Have you ever thought about how life can change or end in one split second? In the twinkling of an eye, one’s life can be turned upside down or around. Things happen that cannot be understood or explained as we journey through life. How we handle hurdles, heartaches and hurtful happenings reveals character. Adjusting to life when things go wrong is not easy. Often, we wonder why things happen as they do and must move forward in faith without having all the answers.
Job is a perfect example of one who endured problems and pain with no reason or rhyme as to why. He was a man of integrity, a strong leader in his family and community. He was wise and wealthy, devoted to God, successful, and well thought of by his colleagues. That is why his story is so troubling. In no time at all, he lost it all. Through no fault of his own, he had to deal with tragedy in its deepest forms. Yet, it is how he dealt with it that shows such amazing character, patience, and faith.
When the first round of tragedy stuck, Job maintained perspective. He respected God’s authority in order not to become buried in bitterness. Then, he did some soul searching. He asked questions of God and others, but never rejected or abandoned his commitment to the Lord and his loved ones. Job was devastated but determined to continue trusting and believing. At one of his lowest times, he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15
Do we trust God through the tough times? The terrific times when triumphs prevail are preferred, but walking through dark valleys is when our faith is tested. Job searched his soul and sought his God when everything in his life was snatched away. He hated what happened and couldn’t even find comfort from his friends. Job had to handle his situation and chose the high road. He acknowledged that God is God and the answers Job wanted so badly as to why might never be revealed to him. Job recognized that his help could only come from God, and He sought it. His sad story leaves readers wondering how in the world he would ever see sunshine after such severe suffering. Job’s firm faith in God brought him through the tragedies that took nearly everything he held dear, including his ten children. The rest of Job’s story brings the sunshine and blessings beyond anything Job could ever have imagined. His persistence in maintaining perspective when life didn’t go according to his plan shows his faith in God.
Friends gathered around the table at Tim’s Gift Tuesday morning and at noon to pray for people in our community. When everyone was gone, I scanned the list of names that overflowed onto another page in the prayer book. I began writing words of encouragement to people dear to my heart and to others I do not know personally. Sealing the cards and writing addresses to families whose hearts are broken, I wondered how they are handling their situations and sorrows. I thought of Job. Then, I read words from Pastor Alan Robert’s message in Chapel News for May. “When we respond in faith to that which Jesus accomplished on the cross, God delivers us, heals our bruises, and holds us close by the cords of His love. Having healed us of our bruises, God has equipped us to minister to the battered and bruised in our world. With the love of Jesus in our hearts, we are called to reach out…”
Peace that only comes from a personal relationship with God settled in my heart. The questions I pondered may never be answered here. Yet, the answer to how we handle the tragedies and tough times in life became clear; God heals our bruises and holds us close by the cords of His love. I prayed over each card before mailing them, asking God to heal those we had lifted up in prayer that morning and to hold them close, giving comfort and love that would carry them through their troubles.
God had plans for my day that I did not understand; He called me to reach out. A good friend kept popping up in my mind while I wrote notes. Looking for another address, my fingertip stopped on her name and number, so I listened and obeyed. I told her I really didn’t know why I was calling except that God put her on my heart. Forty-five minutes later, we both understood. We cried, laughed, and prayed together before saying good bye. Reaching out to Ann brought blessings and direction to me. God spoke to my heart to write about living devotedly and prepared to meet Him at any time. I questioned why, since my story for today had been submitted weeks ago. The nudging continued throughout the day, as did a calling to go visit Rose and Mike Thurston. Neither of these things was penciled in my daily planner, but my plans aren’t always His plans, so I went and I wrote.
With rain pouring, I left work and headed down highway 701 to visit Mike and Rose. Pulling into their driveway, I noticed several cars with out of state license plates. Then, my eyes rested on the ramp Cameron and several volunteers from Tim’s Gift built for the family last fall. Walking to the door, I talked to God and thanked Him for enabling us to give help and hope to people in need. Tim’s Gift began with a seed God is blessing and a step of faith He is guiding. Faithful supporters and Hope Partners help us help others.
Mike greeted me with a smile and introduced me to their three sons, daughter- in-law, and six grand-puppies. I knew why God put Rose on my heart early that morning. My visit, with a Mom cake for Rose, blessed me the most. The entire Thurston family joined hands. We prayed for God to heal Rose and hold her close by the cords of His love. We praised Him for a family that loves their mother and father and stand in faith for her healing. I handed Mike money donated from people who came to Tim’s Gift for crosses for their yards. Mike makes crosses while his wife rests. He longs to see a cross in every yard in our county. As I headed for the door, a daughter-in-law put something in my hand and said, ‘thank you for your help; please put this in Tim’s Gift.” Driving home, I wiped tears, thanked God for directing my footsteps, and asked forgiveness for times when I didn’t follow where He was leading.
Starting this story was first priority when I got home. Being almost finished, I saved it before stopping for supper. Finishing it before bedtime was my plan. Sitting in my chair with hands on keyboard, I drifted off to sleep. I awoke to find four pages of zeros staring at me. My finger pressed the 0 key as I dozed. Deleting and waiting for the right ending only made me sleepier. Vowing to finish, I pressed on but fell asleep again. When my eyes opened, I stared in disbelief at my computer screen. The story I felt God leading me to write was gone, all but seven words. Three hours of writing vanished before my sleepy eyes; my frustration mounted. Then, the enemy went to work… ‘You don’t need to write this story, this message doesn’t matter, you’re tired, forget about it, you write about the same stuff every week anyway, people get tired of your long stories, you don’t have to do this.’ And I got mad!
Realizing the enemy was working to discourage me, I opted for the high road and asked God to help me stay calm. Satan has already been defeated but knows our weaknesses and strikes where it hurts the most. He enjoys watching us lose things, especially control. While we rant and rave, cuss and carry on, pout in pity and falter in faith, he creeps in and takes control. When we maintain perspective, practice putting Satan behind us, and prepare our hearts for times such as this- through prayer and studying God’s Word. Faith will sustain us and hush the enemy, who has no power over us unless we allow it.
I headed to bed with a peaceful spirit and plan to rise up early and rewrite the story. At 3am, I was wide awake, writing this message and praying the right words would come to help people who are suffering and dealing with losses. My thoughts turned to the Pope Family who lost a dear loved one last week. I stopped writing and asked questions that had no answers. I cried and prayed for a family I don’t know personally but feel I have known forever after Ann shared their story with me on the phone the day before.
Ann talked of the life-long friendship the two families shared, of the integrity and leadership from parents who taught their three sons to walk with Jesus, work hard, and enjoy life to the fullest. She told of a devoted wife and two precious children, of friends and family that filled the farm for Clay’s funeral, of Steve Bass standing with singers who praised God for His Amazing Grace, of the Holy Spirit sweeping across that place and soothing broken hearts. This family was dealing with tragedy in its deepest form. Their deep rooted faith enabled them to maintain perspective and trust God, even when their world was turned upside down without warning. Their reputation for integrity makes them strong, close knit family and community leaders. Like Job, their faith and trust in God shines as an example for all of us.
I pray this story has touched your heart and shown how anyone’s life can change or end in one split second. Trust God to heal your bruises. Accept Him as your Savior; rededicate your life to Him today. Keep your heart pure and be prepared to meet Jesus in the twinkling of an eye. Cast your cares on Him and live your life out loud in love in all seasons. Trust Him as He holds us close by the cords of His love. And one day when we stand before our Lord, He will open His arms wide, smile, and say… “Well done my good and faithful servant.”