He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. (Job 26:7-10 NIV)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice. Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens. You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:32-35 NIV)
What will today look like in my mind? What best describes my feelings on day 22 of my restoration journey? Will there be any significant moments in the day that will shed light on my dim reality? Maybe I should be thinking bigger. Is sin's objective to reduce the size of God in our eyes and His involvement in our lives? In doing so won't it reduce the clarity of our spiritual vision thus blinding us to the awesomeness of God and all that He has created? Maybe we are missing the very component, the element that sustained Job during his dark time, the majesty of a God and wonder of His universe. If God can suspend the earth over nothing and dangle rain filled clouds over our planet until He releases their waters in measured portions, is the weight of my crisis to heavy for Him to restrain?
I'm beginning to see that sins goal, at least in my life, is to rob me of experiencing the majesty of God. For 22 days now I've given most of my attention to "my wrong" and very little attention to "His right". I shouldn't be asking how to get out of my situation; instead my focus should be how to daily usher God into my crisis. I can't change where I've been and what I've done but I can change where I'm going and what I will do when I get there. I'm no longer going to look for an exit off of this highway of hell. I'm going to begin looking for an entrance onto to a freeway of freedom. Whoever the Son sets free is free indeed.
Does God fix what's broken or replace it with something new? Did Job want his old life repaired? Or, did he want something new? I'm not suggesting that I want my wife, my family and my ministry removed from me but neither do I want our relationship of days gone by repaired. I want the "old people" but with new relational skills. God said that He would make ALL things new. Is that too difficult for the One who hangs clouds like we hang curtains? Why do we pray so small and live even smaller? Have I lost my awe in the One who parts water at flood stage and in an instant dries the sea floor so His people can cross? The psalmist worded it tis way:
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. (Psalm 106:9 NIV)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. (Psalm 24:1, 2 NIV)
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. (Psalm 33:6, 7 NIV)
For 37 years I've loved and served God. Throughout this journey there have been times of closeness and other moments of frightening distance between us. Did He move? My former theology would have responded with, "absolutely not". I would have gone on to say that I have, or had, moved. God is as "dynamic" as He is "static." Why are we so frightened at the idea of God moving, even if momentarily, away from us? I know He said that He would never "leave" us, but move? What's the difference? The difference is one implies forsaking, the other trusting.
If God steps back, for instance, He may be waiting to see if we trust the faith He has in us to do His will and His work. Look, Job was going through his crisis because God believed in him. God had taken a step back for a reason. Mean you say? God wanted to prove that Satan's theory about Job was wrong. Seriously Mark, how can you even suggest such a thing? Tell me what you think. Come on be honest. Read a portion of Job 2.
On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:1-3, 5, 6 NIV)
Is this the punishment of God or the faith of God in Job? I'm sorry if this challenges your theology but why is it that this innocent man went through such a difficult period of time? Why is our focus on God removing His hand from Job instead of seeing that He imparted His strength to him and expressed His faith in him? "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Why would such a book be canonized if it didn't serve to glorify God? Job may be the most controversial book in the bible. The fighting fundamentalists use it as a weapon against those who believe in the goodness of God. The faith camp uses it to preach against fear, stating, "what Job feared came upon him." They believe that that's why Job ended up in a boiled infested hell. Job, not God, is in fact the one who stated, "What I feared has come upon me." Job could only presume such a thing, this was not a "thus saith the Lord" but a feeling that produced and opinion.
I see Job's trial as God’s proof that those who keep their heart and eyes set on Him will never be dismayed. God trusted Job with His glory, His majesty and even His deity. Job's response to Satan's test would prove to declare the winner in the eyes of the people, God or Satan. Guess who won? Have you read the end of the book of Job? Job 42? It's scary to think that God trusts us, not to be perfect, but to respond in faith to him in the face of our trials, our chaos and our imperfections. I can hardly believe that God would trust me to bring Him glory out of my selfish decisions but that's exactly what I believe is happening this morning.
I will not allow the creator of Heaven and earth, the Author of my life, to be dishonored and discredited by a wrong response to my self-imposed tribulation. It's absolutely astounding to me that He is giving me the privilege of representing Him today on this global stage called earth. I know that the "great cloud of witnesses" are leaning over the balconies of Heaven today. If you listen carefully you might just hear the voices of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther and Job. With great anticipation they are cheering for me. "Come on a Mark, you can do this! We've beaten this liar, Satan, now it's your time. Show him up for the glory of our Father."
THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [Ps. 110:1.] Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds. (Hebrews 12:1-3 AMP)
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33 AMP)
I will never be perfect but I will know, and fight to maintain, perfect peace in the face of pure chaos. When I was very young I wanted to learn to ride a bicycle. My older brother, four years my senior, was really good at it. It looked like a lot of fun. Besides, I wanted to do everything that he did so my parents bought me my first bike. But, it didn't look exactly like my brothers bike. It had these extra pieces connected to the back wheels, they were called training wheels. How demeaning. All the older kids in the neighborhood could go faster and navigate tighter turns and spaces than me. I wanted to go faster but could I be trusted with more speed? Finally I convinced my dad that I was up to the task.
So, he removed the training wheels. He made sure that I knew that he would not put them back on. Remember, my dad worked 16 hours a day 5 days a week and 8 hours on Saturday? He trusted, if not demanded, that I would manage his trust. In the beginning he would hold me up, one hand on the handlebars and one under the bike seat. He would then run along side me as I peddled. Initially he did all the balancing for me.
Over time, without my knowledge, he would let go of the bike. Finally, when he thought I could balance he stepped back, and trusted me with the ride. My dad didn't let go to punish me, he let me go so that I could go faster, and so that I could enjoy the freedom the other kids were experiencing without training wheels. He trusted me. Did I ever fall after that? Really? I still bear the scars of many of bike crashes. Did my dad leave me because of a few "boo boos" and tears? Did he quit believing in me because I crashed? Never. As a matter of fact I became such a proficient bike rider that I could "wheelie" (ride on my back wheel alone) for blocks without ever dropping my front wheel. No kid could come close to me.
Our heavenly Father has given us the earth in order to express His faith in us and goodness towards us. What will we do with our time on earth to say, "thank you"? Pout and doubt? I don't think so. God trusts us daily to choose Him and His trust. Look into the skies, gaze upon the stars and revere the galaxies. All of these have been made visible so that we can more fully know His wonder, His power and His glory. Should I even question His wisdoms response to my stupidity, His light in my darkness or His strength in my weakness? God doesn't gloat over our failures, He hovers over us with love. I now realize that I can do nothing that will cause separation between us. He is never ashamed to call me His. He is never embarrassed by me. Oh, He might have stepped back momentarily but He never stepped away. And, He only took a step back because He trusted me. And guess what? He still does! So, today, He remains ever present to cleanse the wounds of my bloodied soul and to place me on my feet again. I'm so glad my Father loves me and maybe even more honored that He trusts me.