Photo by Brad Helmink on Unsplash
For today’s blog post, I am honored to introduce you to my dear friend, Rachel Gerlach. My relationship with Rachel reaches back to when she was in kindergarten, and our families attended the same church. The Lord has crossed our paths as adults and has deeply encouraged me through Rachel. She is a mature woman of God who is committed to knowing Jesus more and following Him wherever He leads.
Rachel is a missionary-in-training with Bethany Global University and is currently serving the local church in Slovenia. You’ll find her words below, and I pray the Lord will encourage you as you read her reflection on the firm hope we have in the midst of hardships.
Grace and peace,
When our “WHERE ARE YOU?” is met with “WHERE WERE YOU?”
It was a blistering, hot summer day in the land of Uz. This time of year the sun showed no mercy. Job slowly pulled apart his cracked lips and opened his crusted eyelids to squint at the light of the new day. Pushing up from the ground with his raw, sore-covered hands, he half-unconsciously sat up and surveyed his surroundings: cracked pottery, blood-soaked cloth, and yesterday’s bread and meat left by a concerned neighbor. He was wiping the residue of salt and dust that remained caked on his face from the night before when he remembered, “They’re all gone. It’s all gone.” Pang. His heart felt the weight of the recent tragedies once more. His children. His home. His livestock. All gone. Had God deserted him? After all of his years of service, where was God now?
Remember Job? Not only was he described as “blameless and righteous in the sight of God,” Job was blessed with earthly riches, livestock, sons and daughters, yet in one day, all of this was taken from him (Job 1-2).
Can you imagine how Job must have felt?
He did all the right things. He said all the right things. He went to all the right places. He knew the right people. Even yet, tragedy struck. Throughout the book, Job’s friends try to make sense of his misfortune. They assume that Job had committed sin that produced his demise as God’s punishment, but at the end of the book God rebukes them saying, “My anger burns against you [Eliphaz] and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7b)
So why did such a righteous man as Job experience so much suffering? The book of Job gives no clear answer. Shocking… I know! Instead, God speaks from chapters 38-41 and essentially explains this:
- He is God.
- We are not.
If you can spare a moment, I’d encourage you to both read these chapters and listen to the song “Where Were You” by the band Ghost Ship.
Sometimes this doesn’t seem like an adequate explanation for the hardships we experience in this life. It actually feels more like a blow than a comfort at first glance. In these moments, it’s easy to think, “I thought God desired good for me and not evil.”
Have you ever felt similarly to Job? I’ve had these thoughts before… “I spend time in the Word, serve at church, and love my neighbor… why then are things still so difficult?” The truth is, we are blessed as we live for Christ, even if our circumstances don’t appear very “blessed.”
Paul does an incredible job of illustrating what we possess through Christ in Ephesians chapter 1, and I would encourage you to grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your comfy pants on, and take time to read and meditate on it. But for now, I’m going to paraphrase in a few bullet points some of what Paul shares in this passage.
- We are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing (1:3).
- God decided that he would make us pure and holy before He Created the world (1:4).
- Before we were born or could do anything wrong, God decided that he would adopt us into his family because of what Jesus would accomplish on the cross (1:5).
- We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1:7).
- God has forgiven us of everything we have done wrong, are doing wrong, or will do wrong (1:7).
- God lavishes us with grace (1:8).
- God has revealed his plan to us to unite all things in him on heaven and on earth through Jesus (1:9-10).
- Since we are a part of God’s family, we have an inheritance that God always planned to give us (1:11).
- We are sealed with the Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we receive it in full (1:14).
As I’ve been serving as a missionary intern here in Slovenia, I’ve had days, even weeks, that I feel so discouraged and hopeless. There have been times when ministry is slow, there’s tension between relationships, and I feel like I can’t see God’s goodness, but these have been the most important times for me to fix my mind on Christ. I have found myself believing at times that since I have been obedient to God’s call for me to serve overseas that He will allow everything to unfold smoothly. This has not been so, my friends! In fact, I have learned that sometimes life becomes even more difficult when you answer the call to Christ. I have had to fight to keep my mind fixed on Jesus and not let negativity take hold of my heart. I have had to fight to trust God when I can’t see it and trust that His Word is truth. Practically, for me, this looks like waking up in the morning and listing off all of God’s promises to me and reasons I am thankful… “breath, life, my salvation, etc…” When negative thoughts enter my mind, I must choose to think of His truth instead.
My dear friends, those who are weary, those who are discouraged by hardship… You may never receive an explanation for the suffering you experience in this life, but the good news is that this life is not the end. Eternity is coming, soon! When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago, this was not the only time He would appear. He is coming back a SECOND TIME, and this time He is going to restore all things and make all things right. Take courage!
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
As for now, even if you do all of the right things, you may still have to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). Even if you pursue God every day of your life, you may still experience countless sleepless nights and have questions too big for any man to answer. Blessings may not look like what we think they should (health, wealth, and prosperity to name a few), but let me encourage you to trust God’s perfect plan for your life and find your hope in Jesus Christ alone and in what is to come through Him.
As a volunteer with Moody Publishers, I read and write reviews for various books and hope a title will spark your interest. (There is certainly no obligation to purchase the book; I simply want to pass along ideas for your reading pleasure.)
This month’s title is Not From Around Here by Brandon O’Brien.