7 Benefits Of Going Through Hard Times

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Everything God does in our lives is for our benefit, including suffering.  Though they never seem pleasant at the time, hard times produce wonderful benefits in our lives. On Monday I mentioned one benefit – affliction drives us to God’s word. Here are seven more benefits of suffering:

Affliction drives us to God in prayer

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. James 5:13

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. PS 107:6

When the sun’s shining and everything’s going our way, we don’t feel our need for God. But desperate times lead to desperate prayer. When we’re helpless to change our situation, we cry out to our Savior, who delivers us from our distress.

Affliction humbles us

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 2 CO 12:7

Afflictions remind us of how fragile we are. It keeps us lowly. Reminds us that everything we have is a gift. Pride leads to a fall, but God gives grace to the humble. Affliction positions us to receive grace.

Affliction makes us rely on Christ’s power

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 CO 12:9

When we realize how powerless we are, then Jesus can display his might in our lives. When we’ve exhausted all our own resources Jesus rides in at just the right moment, like the hero in a movie who comes to rescue someone as the train is bearing down on them.

Affliction brings us the comfort of God himself

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…, 2 Co 1:3

As well meaning as others are, there are times when no human words can comfort. But God himself comforts us when we cry out to him in our pain. The God of ALL COMFORT, the one who knows exactly what our broken hearts need, comforts us in ALL our affliction. The One who fashioned our hearts, who knows our every drop of sadness, knows the exact medicine we need to comfort us.

Affliction gives us compassion for others

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Co 1:3

When someone else has been through the same thing, their words can really comfort us. Though your pain is horrific now, someday God will use you to bring his comfort to someone else who suffers the fury of depression or the agony of a child who rebels like yours.

Affliction produces endurance and patience

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, RO 5:3

The only way to get patience and endurance is by being placed in situations that require it. But it will be worth it in the end, because it is by patiently enduring in faith that we’ll enter heaven.

Affliction reminds us that this world is not our home

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. HEB 13:14

As many blessings as this world has, it’s not our home. Affliction weans us from this world, reminds us how transitory it is, and makes us long for heaven, for that day when we’ll see Jesus face to face and he will personally wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Bless the Lord oh my soul and forget none of his benefits. Especially those benefits he brings us through hard times.

The Thing We Need Most When Life’s Storms Are Raging

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John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, wrote a letter he called “The Benefits of Affliction,” in which in which he says one benefit of affliction is that it drives us to God’s word. Or at least it should. When we suffer, there is nothing we need more than God’s word. Nothing has carried me through life’s storms like God’s promises. In Psalm 119:49 the Psalmist says:

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.

Whether we’re weathering a tempest or plodding through a desert we need hope, and nothing gives us hope like God’s Word. He pledges to be with us when we pass through floods and flames. He guarantees he’ll give us a future and a hope. He promises to comfort and strengthen, to be faithful, and watch over us day and night. He says he’ll hear our cries, give us peace and all we need. He assures us he never makes a promise he can’t keep and he’ll never change his mind about a promise he’s made.

When we suffer we need God’s word to remind us that we have a sympathetic high priest who lives to intercede for us. That we have a friend closer than a brother, who’s been through what we’re going through and knows what it’s like.

Here’s what to do when the wind is howling all around us:

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;b
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

In these verses Jeremiah says the key to having “hope” is to “call to mind” the truth of God’s Word. To intentionally recall that God’s love and mercies never cease but are new every day. To call to mind God’s great faithfulness. If we never take in God’s truth, we won’t have it to call to mind when the storm hits.

There is nothing we need more in affliction than God’s word. We need to remind ourselves of Scripture’s bedrock truths that God is sovereign, loving and wise. We need to take ourselves by the collar, and shout to our doubts: Hey self! Nothing is too hard for God. His arm is not too short to save. He is near to the broken hearted. Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. It says so in his Word!

In affliction we must cling to God’s Word, because this is where Satan attacks. “Did God really say…..?” was how he challenged Eve and he uses the same tactic today. He tries to get us to doubt the truth of Scripture. Is God really faithful? Does he really care? You sure he hasn’t abandoned you?….The antidote is to take up the shield of faith to extinguish these fiery darts. And where does faith come from? From hearing – and hearing from God’s word.

