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The Lord Gives, the Lord Takes Away

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:20-22)

You may have read or heard about the recent storms and tornadoes that swept through areas of Arkansas. Below is a link to an article about families who experienced loss from those storms. Having a loose connection to the FamilyLife ministry, and because children were involved, we are especially touched by this tragedy.

The Lord Gives, the Lord Takes Away#.U2IiRIXy3zN

 

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Where’s the fire?

How many times have I intended to write a post, only to not find the determination to follow through?  I even started several of them, but could not seem to find the proper words to bring them to completion.  Being frustrated with my lack of passion to write, and wanting freedom from the duty to try to complete my earlier thoughts, I recently cleaned out my “draft” posts and decided to start afresh.  So here we go…

Spring is almost here.  It is the time of year when the earth brings forth new life and we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.  It is also the time of year when a dark cloud hangs over the anticipation of a particular date – April 18.  It will be almost three years since our beloved Isaac passed on into heaven.  Even after the long cold winter we experienced, it is still difficult to be fully excited about the change in season, at least until we pass that day.

So, how am I?  Well, I wish I had some fire lit under me to tackle my callings in this life (hence the title of this post).  Most days I feel as if I float through life.  The enthusiasm that I had the first and even second year after Isaac’s death, to turn around the experience to help others, has diminished somewhat.  I still want to share with and help others who are grieving after the death of a child, but it is not my driving force and passion.  Everyday life has returned to – well – everyday life.  I go to work, Brenda home schools the children, we gather together in the evening, and we wrap-up our day.  Then we do it all over again.  Were we supposed to return to this hum-drum routine?  Or, rather, should we not be serving our Lord joyfully through the “normalcy” of everyday life (and not considering it “hum-drum”)?  How long do we have to endure this life?

I think there are really only three things that keep me going these days:  God’s word; the unconditional love and support of my wife and children; and my relationships with close family, friends, and brethren in Christ.  The word of God has been my life support.  If there is one positive from this experience, it is that I have learned to cling to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, especially when the world offers other means of false comfort and peace.  I realize that there are things about God that I don’t understand, and I am trying to be OK with that (do I really have a choice?).  I wish I had answers to my big questions.  But if God didn’t give Job the answers to his big questions, then I should be content with the same.

Lately, some annoyances in my life have really been getting under my skin. I have been impatient with others and harbored bitterness over some perceived injustices.  I know the Lord calls me to forgive (up to 490 times right?), but doesn’t that only apply to my “brother” and doesn’t he/she have to apologize first?  You see how I rationalize my anger?  Oh yeah, I can be angry, as long as I don’t sin, right?   Anyway, I’m not liking that stinky attitude coming out of my heart.

I hope you don’t mind me just being honest about where I am spiritually.  We could really use your prayers.  I wish I could share some great spiritual insight and breakthrough with you, but it seems that I’m just wandering through the desert land.

On a lighter note, I did want to share a recent family “selfie” below.  Yes, we do have a new dog.  His name is Stride and he appears to be a collie/German shepherd mix.  He is a little over a year old.  We adopted him near the end of 2013.  We have been challenged to get used to Stride’s energy and personality, but things are improving and we are learning to accept each other.  Our previous family dog, Mikey, died suddenly in early October 2013 while we were away on vacation.  That was a very sad experience for us.  Also, our two cats that Brenda and I had from early in our relationship died within a short time frame.  So, the last half of 2013 was a little rough for us as the older generation of our pets all died within a short period.  For us, losing a pet is not nearly the same experience as losing a child, but it is sad and difficult.

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Well, I think I will actually close a post for now!  If a fire kindles underneath me, maybe I will write a little more often in the future (no promises though).

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Andy

 

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Not So Poor and Powerless…

Today we are re-blogging this post from Holy Ghost Bumps. We could relate to so much that Guy writes about and were greatly encouraged to be faithful to our Lord. May you be richly blessed as you read these words today.

Holy Ghost Bumps

Hand-to-HeavenA dear friend of mine shared this story with me recently, and I thought that I should share it with you here.  The story was in a totally different context than in the spiritual realm, but something he said opened the door for this post.  He said that I’m sure that you (meaning me) can find a way to relate this to the bible and your walk with Christ.  He was right.

