Why God?

My blog “Wrestling with Jacob” is approaching its 3 year birthday. Tomorrow, March the 26th marks three years since our Jacob died of a prescription drug overdose and I began blogging shortly afterward. I chose the name of the blog for several reasons and some might assume it mostly has to do with me wrestling with Jakes death. You would be correct if you guessed that but only partly correct. My 60 plus entries has much more to with my wrestling with God than wrestling with the grief I feel over the loss of my boy.

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Losing Jacob has stretched my faith and opened my understanding of the very character and nature of God. His attributes are clearly seen through his creation, his word, and Jesus his son. By looking in those three places God has revealed himself to me and deepened my worship of him.

I have often said to people that I miss the days when I was ignorant of the things grief has taught me. Yet, in the next breath I confess I wouldn’t trade the knowledge I have gleaned from it. Suffering is a teacher and a tool used by God to reveal himself in ways that nothing else can. Before the trials began in my life I was quite ignorant of the God I worshiped but now I see God more clearly than ever before.

I remember the first lesson in the early days of grief was that of God’s grace. In the weakest moment of my life I found that his grace was sufficient to sustain me through the pain. Lesson two was dealing with the sovereignty of God and choosing to bless him despite the fact that he took my son from me. Lesson three was concerning hope and whether or not I really believed in the hope of the resurrection. Lesson four was about comfort, then it was love, then peace, then mercy and so it went…and so it goes.

What I am saying is this, God revealed himself to me more clearly in the pain than he ever did in the pleasure. I saw grace clearly and differently, I see sovereignty more clearly, he showed me his hope more deeply. God disclosed his love more intimately and his peace more abundantly. In the suffering I am discovering the God I worship but the God that I did not know very well at all. For this I am thankful.

I miss my son terribly every day, I miss everything about him. It has been said that ignorance is bliss but is that true?  I do not miss the ignorant days I lived in prior to Jacobs passing. There is much bliss I enjoy now that I could not comprehend then and that I am not willing to trade. I lost my relationship with my son but I have gained an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus; my God whom I worship.

The why question

Looking at the life of Job I have learned that most of the “why God” questions will not get answered but the “who are you God” questions will.

Job lost everything. All his children, all his wealth and his health were suddenly taken from him. His worshipful response to such grief is stunning, he said,“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20) In all his grief Job wants a sit down with God to answer the why questions of his suffering and God gives him that opportunity. God says to him,“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.” (Job 38:2-3) 

God never answers Job’s question but does reveal to him his divine nature. Job shut his mouth in awe before the very God who formed him in the womb. Again God calls Job to answer him by saying,“Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me: “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 40:7-8)

What was the response of Job in his pain when given a chance to ask the why question? He again shuts his mouth except to acknowledge his ignorance. He confesses that what he had heard about God cannot be compared to what God disclosed of himself when confronted by him.

Job sees God for who he is for the first time through unimaginable suffering. He worshiped God throughout the suffering in ignorance of his true nature. In the end he discovered the deepest worship came when his spiritual eyes were opened. For the first time Job sees himself clearly and God clearly and he responds accordingly with informed pure worship.

“I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-5)

Blessed be his name

Now, more than ever I am resolved in my heart to sing the following worshipful refrain.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
You give and take away
God give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
Oh you give and take away
God give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-12) 

Trouble in River City

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Every day is memorial day for me and my family. I wrote the following the day before Jacob died and thought I would re-post it. We texted back and forth that day about the words to a song he sang in his lead role in the Music Man. It has been a tough stretch of life for our family in the last 3 years. Every day we remember, we keep swimming against the current, leaning on the grace of God.

The Steelhead spawning run has begun in the Betsie River. The trout begin their difficult journey by leaving the solace of the great lake Michigan to enter the difficult river current, swimming ahead through many dangers toils and snares (and hooks!) to reach their goal.

I have a reminder on the wall in my office that reads, “Any dead fish can go with the flow, it takes a live fish to swim against the stream.” In our study of pastoral patterns I was reminded of this quip and how Paul was no dead fish, flip flopping with every wind of doctrine but was a man on a mission, passing through many difficulties on his journey to win the prize of the upward call of Jesus Christ his Lord.

The journey of Paul was prophesied by Jesus Himself as a ministry that would bring him much suffering because of the name he proclaimed (Acts 9:16) Suffering will come on any faithful servant who desires to live godly in an ungodly world. If Christians want to follow in the wake of Paul’s example we can expect difficulty in this life, just as Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Knowing the hostility that is to come we need the grace and patience in our lives to love our enemies and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. (Matt. 5:44)

Saul began as a church terrorist; he was a blasphemer a persecutor and a harsh proud man. But the mercy and grace of God touched the chief of sinners and saved him, demonstrating to us that the worst of men are not out of the reach of the grace God. God could have chosen to destroy him for his unbelief but instead he chose him and used him to bring glory to Himself, and make him an example of patience for us.

Life without faith is full of trouble, lets face it, if we live out our faith as the patterns outlined for us, we will be in need of much grace and patience because of the added trouble it brings to our lives. Paul is our pattern for patience in life’s many troubles. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!” (1 Tim. 1:15-17)

There is a chorus line in the musical, Music Man, that sings, “Yes we got trouble, right here in River City with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! Yes we surely got trouble, right here in River City, gotta figure a way to keep the young ones moral after school!” We as Christians have entered River City, and there is certainly trouble with a capital T that flows our way on a daily basis. We need grace and patience, especially when it comes to suffering for what is right and good.

How do you react when you are mocked for your faith in Christ? Are you suffering for your good conduct in Christ? If we flow with the stream like a dead fish we can expect that we will never give glory to God by suffering for His name. This is our calling, it is a privilege to suffer shame for his name and it actually provides joy for us when we suffer it. (Acts 5:41)
Peter and John left a beating rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Why would they suffer shame for Jesus? Because Jesus suffered for them, providing atonement for their sin and in loving response they would most gladly suffer for the one who suffered for them. Peter commenting on suffering for doing that which is good said this is commendable behavior to God. ” For to this we were called, because Christ also suffered for us (past tense, Christ suffered only once for sins-(Hebrews 9:26-28) leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness- by whose stripes we are healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter2:21-25)
Jesus is our divine example of patient suffering; Paul is our earthly example of patient suffering.

Follow their examples Christian, swim against the current with all grace and patience to the glory of God our Savior! But may the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, (1) perfect, (2) establish,(3) strengthen, and(4) settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever. Amen!” (1 Peter 5:10-11) Patient suffering yields a fourfold fruit- can you see this fruit in your life? We shall as we abide in the vine of Jesus. Finally, beware of those who, “desire to make a good show in the flesh, these try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:12) Beware of the fishes who go with the flow!