When Mourning and Worship Collide

skyI still remember how casually my mom mentioned it. She had found a lump in her neck. “It’s nothing,” she kept saying. I left work to take her to the doctor’s office. When she opened the passenger door to my car, I was sobbing while simultaneously scooping fast food wrappers and junk mail out of the seat so she could sit down. If anyone ever judged me by the state of my car or my purse, I would be in serious trouble.

We left that doctor’s appointment thinking that she probably had some sort of infection. We were feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Then, the call came. You know the one. The infection turned out to be lymphoma. With every call or appointment after that, the news got worse. It was stage IV. Then, it was two different kinds of cancer. A kidney would need to be removed. They would have to use the Red Devil – the strongest chemo drug they had at their disposal. We could not even catch our breath between blows.

So it was for Job. We are not told exactly what he was doing when the first messenger arrived. This is probably because there was nothing noteworthy to share. It was just another day. Then, word comes that his oxen and his donkeys have been taken and some servants have been killed. While that messenger is still speaking, another messenger shows up. Fire from heaven has killed all of his sheep and more servants. Before Job can take all of that in, another messenger comes on the scene. The camels are gone and more servants are dead. Then, the final and devastating blow comes. A great wind has struck the home where his children were gathered. The building collapsed and they are all dead.

There are seasons when things just seem to go from bad to worse. You feel like you lost a fight that you did not even know you were fighting. In those moments, when you are paralyzed by the pain, what do you do? What did Job do?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. – Job 1:20

He tore his robe and he shaved his head – both were symbols for great mourning in his day. There is no shame in grief. It is not an indication of a weak faith. Whether it is a broken relationship, a financial devastation or a death – it is okay to mourn our losses. We do not have to pretend like all is well with our circumstances.

After tearing his robes and shaving his head, Scripture tells us that Job “fell to the ground and worshiped.” Job did not simply kneel on the ground. He did not sit crisscross applesauce on the floor like a child during story time. Job collapsed under the weight of grief. He fell to the ground as if struck. Sobs stole his breath, his tears watered the dust beneath his feet and he was unable to do anything except fall. Well, anything except fall and worship.

I was at a banquet for work when my dad called to tell me that my mother’s infection was, in fact, an advanced stage of cancer. I remember excusing myself and finding an empty room. I collapsed into a chair and cried. It was the big, ugly cry. I’m sure you know the one. All alone in that room, in between sobs, I just kept saying, “You are still God. You are still God. You. are. still. God.” That is what Job was doing when he fell to the group and worshiped. He was reminding himself that God was still God. It is vital, in the midst of our pain, that we continue to speak truth to ourselves because Satan will be quick to whisper lies. The enemy will try to tell us that God has changed – that he is no longer good or trustworthy. We must arm ourselves with the truth of the God who changes not.

Whatever you are facing today, my friend, be reminded that God is still God.

Lessons from Job

I have been dancing around the Scriptures this week. Jumping from Romans to Psalms to Galatians. Searching. Just searching for some word from God. Some explanation for what has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks.

One day I’m having a mountain-top experience. I was praising God for what I thought was about to be the blessing of all blessings. Then…I didn’t just come down from the mountain. I missed a step, tumbled head first down the mountain and landed in a crumpled heap at the bottom. It hurt. Still does.

And I don’t understand. In my human, not all-knowing mind it seems that the prize was dangled before me only to be taken away as I reached for it. And, to be honest, I was quite frustrated with God. I wanted to know ‘why’. I felt wounded by the One who was supposed to care for me…it reminded me of another time when I felt like God had let me down.

June 28, 2006. It’s funny how dates just stick in our memories. Good ones. Bad ones. Months can go by without a certain event coming to memory, but you see the date on the calendar and it’s like it happened yesterday. That is how June 28th is for me. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I was pregnant with a second baby. It had taken us almost a year to get pregnant with this one and I knew it was going to be a girl. Obviously, at nine weeks, I didn’t yet know, but felt that it was and had already named her…Lillian Grace. That morning, I dropped Emily off at school and suddenly knew something was very wrong. Cramping. Bleeding. I went straight to my doctor and, by the time I got there, I was no longer pregnant. That’s what they told me. “I’m sorry. You’re no longer pregnant.” Talk about falling off of the mountain and landing on your face.

It’s so hard to understand…the difference between God not causing an event, but not stopping it either or God having the ability to answer a specific request, yet choosing not to do so. It would be so easy to become bitter and angry. But God and I…we have history. When you’ve been together as long as we have…you know each other well. He knows that, though I am hurt and frustrated at the moment, I will come around to what I know to be true of Him. I know Him well enough to know that, even though something bad has happened, He is still good. He can handle my emotions. I can handle not having all of the answers.

“…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. In all of this, Job did not sin or accuse God of wrongdoing.” Job 1:21-22

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15

God and Job…they had history. God knew that his servant would never walk away from His God. Job knew that, though he did not understand the circumstances, His God was good.

I pray that will always be my response to the Lord in times of hurt, disappointment or even devastation. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.