There is Promise in Pain (Week Five)

Week Five Study Overview: Today, we will discuss chapter 3 focusing on what Job speaks after seven days of silence.

Key Point of Struggle:  Why does it seem we were born for nothing other than enduring trials?

Key Proof of Comfort: 2 Samuel 22:26-34

If we could time travel and watch Job during this period in his life, we would probably become miserable while waiting for him to speak. God knows our modern day addictions to status updates and Instagram stories would have us pacing in frustration. From what we know, he just stayed put for seven days without a word. Not. One. Word. Through the sound of silence we would witness him scrape boils, suffer fever, infection, and deep pain from head to toe. Could we even stomach it? Would we, like his friends, have thought: what did you do, Job? What curse have you put on yourself?

You see, it’s easy to condemn those three friends, but it frightens me to think it’s entirely possible I may have reacted the same way. We will deal with that subject matter in the coming weeks. For now, anticipation builds as we wait for this poor, suffering man’s words to formulate. As the overwhelming silence of seven days comes to a close we quickly learn that, unlike the end of chapter one, there was no falling in worship. In fact, Job seemed to put the focus more on himself than God. He cursed the day he was born.

  • If you’ve not read chapter three, now would be a good time.

As we read, we find that Job started questioning why in the world he was ever born. I’ve been through a lot in life; I’m suffering deep grief at this very moment. In all honesty, if I envision myself standing there with Job at this time, I’m in agreement shouting, “Yeah, God, why?” And Guess what else? My fists might even be raised.

When my son was a teenager he was going through a difficult circumstance. In the middle of it he lied to me about something. I was irate. I found myself so angry that I stood up and lunged at him. (This, by the way, is not my normal temperament. Frustration found me empty and needing control of something I had no control over whatsoever.) Anyway, I went to grab him, but he was quicker and grasped my hands first. He tried to apologize for lying, but I continued yelling. He remained even tempered while repeating “Mom, mom, mom” over and over again. He was standing calmly as I was flailing around fighting against his strength. In that moment, I realized something very quickly. My son was much taller and much, much stronger than I. He protected himself by gently grabbing my hands and holding them in place as I lost my ever-loving mind for about sixty seconds.

Though the situation is much different, when I dare to put my fists to the sky, I picture my Father in Heaven doing the same thing my son did. He gently grabs my fists and speaks, “Daughter, daughter, daughter” until my spiritual sanity returns. As a result, my fists-to-the-sky moments are becoming less and less. Why in the world does our humanity want to fight a God who is already on our side? We often think that just because God is on our side, we shouldn’t have to endure hard trial. The truth is that because God is on our side, He’s gifted us endurance. We, no doubt, will suffer trial. However, we will have the ability to endure that trial. Why?  Because He is who He says He is.

“With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; 27 with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. 28 You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down. 29 “For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness.30 For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall. 31 As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. “For who is God, except the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? 33 God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. 34 He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.

-2 Samuel 22:26-34

God is our strength and power. He’s everything we need to fight the battles we face. I’m learning, especially through this current round with grief, that my fists need to be open palms of surrender lifted humbly before my King. Friend, He’s everything He says He is and so much more. We don’t need to curse the day we were born. We are warriors meant to declare victory through each and every awful trial that comes our way. We are meant to find purpose and promise in every moment. As we continue to study, we will view Job as he comes into full recognition of his purpose. There is promise in pain. Really, there is.

  • Please look up Romans 8:31 and write it in your journal. What does it mean to you in your current circumstances? Write about it.
  • For next week, read Job 4.

For those of you who are following along with the subscriber only Word for Your Weekend content, this week’s video will be surrounding one statement that Job makes in chapter three. I can’t get it out of my head, and if you deal with fear, it might help you in your struggle.

If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this content, just enter your email in the subscriber box on the top right of this page and journey deeper with us in the study of Job.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: I recently wrote an exclusive piece for iBelieve on 3 Tips to Help You Cope with Grief. You can read it here.

