“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to kill and a time to heal…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NLT
Can I be bold with you? Sometimes life just sucks. For those of you offended by that word, please forgive me but honestly in some situations there’s really no better non-cuss word to use. Seriously think about it-throughout history there has been generations of people who endured much suffering and I am certain there are people right now in your family or neighborhood who seem to repeatedly get dealt an unlucky hand in the poker game we call life. Sometimes-we are that person who’s parade is ever being rained on and no matter how hard we fight, crawl, climb, scrape and cry-out for help it seems we’re continuously being knocked down and will forever remain in a pit of bad-luck and despair.
I’ve had my share of “bad luck”-my life has been a whirlwind of high hopes and deep disappointments. I’ve experience sudden deaths of loved ones including my step-dad when I was just 7-years-old. In my 20’s I lost the one man who was a constant in my life, my grandfather, to lung cancer. Add to that the betrayal of friends, a few abusive relationships, growing up around violent alcoholics and at times feeling abandoned by own biological father, you could say my life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been years I felt like I was just moving in circles and other years I felt I was running on a hamster wheel striving to rise above all the junk but really just going nowhere and wearing myself out in the process.
To make matters worse, I’ve seen people I care deeply about have their whole lives turned upside by major tragedies-sometimes it’s a sickness, sometimes it’s a family member (or themselves) battling an addiction, other times it’s a break-up or divorce, sometimes it’s the sudden loss of a loved one or the untimely death of a family member or a friend due to a lengthy illness. Then I turn on the news or read online and tragedy is splattered everywhere. Just last week I watched a video of a shell-shocked boy, only 8-years-old being pulled away from rubble and left alone in an ambulance while rescue workers searched for other survivors and casualties. The clip showed him completely gray in color covered in ash, with no emotion on his face. He rubbed his eye, barely blinking, touched his bloodied head and looked at his hand. The sight of blood on his hand didn’t even excite or upset him.
I cannot tell you how many times I have cried over the tragedy of others. My heart breaks over my own disappointments and losses but when I see others hurting or going through a trial that just doesn’t make sense I cry for them, I get angry at God for them and there are times I simply ask God, “Why?” Other times I cry out, “God this is so unfair!” And I cover them in prayer whenever they come to mind. When I see others hurting I also tend to want to hug them until their hurt goes away. I want to make them feel better and make them whole again. I forget that I am not God and He alone is the One True Healer. Only God can turn broken hearts into whole ones again. His word not only says so, He shows how He does it through Job and Ruth.
Ruth was a young widow in a foreign country. Her mother-in-law, Naomi, was engulfed with grief after losing not only her husband but also her two sons. The only family she had left was her two daughters-in-law. In that culture it was normal for a sibling to marry his brother’s widow. Alas, for Ruth and her sister-in-law this was not an option as both siblings were deceased. Naomi felt her daughters-in-law would be better off returning to their home country for a chance to find new husbands and bare children. Neither wanted to leave her at first, but after a little urging Ruth’s sister-in-law left Naomi and returned to her home land. Ruth however clung to Naomi. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is when Ruth says to Naomi, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16 NLT) And Ruth’s persistence pays off because Naomi finally permits Ruth to stay with her. That decision ends up being the turning point in changing both Naomi and Ruth’s circumstance from despair to redemption. Ruth lost her husband. Naomi lost her son. But God placed them in the hands of a kinsman redeemer who became Ruth’s husband and in a way an honorary son to Naomi. In the ends, Naomi’s friends (or moreover perhaps the town gossips) praise God by saying, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” (Ruth 4:14-15 NLT)
The other example of God moving a pit dweller into a land walker is good ole’ Job. In Job 1, he is introduced as a man who fear God and stayed away from evil. He was also a man who was very wealthy, married and had several children. Life you could say for Job was “smooth-sailing.” Along comes satan who mocks Job’s faith by implying Job was only a follower of Christ because God had given him such an easy life. God’s response? He allowed the belly-crawler that satan is to attack Job and test his faith. First Job lost his livelihood. He had no time to absorb this kind of a hit before he was informed ALL of his children were killed at once. If that wasn’t enough, God even allowed satan to attack Job’s health and he ended up covered in painful boils. Job didn’t just fall into a pit, he was thrown in by the arrogant punk coward forked tongue fallen angel Lucifer. AND GOD ALLOWED IT!!!! For me that is the most shocking part of Job’s story. God allowed a faithful follower of his to hit rock bottom simply to prove that nothing would shake Job’s faith to the point that he would turn against God.
Even though Job grieved, tore his clothing and covered himself in ash-he was credited for not sinning against God during this horribly tragic time. In the end God restored to Job all that he had lost, two fold. He doubled Job’s fortune and restored to him the exact number of children Job had lost. JOb was even cured from his boils. (Job 42)
These are just two examples of restoration and redemption. God’s word is filled with so many more. In this life-God still restores and redeem. If you are going through a difficult time, learning to live life without the person you loved most in it or feeling like you are forever stuck in a pit or just going in circles please be encouraged that God is with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you and just like Psalms 40 reminds us, He will pull us from the mud and the mire. In fact, I’d like to end this post with Psalm 40. I pray it encourages anyone who reads it and empowers you to walk tall knowing God is for you, not against you. If you surrender your wounds to the Father He will make you whole again. Be open to love. God tends to show His love for us through the love of others. He’s also been known to use the love of others to mend our brokenness. Ruth and Job’s hearts were crushed but God not only pieced them back together He enlarged their hearts to love again. After all, they’re hearts had to have grown twice in size at least to love those they had lost and have room to love the ones they had gained also.
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3 NLT)
One final thought before I close-God doesn’t just promise to bind up broken hearts-Psalm 30 tells us He promises to turn our mourning into joyful dancing, and to clothe us with joy (verse 11.) Grief is part of the process when one experiences loss. But it’s a process, not a way of life. Eventually to move past grief we have to release the wound and allow God to mend it so that we will no longer have the desire to mourn but instead be filled with joy and gladness once again.