There is Promise in Pain (Week One)

Week one study overview: Today, we will discuss the uncertainty surrounding what we know about Job, and then jump into chapter 1.

Key Point of Struggle: How can a just God allow such unjust circumstances?

Key Proof of Comfort: Romans: 8:18

Have you ever felt like Job? After my stepfather died, suddenly at the age of fifty-eight, I remember having a day where the anxiety from grief was so tortuous I thought I might jump out of my skin. I laced up my tennis shoes, walked out my front door, and took off running. I’m not a runner, so you can only imagine the burn in my lungs mixed with persistent urges to vomit along the way. Grief attached to my soul like super glue and was relentless in the fight of letting go.  I felt a little like Job that day.

Believe it or not, there is a benefit to experiencing grief. It has potential to drive us straight into the arms of Jesus. Through my own experience with grief, I’ve learned that God is for me. As a result, nothing else has a chance against me. I make my residence on victorious ground. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a battle taking place, but it does mean the cross already declared victory. Nothing has the power to steal it from me. And nothing has the power to steal it from you, either.

Job’s struggles were very different from ours. As much as I’ve felt like him at times, and I’m sure you have, too, there is no comparison. Jesus has always existed, but in Job’s time period in history, our Savior hadn’t yet come wearing flesh into the world. The resurrection and ascension hadn’t happened yet. Our Father God is a good Father, a merciful and loving God, so I have no doubt Job knew what it was to be in relationship with his Father. We see that in the text. However, I also know hope doesn’t hold the same definition when the cross is absent. Because of this, Job had it much, much tougher than us.

From the get-go, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty swirling around this man named Job. There is no genealogy at the beginning of his book and the brief mentions found in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and even James do not give us much insight as to the stock from which he came.  Scholars argue over the true meaning of his name, and there is no conclusive evidence as to where his homeland of Uz was located. In addition to all that, we have no real, sufficient answers as to who wrote the book bearing his name. Job is a bit of a mystery.

Spiritual knowledge tells us the Holy Spirit inspired someone, and that someone wrote a story full of lessons that would teach generation-after-generation to have mighty faith in a God who holds everything together. Job lived through trauma like none other only to come out whole on the other side.

It appears to me that the author, whoever he was, grappled with the idea of a just God allowing unjust circumstances. He couldn’t understand how a man, who was faithful to make atonement not only for his sin, but the sin of his ten children, would have to endure such hardship. And, friend, don’t we all wrestle through seasons with that very same question in mind? Sometimes it seems as if God just stands there and watches us suffer. We beg for intervention only to receive the loudest silence we’ve ever heard. In the weeks ahead we will learn all about suffering, silence, friendship, faith, trust, and hope. We will examine the words God spoke to Job, and hopefully, through His word, we will hear Him speak to us.

Let’s get started.

In the beginning of chapter one, we learn Job was an upright man. The text actually says he was blameless, feared God, and shunned evil. The writer goes on to tell us he had ten children and a very large household including much wealth. But then something peculiar happens in the story; it shifts to the throne of God and those who were present there.

The Bible says the “sons of God”, who were angelic beings, were gathered. The interesting part is that among those godly beings, evil lurked. Satan stood in the midst.

We are going to investigate this section of scripture and when we do you’ll see that God asks Satan a question. This is intriguing to me, because God knows all things, which means He already knows the answers before He asks the questions, but He still asks. And that particular characteristic of God doesn’t just show up in the book of Job, we see it all through the Bible. Let’s take a closer look at this conversation.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

-Job 1:6-12

It’s almost as if Satan is taunting God, and God responds with certainty knowing that above all else Job will be faithful. God was proud of the humble and upright man Job was.

This is very difficult to understand because if the Bible says God is for us, then why would He allow a righteous Job to endure such suffering? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this: “My Servant” is a title of honor. I believe God wanted the opportunity to brag on Job’s character, letting the enemy know that not everyone falls for his schemes. James the half-brother of Jesus has this to say:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

-James 1:12

The truth is we live in a sin-soaked world, and because of Adam and Eve’s first bites in the garden we will endure affliction. Not because we did anything wrong, but because evil lurks. Whether we realize it or not, we are at war with that same evil every day. The big difference between Job’s life and our lives is that our hope comes from a place of grace. The shed blood of our Savior flows down in the form of grace giving new life and hope to grief-filled places.