There is Promise in Pain (Week Four)

Week Four Study Overview: Whether we are the mourner or the comforter, we must ask for wisdom through grief.

Key Point of Struggle: How do we comfort others through deep grief? How do we accept comfort through deep grief?

Key Proof of Comfort: Genesis 37:36

When we last saw Job, he was having an incredibly difficult conversation with his wife who advised him to curse God and die. After that, the text invites us to meet his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.

Upon introduction, we learn these friends made an appointment to come together and comfort Job. When they caught sight of him, even from a distance, they began to cry out, tear their robes, and sprinkle ashes on their heads. This tells us two things: first, the sight of Job was frightful. Second, the friends followed strict tradition.

Do you remember when we talked about Job’s response after losing his children? We discussed the tradition of tearing the robe and shaving the head. In this scenario, Job’s friends were also following tradition. And then we learn something else…

When they approached Job, they sat next to him and said not one word for seven days. In my opinion, this is the best thing they did throughout their entire stay with Job. However, there was a reason why they had some wisdom in this area.

The Talmud is an important collection of rabbinic conversations discussing law. It is a book of study, and according to the writings within those pages, Job’s comforters would have been adhering to tradition. Comforters were not supposed to speak until they were addressed. This gives us some insight into Job’s disposition at the time. He didn’t communicate to these three men for seven days, which says a lot about the agony he was enduring.

I don’t know how you handle grief, but I like to be silent. I don’t mind texts or an occasional phone call or even a visit to check in, but for the most part, I want to process alone. I don’t want to congregate when feeling my lowest. Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to receive comfort because in all truth, I only want to receive from God. I know He’s the only One who can help me.

If you’ve followed my writing for any length of time, you know three years ago, July 16th, my stepfather died suddenly of a heart attack. For a long time, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I hated accepting help, and in all honesty, I just wanted left alone. Two weeks ago, on July 19th, my brother died unexpectedly, and this time, unfortunately, I’m well trained in grief. To shut everyone out not only cuts myself off from support, but it also makes others feel as if they aren’t welcome in my healing process. When people make a contribution to aid in grief, they heal inside as well. Everyone needs to be part of something bigger, and grief caused by death creates opportunity for community to rise up.

I’m smack-dab in the middle of grief right now. The kind that keeps me awake at night unable to turn off my brain- The kind that makes me not eat, or eat too much –  The kind that makes me want to cut myself off from the whole world as if I can run, find my brother again, hold him tightly, and fix everything. And the worst part of this pain is the knowledge no one can help me.  I, most certainly, have no control to help myself. Only God.

In the story of Joseph, there’s a moment after his brothers sell him into slavery where his father refuses to be comforted. The brothers led him to believe Joseph was dead. And while his brother’s allowed their father to grieve heavily, we learn something else, somewhere else, was taking place.  In Genesis 37:36 it says, “Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.”

I have the word now boldly italicized because it’s key in God’s plan.

You see, other translations use the word meanwhile, which holds the same connotation as the word now in this context.

  • In the meanwhile, God is working.
  • In the meanwhile, God is able.
  • In the meanwhile, God never leaves us.
  • Even NOW God is faithful!

God was working a greater plan for Joseph in the midst of sorrow. Friend, I have to believe the same is true for me right now. And, for you!

If you are the one grieving, allow your community to rise up. It provides opportunity for the Spirit of God to move in other lives through your tragedy. If you are the one comforting, be a gentle support, not offering too much or too little. Ask God to give you wisdom.

Job’s friends were at their best when they quietly offered support for seven straight days.

On Friday’s Word for Your Weekend subscriber only content, I’m going to talk about a recent encounter I had with a friend who offered quiet support. We will talk about prayer through grief, and what we can do both as comforters, and grievers, to truly allow peace to fill us. If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this content, just type your email address in the subscriber box on the top right corner of this page.

