Fear and Trembling

In this day and age of prosperity doctrines and praying all the bad away— because happiness is this American church’s focus often— sermons or teachings on working our Salvation out with fear and trembling seem to be MIA. Maybe you hear them, but in my circles and resources, I do not.

Today I’m thinking about Job. I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the thought of everything he went through— and all at once. First he experienced peace, and then trauma, loss and devastation all at once as Satan attacked him on every possible front, from every possible angle— with God’s permission— I think we overlook that important fact.

I think God was teaching Job Who He Is and all He has done. God said to Job, “Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?” Job 38:2 Obviously Job had been acting, and reacting to what happened to him, without much knowledge of all that encompasses God.

So God told him.

It’s easy to read God’s response as angry and intimidating. The fact that God speaks from the Storm lends to the idea God is angry or annoyed. But— what if He wasn’t? God allowed the storm, but He did not cause it. If He were angry, do you think He would have been the cause? Does this all come across differently if, instead, we read it with a calm, yet sarcastic voice? With what seems accusatory, what if we inject an underlying sad tone? I mean, God definitely chastised Job, while He also turned the tables on Him— “answer— if you know…” But— look what it took to get Job to a teachable place!

God help us to not need to be brought to brokenness in order to receive truth and the healing Salvation He freely offers to each one of us.

In Job 1:1 we see: “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless–a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.”

Job knew enough to fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom. He knew enough to do what God required and Job wanted his children to be right with God, to be saved from God’s wrath at sin. Was he arrogant about it? Maybe. He certainly, it seems to me, didn’t know enough to be in a relationship with God— the reason God created mankind. Job was trying to do everything right, his heart actions were right with God. But— he lacked that relationship with Him.

What if we read God’s next words with no anger or frustration, but instead with a firm gentleness that educates Job, while also giving him an attitude adjustment.

Imagine yourself, standing (if you can) before God— just you, no spouse, family, friends or pastor— and having Him confront you with these questions. How do you think you might answer— if you can?

“3 Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
as it burst from the womb,
9 and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
10 For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
11 I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
Here your proud waves must stop!’
12 “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
13 Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,
to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
14 As the light approaches,
the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;
it is robed in brilliant colors.
15 The light disturbs the wicked
and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
16 “Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
Have you explored their depths?
17 Do you know where the gates of death are located?
Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
18 Do you realize the extent of the earth?
Tell me about it if you know!
19 “Where does light come from,
and where does darkness go?
20 Can you take each to its home?
Do you know how to get there?
21 But of course you know all this!
For you were born before it was all created,
and you are so very experienced!
22 “Have you visited the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of hail?
23 (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war.)
24 Where is the path to the source of light?
Where is the home of the east wind?
25 “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain?
Who laid out the path for the lightning?
26 Who makes the rain fall on barren land,
in a desert where no one lives?
27 Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground
and make the tender grass spring up?
28 “Does the rain have a father?
Who gives birth to the dew?
29 Who is the mother of the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?
30 For the water turns to ice as hard as rock,
and the surface of the water freezes.
31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars–
binding the cluster of the Pleiades
or loosening the cords of Orion?
32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
33 Do you know the laws of the universe?
Can you use them to regulate the earth?
34 “Can you shout to the clouds
and make it rain?
35 Can you make lightning appear
and cause it to strike as you direct?
36 Who gives intuition to the heart
and instinct to the mind?
37 Who is wise enough to count all the clouds?
Who can tilt the water jars of heaven
38 when the parched ground is dry
and the soil has hardened into clods?
39 “Can you stalk prey for a lioness
and satisfy the young lions’ appetites
40 as they lie in their dens
or crouch in the thicket?
41 Who provides food for the ravens
when their young cry out to God
and wander about in hunger?”