He was raised in a poor household, in much the same way I was.  His father, though, gave him the tools that he needed to build a better life for himself.  They weren’t physical tools, mind you.  They were tools designed to help you persevere through life’s trials and difficulties.  Two of which were frugality and pride.  The frugality helped him to purchase his own lawnmower that he used to make money with as a young boy.  The…

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Charlie

Several nights ago I had a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare. (To be discrete, I am going to leave out certain details.)

In my dream, there was a boy named Charlie. He was known to be playfully mischievous and sometimes people didn’t appreciate his antics (I’m not sure why this characteristic was present, but it was). There was something unique that we knew about Charlie. We all knew how he was going to die.

As events began to unfold in my dream, we realized that the time had arrived for Charlie to die. We ran around and earnestly tried to prevent the foreseen accident from happening. However, we were always blocked in some manner from being able to reach Charlie. As we struggled to free ourselves, we knew what was happening to Charlie in an unseen location. Finally, we were freed from whatever “force” or circumstance was preventing us from reaching him. We found Charlie and frantically tried to save him as he took his last breath. However, he was already gone.

I instantly awoke from my dream. I was sweating. As I gathered my senses, that still small voice spoke to me: “You were powerless to prevent Charlie from dying. It was his appointed time.” Then, the voice repeated itself: “Don’t you see? Just like you were powerless to prevent Charlie from dying, you were also powerless to prevent Isaac from dying. It was his appointed time.”

I wrestled with my thoughts. The image of Charlie and the image of Isaac kept overlapping in my mind. The circumstances of their deaths were eerily similar. I asked “Is that really you Lord, speaking to me reassuringly?” I am hesitant to assign meaning to every dream, but this one seems to be quite pertinent. My spirit has been unsettled, and yet I feel as though I have been taught a valuable lesson.  God has determined the number of our days. “Lord, help me not to doubt that you would even teach me through this dream.”

Regarding God’s appointed time for man, the Bible says:

Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; (Job 14:5)

In humility,

Andy

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Through

Our daughter Isabella has a sore in her mouth that bothers her whenever she eats certain foods.  We told her that in order to help heal the wound she could brush her teeth with the baking powder and salt tooth paste that we use.  The salt would help to heal the wound.  She replied that it would really hurt, to which we answered that sometimes to cleanse and heal we have to experience pain.

The other day while driving to work, I was listening to another Gaither Vocal Band CD.  The song “Through” came up and I immersed myself in the lyrics.  The lyrics in the middle section of the song really stood out to me:

Without fire there’s no refining, without pain no relief

Without flood there’s no rescue, without testing no belief

(Note:  The full lyrics and be found here.)

How often do I want to avoid pain?  Yet, the very thing that hurts is designed to improve us, if we allow it to.  For example, if you want to build muscle tone, you must provide resistance against those muscles, which produces physical pain.  If you want to overcome your temper, sometimes when you are most angry you have to call on the Holy Spirit for patience, peace and self-control; the battle to overcome our flesh thus producing pain in our heart (it is easier in the short-term just to give in to our flesh).  While I would not wish to go through this trial by my own choosing, this journey through grief is meant to produce in us fruits of godliness, if we allow Him to work in and mold us.  But, we must go through the pain and not avoid it.  If we try to run away from it, the pain will instead produce bad fruit (for example bitterness).

The following Scripture verses come to mind related to experiencing pain, suffering and trials:

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10, emphasis mine)

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts. (Pro 17:3)

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1Pe 1:7)

And he [Jesus] was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:41-44, [clarification mine], emphasis mine)

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Heb 5:8)

Do you have any special verses that have encouraged you as you went or are going through pain, suffering or trials?  Please share them below so that we can encourage each other.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Mad At ?

It seems that anger is a common and powerful emotion experienced during the grieving process. I testify that anger has been present in my heart during this grieving process, as chronicled during an earlier post titled “Walking It Out.”  That post was written on May 13, 2011, and almost eight months later anger is still an ever-present emotion during this journey.  Anger has quenched our fire and resulted in us being spiritually lethargic and unwilling to fight our daily battles.  Most days we just want to quit.