In all this, we must recognize that God is God. He gives and He takes, but it’s never for nothing. He doesn’t just stand by and watch us suffer. We will find proof of this as we deepen our study of Job.

I know this is a tough section of verse to comprehend. Because of that, we are going to stop here for today. If you are a subscriber, you know I’m taking what we are learning each week and expanding it in something we call “Word for Your Weekend.” If you want access to this, consider subscribing to the blog. This Friday, I’m going to tell a story about a time in my life where I had to tell myself day-after-day that God was bragging on me. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would have made it.

  • As a faith building exercise, please read Romans 8:18 and write it in your journal. Consider committing it to memory as a reminder that whatever it is you are enduring isn’t for nothing. it’s never for nothing, friend! Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:18 helps focus our eyes on the future He has for us.
  • Please finish reading Job chapter 1. Next time we will step into his world and watch what happens as his suffering begins to unfold.

 

Love,

Jennifer

Sunday is Here to Stay!

Sunday is Here to Stay!

I often wonder what it would have been like to occupy earth with Jesus before the cross. Would I have followed Him or turned away? In my mind, when I place myself in the multitude, I’m no more than a woman intrigued by a man who looks familiar, yet different. In the middle of my wondering, healthy fear begins to rise because of the uncertainty of who I would have been. I’m overtaken by what ifs…

What if I was overly sensitive or easily offended? What if my very existence defined the word skeptic? What if I didn’t like what I heard, turned around and walked away? What if I never looked back?

Once again, in my mind, I see Him there in the midst of the multitude. He’s preaching and teaching, giving away everything for every soul. I’m still there hanging onto every word while peeking behind a tree, hoping not to make eye contact, because what if He decides to speak directly to me, and what if I don’t want to accept His truth? The next thing I know, my wondering walks me straight into Peter’s shoes. What if three steps on water turned into a three time betrayal of everything holy? Here’s the question: if I were there, one of them, would I have believed?

After the resurrection, there was evidence of an empty tomb and full hearts. To this day it remains. However, we are living in a world wanting to omit what we should amen. Truth can’t be changed and yet we’ve practically made an Olympic sport out of trying.

Today is the Saturday before Easter. Two thousand years ago on this day there was a heaviness of grief that tried to choke out life and hinder hope. But little did those believing souls know what would happen only one day later. Throughout the in between time, inside the solitude of a lonely Saturday, there was a baptism happening. The heavy tears of grief baptized every heart of those who would forever stand for the peasant king, once dead yet coming alive, in preparation of purpose, second chances, and the hope of living holy.

I want to believe that had I been there, I would have given my heart while standing in the multitude, and I would have followed Him to the cross, been dumbfounded by an empty tomb, and baptized by grief in waters of tears so deep that I would have used every last breath in my mortal body to share about the immortal Savior.

Dear friend, Sunday isn’t only coming, it’s here to stay. There will be no more darkness because Light has resurrected. May you amen the hard words in His book so the sweet ones can be sweeter. May you live and love and find freedom in the midst of a world who wants to live for themselves rather than for a God they cannot see. May you know that when deep grief wants to settle inside your bones, you can be baptized by your tears because your Savior lives and breathes. He’s working for you, and He will never stop working for you. But make no mistake, He already won, which means you’ve already won, because Sunday is here to stay.

 

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

Do NOT Lose Heart

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.-2 Corinthians 4_16

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

-2 Corinthians 4:16

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.” The apostle Paul was a very matter-of-fact kind of guy and when it came to faith in Christ, there was no arguing anything the Holy Spirit guided Him to write. “We do not lose heart.” Translation: there’s no other option but to march full steam ahead in faith.

In the middle of life’s upheaval, that command isn’t easy to follow. This is why so much of our faith in Christ must be rooted in discipline. After all, the word disciple comes from the word discipline. We must discipline ourselves to follow Christ. So, how do we not lose heart? How is it possible to live victorious in the middle of trials and tribulations? It’s a faith journey, friend, and we are all on one.

