Posted in theology

Job vs. Naomi: How do we respond when circumstances take a downturn?

By Elizabeth Prata

Even if you don’t read the Old Testament much, most believers know the story of Job and his friends. God initiated a conversation with satan, where God called Job “a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8). God asked satan if he had noticed that. Of course satan had, and pouted that of course Job loved God because he lived on easy street, but if satan could just get his hands on him, he’d prove that Job only loved God for what he could get out of Him. God said, OK, go, do it.

We know that the rest of chapter 1 and chapter 2 records horrific events, all against Job. Job never sinned with his lips, though. He maintained his devotion to God. Job’s faith was separate from his circumstances. He never blamed God. (Job 2:10).

Job’s friends heard about the utterly disastrous state to which Job had been reduced, and came to commiserate with him. The theology of the time, then and right up until the time of Jesus’ incarnation, was a literal you reap what you sow. If you were rich, prosperous in all things, and healthy, you were righteous. If you were sick, poor, crippled, enduring tragedy of some sort, you were being punished for sin. (Luke 13:1-5, John 9:2). They thought that outward circumstances were a reflection of inward spirituality and standing with God.

Job’s friends, after a good start of showing empathy and giving comfort in silence, then began to hammer Job with their theology, charging Job with secret sin. They kept on, and on, and on. Job got sick of it and said they were miserable comforters! (Job 16:2). But the point was, Job’s circumstances didn’t alter his faith. He loved God for who He is, not for what his life was like moment to moment.

We are also probably familiar with the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was from Bethlehem in Judah. She married and had two sons. However, there was a famine in the land, so when they heard there was food in Moab, they moved there. Her husband died. The sons married Moabite women. The sons died. Naomi was left without husband or sons, and saddled with two other widows to boot. These were dire circumstances for a woman of that time. With no way to gain income or to work hard enough in the fields to support herself and her two daughters-in-law, Naomi became disconsolate.

She heard that the LORD was moving in Judah and now there was food. Naomi resolved to go back to her homeland and re-settle in Bethlehem, and urged her two daughters-in-law to go back to their parents’ home in Moab. Naomi was bitter. She was pouting because she had no husband or sons, was too old to get more sons, and actually said her lot was worse than her daughters-in-law, (who had lost their own husbands and were grieving too!) Naomi actually said “The hand of the LORD is against me.”

Ruth resolved to stay with her mother-in-law, to help and comfort the woman. When they got back to Bethlehem and people said ‘Naomi’s back!’ Naomi actually replied,

And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:19-21).

Naomi felt she had lost everything. She’d been hungry, widowed, and her children died. She blamed God numerous times. Her faith was bound up in her circumstances. She was the opposite of Job.

Is your faith bound up in how prosperous you are or what you’re feeling at the time? Do you praise God when things are going well but blame satan when things take a downturn? Or worse, blame God? Or is your faith steady no matter what is going on around you? That’s harder, especially if, like Job, you have friends who insinuate that your circumstances are due to judgment or sin or punishment.

Strive to be a Job when things turn “bad.” Or if you’re in a prospering season, strive to be a Ruth and encourage someone else who is having a hard time. Ruth’s constant loyalty and kindness to Naomi was a standout feature of the book of Ruth, while Job’s friends’ spiritual harangues and moral indictments were a standout feature of the book of Job.

One of the hardest things to do is praise God in joy when trouble comes. (Philippians 4:11-13). It was something Paul had to learn. But we can learn it too.

Posted in poetry, Uncategorized

Poetry by Kay Cude: In Trials We Are Not Alone

Poetry by Kay Cude. Used with permission. Right-click on photo to see larger in new tab. Artist’s statement below.

NOT FORSAKEN, NOT ALONE

Artist’s Statement:

Sometimes the trials we go through seem never-ending! It often appears that they are gathered together and perched atop a high place just waiting for an “exacting” moment in which to unleash themselves. Even worse, they seem to multiply in force, if not line up one-after-another like a hoard of paid hooligans determined to batter us down into hopeless and “fruitless” Christians–or worse as assassins, prepared to annihilate us completely!

