Raise a glad cry, you barren one who never bore a child, break forth in jubilant song, you who have never been in labor, For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband, says the LORD. Is 54:1
Recently a friend and I shared some prayer time. She invited me to consider Job chapter 29, although she didn’t know what significance it might have for me. (I invite you to read it as well, and ponder what God might be telling you.) In it the prophet recounts all the ways in which God blessed him “when the Almighty was still with me” (v. 5), and the renown he enjoyed among those around him. I knew almost immediately what this meant for me; but at first blush, like the prophet, I recalled the time of fervor and zeal with which I praised and proclaimed the Lord, in contrast to (what I sometimes perceive to be) His forgetfulness of me. Here’s what I mean:
About 15 years ago now I experienced a (re)conversion that changed me profoundly and set me on a new course of seeking God, and knowing His will. I learned that God was waiting for me (and He continues to wait even when I take my eyes from Him and try to walk on my own); that He loves me deeply regardless of my past or my sins or weakness; and that He longs to pour His mercy upon me. I learned that I must acknowledge all of this, and come to Him always seeking forgiveness, help in my walk, and find comfort in His love. I must rest in His love – and share that love with as many people as possible. God extends His hand – He always does – but He waits patiently for us. I wasted a lot of time ignoring His hand, or just not seeing that it was reaching for *me.*
Life goes on. We’re up and we’re down; sadness and joy wend their ways in and out of our lives. Somewhere along the way though, I, like Job, started to think of the days “when the Almighty was still with me” as reminiscences, as scenes from the past that I longed to relive. Soon there was no praise and thanksgiving (as there had been before), but only the question, “What have you done for me lately?”
It’s easy for any of us to fall into this slump, a place where we find the faithfulness we’ve taken for granted has been somehow betrayed. It may be something big in our lives, or something relatively small; but it’s easy to fall into a “fair weather” relationship with God if we only focus on what He does for us. That’s the ditch I’d landed in.
Pondering Job 29 made me angry at first. “Yeah, that’s right God, where are you? You used to love me!!” But a few moments of hearing Job’s words coming from my own lips were like a splash of cold water as I began to take stock of all of the blessings He has given me – and continues to give. Even the things that don’t work in my life, the disappointment and sadness, can be blessed. God doesn’t will them on me. There is no lottery in heaven that broadcasts the daily list of losers – those people whom God chose to “smite” that day.
No. No. No, sadness and disappointment – and sometimes tragedy – are the state of things this side of the Fall. But God is good!! He is faithful, and we have to believe that. The alternative is despair. I learned from my reading of Job that God is *still* with me and always has been. I learned that often I have turned down my “spiritual hearing aids” so I can’t hear Him, or jammed the signal on purpose because I don’t want to hear. I learned that I miss the good things and don’t experience the joy when I focus and fret only on the lack.
Please do read and ponder Job 29 for yourself, and see what God might be telling you. And then – praise God! Praise the Father Almighty who willed you from all eternity and loves you with a heart of mercy and compassion. Praise Jesus Christ who sacrificed every last drop of Himself for you, and would do it again for love of you. Praise the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who desires to breathe His peace and joy into you and preserve you in His love.
Praise God in good and bad, in disappointment and triumph. Praise you Lord God who saved me – and continues to save me every day!