The best thing we can do to prepare for affliction is to take in, meditate on, and memorize God’s word. And the best thing in the midst of affliction is to do the same. The temptation in tough times is to turn to other things than the Lord for relief. Let your pain drive you to God’s word.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. PS 119.67, 71

I Can’t Do Anything For God

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Sometimes believers find themselves in situations where they are powerless to do anything but wait for God. Laid out in a sickbed or stuck in a wheelchair. Completely dependent on others. I’ve heard believers say, I feel so weak. I can’t really do anything for others. I feel like I’m not doing anything for God. If that’s you, I hope I can encourage you.

What can we do when God strips away our health, strength or mobility? Over the years I’ve known a number of believers who, though they were unable to “do” much for God because they were sick, really did so much that glorified him. Here’s what I’ve seen them do, and what I hope I could do by God’s grace should I find myself in their shoes.

Trust God

In the middle of unfathomable weakness and agony Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” or “I will trust in him.” (Job 13:15)

It’s easy to trust God when the sun’s shining and birds are singing, but it really glorifies him when we trust him in the dark valley. When Satan shoots his fiery dart and says, “God has abandoned you. God won’t be faithful to you” it honors God when we say, even if I die, I will continue to hope in him!

Tell others to trust God

A few years ago, a friend of mine was declining with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’d been a jazz musician but now could play no instrument. But he invited all his fellow musicians to stop by and see him before he died, and he shared the gospel with them, even as he had when he was healthy.

Endure

Hope leads to endurance, and endurance glorifies God. In the parable of the sower Jesus said some receive the word with joy, but when things get tough they fall away. Job’s wife said to him, “Curse God and die. Give up this pipe dream of a God who loves you.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Though he could do nothing else, Job glorified God by enduring.

Pray

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (James 5:13)

When we pray in our pain we show we believe God to be a God of love and compassion, a God of power who helps his people. Like hope and endurance, prayer is another expression of trust that glorifies God.

Rejoice

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Php 4:4.

We don’t rejoice in the evil of our affliction; we rejoice in the Lord. “Rejoice” doesn’t mean “feel happy.” It is a conscious decision to praise God despite our feelings. We can rejoice that he saved us and nothing can separate us from his love. We can give thanks that he causes all our pain to produce the character of Christ in us. We can be glad we have an imperishable inheritance and someday Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Believers who trust God, endure and rejoice in him despite unbelievable pain are true heroes. Maybe you are one of these “heroes.” You don’t feel like one, but I hope you know how much your faith and perseverance pleases God. You’re doing a lot. And I can’t wait to see your rewards in heaven.

Wasting Away In OldManville

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What happened?

I feel like I’m about 23 years old mentally. Hopefully I have a little more wisdom than I did at age 23, but I don’t feel “old” in my mind. Then I look in the mirror in the morning. Who is that wrinkled guy gaping back at me? Yep, I’m old.  I used to sing “Old man, look at my life” by Neil Young.  Now I is one.  When I turned 64 this January I sang the Beatles song to my wife, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”  She said no.

I try not to act old though. I try not to say “Consarn it!” or “Dagnabit!” too often.  I try not to call teenagers “whippersnappers.”  I let people know how hip and cool I am by saying things like, “You like that new song by the Mumford Sons?”

God has been kind to me. Overall my health is pretty good. But I’ve got to face it – I’m wasting away. I’m not as strong as I used to be. I lifted some heavy bags a few weeks ago and my arm has been sore ever since. I got a stent two years ago and now take blood thinner and blood pressure meds. I’m not ready for my wife to put me into a home yet, though she threatens to do so every once in a while. But the truth is, I’m aging. I’m wasting away.

But it doesn’t depress me. Maybe if I was in constant pain or suffering a debilitating disease I’d be discouraged. And that would be understandable. But simply getting older and weaker doesn’t discourage me. My bald spot is getting bigger. My beard is getting grayer. My skin is getting looser. My muscles are sagging, despite attempting to do push-ups and crunches regularly. But I’m okay with it.

Not long ago someone said to me, “Getting old is hell.” It would be hellish if you thought this life was it. It would be depressing to waste away, lose your strength and abilities. To fear you might fall down and not be able to get up. To be confined to a wheelchair. But believers who suffer in these ways have Christ and hope in him. Those without Christ have no hope.  In that case, wasting away is hellish.

Truth is, sooner or later, all of us will waste away.  But though believers in Jesus decline physically just like everyone else, we have hope. Paul says in 2 CO 4:16-18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul doesn’t deny that we age, get sick and go downhill. But he says this doesn’t cause believers to lose heart. Why not? Because “our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Every day God makes us more like Jesus. He transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 CO 3:18). And our suffering in this life, even the suffering that comes with aging, is but momentary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that our afflictions are preparing.