  • As a faith building exercise, choose one person you know who is enduring grief. Write a prayer for them in your journal, and pray it over them each day. Consider sending a text or handwritten card in the mail to let them know you’re thinking of them and praying peace in their life.
  • To prepare for next week, read Job chapter 3.

Love,

Jennifer

There is Promise in Pain (Week Three)

Week Three Study Overview: Today we will look at the relentless pursuit of the enemy against Job, and the response from his wife.

Key Point of Struggle: Why must we deal with consistent attacks?

Key Proof of Comfort: Isaiah 41:13

For those of you who are not blog subscribers, I announced something very painful in Friday’s subscriber only Word for Your Weekend content: my brother, who was only thirty-three years of age, died suddenly and tragically Wednesday, July 19th. All the principles I spoke about in the video I must once again put into practice. Grief is all consuming right now. I feel like I’m living out of my body, but I have to continue writing this study. God knew what he was doing when He led me to write about Job. He knew what I didn’t, and I won’t allow what He wants us to learn about Him be interrupted by grief. I’m going to warn my subscribers that I will probably look like a hot mess in Friday’s video content. I am honest, and I will honestly walk with you during this stage of my life as we open the Bible together and study. Please pray for me.

Job chapter 2 opens at the throne of God. Once again, the sons of God are there and the enemy is lurking in the midst. We see a familiar scene play out as God offers Job’s name, but this time He throws in Satan’s face that even though he did not deserve the affliction he was forced to endure the first time, he didn’t turn on Him. Job proved to be faithful. That, of course, wasn’t what the enemy wanted to hear, and so he responds with this retort: “Skin for skin.” Satan wanted to disease Job’s body saying, “Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.” Physical pain is torture, and the enemy thought for sure it would be a pained, sick body that would turn this trusted servant of the Almighty away from Him. God tells Satan he can have Job, but he must spare his life.

I need to digress for a moment and say that today I feel like Job. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced deep loss stacked on top of other loss, stacked on top of more. I keep fighting from my place of victory knowing that even though I must fight battles, Christ already won the war. But, friend, I’m growing weary. Not in the way you might think. I’m not losing faith. I know and believe God is good and only does good. I believe there is promise in pain, and I will die saying it. However, if I’m honest, I’m tired. I’m bone tired of the fight and the tears which have poured from my body freely over the last few days should be the quota cried in a lifetime. I feel like God keeps allowing tragedy and that the enemy of my soul wants to steal everything from me. Mostly, he wants to destroy my willingness to minister and go where God calls. My brother was young and handsome, a soldier in the United States Army. He suffered from P.T.S.D. and fought a hard battle. He also knew Jesus, and I believe God was on a rescue mission when He took him home. But I’m left behind. My mother is left behind. Job was left behind. I’m identifying all over again.

Stepping back into Job’s world, we watch as he’s struck with boils all over his body. The Bible says:

“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.”

-Job 2:7-8

I don’t want to dig into the description of what these boils would have looked like and done to him. If I did, you might very well lose your lunch. Let’s just say it was ugly, agony and Job actually needed to grate them from his body. A potsherd is a piece of pottery. This means Job had a broken piece of pottery and was using it as a tool to scrape his body while sitting in the midst of ashes. Job was a tortured man.

Friend, I don’t have boils all over my body but let me tell you my heart feels as if it’s covered with them. My tears are hot, they hurt, and they are aiding in the scraping of those boils. Have you ever felt like this? If so, hold on tight because God is our refuge and He will prove to hold us up with His righteous right hand. I know He will.

Next, we meet Job’s wife. We don’t have a name for her. We aren’t privy to anything about her life other than this small passage of scripture.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

-Job 2:9

I feel terrible for Job’s wife. I think she gets a bad rap. Let us, for just one moment, put ourselves in her shoes. Job lost ten children. Who was the mother of those children? Job’s wife. Job’s wife lost her children, her wealth, and now her husband’s health. She didn’t know which way was up, and faced a grief spiral so deep she couldn’t fathom how to crawl out of it. I’ve often identified with her. What about you?

