After Abraham took that step of obedience God restored that thing that he held most dear back. Abraham passed the test.

I am not expecting God to instantly work and give me back this relationship. I have finally come to terms in my heart, that if it isn’t meant to be, than I’ll be okay. But I do know that whatever God does, he will bless me and restore joy to me, just like he did with Abraham. I have decided to believe that God has something good instore for me at the end of this hard season. And I’m grateful to be standing here knowing that God truly is more to me. Oh how I would rather hear God’s voice saying to me, “now I know you fear me, my child” than to have my relationship back. I pray each day that I will have passed the test and be able to choose Him first.

And I hope that you can find encouragement from the story of Abraham too. The next time you read the story Abraham, think about the areas in your life that God has asked you to give to him. Prayerfully consider what that step of obedience might be, and don’t be afraid to follow through. I wish I could say that I went through with obedience without hesitation, like Abraham did. But I fought hard to have my way. Still, the peace that God gives to us after we choose to surrender and obey, has been overwhelming. So, don’t worry about how difficult it will be, or how long the wait will be. Just start with choosing to take that step of obedience, that leap of faith, knowing that in due time God will restore it all back and bless you just like he did with Abraham.