The secret to not losing heart is this – it’s what we look to. If we look to the things of this life – things that are seen – to make us happy or satisfy us – things like our health, our looks, our strength – we will lose heart. Because these things are transient. Passing. Fading. Destined to go away. We can’t keep them. We can’t keep our youth. We can’t keep our looks. So Paul says, “we look not to” these things.  Instead, we look to the things that are unseen – eternal things. We look Jesus and our heavenly Father. We meditate on God’s holiness, majesty, goodness, mercy, glory, power, love and faithfulness. We look forward to heaven. When we look to these things we don’t lose heart. We don’t deny that our outer self is wasting away. But we aren’t depressed when it happens either because we have hope.

Yes, I’m wasting away outwardly. But I see Jesus at work in me day by day. So I don’t lose heart. I may lose my hearing but I don’t lose heart. I lose my hair but I don’t lose hope.  Praise God for giving us an eternal weight of glory to look forward to.

Consarn it! What’s that sound? Oh, it’s my cell phone. Now where’d I put my trifocals? Oh here they are. Owwww!  Stabbed myself in the eye!  What happened? My phone quit ringing. Dagnabit!  Now I’ll never know who called.  Oh well.  Now what did I do with those dentures?

*photo by Tom Hussey

Stop Comparing Your Trials

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How many times have you looked at someone else’s suffering and thought, “How on earth do they keep going? I wouldn’t survive a day in that job, or with those disabilities, or with that many kids!” Then, after marveling at their endurance, you look at your own life and feel like the most miserable, sniveling excuse for a Christian ever to disgrace the faith.

Okay, perhaps you don’t wallow in despair quite that much. But you’ve probably had that type of internal dialogue. Another person’s trials make yours seem like child’s play. They have severe physical handicaps; you just have trouble sleeping through the night. Your newborn doesn’t want to keep to a sleep schedule, but she’s homeschooling six kids and helping her husband run the family business. You struggle to care well for a flock of fifty souls, he pastors a booming congregation, speaks at conferences, writes books, AND coaches his son’s baseball team. In short, you’re a wimp and he (or she) is Captain Awesome. And the end result is that, on top of your particular trial, you now feel pathetic for even struggling.

Can you relate? To cap off the whole dilemma, the appropriately high value we Christians place on humility makes us think there’s something useful, even godly, about this kind of comparison. But here’s the problem: comparing your trials to someone else’s cuts you off from the comfort God wants to give you in your trial. If God was our schoolmaster instead of our father, if comfort was dispensed on the basis of merit, not grace – then yes, we might have reason to think we escape God’s notice until our sufferings pile up to Grade A level. But God isn’t like that. To each one of us he can say, “I have searched you and known you,” (Psalm 139:1). To you these words apply: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

I know what you’re thinking – but they really do face more than I do! And yes, that’s true – and it’s true for every single person. No matter what we go through, someone out there has faced something that’s more difficult, more intense, more challenging. But that doesn’t change God’s compassion for you in your trial. The God who reveals himself as boundless in compassion and mercy walks with each one of us in our trials, tailor matching the comfort receive to the need of the moment. Looking at someone else’s trials tempts us to look away from God and to act as though, because our trials are so small by comparison, maybe we shouldn’t even bother crying out to God for help in our struggle.

So let me make a recommendation: stop comparing your trials. Instead, respond with honesty and humility to God in whatever you are facing. Ask for mercy – God waits to pour it out on you, even if you’re tempted to feel like a loser for even asking!

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).

Photo by Emilio Labrador

A Good Lesson From A 95-Year Old Warrior

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There’s a French phrase that the American soldiers picked up from the French people in WW II. It’s a phrase of a people who had been occupied by foreign armies many times. It’s a phrase that acknowledges that stuff breaks, bad things happen, plans go astray, it’s a hard world. It’s a phrase of resignation. The phrase is “C’est la guerre” (which sounds like say-la-gare). C’est la guerre means literally, “It’s the war.” It is a way of saying we have to accept things as they are because that’s just the way life is.

My 95-year old dad, JJ, who landed on the beaches of Normandy 30 days after D-Day, spent a good amount of time in France in the War. He said when a soldier was wounded or they couldn’t get supplies, or they had to sleep in muddy trenches, they’d simply shrug their shoulders and say, “C’est la guerre.” Hey, it’s the war, what do you expect?