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

-Job 2:10

There’s something we need to look at closely in the above scripture, because the way I see it, two words invite us into the nature of Job’s wife before trauma. I have two words boldly highlighted in Job 2:10. Those words are as one. I believe Job was bringing to her attention that she was speaking as other foolish women, maybe women they knew, and by using those words as one, he was communicating that this was not her normal behavior. In other translations he uses the word like. “You talk like one of the foolish women.”  Job’s wife was grief-ridden, and I think we need to give her a break from judgment.

Job then goes onto speak wisdom that her vision was obviously too grief-clouded to see herself. “Shall we not accept adversity?” I almost always use the New King James Version of the Bible, but I love the way the question is phrased in the New Living Translation: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

And that is where I am today. I’m asking myself that question. I’ve been through enough grief to know there is no cursing God. I can’t, and I won’t. I love Him too much, and I trust Him with everything. But who wants to accept adversity? We pray for good because it is good things we want and expect from a good God.

I have another question to pose… Who can decipher what is really good or bad when it comes from the hand of God? I told you earlier that I believe God is good and only does good. This means there are things we cannot see happening all around us. God is orchestrating a greater plan. I know that to be true. I have no idea what it is right now, but I believe it.

I’ve done a lot of study over the years, and I know I deserve death and hell. However, Jesus came so that I wouldn’t receive the punishment my evil heart deserves. Mercy triumphs over justice when we call on His name. And let’s not forget the last part of the above scripture “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” I’m standing on Job’s ground right now refusing to sin and committing to trust Jesus further. What about you?

On Friday, in our subscriber only content, I’m going to share about what the Lord is speaking to me through my current grief. We will talk about our definitions verses God’s definitions, and the Righteous right hand holding us. I’m not really sure what emotions will surface when I turn the camera on, so please bear with me.

  • As a faith building exercise, please look up Isaiah 41:13 write it in your journal, and think about what it means for you in your current struggles. Journal about it.
  • For next week, please continue to read the rest of Job 2. We are preparing to meet his friends.

If you are not a subscriber and would like to receive Word for Your Weekend subscriber only content, please enter your email in the box on the top right hand corner of this page. You’re just an email address away from deeper study.

Please pray for me; I need it.

Love,

Jennifer

 

There is Promise in Pain (Week Two)

Week Two Study Overview: Today, we will step into Job’s world and watch him lose everything he loves.

Key Point of Struggle: How is it possible to worship through such tragedy?

Key Proof of Comfort: John 16:33

I’m actually at the point where I feel like I know Job personally. When I read the text, it’s as if I’m watching his story unfold right before my eyes. It’s almost like I’m right there with him when his world flips upside down. As we study, it’s important to find a way to connect with who we’re learning about. With all my heart I believe this man, Job, lived and breathed, and when we can attach ourselves to his life, we open up our hearts to deeper study.

My youngest children are eight year old twins, and when we talk about life and purpose, I always tell them the most important thing they can ever do is to make Jesus famous through their lives. Any gift they have is from Him and they must return it in praise. To me, nothing else matters. And I want nothing else to matter more to my children than their God. Job made God famous through his life, and it’s an honor to dig into his story so we can learn about our famous One.

As I step inside Job’s space in time, I see him sitting down. I don’t know exactly where he’s sitting, or what the background looks like surrounding him, those details are sketchy for me, but I do know he was seated. I know this because later in the story the Bible says, “Job arose.”  As he’s seated he receives four visitors, all there to share devastating news. Before one messenger can finish, another barges inside interrupting him with more tormenting information.

