Job 13:15 (NAS): 15 “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
I’ve just experienced the darkest days of my life. I have had difficult times before, but none like this. I have, for as far back as I can remember, believed deeply that no matter how hard life became, things would be alright. This was not mere optimism. It was conviction, and it had never been shaken, until now. These dark days were different both in intensity and in duration.
It began when doors that had long stood open began to close. It was not uncommon for the Lord to close doors, but when doors closed, others opened. But not this time. My prayers were not only going unanswered, but I was starting to sense a deliberate silence. I wasn’t being told, “no.” I was being ignored.
Ministry has always been hard for me, I had come to expect it. But now it was becoming unnecessarily difficult. I was used to the improbable and difficult circumstances somehow coming together for my good, but now unlikely things were coming apart, and the timing felt providential. Things were going wrong at just the right time to make things harder.
I could feel the stress beginning to affect my health. I began to have headaches. When I tried to sleep, I would have, what felt like, panic attacks. My heart would race and palpitate, as I thought about what would go wrong next. As the fear mounted and the distress set in, I developed and involuntary groan. It was as if I had been unconsciously holding my breath and had to audibly exhale. For some time they were my only prayers.
At one of the darkest moments the passage above came to mind. It did not come as encouragement, but as an answer for what I was going through. The passage resonated with me because it felt like the Lord had abandoned me. If the Lord were slaying me, then to whom could I turn for help? I was afraid that my experiences would prove my theology about the grace of God wrong by a preponderance of the evidence. I was afraid the sins of my youth had matured into the debt that was now due. And I knew the wages of sin.
For the record, Job was being slain, but not by the Lord. But it was real enough to him. Was the Lord slaying me? I can’t really be certain. Will the Lord slay with the expectation that we yet hope in Him? Absolutely. The question for me is not is He or is He not, it was real enough to me. The question is will I yet hope in Him. At the time, I didn’t have the answer. Now, the answer is an easy, yes, I will hope in Him. You see, little by little and day by day my circumstances started to change. The darkness began to lift and a new day dawned. I find myself in a better place now, but that’s not the reason the answer is easy. It’s easy now because the peace came first. Before anything changed, before any door opened, while still in the darkness, the peace of God came and guarded my heart and mind. Before He restored my fortunes, He restored my soul. It was by that incomprehensible peace that He promised. It kept me from stumbling in the darkness. And for that, I can say like Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
Be glorified, my Lord!
I recently have been meditating with II Corinthians. St Paul “been there/done that”! So, actually, Your post
is even more biblical than you let on.
I will say this, in a way of commiseration: My darkest season of life was 2007+. That year my mom died (no one will ever love you like your mama, and I lost her), I got divorced, even my step mom died, and I lost my job. Though I had a safety network (it was temporary), I was homeless. I did not wind up on the streets, but I bounced a few sofas for a while.
That pain and bewilderment lasted … well, I have not actually “got over it” even yet, but there is no doubt that things started looking up for me in 2009.
I recall a little book I found then in a used bookstore (I blogged about it AND gave it away a acouple of years ago) called The Psalms of Ascent by Erik Routely (I think that was his name, and I think it was Abingdon Press, and I think it might have been published in the 1960’s or 70’s).
At any rate, Routely did a truly unique thing (actually, my seminary training primed me to do this sort of thing too, but Routely’s application was rare and powerful). He went and analyzed the psalms of ascent as if we were pilgrims heading to the last Passover with Jesus as our friend and mentor as he went to Jerusalem one last time to die and to sing these songs WITH Him, and to begin to see what they meant TO HIM in that moment.
Routley describes how that for pilgrims walking UP the road to Jerusalem from Jericho, you must sing while climbing, climbing, climbing and you cannot see Jerusalem from that path until the last moment when you reach the summit. Destination unseen and held in faith as you climb and sing. And oh… the praises… “Our feet shall stand within Thy gates! O Jerusalem!!!” The praises of the “deadman walking” the “green mile” (to borrow from the movie). To be praise filled and joyous for that on THAT particular pilgrimage… to know what those words mean to him even when NO ONE ELSE has a clue!
Yeah, Routley’s little book helped me. Ironically. And I guess not because his words softened the burden. They didn’t even try. No. But the put me together there with Jesus… where we both had a very personal understanding of one another on that pilgrimage. Even when no one else did.
Thanx for this great post. Thanx for sharing your soul with me.
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Your post was such a blessing I’d like to reblog it, if that’s okay?
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Please feel free.
I post under a pseudonym mostly to keep from bragging about my own good deeds, but also to keep the subject matter more real. Less pride or shame back on me. It also means that anything I write this blog is totally a free give. Hope it blesses.
Conversely… if and when you feel the need to argue a point, to correct me, I don’t take it as a personal attack.
Hopefully the message just gets honed down and straightened out.
I cannot be correct about EVERYTHING I think and write.
So… yes… please… share and bless in whatever form that needs to take.
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X, I found the book on Amazon. I’m looking forward to reading it and to making that pilgrimage with Jesus. Thanks
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The just shall live by faith. Several times in scripture we read this line. As we go deeper in God, we realize that there is always a need we have that is greater than what we possess. Sometimes, the needs come through actions on our part (a desire for something better for our lives), other times, they come because the Lord is stretching us and so with each stretch comes a gap. As He stretches us, we are required to have faith that the stretching is not to separate us from Himself, but to make us not operate in feelings or the dependence on feelings that we have become familiar with. The stretching is to shape and mold us into His image. The stretching is to cause others to see Him on the inside of us even though we are being slain. I am thankful that you’ve chosen to trust Him. Like Peter, “Lord, where else can we go.”
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