With the dawn of a New Year approaching, there are so many feelings, expectations, plans, and resolutions in mind. For quite a few of you, it is the sincere desire that this year will be a year of recovery, reconciliation, and a new beginning. As we look back on this year or even our lives in general, I think we can all say that there are poignant moments in our lives that we will never forget. However, there are experiences in our lives that may have left a festering wound in our hearts and souls. For some of you, this has been the best year of your life! For others, it has been the most heart-breaking… and you are now wondering how to rise from the ashes.
If I look over the past year in my life and my surroundings, one resounding thing in life that keeps coming to mind is suffering and loss. This year has been filled with so much suffering personally in the lives of my cancer patients, my family, and local community, but also globally with war-torn nations, entire people groups displaced from their homes, and lives devastated by natural disasters. It all seems so hopeless, overwhelming, and heart-breaking when you think about it like this. With all of this in mind, we ask ourselves,
That answer goes back to the Garden of Eden when the fall of mankind occurred. Through disobedience ultimately, sin and death entered the world. Perfection became marred by literal thistles and thorns. From the onset of this brokenness, it has been passed down from generation to generation. It is literally ingrained into our DNA and our culture and it has manifested as disease, discrimination, and ultimately, devastation.
As believers, we know that suffering and loss are inevitabilities of life, but knowing something and really experiencing it are two very different things, my friends. Until you have walked across those fiery coals, you cannot comprehend it. Praise God who has given His holy Word as a great source of truth, guidance, and comfort to help us endure. One great source in particular that comes to mind is the book of Job.
He was a very godly man and considered “blessed” in regards to status, wealth, and possessions. Long story short, Satan asked God’s permission to test Job’s loyalty to God by breaking him in just about every way imaginable. In a single day, he lost all of his children in a freak accident, his employees by enemy hands, and all of his livestock, which was his main source of income and essentially his livelihood. Do you know how he responded?
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” | Job 1:21
I could not believe how Job responded. This man had lost just about everything and his initial response was worship? If I were in his shoes, I don’t know if I could do the same, to be honest. I cannot imagine losing a child, but Job lost all ten children in one fell swoop. He loved them so much that he offered daily offerings and intercessions on their behalf to God. The immense grief that surely overwhelmed him did not detract his hope or trust in God. This should be our response. We know that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and that His ways are so much higher than our ways. He is a loving and compassionate God. A great reference to this is Isaiah 55. I recommend reading the whole chapter, but I will focus on the latter half:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Isaiah 55: 8-13
He is the light during our darkness. Despite suffering and loss, we look to Him who is the Creator of life. His word will not return void and His promises are everlasting.