I imagine Job’s eyes looking upward from one person to the next in complete dismay. He’s confused as his brain works quickly to process his present situation. Throughout the first three encounters, he remains exactly where he was seated, but then the fourth person enters and things take an intense turn. When the news of his children’s death, all ten of them, is delivered, the Bible says that he arose, tore his robe and shaved his head. I imagine him bolting out of his seat, frantically looking for tools to help him in those acts. It’s terrifying to watch his immediate suffering, but there was a reason why he did this.

In Job’s day, shaving the head was a customary sign signifying destruction and disgrace. Job communicated deep grief by this action, but to me that wasn’t even the intense part. It’s what came after the robe tearing and hair cutting that blows my mind. The word tells us he fell to the ground in worship. What? I know, right?!?! I don’t see him neatly on his knees. I picture his body thrown to the ground in a face-to-floor position wailing the following words…

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb. And naked shall I return there, the Lord gave. And the Lord has taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

-Job 1:21

I’m pretty sure this is the part in the story when we all tilt our heads in a gesture of confusion. Other than his wife, Job lost everything in the blink of an eye. In a situation where I think most of us would be overtaken by the shock of it all, Job had the presence of mind to remember God. He was able to recognize His mighty hand in the most terrifying scene of his entire life. And then what comes next is almost inconceivable.

In all this job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.

-Job 1:22

I think tragedy brings out truth. It definitely births character. In my most devastating circumstances I asked God to help me, but I also asked the question why a lot. I certainly know what I didn’t do. I didn’t immediately fall to my knees in worship. I wish I could say I did, but sadly, I never even thought of it.

When calamity walks through the door, it’s very important to have a firm foundation. Otherwise, the earthquake it brings with it will tear everything down. What we know about Job’s life is that his relationship with the living God was built on a solid base of truth. That truth was so thick that it arose in strength when he fell to his knees. That’s not to say the emotion and trial of what would come next wouldn’t cause Job to feel the quaking, but we will see it won’t be enough to break the firm foundation.

Over the years, I’ve often thought about the day I learned my daughter was stillborn. I wonder what it would have been like if my first thought had sent me to the ground in worship…

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33

I’m still at a loss as to how Job reacted the way he did all those years before the cross. For me, it proves the disposition of our Father in heaven to forge relationship with His beloved. Even before the cross Job had a love for the Almighty. The cross clears my blurry vision in the midst of horrific situations. Job didn’t have that luxury. Jesus came so that in Him we could find peace. He told us there would be trouble, but He died so that we could stand firm in the midst of suffering.

Trial will come; tribulation will come, but it’s okay. Why? Because Jesus already came.

 Jesus came to give hope to the hopeless and life to the dead. May we all look at Job’s reaction and learn something mighty. Let us strive to worship in the desert the same as we would in land flowing with milk and honey. Let us learn to exalt God for who He is rather than what He can do. And let us trust in the only real hope we will ever know: Jesus.

  • Please read Job 2:1-10 in preparation for next week. Think about Job’s wife and give some thought as to how you feel about her reaction to Job’s circumstances. Journal about it. She will be a focus of next week’s study.
  • For a faith building exercise, write John 16:33 in your journal and consider memorizing it. I believe hope and peace is more easily activated when we remember what Jesus did and why he did it.

Every Friday, I provide extra content for my subscribers in something we call “Word for Your Weekend.” This coming Friday, we will expand this lesson with another scripture and discuss how God helped to change me from the inside out when my reaction to tragedy wasn’t nearly the same as Job’s. If you aren’t a subscriber and would like to receive this extra content, please enter your email in the subscribe box on the top right of this page. You are welcome here!

Love,

Jennifer

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

There is Promise in Pain (A New Study Announcement)

Today, I’m thinking about all the things holding us back and hurting our hearts. As I study, I hear a whisper inside – a commencing of conversation. “There is promise in the pain.” “Oh, Lord, can You tell me who wants to sift through piles of ashes to find beauty?” “Oh, Jennifer, Can you tell me who else would have sent their only Son to die so you, and everyone else, have opportunity to find it?” Ouch. Checkmate. “Okay, I’ll get my shovel. I have promise to uncover.”