My Dad is in the hospital now. He fell on ice and broke his ankle in 2 places on Dec. 16 last year. At first this tough old soldier refused to let me take him to the ER, saying “It’s only a slight sprain.” When the pain became unbearable he consented to go to a clinic which showed he’d fractured his ankle. He endured intense pain for a couple days as they adjusted the levels of his blood thinner before they could operate. They inserted a steel plate and 11 screws. After week in the hospital they transferred him to a skilled care facility where he had to continue to endure much pain and physical discomfort. After a couple weeks there he was finally beginning to improve when two Sundays ago he had a small heart attack and was taken back to the hospital at 4 in the morning.

About 4 days into his second hospital stay his ankle was bleeding out through the bandages and they discovered he has MRCA, a bad infection, in the wound in his ankle. He’s also experienced severe pain in the ankle, and often winces and groans as it shoots up his leg.

Dad doesn’t complain. A few times in this ordeal he has sighed and said, “Oh boy,” and said he wished he could be transported to one of his two homes – either his earthly one or his heavenly one. But he doesn’t complain. Yesterday morning when I visited, I said, “Dad, I’m so sorry you have to go through all this suffering and misery.” He smiled slightly and shrugged his shoulders and said, “Cest’ la guerre.” The old warrior laying in his bed, connected to tubes, covered with purple bruises from his blood thinner, foot in a boot, wincing in pain. “It’s the war.”

It’s the war. Yes. This world is broken. This world has been infected by sin. Powers and principalities in heavenly places wage war against us. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We who believe in Jesus have tasted the powers of the age to come, but still experience the pain of this age.

Yet so often we’re surprised when we suffer. Sometimes we even ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Why am I suffering? Why do things go wrong? Why don’t I have enough money? Why is my teen rebelling? Why am I mistreated at work? Why?

Cest’ la guerre.

It’s the war. We should expect things to happen, to go wrong, to not always get what we want. We should be prepared to suffer. Not in an Eyore “I-guess-I’m-just-doomed-to-suffer” way, but in a “this-is-hard-and-sad-and painful-but-I-know-God-is-working-this-for-my-good” way. It’s the war. We have powerful enemies. We walk through spiritual minefields every day. We have cravings and desires we must put to death. We have to flee temptation.

But we have a Great High Priest interceding for us. We have power of God within us, the Holy Spirit himself. We have powerful weapons – the gospel, prayer, God’s promises. And we have a great hope. Hope that will not disappoint. A hope of glory. An eternal weight of glory awaiting us. No one in heaven will say, “This wasn’t worth what I went through.” We’ll say, “All I endured that seemed so long and heavy was momentary and light compared to this glory!” We have a hope of seeing Jesus’ face and hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

My dad may be close to hearing those words. I don’t know. On one hand I hope Jesus heals him, because I love him and love to be with him. On the other hand, he’s been fighting this war a long time, and it’s far better to be with Jesus.

It’s the war. It’s a fight. But it’s a good fight. Keep on fighting. Keep on looking to Jesus. Our Conqueror on his white horse isn’t far away.

*Photo- JJ Altrogge in his hospital bed

We Don’t Get To Choose Our Own Adventure

Does anyone remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? The books were broken into sections, and at the end of each section you had to make a choice. For example, if it was a detective story, you had to make a choice about whether or not you wanted to follow a suspicious looking character. If you wanted to, you turned to page 38. If you didn’t want to, you turned to page 39. I loved those books. They were like video games, except that they were made out of paper, and you didn’t use a controller, and they were actually books.

I wish life were a little more like the The Choose Your Own Adventure series. I wish we had the option of choosing the pleasures and pains that befall us. But we don’t. We follow the adventure that has been laid out for us by our sovereign God. Sometimes the adventure takes us into sweet valleys of rest and quiet. Other times the Lord leads us on a painful adventure over mountains and though deserts. The choice that we must make is how we will respond in the midst of the adventure.

In The Return of the King, when Frodo is lamenting their condition, Sam says the following to Frodo:

We shouldn’t be here at all [Sam says to Frodo], if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into…

When we get to heaven, the Lord will honor and celebrate with those who had many chances to turn back, and yet didn’t. God will honor those of you who have been dropped into a “tale” of suffering, and yet you are not turning back. By faith, you are pressing into the living God and trusting him. You wouldn’t have chosen this path if you’d known about it when you started, but now that you’re on it, you’re not going to turn back. You’re going to honor God during this adventure that we call life.