Most of the recent daily emails sent to us from GriefShare have been dealing with the subject of anger.  One of those email messages suggested that we write a letter to someone who we are angry at.  The problem is that I haven’t been certain with whom I am angry.  I can tell you who I vent my anger towards, but that does not mean they are the root cause of my anger.  As I’ve wrestled, struggled, vented and thrown my hands up in frustration, I can only look upwards toward Heaven.  Then, I think I see clearly at Whom I am angry.  So, I write this letter on behalf of Brenda and me with fear and trepidation…

Dear God,

We believe that we are and have been angry with You for a while.  We don’t understand why You allowed this to happen.  We believe that Your Word evidences that You are sovereign and in control of Your creation.  For example, You allowed Satan to touch Job, Job’s family and his possessions, but You placed limits on the harm that Satan could cause.  We don’t believe that You manipulate us like puppets but we do believe that You know the beginning from the end and nothing is a surprise to You.  Well, Isaac dying suddenly and accidentally sure was a surprise to us.  We’ve doubted Your wisdom and goodness in this.  We were just really getting started with his spiritual training.  He was maturing in his boyhood and wanting to break free on some adventure that he held in his heart (wow, as I write this I’m beginning to see).  Did you place that adventure in his heart?  Was it an adventure that only You could provide him with?

We’ve felt cursed since Isaac died.  We’ve wondered if we did something wrong to deserve it.  We know that we are sinners saved by grace.  But we can’t think of anything that we did intentionally that You needed to do this to get our attention.  Then again, we are thinking like humans, aren’t we?  We don’t deserve any of the blessings that you give us, even the blessing of having Isaac here for over ten years.

So, can we be assured that Your little boy who You loaned to us is now in Heaven?  He believed in Your Son, and he was only ten years old.  We don’t know that we can be absolutely certain, since we don’t see him now.  But, we are very confident in Your mercy, faithfulness and Word.  There are varying opinions of man on where children go when they die, age or state of accountability, etc.  Your Word gives us some evidence, if we understand it correctly.  We are also thankful for the occasional personal reassurances that we believe You provide to us.

We guess we are just searching for the reason why Isaac left this earth so soon.  We want to believe that there is a greater purpose and to see some fruit grow and ripen as a result (which we believe that we have).  We thank You for the encouraging words that others have shared with us.  Thank you for providing us with unexpected sources of encouragement just when we seem to be at a low point.  Please let Your Holy Spirit give us the strength to hold fast to You.

Well, that didn’t turn into the all-out venting session that I thought it would.  Whenever I want to shake my fist at God, I am reminded that He is Almighty God and that He owes me nothing.  Yet, He is love, merciful, gracious and slow to anger.  I am very thankful for that.

~Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Handling Grief – Praise

“Praise You in This Storm”

I was listening to this song the other day (yes, I like songs by Casting Crowns) and was meditating on the lyrics, especially the chorus. I thought how easy it is to sing these words and mean it from my heart, but then how hard it is put them into practice. I can think and declare that I will praise God in the storms of life, but what happens when a very real and severe one comes? What happens when our faith is stripped to its core, when our understanding of God is challenged? Do we still trust Him? Do we still believe that He is good? Can we digest every word in His book, both His words of grace and of judgment, and allow those words to penetrate and examine our own hearts and reveal what is truly inside of us? Can we discern the truth from the lies that even well-meaning Christians speak or write? Can we trust that the writer of a book or the preacher on the radio, television, CD or MP3 is really communicating a word from God? Are we willing to take in not just what will tickle your ears but will challenge us? When we can’t feel God’s presence and enjoy Him do we still believe that He even exists and loves us? Does He still have a plan for our lives? We wrestle with these questions.

When everything is stripped away and we are left with nothing to offer to God and wondering where He is, but choose to still believe in, love and trust Him, that is worship. We can praise Him for His goodness and mercy even though we may not understand or see. When we choose to praise God for who He is, we take our focus off of our own heartache and allow the God of the universe to show little us more of who He truly is. I am amazed at His love towards us. So, for today, I will praise Him in our storm.

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:20-21)

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him… (Job 13:15a)

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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