What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. –Job 3:25-26
Have ever felt like you were in a spiritual rut? Do you ever get frustrated with your faith because it never becomes the positive life changing power you are told it is supposed to be? For many of us our faith just isn’t what we thought it would be. One of the reasons this might be, that somewhere along the way, we have picked up some ideas about what Christianity is that aren’t exactly true.
A few years ago I was asked to give the weekly chapel address at a Christian High School in New Jersey. They were having a series of speakers over the semester talk about “The Myths of Christianity.” The one they wanted me to talk about was “Once I’m a Christian I’ll always be happy.”
That made me laugh! And that was for two reasons:
First—my experience with faith personally and with Christians in general has been such that I really have no idea where this came from. I mean, how many of us have really been fooled by this, that being a Christian means that life is going to be one big happy party? I mean, come on! What I have been learning is that the opposite is true! A more believable myth would be “Now that I’m a Christian, my life is all about giving up my Happiness.” If Christians need to hear anything today, it’s that they need to be happier!
Second—despite everything I just said, there really are people who believe this—that being a Christian means you’ll always be happy. So what I’m going to share over the next few posts is talk a little bit about two things I have been learning:
- The story of Job is not the exception—it’s the rule.
Joy is not an option.
The story of Job is not the exception—it’s the rule. We often think of the story of Job as something God does only rarely, and only to people with extraordinary faith who could handle such things. Job as you may remember, was a righteous man who sought after God’s own heart. He had been blessed with great wealth. He was a man of incredible means. A man of great wisdom. A leader in his community. A family man, a husband and a father. God himself says that there was no one else like him on the face of the earth. And then, for no discernable reason, everything Job valued, everything Job had worked for, prayed for, and fought for—was gone. Just like that. The man of God to whom there was no equal on earth, is left sitting in a pile of coarse ashes scraping at himself with a dirty shard of broken pottery. I can see him in my mind choking out the words as he scrapes…
What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.
Let me tell you a secret. Job is not the exception—he’s the rule! God did not put this huge 40-chapter book right in the middle of the Bible so that the few of us who really struggle with the worst life can throw have a little word from God on how to deal. Job is not the exception—he’s the rule. My friends, without exception in the Bible, all of God’s people go through valleys of disappointments, pain, betrayals, suffering and loneliness…deep valleys. Abraham had to give up Isaac. Moses had to run for his life and be in the dessert 40 years. Joseph was beaten, betrayed and sold as a slave. David had to run for his life and hide in a cave. Jeremiah remained lonely his whole life. Jonah was thrown into the sea and swallowed alive by a giant fish. Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den; his friends were thrown in to the fiery furnace. Jesus needed to take on the wrath of His Father for the sins of the entire world. Job is not the exception—he’s the rule.
You will experience these things if you haven’t already. Your life will not be a bed of roses. Being a Christian will not make these things go away. Quite the opposite is true in fact. Yes the opposite is true. Are you a Christian? Would you excel at the Christian life? Do you strive to be more like Christ? Do you long for the joy and peace that comes from being an intimate friend of God’s? Then get ready—because if you think your problems are big now, just wait till you see what is coming next!
I remember at the beginning of my ministry praying that God would make me a “Joseph” in His House. I remember hearing God say back to me, “Are you willing to go through what Joseph did?” If you don’t know what he went through, read Genesis 37-40. I broke down and wept. I knew what God meant. The next 6 years were very hard. My wife and I had a lot of headaches, heartaches and disappointments. The low point for me was being at a retreat for pastors and finding myself curled up in a ball on the floor weeping. It was a true dark night of the soul.
That was five years ago. Thinking back over those painful years, I can see that God was driving the roots of His grace and love deep into my soul. Let me share three of those lessons with you. It was in those times that I really started learning that God is sovereign (there is a difference between knowing God is sovereign and learning that He is sovereign isn’t there!) and I need to trust and obey Him and allow Him full access to me no matter the circumstances because He loves me. It was in that time that I began learning that love = grace + truth; that loving means conducting ourselves in truth and responding in grace. It was out of that time that I began learning that leadership is personal and relational, not positional or hierarchical.
Those lessons I have been learning are priceless to me. They are at the core of my ministry today. Those lessons have not made any of my current problems go away, but they have made my current problems look a lot different. And I am glad for that.
Job is not the exception, he is the rule. Let that sink in. It is ok not to be happy all the time. If your life is upside-down, it does not mean God hates you, is punishing you, or is mad at you—Christ already took care of all that at the cross. He loves you completely. What is happening is growth.