You won’t be forgotten. The Lord won’t forget your faithfulness.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

+photo by mikebaird

The God Who Actually Does Know What You’re Going Through

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes. – Jack Handey

My friend Adam is a wise guy. Not in a, “A rabbi, a priest, and a vegan walk into a bar,” sort of way, but in a Proverbs, real life street wisdom sort of way. He is a residence director at our local university which means he works with college students every day. He deals with students in trouble, students in the dumps, students on academic probation, students on drugs, students who have been assaulted, and students who are on the verge of dropping out of college. In other words, he deals with kids who are pretty vulnerable. Kids who have really been slapped around by life.

When interacting with vulnerable kids Adam could easily resort to saying, “I know what you’re going through.” After all, that’s what we say when someone is in a tough spot. We try to relate their experience to our experience. We try to sympathize with them. To comfort them out of our own experience. To let them know they’re not alone. To make them feel loved. And that impulse to comfort others is a good impulse. But Adam doesn’t always do that. Why? Because he knows that in most cases he doesn’t really know what a person is going through. He may be able to relate to some circumstances but he can’t really know what a person is going through. That is wisdom.

The reality is, when someone is suffering we don’t know what they’re going through. Even if we have experienced similar circumstances as a person who is suffering we don’t process the world the way they do. And we don’t have the same personal history, biological makeup, or support system. When someone is going through the meat grinder we can only know a tiny portion of what they are really experiencing.

Our limited ability to know the suffering of others is what makes 2 Corinthians 7:6 so precious. It says, “But God, who comforts the downcast…”

Jesus knows us fully. He knows our strengths and weaknesses, our family history, our biological makeup, our worldview. He knows every nook and cranny of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And he also knows suffering on an intense, personal level. Jesus’ knowledge of suffering is not abstract, ivory tower, textbook knowledge. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was mocked, betrayed, and humiliated. As he hung on the cross he was cut off from the Father. Jesus knew excruciating, overwhelming, crushing sorrow.

The combination of Jesus’ omniscience and personal experience with deep suffering perfectly equip him to comfort us in our own suffering. He really does know what we’re going through, and he is ready to comfort us when we are downcast. He doesn’t leave us to muddle and slog through suffering on our own. He doesn’t tell us to suck it up, buck up, and get up. He meets us in our downcast state and pours out grace upon us.

Suffering tempts us to withdraw from God when in reality we should press hard into God. Are you downcast? Are you suffering? Do you feel like you’ve been chewed up and spit out? Do you feel like butter scraped over too much bread? Draw near to the God who comforts the downcast. Draw near to the God who knows you exactly and knows exactly what you need. Draw near in your weakness and weariness and ready to call it quits-ness.

God has a special place in his heart for the downcast. Move toward that place.

+photo by Redrock Junction

Skin For Skin: Will You Keep Praising God?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:8-11)

One day God called Satan’s attention to Job, an outstanding servant of God. Satan said Of course he’s a great servant. You think he serves you for nothing? All you do is bless and protect him. But break his stuff, take away some of those blessings you’ve heaped on him, like his children, for example, and he’ll curse you to your face..

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:12).

Shortly after this in one day four tragedies struck Job’s family, flocks and properties in rapid succession – a raid by Sabeans, fire from heaven, a raid by Chaldeans, and a desert windstorm – leaving Job’s children dead and Job financially ruined. Yet look how Job responded.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22)

What? Job gets devastating news that his children have all been killed and his flocks and property have been demolished and he…worships! He worships in deep grief – head shaved, torn robe – yet he worships. Then he expresses this incredible truth – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.”  I came into this world empty-handed and that’s how I’ll leave. All I ever had was a gift from God and belongs to God. My life and possessions aren’t my own – it’s all from the Lord. He gives and he has a right to take away. I will worship him as good and righteous: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And “in all this” – in the most devastating suffering imaginable, especially the loss of your children – Job does not sin – he doesn’t turn to sin for comfort or distraction. And he doesn’t charge God with wrong.

Later God points out Job to Satan again.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life.  But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:3-6)

God says “Look Satan, Job is still walking in integrity, still trusting and worshiping me even though he’s lost everything. But Satan says, “Skin for skin! Of course he’s still praising you. He’s healthy and strong. But touch his bone and his flesh – give him some real pain – and he’ll curse you to your face.” So God says, “Go for it. Do whatever you like short of killing him.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. (7-8)

Now even Job’s wife chimes in. Instead of supporting her husband in his misery, she takes up a Satanic taunt:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” (9).