As they strengthen the tactics of those “assaults,” we can be assured that God remains in control, from the start of the trial to the very end. He will not forsake us–He will grow us!! He provides the “weapons” we need to endure and overcome, as well as prepares us by the renewing of our minds through His Word! The battles are His. Trusting and relying on Him enables us to learn, endure and overcome! Trusting and relying on our “flesh” enables disastrous consequences.

When at our lowest point, that point of exhaustive weakness where we become more vulnerable to fleshly speculation, we must not permit ourselves to wonder if we are alone. We are not!! And we know this!! We will remember that our weakness is exactly where it must be; for in that weakness, our strength is Christ! Through difficulties, trials or persecution, God is present and He is working. He never abandons His beloved redeemed–He teaches and strengthens us! We must allow Him to mature us and stop employing our “fleshly” reasoning and efforts!

We will remember Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11: 9 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for (A)power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather (B)boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore (C)I am well content with weaknesses, with [b]insults, with (D)distresses, with (E)persecutions, with (F)difficulties, (G)for Christ’s sake; for (H)when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We will remember that it is God who sovereignly allows our tempering as fine gold through the many refining fires of trials. Therefore, let us be refined into the golden metal of God’s mettle. And in our trials display the strength of character with Spirited determination that marks the mental and emotional character unique to those matured through the purposeful workings of the Holy Spirit of God in us!

YES AND AMEN!! GOD’s eternal purpose for us IN CHRIST will not be thwarted! What joyful hope and assurance we have obtained!

Posted in theology

Dis/Contentment in your life and how to overcome it

By Elizabeth Prata

Are you discontent? Discontent because you’re single? Discontent because you’re married? Didn’t get the job you wanted? Lost the job you loved? Hate where you live? Didn’t make the grade? Your boss hates you? You hate your boss?

Life is hard, it always has been. “In this world you will have trouble” Jesus said. (John 16:33). But lately it seems that the trouble is increasing, and coming from directions we had not expected. It’s a lot to keep up with.

We’ve always been a people to attach our happiness to comfortable or satisfactory circumstances, even though the Bible warns us to keep our eyes on Jesus and remain heavenly minded. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us, said Paul in Romans 8:18. But us puny humans forget, and we weep, we complain, we grumble. I know I do, before I have to metaphorically slap myself and say ‘Snap out of it!’

I listened to two podcasts yesterday that were on opposite ends of this spectrum, one was about severe and deep suffering, the kind that no husband or parent should ever have to deal with. But we do deal with it because, I refer again to John 16:33.

“The Cellar of Affliction” was episode 7 in Season 1 of The MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching, “The Expositor: The Story of How John MacArthur Became the World’s Premier Expository Preacher.”

L-R-Austin Duncan, Narrator, and John MacArthur, interviewee. Source: MacArthur Center for Expository Preaching
The episode is described thus: John Donne called them Job's sick days. They are days of unexpected, and often unimaginable, suffering. They are part of life in a fallen world, both for believers and nonbelievers. And they are a constant reality in the life of a preacher. John MacArthur is certainly no stranger to suffering. This episode describes a dark day in the MacArthur family, and how that suffering shaped his life and ministry. And it looks at how John's life and preaching have cared for those in what Samuel Rutherford called "the cellar of affliction." 

The episode also shared about other parents and families going through a trial and suffering. What they went through and how they came to the other side without complaint, or grumbling, clinging to joy in the darkest of days, is inspiring.

I also listened to The Women’s Hope podcast with Dr. Shelbi Cullen and Kimberly Cummings discuss “Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

Episode Description - Episode 125, Oct 14, 2021- Shelbi and Kim open up about times when they’ve battled discontentment. What passages of Scripture helped them navigate life's most challenging moments? What did God teach them through trials? Listen to find out.

In addition to discussing the issue that brought discontentment into their lives and the realizations they discovered as they walked through it to the other side, the two women offer practical advice at the end as well.

I found these two discussions helpful. I tend to tie my happiness to my circumstances. Last week, my car broke down. That is one area I have a hard time accepting disruptions. It may not be a huge issue to others but it is to me. I worked hard to focus on Jesus during that week and not complain, even under the guise of ‘asking for prayer’. It all got resolved in providential ways and the Lord even took care of me financially afterward. I need to do more of that for when the next circumstance changes, and it will. Whether it’s a minor disruption like the car issue or something major like the sufferings discussed in the MacArthur Expositor podcast, the advice remains the same.

