Lessons from the Hard Times…

My progression of reading the Bible brought me to Job at the same time I was having ankle surgery. The timing was more than coincidental. I was reminded that God does not bring calamity into our lives – Satan is looking to accuse, steal and destroy our lives while God seeks to bring life abundant (John 10:10). Job wasn’t to blame for the hardships he experienced (which were FAR worse than mine, as he lost kids, all his wealth and his health!). But, God wasn’t to blame either…

On the other hand, we know that God is all-powerful. He gave the authority or okay to Satan to bring the calamity on Job, noting that Satan was not to kill him. So, when hard times come, we ask, “God, why did you allow this?” I’ve asked it with my ankle. Did God cause me to fall? Absolutely not! But, I have questioned, “God, I believe You are the Healer, so why did it not heal right away and why did I need surgery six months later?” I’m tired of feeling crippled and useless. I’m tired of not being able to run. I’m tired of feeling like I’m more of a burden to my family than a blessing…

Then I came to the following verses: “But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with His warning. He causes them to change their minds; He keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death. Or, God disciplines people with sickness and pain, with ceaseless aching in their bones.” Job 33:14-17.

The first verse I remember blogging about before, after having a terrible nightmare when we arrived in Michigan and reading the verse. I vividly remember the warning. But, I didn’t remember reading verse 17 before, or it didn’t stick out to me until now. God disciplines people with sickness and pain, and with aching bones! Yes, indeed, I need God’s discipline. It’s easy to become selfish and proud. It’s easy to get swept up in daily to-do lists and forget to love others, to help the needy, to stand up for injustice, to do what’s right. Unlike Job, I’m not sure God would think I lead a “blameless” life. He is still refining me, and His discipline is something I need and even desire. So, perhaps it comes in the form of injury, as it’s in the hard times that we really listen.

Later, Job 36:21, a young man named Elihu is still speaking (and I love that he said he waited to speak until the older, wiser fellows were finished, that he couldn’t contain his thoughts because he felt as he needed to say them, and that intelligence really comes from God’s Spirit and breath of the Almighty inside us), and he says “Be on guard! Turn back from evil, for it was to prevent you from a life of evil that God sent this suffering.”

What a thought – that hard times come into our life to prevent us from a lifetime of evil and suffering. That God loves us enough to allow difficulties to come so we turn away from what is wrong, that God is gracious in allowing us to go through seemingly awful circumstances for our discipline and for our ultimate good. When God doesn’t answer our prayer to live a happy, perfect life, it’s because He loves us far too much to let us be ‘spoiled brats’ who have never been refined in the fire. The bumps in the road, the bruises,  the broken bones, the tears and frustrations help shape our character and make us who we are. We can allow them to move us to despair or we can use them to help us move toward being better. We can accept hard times as discipline and seek life lessons to keep us from a life of evil… or not.

I read yesterday (being Good Friday) a friend’s post that says “Good Friday” was and is a dark time, a hard time (even though it’s ‘good’ it’s not fun!). Jesus was tortured, suffered greatly, and was nailed to a cross to die. His friends watched in horror and wept bitterly; their hope was gone. We, too, can experience times of suffering (that feel like torture!) or times of grieving and sadness, where hope seems to be lost. But, we need to remember the story didn’t end on the cross. On the third day, Jesus rose! He conquered death and opened  the gates of heaven for believers. The ground is shaking, the earth is rumbling, breakthrough is about to happen!!! God cares, God is able, and He is far bigger than ANY circumstance. He can heal, He can bring about victory, and if He allows hard times to come for our good, He also brings about restoration and grace…and more!

Job’s life was restored. Jesus greeted His followers with the good news that He was alive. In our own lives and circumstances, we can recognize that SUNDAY is not too far away…

Father God, we thank You that You love us. You created us and You have mercy on us, even when we don’t deserve it. We thank You for who You are. We recognize Your greatness, Your power and Your goodness. We thank You for the hard times, even the darkest times. We thank You that You are refining us and showing us a better way. We thank You that you love us enough to discipline us. Thank You for not allowing us to stay still but continually helping us grow and mature. Father God, please open our eyes, ears and hearts to learn the lessons You have for us. Give us courage, wisdom and obedience to follow Your direction. Please give us humility and grace to respond when and where You call us. And God, we ask for SUNDAY! We ask for healing (for my ankle and for anyone reading this) and for hope and for restoration. We ask for the good times that follow…may we learn from the hard times and look forward to the GREAT times ahead. Thank You for SUNDAY! Thank You for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thank You for the hope that brings. Thank You for Jesus’ blood for our sins. We ask that He would restore us to You. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

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