Faith comes by hearing the word of God. (See Romans 10:17) Hearing, and hearing, and hearing some more! Over and over again we must discipline ourselves in the word of God that we might gain faith by connecting to His message on the pages. (As a side note, I believe in reading the Bible out loud whenever possible. It helps!)

Whatever it is you’re facing today, it’s part of your faith journey and the story of that journey is being written each day as you take steps in confidence that God is big enough, strong enough, and capable enough. He is enough.

Listen, I know it seems ridiculous that my answer to your trouble would be to hear the word  of God and actively pursue a faith journey. But I have no regrets in saying it. As absurd as it sounds, we have no other choice. There is no other road or way that will lead us to peace. There is no other form of healing or help. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

I love the way it’s phrased in the King James Bible:

My Help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

-Psalm 121:2

There’s no doubt about it, right? My help cometh! It’s coming!

Think about this: What if we all allowed our tragedy to fuel our trajectory, leading us to deeper faith and complete peace regardless of the circumstances?

Therefore, we do NOT lose heart.

Love,

Jennifer

When Compassion Hurts…

When Compassion Hurts...

Lately, I’ve been asking God for deeper insight, greater strength, and the ability to show compassion on a level I haven’t yet experienced. I want my faith to be fresh, not dusty or full of what’s expected and natural. I want the unexpected supernatural.

Hope and life seem to develop from ashes. Our greatest strength is stirred inside deep waters of weakness. This is how we know grace truly lives and covers all.

Not long ago, I learned that compassion is a strong emotion requiring action. That means you have no choice but to do something. When compassion takes over, there’s no more sitting idle. You do what you have to do regardless of whether you’re sure of the outcome or not. In scripture, when Jesus feels compassion He’s moved to action. He heals, He prays, He does whatever is required of Him.

Based on the scriptural view of compassion, I can honestly say it’s a foreign emotion for many of us. We often experience sadness based on our own experiences, or from pain others are suffering, and we can all identify with what anger feels like. But can you pinpoint the last time you were moved to act righteously based on the feeling of compassion? I have to wonder how often we allow our deep waters of weakness to be stirred by this seemingly foreign emotion? And, how often does strength prevail because of it?

I recently felt compassion.

Based on my own experience, the action forced from compassion did not feel good. I didn’t feel rewarded after doing the right thing; I had no resolve or letting go of pain. If anything, I felt deeper pain. However, I want to please God, and I have deep faith that what we do solely for Him will add strength and peace to each new day. The words in 1 Samuel 15:22 come to mind, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” (Before the cross, sacrificing animals was the atonement for sin, however, if one obeyed in the first place, there was no need for the sacrifice because there was no sin for which to atone.)

He’s a good God full of righteousness, peace, and plans for each life. I don’t know why He allows us to pour love into certain people only to end up hurt. I don’t know why some suffer so deeply that they lash out and turn from those who have loved them. I have know idea why compassion sometimes hurts us to the core. I only know I must fight for obedience to live alongside pain. I must allow both obedience and pain to walk hand-in-hand so that when something hurts, God can work. Pain doesn’t have to fester and bring forth bitterness; it can work with obedience to bring forth beauty. It’s a choice, friend.

When it comes to compassion, He requires different actions from different people. It depends on the situation. Mine is obviously close to the heart and comes from a fractured relationship. It’s a heart matter and we all know matters of the heart hurt most. I don’t know what’s going on inside your life or what might be cutting at your heart. I’m not sure what action God will require of you once you feel the strong emotion of compassion,  but let me encourage you with this: compassion is a wonderful, productive emotion. Don’t run scared of it. When you feel it, you will have no other choice but to move. It means you’ve chosen obedience. It is possible for obedience and pain to coexist in a healthy manner. And when they do, grace flows down.

I wish every situation/relationship wrapped up perfectly with a storybook ending. I wish unity was a priority for everyone. And, Dear God, I wish people made better decisions, including me. But here’s the thing: After all the tears are shed, when we allow pain and obedience to work together, we have a redeemed ending. We were made for holy redemption by which the covering of grace pours so thick the will of God takes over and breathes life. We must believe that in the hardest most hurtful moments, God is moving with compassion on us, and so we must move with compassion for others.