“How can you praise God?” she says. “Curse God and get this over with.”

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (10)

What an answer Job gives. “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” He knows that God is ultimately in control and that all we receive, good and bad, is measured out by his loving hand of providence. He says we’re glad to receive good from God. It’s easy to worship him when he prospers us. But what about when we are afflicted? Will we only praise God when he blesses us? Amazingly, in the throes of his sadness and excruciating pain, Job doesn’t sin with his lips, but glorifies God with his mouth.

A few years ago, this passage inspired me to write a song, “As Long As You Are Glorified.” We sang it yesterday morning in our church meeting. I hope it encouraged folks and encourages you. If you’d like, you can listen to it or purchase it at Sovereign Grace Music.

As Long As You Are Glorified

VERSE 1
Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

CHORUS
Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

VERSE 2
Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

BRIDGE
So quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart in You

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Pleasing God On Your Sickbed

Last week I talked with a man whose wife recently died after enduring years of multiple sclerosis.

They were married 36 years, she’d had her disease for the last 26, and the last 18 she was bedridden. She went home to be with the One she longed to please all her days. She did please, honor and glorify Jesus – incredibly. And so did her faithful, loving husband who kept his vows and cared for his beloved till the end.

The same week I talked to a woman who is battling cancer, who told me she really wants to please God, but doesn’t feel like she can do much for him because of how exhausted she is all the time and the pain she experiences. What an honor it was for me to tell her that she is without doubt bringing immense pleasure to God in many ways, even as she perseveres in him through this affliction.

How do we please God on our sickbed or when we are disabled?

There are multitudes far more qualified than I am to talk about this, multitudes who have pleased God through suffering in ways I can’t even fathom, but here are some ways I have seen others please God on their sickbed or in their disability:

The desire to please God is pleasing to him. Unbelievers have no desire to please him. Only those bought with Jesus’ blood and filled with his Spirit long to glorify and please him. What parent wouldn’t be delighted to hear their child say, “Mom, I just want to please you and make you happy”? Even your desire to bring pleasure to Jesus fills him with pleasure and joy.

Trusting Jesus for your righteousness and justification pleases him.

Hoping in God pleases him. Even if you’re seeing a doctor or taking medicine, ultimately your hope is in Jesus to heal and help you, and that honors him.

Doing everything to God’s glory – even small and seemingly insignificant things. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). If it’s taking a pill, or simply lying on your back, if that’s where Jesus has you, then you can do it for his glory.

Persevering in Jesus honors him. It’s easy to trust Jesus and follow him when all is going well. But when we trust him in pain and disability, that brings him great honor. The world would say “Curse God and die.” But you go on praising God and living for him.

To whatever degree you are able, looking to the interests of others – even if you can only whisper a brief prayer for a fellow sufferer.

Not complaining. The man whose wife suffered with MS for 26 years told me “I never heard her complain once.” “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). When you endure without complaining you shine a bright light for Jesus to all around you.

Being content in Christ. A woman in our church who suffers from a debilitating disease told me how tempting it is to be discontent with her situation. She asked me to pray that Jesus would help her heart be content. How pleasing to God – both the desire to be content and the request! I hope I can imitate her in any afflictions I must endure.

Loving others. Spurgeon’s wife Susannah was an invalid, yet she collected money and gave away thousands of books to poor pastors.

Being cheerful and grateful. Believing that God works all things for good. Offering God worship and thanks on your sickbed. It’s easy to praise him when all is going well; how it honors him when we praise him in suffering.

Praying to whatever degree you are able.  Even if it’s simply crying, “Jesus, help me,” prayer pleases God because you look to him as your supply and help.

Reading or listening to God’s Word. The man whose wife had MS told me she regularly listened to Scripture music and worship music to lift her soul to Jesus.  It pleases God that we would want to know him through his Word.

Participating in fellowship to whatever degree you can. There are several folks in our church who faithfully come to the Sunday meetings and care groups, though it requires a huge effort and sacrifice. How that glorifies Jesus that they long to be with and love their fellow believers.

Back to my first thought – even the desire to please God honors him. I hope that many will know how pleased God is with them in how they endure and glorify him on their sickbeds and in their disabilities.