Listen to these two podcasts and see if you think so too. 🙂

Posted in poetry, Uncategorized

Kay Cude poetry: Keep Christ central in the midst of trials

Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Right click to open larger in new tab

Artist’s statement:

The beginnings of a trial can be tumultuous and heart-wrenching, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. But as we seek Scriptural guidance and encouragement from fellow believers, we quickly see that all of our communication and advice must center upon Christ and our personal relationship with Him. It is when one relies upon “other” solutions (or self), that one quickly experiences the futility of our “natural” reasoning and responses. When our trials exclude Christ as the resource of resolution, fleshly reactions will lead us into deeper distress with greater turmoil; an impasse can arise and anger, hurt feelings, confusion and chaos usually pursue.

I don’t like painful trials; I don’t know anyone who does. Yet I am so very grateful that Christ captures my attention during those times and makes it abundantly clear that He is the only source who can truly sustain, teach, discipline and encourage me while He refines and strengthens me, in and for Him. It is Christ who must always be the primary topic during our trials, because without the working of His indwelling spirit, our words and actions become futile.

HE IS THE TOPIC

Posted in poetry, Uncategorized

Poetry by Kay Cude: In Trials We Are Not Alone

Poetry by Kay Cude. Used with permission. Download photo to see it larger. Artist’s statement below.

NOT FORSAKEN, NOT ALONE

Artist’s Statement:

Sometimes the trials we go through seem never-ending! It often appears that they are gathered together and perched atop a high place just waiting for an “exacting” moment in which to unleash themselves. Even worse, they seem to multiply in force, if not line up one-after-another like a hoard of paid hooligans determined to batter us down into hopeless and “fruitless” Christians–or worse as assassins, prepared to annihilate us completely!

As they strengthen the tactics of those “assaults,” we can be assured that God remains in control, from the start of the trial to the very end. He will not forsake us–He will grow us!! He provides the “weapons” we need to endure and overcome, as well as prepares us by the renewing of our minds through His Word! The battles are His. Trusting and relying on Him enables us to learn, endure and overcome! Trusting and relying on our “flesh” enables disastrous consequences.

When at our lowest point, that point of exhaustive weakness where we become more vulnerable to fleshly speculation, we must not permit ourselves to wonder if we are alone. We are not!! And we know this!! We will remember that our weakness is exactly where it must be; for in that weakness, our strength is Christ! Through difficulties, trials or persecution, God is present and He is working. He never abandons His beloved redeemed–He teaches and strengthens us! We must allow Him to mature us and stop employing our “fleshly” reasoning and efforts!

We will remember Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11: 9 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for (A)power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather (B)boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore (C)I am well content with weaknesses, with [b]insults, with (D)distresses, with (E)persecutions, with (F)difficulties, (G)for Christ’s sake; for (H)when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We will remember that it is God who sovereignly allows our tempering as fine gold through the many refining fires of trials. Therefore, let us be refined into the golden metal of God’s mettle. And in our trials display the strength of character with Spirited determination that marks the mental and emotional character unique to those matured through the purposeful workings of the Holy Spirit of God in us!

YES AND AMEN!! GOD’s eternal purpose for us IN CHRIST will not be thwarted! What joyful hope and assurance we have obtained!

Posted in poetry, Uncategorized

Kay Cude poetry: Keep Christ central in the midst of trials

Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Click to enlarge

Artist’s statement:

The beginnings of a trial can be tumultuous and heart-wrenching, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. But as we seek Scriptural guidance and encouragement from fellow believers, we quickly see that all of our communication and advice must center upon Christ and our personal relationship with Him. It is when one relies upon “other” solutions (or self), that one quickly experiences the futility of our “natural” reasoning and responses. When our trials exclude Christ as the resource of resolution, fleshly reactions will lead us into deeper distress with greater turmoil; an impasse can arise and anger, hurt feelings, confusion and chaos usually pursue.

I don’t like painful trials; I don’t know anyone who does. Yet I am so very grateful that Christ captures my attention during those times and makes it abundantly clear that He is the only source who can truly sustain, teach, discipline and encourage me while He refines and strengthens me, in and for Him. It is Christ who must always be the primary topic during our trials, because without the working of His indwelling spirit, our words and actions become futile.