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing…

-1 Peter 3:8-9

Love,

Jennifer

I Didn’t Know What to Say…

I Didnt Know What to Say._

For two weeks I contemplated a Mother’s Day post. I desperately wanted to write something encouraging mothers to continue seeking Christ for their children. I needed to convey they can climb mountains steeper than the steepest on record. I think I felt stirred to say this because there’s a lot of writers out there trying to pound the following thought in our heads: We can do hard things. Yes, of course we can, but in all honesty, we don’t really have a choice, do we? We are often forced to face challenges we never thought possible. When I was newly married, I remember hearing sad stories about events that rocked the worlds of other people, but I never thought that level of suffering would ever touch my life. Until it did…

Paul and I have been through some tough stuff and we live to tell the story. That’s how I know there’s a God, by the way. There’s no way to endure the kind of grief capable of hollowing out the entire heart without Jesus. No one can change my mind. Jesus saves and He’s skilled at healing the hardest of hurts.

The reason Mother’s Day posts are always difficult for me to write is because when I was practically a baby myself, my husband and I welcomed our first baby, a healthy son. After that, we endured five miscarriages and stillborn baby girl. Obviously, my heart is bent towards women who suffer miscarriage and stillbirth. It’s not only the death of a baby, it’s the death of dreams and hopes for the future. It’s hard. However, Mother’s Day travels a course that covers quite a massive expanse of the heart. I have to be honest and say that even though I know what it is to suffer loss, and years of secondary infertility in between, because of the word secondary, I don’t fit in the traditional category of infertility. There are lots of women out there waiting to become a mother for the first time, and even though I know more than I like about loss, I really don’t understand their pain.

Many of you who read my blog are Jesus loving women who serve tirelessly, love wholly, and give more than you have to help others. Yeah, God sees it.  And because I know we’re on the front lines of ministry together, let me pass on something I’ve learned throughout the years… One of the first lessons we all need to comprehend as we begin ministering out of past grief is that it’s okay not to understand someone else’s pain.  And, guess what? it’s even more important to admit it. That’s when the real ministry begins.  Pretending we can identify won’t get us anywhere. Some of the wisest words to ever leave our lips are, “I don’t know; I don’t understand.”

Some of the wisest words to ever leave our lips are, “I don’t know; I don’t understand.” (Tweet that.)

Here’s the good news: God does know; He does understand.

The Bible tells us God is love. He actually is love. Crazy, right? And because God is love and we love Him, that means our willingness and obedience to minister to hurting hearts is enough for His love to bridge the gap between what we don’t understand and what someone else is living through.

For many, Mother’s Day isn’t all brunch and beautiful sentiments. Instead, it’s sorrow and suffering. Friend, if that’s you, then I’m sorry and if your pain comes from a place I cannot identify with, then I want to tell you this: I don’t know and I don’t understand, but God does and He wants to heal you. And if you’re wondering how and when? Again, I don’t know. But you have to believe. You have to. Really.

I don’t know if sharing this might help or not, but the other day I was talking with my oldest son, who is now twenty-three, and all I could think about during our conversation is that He’s my unsung miracle. We tout the twins as our miracles because of the fifteen years of pain that produced the story of their lives, but my oldest son lived in a womb that ended up to be anything but a safe place. After he was born, the babies conceived there didn’t stand a chance. My body rejected them. My oldest son is a true miracle.

What does this have to do with you? Well, regardless of the specifics of your battle and the emptiness you might be facing, I believe there is a miracle living and breathing around you that you don’t even recognize as such. We are often so focused on what we need that we forget to give thanks for what we have and would never want to live without.

Every care we have is being cared for by our Creator. Let us give thanks.

Yes, we can do hard things; we can climb the steepest mountains, but only because He gives us the strength to do so. There’s no other choice. We cannot give up; we have to fight. And we will. So whether you’re enduing something hard or ministering to someone who is, it’s okay not to have the answers. It’s okay not to understand, because we serve the One who does.