As I sit here writing and praying, you are on my mind. I picture you alongside me in your own pit of ashes desperately seeking to unearth your promise. And for every one of you who are working with shovels in hand, I see others helplessly sitting with no idea how to begin finding what lies underneath. I’ve been there, too.

For the months of July and August we are going to study Job. At one time or another we’ve probably all felt a little like him, so why not step into his world and learn? Are you with me? Do you need to find promise inside the pain? Do you often feel a lack of certainty in your circumstances?

All of my studies are usually published on Wednesdays, but for the rest of the summer, not only will we have our regular Wednesday study, but we will also have what I’m calling “A Word for Your Weekend.” This portion will be for email subscribers only. The content won’t be found anywhere else.  Friday’s entries will be a mix of short videos and blog posts, maybe even a printable, meant to encourage you in everything we’ve discussed the previous Wednesday. It’s meant for faith building, helping you dig deeper in study.

If you’re not a subscriber to my blog, let me encourage you to sign up. The Studies are sent directly to your email. We also have a lot of changes coming to the blog in the near future. Subscribers will be the first to learn about these changes and participate in what’s coming!

This coming Friday, July 7th, there will be a special introduction into the life of Job. Only subscribers will receive it.

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.

-Job 1:1

I’m looking forward to trekking through the life of Job with you!

Love,

Jennifer

 

The Kingdom Building Call (Part Six)

If you’re joining us today for the first time, welcome! For some tips on how to study with us, click here.

Week Six Study Overview: Today, we will discuss the widely known scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, and the context it comes from. In the process, we will discover what it means for YOU!

Key Point of Struggle: It’s easy to fall in the trap of feeling there is no future and no hope.

Key Proof of Comfort: The Word of God is solid truth refusing to collapse. We will find comfort in exploring what we can do to stand on the promise of a secure, peaceful future and hope.

Today is our last day with Jeremiah.  Over our weeks of study, we saw the unashamed prophet weep throughout his calling. Through the Word, we’ve watched him be abused and locked up. We saw him through prison bars and witnessed the internal struggle of wanting to give up on his calling. And then we learned of the fire deep within his bones that could not be extinguished.

Though our callings and struggles are much different from those of Jeremiah’s, we can feel a kindred spirit with this man and his ministry. Like Jeremiah, we’ve been afraid, contemplated running, and cried out to God with questions. And, through it all, we’ve allowed the burn in our bones to propel us onward.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

Over the years, I’ve seen Jeremiah 29:11 plastered on social media statuses, posters in churches, t-shirts, and even bumper stickers. I love that we can read a scripture and claim it as our own, but at the same time my heart weeps a little at the lack of knowledge where context is concerned. As Christians, I believe we take the verse of the day, and apply it to our struggle of the day. We don’t read what comes before or after it, and usually have very little knowledge of who wrote it and why.

Listen, I know not everyone likes to sit down and search out the history and author of every book in the Bible. I get it. But friend, a little context goes a long way. It gives us insight and opens up the lines of communication allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us on a deeper level. We often long for God to speak, but we don’t invest time in the relationship and then wonder why we aren’t hearing His voice. And by the way, I’m preaching to myself. I’ll be honest with you: I’m in the word a lot, but I still lack in many, many areas.

Let’s take a few moments to look at the context of this widely known scripture.

As we know from everything we’ve learned in Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah refused to repent. As a result, there were captives taken. We learn in 2 Kings 24 that Nebuchadnezzar II, the King of Babylon, took the Jews captive. Nebuchadnezzar led his armies for over a year and laid siege against Jerusalem killing many, destroying the temple, and leaving Jerusalem in ruins.

