Daunted by the struggles in your life? Take charge today to turn those struggles into blessings!
The Book of James tells us to rejoice in our trials? But is that possible, especially when you feel like you are stuck in a spin cycle and the best you can do is take one more breath before you get dunked again? Is it possible during a 3-year pandemic that has challenged many of us in ways we never imagined?
There were days during the past few years that I have felt like I was in a movie. Movies can teach us a lot of things and the best movies, the ones that make you sigh with a confident smile, don’t just have a good ending. They contain an underlying truth that flows throughout the storyline and builds to a crescendo. Such movies create an unexplainable pulling inside the viewer that cries out, ‘there’s more than what you can see, there’s a deeper truth here’.
Though it is not a movie, that is what I sense when I read the book of Job in the Old Testament. If the story were just, ‘Job got tested, lost everything and got back more than he had before,’ then I’d say, “No thanks, I’d rather keep what I have and skip all the trauma.”
But there is something deeper going on under all of Job’s trials and tribulations. This deeper something going on in Job’s story can be a powerful resource for all of us as we continue through Covid’s waning days and experience life’s other challenges.
In the book’s very first verse we learn that Job “was a blameless and upright man who feared God and avoided evil.” Job was a good man, an exemplary man, and if anyone should be spared calamity, it should be this man. I used to expect that because I was doing the right things, because I dedicated my life to God and desired to follow Him, that my life path would be smooth—at least somewhat. But my life experience has managed to eradicate that thought from my mind. Job reminds us that God doesn’t guarantee an easy life to anyone, not even his friends. God’s only guarantee is that he will walk with us in the struggle!
Job loses everything, and I mean everything. By the end, he contracts a skin disease that makes leprosy look like eczema. And all the while, he refuses to curse God. Keep in mind, Job doesn’t have the Bible to fall back on. All he has are stories passed down through generations about who God was and how God operated. At some point, he made a choice–the same choice each of us must make: Will we follow what we cannot see to gain what we cannot deny?
After enduring tremendous agony and loss, Job wishes he had never been born. This was no flippant teenage tantrum following a lovers-quarrel and break-up. Job had been pushed beyond any reasonable breaking point. All his wealth was gone, all his livestock, his land, buildings, servants, and most tragic of all, his children were all dead. And rubbing salt in the wound, his skin disease was like a constant drum beat reminding him of his losses.
It is at this point, in Chapter 38, that God finally corrects Job. You might expect this would be a good time for God the comforter to wrap His arms around him, or God the warrior king to come kick the enemy to the curb. But instead, God speaks in correction. It may be hard for us to grasp it, but Job needed that particular response from God more than he needed any other response.
How can I say this with confidence? Because God always knows what we need. God gives us what leads to growth, to wholeness, and to salvation—if we let it. Our part is to decide if we trust that what God is doing is for our own good.
The beautiful, underlying truth that has been flowing underneath Job’s story line finally surfaces at the start of Chapter 42 where Job confesses, “By hearsay I had heard of you, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes.”
In this single verse we find the crux of Job’s journey. That sense that there was more than we could see, a deeper truth we could sense but not name, has now become apparent.
Up till this point, Job has heard about God from others. His knowledge of God has been “hear say.” But the devastation he has walked through has become a path that allows him to see the one and true God directly, with his own eyes.
If God wanted to meet you face to face, if He wanted to be closer to you than you could imagine, what would you be willing to endure for that to happen? Can you choose to see these last two years as a sacrifice of worship to God? Can you look at all the trials in your life, all the losses and hardships, and discern God’s mysterious will working through them?
Take a moment now and offer your trials to Him as worship, and then rest in the peace that comes rushing in!
Stephen Santos is an author, songwriter, worship leader and speaker. He lives with his family in South Carolina, USA.
I was driving home when I noticed two street signs that seemed incongruous. The train station and shop signs were pointing in the wrong directions; the exact opposite ones, to be precise. If I were a tourist, a traveler who is not familiar with the suburb, I would have followed the sign and got lost. I guess somebody had moved the street signs as a prank or even as an intentional deception. In our walk with the Lord too, we need to know who is navigating us—God, ourselves, others, or the evil one. If we are not aware of our surroundings, we can easily get lost or misled. This Lent, whose voice will we listen to? Judas…the crowd…Pilate…or Jesus…?
To be good at anything, we have to put time, effort, and practice into it. The same applies to our preparation for eternity. How well are we going to do at the end of year exams if we have put little or no time towards studying during the year? Similarly, how well will we stand up on judgment day when we are held accountable for our lives? In our preparation period on earth for eternity, how much of our life was spent in prayer, good works, and sacrifice? Our Lord paid the ultimate price for our salvation, but we have to play our part. As He has graciously allowed us to be part of that sacrifice, let us not waste this valuable opportunity. He, through Calvary, has given us a chance to be part of His redemption, to be part of His sanctity, consequently allowing mere humans to be called into sainthood. What a privilege! As my mother would always remind us, children, this life of ours on earth, short or long, is but a preparation period, the springboard to eternity. How we fare in the structure of eternal life will be determined not only by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but by every thought, word, and deed we perpetrated during the time we spent on earth.
If your sacrifices are dragging you down and causing you to dread Lent—take heart. Our Lady at Fatima gave the children a prayer which offers compelling reasons to sacrifice. Her words may help dispel your Lenten dreads. The prayer begins: “O Jesus, it (this sacrifice I am making) is for love of You.” Why not borrow those words and make them your own? Telling Jesus you are doing this hard Lenten thing for love of Him may remind you why you are denying yourself in the first place: you are making room in your heart, so that you may love Him more. Further, the prayer helped the children offer their sacrifices for “the conversion of sinners.” You can do the same. When you make a Lenten sacrifice, offer it for a specific loved one who is living far from God. “O Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of......” Praying in Our Lady’s words will not lessen the difficulty of your sacrifices; but, because it sweetens them with love for Jesus and for lost souls, her words may truly help to dispel your Lenten dreads.
I am not one of those holy souls who look forward to Lent. However, I do have a few friends and family members who do. So, I try to take note of why that is the case. Just last week, my mom mentioned she was looking forward to Lent so she could invite her band, who are all senior citizens, to her parish fish fry. She said she’s really looking forward to it, since most of them aren’t Catholic but have mentioned that they like attending fish fries. After enjoying their traditional fish and chips, my mom is planning on reserving a room in the parish hall so the band can make music together after dinner. They call themselves the Silver Foxes and often visit nursing homes together to spread a little joy. My mom is a joyful evangelist, even at age 80! And she has unlocked the secret that Lent is for more than making penitential acts, but it is a time for growing the Kingdom of God by growing the Body of Christ.
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