And sometimes, it’s okay for an encourager not to have words for her readers on Mother’s Day. Some of you are hurting, and I didn’t know. I just didn’t know what to say…

I love you,

Jennifer

 

 

Teaching Our Daughters to Fight…

JenniferKostick.com(7)

Every single day I look her in the eyes. They are deep blue and filled with the wonder of what’s to come. I see something familiar inside them. She’s called to be bold and brave, stand on a platform and tell others they have worth. She’s only seven, but I already know her gifts, and I know deep down she does, too. As her mother, I worry she’ll lose the sparkle in her eyes emanating from her heart of joy. I’m worried she won’t know to guard that joy. Every heart runs the risk of allowing thieves inside.

The world in which we live is a crowded place. Everyone has something to say, do, and become. We reach for bigger, better, and more until we’re so caught up in our own dreams we don’t bother to look for one second into the deep blue of someone else’s.

When the person next to her becomes jealous of the qualities she was born to possess, the abilities she has to lead and do, I don’t want her repositioning herself to follow  just because that person is uncomfortable with her capability to lead. I want her to stand tall and strong for what she believes, shutting up the voices trying to steal joy. No one can steal our gifts. But our joy, well, it’s up for the taking when we forget why we own those gifts and what the Giver intends when entrusting us with them.

The question becomes, how do we teach our daughters to fight and still be kind? How do we say, “Be the leader you are!” and still expect humility? How do we keep them safe from joy robbers, some of which have no idea the damage they’re capable of doing in one’s life? How???

When my oldest son was a tiny infant, a woman at church said, “That baby is going to keep you on your knees.” It scared me so much that I never forgot her statement. I worried it was prophetic and maybe my son would have struggles. It didn’t mean what I thought it did. Those words only meant that a mother’s love draws her to pray for her children. A mother’s love is a powerful force, pulling her on already bruised knees in quiet desperation. We pray hope-filled pleas for healthy, peaceful, joy-filled lives full of love, while giving glory to the Savior.

All three of my children have gifts to offer. I know this because every last one of us are born with them. the Creator forgets no one. However, I tend to worry more about the protection of joy surrounding my daughter’s God-given qualities. I know she has a ministry, and even at age seven I see it simmering as Jesus prepares her heart for the future. Joy propels tiny bubbles waiting to overflow in kingdom work.

As a woman, I’ve had my gifts stepped on many times in life. In the middle of those experiences I usually forgot to defend joy. In fact, I still struggle to let it flow. Here’s the thing: permission is pivotal. Giving yourself permission to not only use your gifts, but to let joy propel them in the midst of the storm, is essential.

I believe we need to educate our daughters. We have a responsibility to communicate that no one can steal their gifts.  It’s only the absence of joy that hinders the flow of them. We have to give them permission to fight for joy so that one day they will give themselves permission. It’s not about flesh and blood, it’s about darkness and learning how to properly defend ourselves from it. We have to constantly remind them that It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it only matters what God says.

I’m in awe of childhood resilience. As adulthood occurs we’re usually not very pliable. Picking ourselves up isn’t as easy as it used to be. I liken it to my out of shape body after exercise. At the age of forty-three it’s much more difficult to recover than it was at twenty-three. It aches. Children roll with the punches. Adults… not so much. We tend to get stuck on the ground because sometimes getting back up hurts worse. But, when we educate our daughters and let them know it’s the getting back up that makes us better, and it’s okay to fight to do it, we can glorify God.

I’m a firm believer that when we commit our cause to Christ, He holds us up. He’s like the boxing coach in the corner of the ring giving instruction while taping up wounds. We love to think of Jesus as a sweet lamb rather than a roaring Lion, but I believe the Lion of the tribe of Judah wants us to stand our ground because He didn’t give those gifts for us to lose the fight. They are weapons in spiritual warfare! He intends us to live victoriously wrapped in His purpose! And, in case you don’t know, you have a mighty purpose!

It’s important we teach our children, and learn ourselves, that the gifts God gave us are ours for the keeping. Let’s learn to protect our joy. And, let us look to God to keep us humble in the process.

Who are we really fighting?

Remember the source of all enmity and stay the course with the name of Jesus on your hearts!

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12

Love,

Jennifer

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