Job 39: “1 “Do you know when the wild goats give birth?
Have you watched as deer are born in the wild?
2 Do you know how many months they carry their young?
Are you aware of the time of their delivery?
3 They crouch down to give birth to their young
and deliver their offspring.
4 Their young grow up in the open fields,
then leave home and never return.
5 “Who gives the wild donkey its freedom?
Who untied its ropes?
6 I have placed it in the wilderness;
its home is the wasteland.
7 It hates the noise of the city
and has no driver to shout at it.
8 The mountains are its pastureland,
where it searches for every blade of grass.
9 “Will the wild ox consent to being tamed?
Will it spend the night in your stall?
10 Can you hitch a wild ox to a plow?
Will it plow a field for you?
11 Given its strength, can you trust it?
Can you leave and trust the ox to do your work?
12 Can you rely on it to bring home your grain
and deliver it to your threshing floor?
13 “The ostrich flaps her wings grandly,
but they are no match for the feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on top of the earth,
letting them be warmed in the dust.
15 She doesn’t worry that a foot might crush them
or a wild animal might destroy them.
16 She is harsh toward her young,
as if they were not her own.
She doesn’t care if they die.
17 For God has deprived her of wisdom.
He has given her no understanding.
18 But whenever she jumps up to run,
she passes the swiftest horse with its rider.
19 “Have you given the horse its strength
or clothed its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Did you give it the ability to leap like a locust?
Its majestic snorting is terrifying!
21 It paws the earth and rejoices in its strength
when it charges out to battle.
22 It laughs at fear and is unafraid.
It does not run from the sword.
23 The arrows rattle against it,
and the spear and javelin flash.
24 It paws the ground fiercely
and rushes forward into battle when the ram’s horn blows.
25 It snorts at the sound of the horn.
It senses the battle in the distance.
It quivers at the captain’s commands and the noise of battle.
26 “Is it your wisdom that makes the hawk soar
and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle rises
to the heights to make its nest?
28 It lives on the cliffs,
making its home on a distant, rocky crag.
29 From there it hunts its prey,
keeping watch with piercing eyes.
30 Its young gulp down blood.
Where there’s a carcass, there you’ll find it.”

Job 40:1 Then the LORD said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

Do you have the answers?

Imagine Job— broken and traumatized, physically inflicted — all by the devil, who roars about seeking to devour each one of us— with God’s allowed permission.

God is God. He answers to no one, but He has limited Himself by promises and covenants that He always faithfully keeps.

Have you experienced any times of working out your own faith with fear and trembling? Hopefully not like Job had to be brought to.

Philippians 2:12-16 (NASB)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.”

Tough As Sand

In the past, I thought of myself as a kind of diamond in the rough. But here lately, I realize I’m more a lump of soft coal that wishes it could be a diamond. Coal that is under the heaviest of pressure can, in part, become a diamond. In the past I’ve compared my life’s hardships as what coal experiences as it then becomes one of the very hardest substances known to mankind. Hard circumstances formed a hardened heart within me and a toughened, hardened exterior. I thought that was what I needed to protect myself, to make sure I could withstand more pressure from circumstances outside of my control.

Today I realized what I believed about myself may not even be the case— if it ever really was. God softened my hardened heart after I met my husband. He chipped away at that outer layer of toughness, like an emotional callous, and He took down the walls I had built up, brick by brick.

Nothing I do will protect me like God does. Walls trap the yuck inside, and keep the positive new things out. Before God fixed my old hardened heart, it could have easily been one of the rocks that praises God when people fail to.

It was that hard.

Today, I talked with someone about something I haven’t really thought deeply about in years! I’m not sure what I expected, but I left that conversation feeling as though all that hardness I still managed to cling to is crumbling away into dust. A trauma I experienced as a child re-emerged into my memories, and God has been so deeply at work within me, my reactions are different. My walls are gone. My heart feels soft, crushable and exposed.

I had myself so figured out before, I had every one of my reactions to my history carefully planned out. And now— I let go of my control. I feel like I’m just going to completely crumble as I now deal with old trauma mixed in with something new that was unexpected.

Maybe my life is a series of diamonds made from my spirit being crushed, over and over again. Maybe it’s all still just a lump of coal that has been broken into so many pieces, it more resembles charcoal powder. Maybe it’s a piece of coal used to keep the fire of difficult circumstances stoked at it’s hottest. Maybe it’s more like the ashes and residue left over.

I don’t know.

What I do know is— I am not the same person I started on this journey as. I thought situations had helped shape me. Turns out, maybe God has handled me differently than I believed He had, and maybe my opinions kept me blind to that. No trauma I have or ever will experience could possibly match what Jesus endured on the way to, and on, the cross. He was wounded for our (my) transgressions.

My walls and self protection have to crumble in order to allow His healing process to be thorough in me.

By His wounds I am healed.

