Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Blessings and Adversities: Living Through Both with God

Have you ever read the book of Job in the Bible and just been puzzled? I mean usually the first chapter in Job just confuses me. In the past, I have been super focused on the fact that God is having a conversation with Satan that I couldn't see anything else in this scripture. Why would God allow Satan to talk with Him? And why would God "allow" Satan to torment Job?

I have always read those first few chapters that describe the beginning of Job's trial with such perplexion that I missed something important until recently.
If you aren't familiar with the story of Job, let's review it quickly. In Job 1 (NKJV), we find God being so impressed with Job that He brings him up to Satan as an example of someone who fears God. Then this happens:

9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

Then Job's children were killed. He lost his donkey, sheep, camels, and servants. He lost most of what was near and dear to him that day. Yet, verse 22 tells us Job didn't sin or charge God with any wrong.

Then once again in Job 2, Satan is back again. God brags on Job's response (my interpretation) despite Satan's horrible attack on Job. Then this is said:

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

Job then suffered painful boils all over his body.  

These two chapters have always baffled me. Really, I still don't have good answers for some of my questions, but I have realized something new. These chapters show how and why Satan attacks.

Satan wants to draw people away from God. Specifically, he wants them to curse God. Job's wife took the bait because she encouraged Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9). Apparently, she had all she could take and thought Job should give up completely. She had lost her children, wealth, and watched her husband endure pain. Job's wife wondered where God was in all this suffering and time of need. She fell for Satan's tricks because she had lost sight of the bigger picture. Her husband did not, however. Job replied in Job 2:10: 

Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? 

Let's go back to Satan's strategy, which was to get Job to curse God by first taking away everything he had. Satan told God that Job had lived with so much protection and blessing that he would curse God if it were stripped away. It's a trick that works on so many people but not Job. 

How many people in life do you know that have given up on God because of a tragedy in their life? A loved one unexpectantly dies, a natural disaster destroys property, one's child is diagnosed with cancer, a couple has infertility issues, or financial difficulties become the reason why people question God. It's easy to serve God when things are going well. The harder time to push through is when things don't make sense, life doesn't seem fair, and our heart hurts. Satan knows this too well, and he uses the bad stuff in our lives to trip us up and make us believe God doesn't care, God isn't near, and a loving God would never allow such evil to happen in our lives. 

But Job was not rocked by the first attack. So, Satan came at him again attacking his own health- making his life miserable and painful. Satan knew that Job would be pushed to a new level if his own life and health were in jeopardy. The rest of Job does go on to explain how he feels, reacts, and copes with all his loses, but Job knew the secret to worshiping God- do it in good times and in bad. 

Here again, we see the second attack and can think of people we know who have struggled with it. How many men and women have lost their faith because of a personal health crisis, chronic pain, or life threatening diagnosis? Satan knows that these are the moments when you will have doubts, fears, and questions about God. He is banking on you to curse God and give up.

(By the way, don't read into what I am not saying. This post today is not describing why bad things happen. That's another topic all together. Most people want to know: Is it God, the Devil, or something else? This post is about our reactions to situations that aren't pleasant. To read more about figuring out the "why" behind events in our lives, please read my post: Does God Make Down syndrome?)

I have to say I have fallen for one of these strategies. When my daughter was born with Down syndrome, a heart defect, and in congestive heart failure, I was so confused and crushed that my innocent child would be born with life-long and life-threatening conditions. I let the questions and doubts infiltrate my mind and thinking until I was in such a confused state about my faith. I wondered where God was when my child was suffering through open heart surgeries. I have never cursed God and given up, but my faith in God couldn't grow because I was too focused on my own pain and situation to simply believe.

Time and time again, I have had many doubts in health crises with Jaycee. Illnesses that required time in the ICU have been emotionally and physically draining, and it is easy to question the goodness of God when a loved one is suffering in the hospital. I think the normal response to bad events in our lives is to lose hope, drown in fear, and reflect on unanswerable questions. But God calls us to something else. We are after all suppose to live in the world but not of it.

We have to know that the foundation of our faith is abiding in Him no matter what happens in life. God is the answer period. He is not the person to get frustrated with when things aren't going right. He is the person to lean into when things don't make sense.

If we only believe the gospel is here to help us or prevent tragedies in our life, then what do we believe anyway? If we are only with God when He is "blessing" us, then what does that say? If we are with God to only receive His blessings and protection, then we aren't loving God with the right motive.

The feelings we have in challenging situations should not dictate our relationship with God. If challenges take us away from God, then the true intentions of our heart are revealed and our spiritual roots are not deep. We must endure with God through the good and the adversity. If we give into the doubts and all the other tricks of Satan, then we are falling straight where he wants us to be. He wants our relationship with God to be destroyed. Don't let him do that! When you feel frustrated, continue to pray. When you are confused, keep going. It's too important to stop growing in God.

Job ended up with more possessions and wealth at the end of the story than at the beginning. He had to endure much pain and time to get to that point where what he had was restored, but he made it to the end. He didn't give up when it looked like there was no hope.

Believe in God. No matter what happens. Don't fall for some of the oldest tricks in the book. 

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