“Some day, in years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process.” —Phillips Brooks
I almost don’t need to say another word. That quote is so full of wisdom, admonition, conviction and fortitude.
I have been struggling under the great temptation and trembling under the great sorrow of my life for 3+ years, now. Indeed, who would not after losing a beloved child? My great temptation has been to say, “away with it all” and sit at home, nursing my wounds, angry at God and everyone who has anything to say about death, loss, healing or goodness.
I was never tempted to believe there isn’t a god until my son died so tragically. It is hard to believe there could be an all-powerful, good and loving god in the face of such suffering. And I know I have probably suffered only a little compared to many, presently and throughout history. And many people – more than we could count, I am sure – have continued to believe in an all-powerful, yet loving and kind God, even in the face of suffering.
When I was pregnant with our son who is in heaven now, Dan had an accident with a circular saw and almost cut his knee cap off. He had to have 5 layers of stitches to close the wound up, and spent almost a year in therapy trying to get his leg to operate correctly again. During the 10 days he was laid up at home, waiting to get the stitches out, I had an encounter with God that completely changed my perspective on suffering.
During those first 10 days after his accident, he couldn’t do much but sit on the couch with his leg propped up, resting. Since I was 7 months pregnant with our third child, and our other two children were ages 4 years, and 15 months, I enjoyed having Dan home 24/7 and took advantage of an evening when everyone seemed content and peaceful and went for a ride. I remember crying out to God while I was driving, tearfully telling Him I didn’t understand why my husband got hurt. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but at the time it really shook my faith. I remember hearing the Lord speak to me almost audibly, saying “I want you to have the faith of Job”.
The book of Job is one of my favorite books in the Bible, and I knew well what the Lord meant when He said that to me. In the first chapter of Job we have a glimpse into a conversation Satan has with God about God’s faithful servant, Job. God gives Satan permission to ravage Job’s life, and Satan proceeds to do so, killing all his livestock, servants and children.
Three important lessons have always leapt out at me in those first three chapters of Job. First of all, we do not know what actually goes on in the heavenlies between God, His angels and His adversary. If the encounter between God and Satan wasn’t in this book, I wouldn’t believe such things were possible. But it is in there.
Secondly, when the day comes to an end (I’m assuming) and Job has lost almost everything he holds dear, he falls to the ground and worships God, saying, “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.” He didn’t curse God; he worshiped Him.
And the third life lesson for me is simply the statement Job makes to his wife when she tells him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” Oh, how I have hoped and prayed I would not be like Job’s wife. I have meditated on and worked at making a part of my being Job’s response to his wife: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Shall we? The verse goes on to say, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.” (Lord, may it be so in my life.)
I have been, at times, so, so angry at what God allowed to occur in my life 3+ years ago that I have wanted, at times, to curse God and die. The funny (not really) thing to me is that in the beginning of the next chapter of Job, after Job and his friends sat silently for seven days and nights, mourning, it says that, “After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” Ha! He was a normal human being after all, wasn’t he?!?!?
Later in the book of Job, as he begins to complain to God about the horrendous loss God allowed in his life, God responds to Job by asking him a series of questions, making it clear to Job that he is not God; but God is God.
As I have been tempted to accuse God of wrong-doing by allowing one of my children to die, I have heard the Lord ask me a similar question – “Where were you when I formed the stars?” I don’t know where I was. I always told my children, when they asked me where they were before they were born to their father and I, that they were a plan in God’s heart. I still believe that today – about them and about myself (and everyone else). But I wasn’t with God, creating the stars with Him. Like I said above, God is God and I am not. I am His creation.
So are my children. They are not my creation. I don’t have the power, know-how, wisdom or ability to create anything. I am (was) their steward, their caretaker, their mother. God used me as a vessel to form them in and care for them as they grew to be adults. But I have never been, nor will ever be their Creator or their God.
Not only are my children’s lives not mine, but my life is not my own, either. I belong to the Lord. I’ve been bought with a price; a hefty price – the very life of the Son of God.
I am not my own. God is allowed to do with me as He will. All He asks of me is that I believe in Him and trust Him.
I am so thankful the Holy Spirit prompted me to devour God’s Word on a daily basis in the early years of my walk with God. I spent many hours, days, months and years seeking God in His Word and prayer, meditating on His Word and learning who He is. I have always known God to be love, goodness, kindness, peace, joy, strength, wisdom and help. Even when I don’t understand His actions, I trust His character, and I know He loves us more than we can ever comprehend.
Even though I am angry beyond expression sometimes, trembling under the great sorrow of my life, I have and will continue to love and trust my Heavenly Father, seeking to know Him better everyday.
“I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him.”—Oswald Chambers