God knew, in light of the people’s rebellion, that this calamity would take place. Jeremiah actually prophesies about it in Jeremiah 29 through a letter to the captives. In verse 10, he predicts seventy years of captivity in Babylon, followed by exile.  This is the backstory of Jeremiah 29:11.

Let’s begin by taking a look at verse 10:

For thus says the Lord: after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

-Jeremiah 29:10

In context:

By way of royal messengers, Jeremiah sent a letter with this information to the captives. Regardless of the people’s sin, after consequence, there would be great mercy given by God. God promised to visit His people again.

Now, let’s apply Jeremiah 29:10 to us:

I believe God pursues each life. There are times we don’t want to listen, or want to go the way He’s directing us. The skin we wear and the flesh we fight have the ability to rise up powerfully without us even recognizing we’re in a mess. When we finally see our spiritual shortcoming, we call out to Jesus. Other times, we are heeding each and every word. We’ve done nothing to deserve the difficulty we’re facing. In those moments, we question God and ask for answers. Regardless of the circumstances, there is a promise: “I will visit you and perform my good word toward you.”

We can take that promise and apply it to our lives. We don’t always feel like He’s with us, but He is. Because of Jesus, we can go a step further from the word visit. He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell with us. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. When we are reading Jeremiah, we are reading history before the cross. Since then, Jesus died for every sin, and because of His work on the cross we have the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit.  God is performing His good word in us every day because of His Holy Spirit living in us. We have more power to overcome than we will ever begin to comprehend.

Next we have Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

In context:

Jeremiah was writing the words of the Almighty to the captives, letting them know that the Living God had not forgotten about them. He wasn’t finished with them.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:11 to us:

Remember when we started studying Jeremiah 1:5, and talked about God being intentional in His design of us? Well, this proves that God doesn’t forget about anything He creates. We are always on His mind. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, where we’ve been, or how deep our trouble may be, we are on the mind of God. Always.

Now that we’ve unearthed the context of this verse, it should speak to us more deeply than ever before. Judah had worshipped other Gods, refused to listen to God’s chosen prophet, and forgotten all the works He had done and still…. And still…. Let me say that again, and still God never stopped thinking about them. And friend, He has never stopped thinking of you. This proves it!

Now let’s take a look at Jeremiah 29:12-14 before we wrap our study.

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.

-Jeremiah 29:12-14

In context:

God is letting the people know that even after all their sin, the captives will once again have a home. However, He tells them they will look for Him, and when they do, they will find Him.

Now let’s apply Jeremiah 29:12-14 to us:

Regardless of our situations, whether it is self-inflicted sin, or a horrendous circumstance it seems we don’t deserve, God is faithful to deliver us. Way back in chapter one, we studied that God told Jeremiah, “I am with you to deliver you.” We can take those words and connect them to Jeremiah 29:12-14!

  • When we sin, we can repent. He is always with us to deliver us!
  • When we call on Him and pray to Him, He will listen. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we seek Him, we will find Him. He is with us to deliver us!
  • When we search for Him, He will be found. He is with us to deliver us!
  • From every situation we’ve been held captive, He will provide rescue. He is with us to deliver us.

Friend, what He’s done for generations past, He will do for you.

 However, we must all learn to call upon Him, pray to Him, seek Him, and Search for Him with our whole hearts. The text actually says, “… with all your heart.” Not a little or even most, but ALL.

If there is anything we’ve learned from Jeremiah, it was that he gave his whole heart to the Almighty. He submitted everything, even his right to a family. He gave his entire life up for his Father. When I think about that, I feel a little overwhelmed with conviction. God hasn’t asked nearly as much from me, and yet I often struggle with giving Him all my heart. My flesh tells me it’s much easier to hand it over one piece at a time. But that’s a lie. I’m required with determination to die to myself every day of my life for the cause of Christ. It’s no longer about me and ALL about Him.

Our friend, Jeremiah, gave his life to answer His call and in the process built the kingdom.

