Monday, January 13, 2014

The Road Map

About a year after Bryan died, I did a post reflecting on the grieving process, and I said that I'd be posting some more thoughts on that over the next week or two.  Week, months- it's all the same, right?

This might be a little overdue for me, but I hope that it comes at just the right moment for someone else.

One of the challenges that I had early on in the grieving process was feeling a little lost.  Grieving is by its nature a messy process, but I knew that the God who promised to give us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (1 Pet. 1:3) had to have something to say about how to grieve well.  There are people who allow circumstances to destroy them, to make them bitter, to give them an excuse for every other problem they fail to overcome.  There's no guarantee that suffering will create a stronger person.

So, where was the road map?  Where was God's divine example on how to grieve in a way that forms good character, a way that pushes us further in our journey to maturity?

Job.  The road map for grief is in the book of Job.

People talk a lot about Job.  We reference the "patience of Job" especially.  But there's a lot more to the story.  First, there's the why: Job had it all- family, home, health, possessions- and God allowed it to be taken away, just to test him.  Job didn't lose it all because of his sin; he lost it because God was letting everyone see that Job would still be the same man without all of it.

Then, there are the well-meaning friends.  Job's friends hurt for him.  They wanted to see him get over this thing and move on.  They all had answers.  Most of what they said was good, sound theology.  Much of it was beautiful.  ("Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects...For he bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.  He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you." 5:17-18)  And they were all wrong.  Their timing was off, and they didn't understand God's purpose any better than Job did.  Incidentally, Job wins the award for best sarcastic response in the Bible, when he disdainfully replies to his friends, "Surely you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!" (12:2)

Job even had trouble grieving with family members.  We tend to be a little hard on Job's wife, but, remember, she lost everything too.  And her response was very different than Job's.  She wanted him to let go of his integrity.  Surely their troubles warranted that.  They were suffering.  He was sick and in pain.  She spoke out of anger and bitterness and told him to "Curse God and die."  And in those four words we have an example of how to grieve poorly.  Perhaps Job's reply helped his grieving wife to gain the proper perspective and mindset: "Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?"  (2:9-10)  Everyone grieves differently, and many take out their anger on those closest to them.  It's tough, but families have to stick together during hard times.  At the end of the journey, no one wants to look around and find himself estranged from everyone he once held dear.

The most important part of any map, though, is the crossroad.  As long as the journey is heading on a straight path, the map isn't very necessary.  But, when faced with two options, we'd better know which road leads to our desired destination.

For most of the book, God lets Job go.  He complains, he protests his innocence, he asks why.  In a word, he mourns his loss.  But then comes chapter 38.  It's the crossroad.  God speaks, and Job has a decision to make.

"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 
'Who is this who darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?'"
Job 38:1-4

God says, "Enough."  And Job must decide.  Does he cling to his argument?  After all, God never said in His reply that Job deserved what he got.  He just talked about His omnipotence and Job's humanity.  Should Job just say, "But, LORD, You were wrong."  In other words, does Job take the path of pride and bitterness and anger?  Or does he choose the path of surrender?

Job, of course, chooses surrender:  "I raise my hand over my mouth."  But many of us fail to make that choice.  We continue on the path of bitterness and some even turn against the LORD in their anger.  I'll say it again: Suffering does not guarantee a stronger character.  What we allow suffering to do to us depends on the choice we make at the crossroads.  

When you reach the crossroad, choose surrender.  Choose hope.  

"Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning."
Job 42:12

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

"Mom, can we all stay up till midnight?  Please!"

Two of my guys didn't quite make it, but the rest of us toasted 2014 together at the stroke of 12!

Austin had prepared himself to stay up by taking a good nap.  I was still surprised that he made it, but he is a little bundle of energy, so maybe I shouldn't have been.

I love New Year's.  New beginnings, new goals- it's one of my favorite holidays.  There's something so exciting about a fresh start.  It doesn't even matter if this year's resolutions are just dusted off versions of last year's abandoned ones.  It's a new year- anything's possible!

New Year's also gives me some time to reflect on the last year.  And what a year 2013 was for our household! New house, new city, new church, new job, new school.  It's been a year of starting again and settling into our new lives.  As the kids and I talked about all that had changed, we all agreed that the changes have been good ones.  There are things that we miss, but we feel established and we're all happy.

I don't think I would have believed last New Year's that we'd be doing so well and have come so far in only 12 months.  The Lord has truly been good to us.  Trials don't last forever, and though the road is still steep, we're getting better at hiking it every day.

Happy New Year, everyone!  And may God's grace cover you as you walk through 2014.