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Saved Through Childbirth

1 Timothy 2:15 “Women, however, will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” Berean Study Bible

I’ll be honest— I want to be offended by this verse. And especially by the verse before (14) it that says, “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into transgression.” I want to say, really? But— it’s right there, in black and white, in the written Word of God.

We all know Eve ate the fruit and then offered it to Adam. There have probably been millions of sermons from various viewpoints on this very subject, over the last 2000+ years. Regardless of Adam’s negligence, or being distracted, or even disinterested in what Eve was being coerced into— Eve picked the fruit off of the only tree God warned them to never eat from, and she ate it. And then she gave it to Adam, who willingly went along with his wife’s tantalizing coercion— after all, she hadn’t died…

Being Saved through childbirth is an idea I’ll admit I’ve struggled with. I mean— childbirth is hard! It hurts!

I experience natural births 3 times, and once I felt I cheated by getting an epidural. Honestly— I much preferred the natural births! I don’t think I can explain why, but it was a much more fulfilling experience each time. I felt like I accomplished something amazing, I persevered, I pushed through— literally! The epidural birth, I felt nothing— no bonding with my baby through a physical struggle— the baby was taken rather than emerging.

The real labor began after each birth, for me, though. My first birth, not only was my daughter born, but also my momhood. It was an ugly process at first— I had so much dying to myself to do— and wow did I do that badly! Sleep deprived with a newborn nursing— new experience for the both of us— she was so tiny, born a month earlier than expected, I fought against sleep to make sure she was getting nutrition and gaining weight.

The next two were easier only because I kind of knew what I was doing. I had so much more to learn! And our youngest was pretty easy with brothers and sister ready to help as much as they could.

My life was completely changed overnight. If you’ve ever had to die to yourself before, then you understand what momhood transforms into for many moms. We fight uphill battles for nutrition, clean houses and what we believe is in the best interest of our kids until they move out— and even then, the worry over most of those things doesn’t disappear. There is never an “out of sight, out of mind” moment when our babies fly from our nest.

Back to the being Saved part. So— my life before I had kids was pretty much my own. I mean, of course I tried to put God first. Then I got married, and had to learn to put my husband before myself. Then the kids each came before me. I felt lost for some of those earlier years, like I had completely disappeared into their lives, routines, and needs.

After pushing through those times, I began to recognize my kids actually gave my life new purpose, new focus. My kids saved me from selfishness, from living for myself. My newborn, premie-tiny daughter saved me while I was learning how to be her mommy, while I was learning how to set me aside and make sure she had everything she needed for her life. I failed so much, but I also had some pretty great successes.

Bearing, birthing and bearing my children has been a journey I would love to repeat— for the most part.

What a wonderful, fulfilling gift God gave to women! It’s unlike anything else! Continuing in faith, love and holiness with self-control can be such a challenge! It’s no wonder the devil attacks children! Thankfully we have the Holy Spirit to help us power-through it all.

Forgive Them? Why??

This is a recurring theme in my life, it seems. And not just little things— really big, hard issues. When things start to finally relax, suddenly it becomes necessary to exercise my forgiveness muscles again. I have lifted some of the heaviest issues with these muscles. I don’t see a need to flex them for vanity purposes— these are the necessary muscles for living a life that keeps me close to Jesus. They are the strength that is unseen, coming from an unseen force— Jesus, Who is my Mediator, my Intercessor— my reason for living. He keeps me continually moving forward.

I’ve been dealt some difficult cards throughout my life so far, most seem to fall under the category of betrayal. I don’t know if I can even categorize them all. The one thing they have in common, besides intense pain, is an attack on trust.

When the burden of offense against me is so heavy— a crushing weight, God reminds me that forgiveness lifts that burden off of me and puts it at the foot of the cross.

We can’t take anything with us when it’s our time to move on from earth— that includes the offenses and hurts from others. When we surrender them to Jesus, Who bore the crushing weight of every offense, past, present and future— we walk in the truest form of Grace and Mercy.

When we come face to face with the knowledge that Jesus said, while being crushed by all of the sins of this world— “Father, forgive them because they don’t understand”, we then have the tiniest of glimpses into what Jesus endured on that cross, in our place. He willingly surrendered to every betrayal we’ll ever experience.

That is why we forgive. Again. And again. And again…

“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…” Matt 18:21-22