  • Today, in your journal, write Jeremiah 29:10-14. Underneath it, please answer the following questions.
  1. What do the words, “I will visit you and perform My good word toward you,” mean specifically in your life right now?
  2. How does understanding that God is intentional and never stops thinking about you, change how you feel about your future and hope?
  3. We learned that God listens to us when we call on Him. Does knowing that change how you communicate with Him and how frequently you pray to Him?
  4. God tells us He will be found by us when we seek Him with ALL our hearts. Have you given God your whole heart?
  • I recognize that giving God our entire heart is a daily struggle for each of us. In your journal, consider writing a prayer asking God to help break down the barriers preventing you from giving Him everything.

It’s been a pleasure studying kingdom building through the life of Jeremiah with you! If we were to study more often together, who would you want to learn about next? I would love suggestions.

Love,

Jennifer

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When You Can No Longer Envision the Promise

 

He is able

One night last week, as my husband and I were unloading our sleeping kids from the car, I looked up to see a completely clear sky. I’ve been studying the Old Testament for an upcoming speaking engagement, and so as soon as I saw those twinkling lights above me, I thought about a moment where God gives us a beautiful picture of promise.

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

-Genesis 15:5

When I looked up at the sky on that clear night last week, I was in awe of what I saw. But, I was much more overwhelmed at what I couldn’t see. Do you know that as of April 1, 2014 Hubble revealed an estimation of 100 billion galaxies, and then predicted that number would increase as technology improves?  And guess what? According to the Atlantic Daily, as of October 2016, that number now stands at 2 trillion.  Look at the following quote from Atlantic Daily writer Marina Koren on October 14, 2016: “There’s only one way to count galaxies with existing technology: Point a telescope at a small chunk of sky, tally up the number you see, and then extrapolate that across the whole sky. But when the Nottingham researchers examined the masses of the galaxies in those patches of sky, they realized there must be missing galaxies that are ‘too faint and too far away’ to be imaged by modern technology, even the most powerful telescopes in the world.”

I can’t help but imagine myself being there on that very night God took Abram (Soon to be renamed Abraham) outside and showed him the stars. It appears to me that Abram probably gazed up at that sky and took it at face value. He was probably overcome by the great number of glowing stars above him mingled with the promise God made for his life. I’m not sure Abram ever thought about the stars he couldn’t see. How could he have known the great expanse of the universe? We look at stars in the year 2017 with all modern technology has to offer, and still, we cannot see everything there is in space.

I recently read there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Let me repeat that: In the Milky Way galaxy, one galaxy out of what now appears to be 2 trillion, there are 100 thousand million stars. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was a real number! Friend, I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around that number, and yet we serve a God who made a numeric promise based on the number of stars He created. And our God knows exactly how many there are. In fact, He even named each one. (See Psalm 147:4) He told Abram, “Look toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” He knew Abram couldn’t number them, and that is the whole point.

We serve a God who has spoken promises so great that it is beyond our human vision and comprehension to see the fullness of them. There is so much more for each life than we can begin to know. I need to say this to you today:

GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!
GOD IS ABLE!

The creator of the universe is God of the impossible, and there is more to His Word than we will ever grasp.

After Abram looked up at the sky on that clear night so long ago, he modeled something for each of us.

“And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

-Genesis 15:6

Up to this point, Abram didn’t have one child. Not one.  And, yet, he was promised descendants matching the number of stars. Abraham made a choice to believe the promise, and because he believed, God counted him righteous.

Today, I want you to believe in a God who sees everything, not just what is within the line of human vision. I want you to believe there is power in His promises, and that He has promises for you. No matter what you see or how you feel, it does not change the power of God’s promises or the depth to which they reach.  This weekend, if you’re have difficulty holding tightly to a promise He’s made, walk outside and look up. Even if the sky isn’t clear, just think about what you cannot see, and what God calls by name.

He is able.

Love,

Jennifer