looking up when we're down
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
It's the day I'll never forget. I woke up, and everything seemed to be going well. My wife was getting ready for a seminar, and I was excited about my alma mater playing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The only thing different this morning was that I noticed a voicemail on my phone. It was a call from my mom.
"Call me back. It's important."
That's all that was said. That return phone call would shake my world upside down. It would have me seeing life through an entirely different perspective.
"Dad is gone," my mom said. "He passed away."
My dad. My best friend. My role model. The one I had known for the first quarter century of my life was all of a sudden gone. There was no sickness that we knew of. We didn't have any warning. Just the sudden end of his life here on earth.
Upon hearing this news, I collapsed to the floor. All the strength that was in me was suddenly gone. My wife looked on with confusion and shock as tears began pouring down my face.
Then I felt it. It was as if the arms of God were wrapped right around me. His warm embrace was there and suddenly—amidst the pain, anger, confusion, and tears—I began to sing:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Amen, amen, amen, amen."
I would sing this song as we got in the car, drove to my parents house, and made arrangements for removing my father's lifeless body.
Years later, I still remember the day like it just happened. I still have the pain, tears, and memories. I also have a God whom I've seen strengthen me through a time in my life where I felt like everything I knew was taken away. A God who is strengthening me and wants to strengthen you. Why? It's simple. Because God is good.
God doesn't let us go down into a deep, dark valley just to leave us there.
hardships are unpreventable.
"In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus said.
Jesus never promised a life without struggle and pain. He never said that the world would be easy. No, he in fact promised pain would come. He assured us that it will happen. However, he said these very words next:
"But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)
Over a thousand years before Jesus walked the earth, there was a man named Job. He was a righteous man who walked closely with God. In fact, he would even rise early in the morning and make sacrifices to God just to make up for the shortcomings of his own children. (See Job 1:5)
While he lived the best life he could and by the accounts of people around him would've been considered "good," Job could not avoid hardship. In fact, he faced even more hardship than I ever have.
In an unexpected moment, he lost his kids, and every one of his possessions. He lost everything. So much so that he responded, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return" (Job 1:21 ESV).
In the midst of losing everything, he still uttered these words:
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21b ESV)
I'm pretty sure Job had to have been hurting pretty badly. In fact, the story tells us that he was in such despair that his friends couldn't even recognize him (see Job 2:12).
Job lived a life for God. That honored God. With many sacrifices to God. Yet he still suffered.
As Jesus promised us, hardship is not a matter of if but when. So, how do we respond to hardship? It helps to continue to look at Job.
we can only be helped up if we are down.
I had just finished my last class of my undergraduate degree. It was the week before graduation, and life was suppose to be exciting. Then I got the call. One of my closest friends from high school passed away suddenly. So, rather than spending the week with my college friends, I packed up my bags and headed home to mourn her passing. I wasn't the only one who did this. In fact, all my close friends did the same. We came from all over the country to be back home for this tragedy.
Just three months later, we would gather again. This time, not over a death, but for a friend on life support. He had fallen from the roof of a 3-story building. He would never be the same.
I cannot begin to explain the pain and agony that my friends and I experienced that summer. We were confused, hurting, and wondering where God was in all of this mess. However, while we all have our separate journeys, one thing is for certain: these events brought us together. They brought us closer than we had ever been before.
When we're down, it actually allows for others to gather to pick us up. That's what happened with Job.
"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him." (Job 2:11 ESV)
People rally to support one another through pain. It is an absolutely amazing, comforting thing.
If people can rally to support one another, then why wouldn't a good God do the same? Well, he does.
It is when we are at our lowest points that we can recognize there is a God right there to pick us up.
The question becomes, are you talking with him or avoiding him?
hard times elevate our worship of god.
God would rather have us fight with him than avoid him all together.
Have you ever done something to someone and then been given the silent treatment? Maybe you said something, did something, or contributed in some way in causing a person to feel hurt. While no one wants to ever hurt someone intentionally, there are times where they do get hurt.
However, I have never witnessed the silent treatment or a cold shoulder lead to anything beneficial.
The reality is that this world is not perfect. There is hardship and pain. God promises it. In fact, he even allows for us to experience it. He did with Job. While we can try to give God the cold shoulder or the silent treatment, it doesn't lead to anything beneficial. In fact, it actually leads to more pain for us than healing.
But that doesn't mean we can't be frustrated with God. Job was. In fact, he cursed the very day he was born (see Job 3).
Who curses their birthday? Someone who is very frustrated.
Yet, God did not punish him for saying such things. He didn't pour down fire and brimstone. NO! God showed comfort and compassion. He used the moment to grow Job, not to tear him apart.
That is what God does with us. When we are struggling and in pain, he wants us to throw our arrows at him. He wants to hear our frustrations. He wants to talk it out. As we do that, we are able to see more of God's perspective and allow him to comfort us amidst our agony.
Job concludes by saying these words:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6 ESV)
It's in our deep depths of despair that we can see how loving God is. How he's there to pick us up, to put us back on our feet, and to allow us to be better than we were before.
Over a thousand years later, a man by the name of Paul would reflect on the goodness of the very same God. In fact, he wrote this to the Jesus followers in a city called Corinth:
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:10 ESV)
Let those words be words to cling to.
When that unexpected phone call comes. When the pain happens. When the news looks so bad. Know that God is right there with you. Because here's the thing:
God doesn't let us go down into a deep, dark valley just to leave us there.
Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash
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