Late at night on Facebook, I read the words of a grief-stricken mother who had just buried her heart alongside the body of her only daughter. Tears flooded my eyes. The reality is, people are dying. How can I bake the day away with red and green sprinkles in my warm, Christmas-decorated, American home? What gives me the right to be frivolous and joyful? What may be waiting just around the bend for me? I shared this stranger’s grief and made it personal. I lay in bed picturing losing either of my girls.
My two daughters are my world! My joy! How can they not be!? What else is it to be a mom? I heard it said once that being a mom means having your heart go walking around outside your body. Because your heart is with your children wherever they are. Thinking about suddenly not having them — being robbed of them — had me weeping in bed, the way I used to as a little girl when I was afraid of losing my parents.
What if, what if, what if?
I could hear that hound of hell snarling at me.
Then I remembered the book of Job. Where is comfort there you ask? Isn’t that ancient book an account of every human fear realized as God sits by and watches?
But Job contains one of the most astounding lessons I learned this year as I read through God’s Word front to back. Satan asked for permission to strip everything from Job, and God allowed it for three reasons. First and foremost, it brought God glory and that is what we’ve been created for. Second, in His unfathomable wisdom, these tragedies brought earthly and eternal benefit to His beloved servant Job. Job’s position as one whom God loves guarantees that. And last but not least, this strange account we witness between God and Satan provides vital instruction to you and me.
You see, only in Job do we believers get a glimpse of how vicious, how rage-filled, how maliciously evil are our enemy’s thoughts and intentions towards us. What he did to Job, he would gleefully love to do to each and every one of us.
The enemy wants our heart.
He desires to collapse your home on your family while you sleep – if he was allowed. He would send tornadoes and earthquakes and all manner of destruction upon us – if he was allowed. His attempts are to end our jobs and marriages – if he was allowed. He would kill everyone we love in his attempt to destroy our faith and our love for Jesus – if he was allowed. Sickness, mental illness, poverty, ruin, all this and so much more would be our lot – if our greatest enemy was allowed to do his own will.
And why does our enemy strain at his shackles to destroy us?
Is it merely to cause us pain and anguish? Is it blind hate that thrashes recklessly? Here again, Job gives us the answer.
“Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:9-11
Satan is plain.
He seeks our harm because he longs to hurt our hearts and his greatest enemy, God. He longs to see us reject and hate God. And God allows this testing to all but slay the servant He loves. There is important theology here. Our God is not Santa in the sky. He does not dole out gold stars and candy to those He loves, seeking only our comfort and ease. If that were true, then those martyred for the gospel were deluded and confused as they proclaimed their love and trust in a good Father. If we believe God only gives us gentle gifts, then what will we do in the worst moments of our life? Will we give in to Satan’s deepest desire? Will we assume our God is angry with us or punishing us?
But in the pain of suffering, there is a worthy and unseen goal in the end.
We bring glory to the Father who loves us. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death we should fear no evil because He is with us. Being so enormous and so powerful, the whole Earth is but His footstool, and we are smaller than an atom in comparison — and yet — he has engraved our names into the palm of his hand.
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He gave His precious, perfect, treasured, only begotten Son to die in our place and bear all of our punishment, leaving not one drop of His wrath left for you and me.
And this magnificent, omnipotent Ruler holds His enemies and mine at bay *easily*.
They may not put one toe over the line without His express permission, and He only permits them to come at me when He has perfectly timed and calculated each wound for my good — my earthly and eternal good. Those snarling dogs are whipped! Their evil barks are all a boastful lie. There are no what-ifs! There is nothing that can harm me where I sit confidently in the palm of my Father’s hand. Their teeth have been removed and they only do my Father’s will, because nothing happens outside of His all-wise permission.
So comes tomorrow. Bring it.
I’ll sleep sweetly and peacefully tonight. If tomorrow there is a tragedy for me, my Father will be there with me, and His rod and His staff will comfort me. The shepherd’s rod was a club. It protected the sheep because it was for beating back the wolves. My Shepherd swung that club at His only Son, and the blood that gushed from that blow has forever sealed my protection. The shepherd’s staff was the long stick with a curve on top — like a candy cane. It was for reaching and retrieving a sheep that got itself stuck somewhere or found its wooly self precariously near the edge of a cliff. That staff scooped up every stray sheep.
When I ponder these verses of David’s beautiful 23 Psalm, I like to picture that old painting of Jesus where after retrieving that stray lamb, He lays it lovingly across His shoulders and snuggles it. That’s my God.
I will sleep sweet tonight no matter how many wolves howl around the hedges of my house and heart. They can’t come in. My Father is eternally standing guard, and those wolves are snarling louder because they are defeated and running out of time.
Question from Elizabeth Forkey, the author.
How are you learning to process loss around Christmas time?