I never really liked going fishing with my Mom. Oh, I loved the fellowship with her, but she caught all the fish while I trailed my hook in the water and fed bait to the fish. One clear day in June, she had talked me into going fishing (her job) feeding the fish (my job). We were trolling along her favorite spot on Lake Bruin and something grabbed my hook. I was so startled I nearly lost my fishing rod. I pulled back then let out the line a little. It was a very strong fish. It headed out in front of the boat then turned back and shot under the boat. That maneuver broke the line. This caused quite a bit of consternation in Mom because I had finally persuaded her to let me use her favorite spinner bait so I would have a good chance of at least one catch for the day. I had decided that being a boat ornament was not all its cracked up to be, and my tan already had a tan for the summer.
Some fish get away, like that one, some get caught and decorate the nearest dinner plate. No matter if it is caught on a hook, a net or in a shark's belly, a fish will do that goggled-eyed-mouth-gasping thing when taken out of water. It will struggle for breath as long as it is alive. When the eyes glaze over, it is past revival. When it turns belly up in the fish tank, it is dead.
We live in a World of Struggle.
Just like a fish, we will get all goggle-eyed and our mouths will do that oh-shaped gasp for Spiritual breath. Thank goodness, when we quit struggling and let God take over, we don't die. That is when our real life begins.
Job found this out millennia before the world population made it into the billions. He understood that suffering is part of Life! People talk about their struggles all the time, and talk about how hard it is to even get up in the morning much less drag through another day. I've lived that too often to even contemplate.
Job didn't even know about the talk between God and Satan. He was just a God-lover and God-worshiper. He even sacrificed for his children just in case they accidentally sinned. Imagine that! Loving them so much he didn't want them to suffer separation from God. Loving God so much, he didn't want his children to have offended Him. How precious that is.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Let's be honest. Most of the time it is the consequences of bad choices – sin, ill-considered risks, ungodly friends, decisions without God’s guidance. Every Christian can look back at decisions made without God’s guidance and see some sort of disastrous result stemming from that decision. Every step we take and every move we make without God has the potential for disaster.
But, what about those other times?
2 Samuel 14:13
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.
And you wonder why things we consider bad sometimes happen.
First of all -- 90% of what we dread and fear, never happens. Worrying is usually wasted energy.
Now, in the case of children, when they are good, they do not get a spanking but are rewarded with good things or at the very least, a calm and pleasant time with parents. It works for children.
But (now here is the shocker) our goal is not absence of pain.
If that were our goal, we would try to find a place far from everything. Even that wouldn’t be a guarantee of absence of pain. That wasn't Job's goal either.
In his terrible grief, he blessed the name of the Lord. That made Satan angry. Job testified to one thing early in his trial by fire. God gives and God takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD. There is so much packed into that one sentence. We have nothing without God. We can have nothing without God giving it to us. (Anyone who thinks they've gotten where they are today without the grace of God is a fool.)
Sometimes it is because God trusts us that He allows tribulation. It is a testimony to those who come after us. I would suffer everything I've suffered all over again if it would give one soul hope that the tribulations are only temporary, or keep one soul from Hell. I cannot contemplate how awful that place is.
Satan said the reason Job blessed God was because of that hedge of protection God had put around him. God knew that it was because Job loved Him above all else and that nothing could shake that love. Why else would God call Satan’s special attention to Job? He trusted Job.
What then? Should we decide not to love God so much so that we can avoid pain and tribulations? Poppycock! It is that very act of loving God that keeps us from falling apart through the valley of the shadow of death, and keeps our hearts pure through all the good times. We fear no evil because God is with us. God provides the whole armor that protects against the fiery darts of Satan. Jesus sealed Satan's demise the instant He was raised from the dead. How can we not lean on that power that stilled the storm, settled the waves and stopped the wind? How can we not depend on the One that healed the sick and brokenhearted? How can we not trust the One who warmly stated, “Of course I will heal your son.” How can we not believe in the One who designed us so uniquely, even microscopically, that DNA and fingerprints separate us from billions of other people? Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word.
The alternative is too horrible to contemplate. We find this contrast in Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you fully received your good things in your lifetime, and Lazarus likewise the bad things. But now he is comforted, and you are suffering.
The absolute best thing is to look to God when we are suffering, even those in Hell’s torment look to Heaven for relief. Luke 16:24 And calling he said, Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame. Isn’t that telling? While great and prosperous on earth, the Rich Man had fully received his good things during his earthly life.
It cost me $1.25 to get a key made for my front door. It cost more to mow my grass than to open my front door because a gallon of gasoline costs twice that. Even the gazillions of dollars that the most opulent and richest man of the world has cannot buy the key to Heaven. The Rich Man had his good things in his earthly life. That could not compare to the riches of Heaven that Lazarus received when his earthly life was snuffed out.
So what is a little temporary anguish and distress compared to the peace and comfort offered to help us through our earthly torments? God knows what it feels like. He set aside all the riches of Heaven to become the lowliest of men and to suffer the greatest of torments so that we might inherit the huge estate of Heaven where each gate is a pearl, and the foundation is made of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other precious jewels. What is that compared to the best friend and advocate a person could ever have both on earth and in Heaven?
Sometimes we cannot see the ocean for the sea spray in our eyes. It is He that gives meaning to my life and purpose for my being. How precious to sit at His feet and adore Him, and how much more precious to be trusted by Him. I would not know how wonderful heaven is without having something to compare it to, like my struggles, trials and tribulations here on earth. I would much rather be in Heaven with my Lord, but I do not want to miss one single lesson, or one bit of struggle that stretches my soul. It is the soul stretching experiences that make more room for God and less room for the uglies in me and in this earthly life.
A couple of years after the fishing incident I desribed above, Mom and I were at it again. She was catching fish, and I was the boat ornament. I asked her again if I could use the bait she had just caught a fish with, sort of teasing her. She joked back if she wanted to lose her favorite bait she could toss it in the lake all by herself. At that moment, something on the bottom of the lake snagged her bait. I had to laugh, "So I'm not the only one who can lose bait!"
She said, "I haven't lost it yet. Give me a minute." So she worked it and got it free from whatever had snagged it. When she reeled it in, the bait I had lost years before was hooked to her bait. What are the chances we'd blindly recover that particular bait in a nine-mile long lake that is about a half mile wide? This was God being God blessing His children. I see this as God jumping into our fellowship with a joke of His own. What a joy His is!
[Editor's note: This is an updated version of a previous column. It is related to Water Spilled column.]
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