Who Do You Love?

I want to be involved in church, but I don’t want to be around that person.

I want to serve on this team, but not if that person is in charge.

I want to engage with God’s Word, but not if that person is preaching.

I want a community of people to grow into Christlikeness with, but not if they’re older than me or younger than me or they go to private school or go to public school or vaccinate their kids or don’t vaccinate their kids. They better be just like me if they want to be in community with me.

Have you ever felt or thought any of these things?

If we’re real honest with ourselves, the answer would certainly be yes.

I definitely have. More often than I care to admit.

Here’s the deal though.

That doesn’t sound like love to me.

It just doesn’t.

To refuse to listen to preaching, or serve, or be in a small group because there’s someone you don’t like is about one of the least loving mindsets you and I can have.

Today I want us to be reminded of one of the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament. I’m talking about the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s read part of it together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

One of the most important steps of studying the Bible is understanding the context of what you’re reading.

Where have you heard this passage taught?

Most likely at a wedding. This is one of the classic wedding messages.

This isn’t sinful or heretical or wrong, but it does skew our view of what this passage is about.

If you open up your Bible, you’ll see by looking around the immediate context of this passage that this is not primarily about romantic love. It’s about congregational love.

This is a description of what love should look like in the church. The last time marriage was mentioned is in chapter seven. A lot has come up since then. Just previous to this chapter is a long discussion by Paul about the role of spiritual gifts and diversity in the body.

The body of Christ.

This text is not about romantic love, it’s about congregational love.

How we doing?

How are our churches doing at this?

How are you doing at this?

I recently read a quote that was pretty abrasive.

God is looking for mature men and women to carry on His work, and sometimes all he can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other. – Warren Wiersbe

Talk about some convicting stuff.

Do we exemplify mature or childish behavior?

I’ll tell you, there’s much room for improvement in my life when it comes to loving the body like Paul teaches us to here in this passage.

I’ll be honest, my heart breaks when I hear of petty disagreements, turf wars, drama, disunity, cliques, and all the like. My heart breaks when I’m culpable in such matters.

We are called to be patient and kind. To all people. We are called not to be jealous of others. We are called to not be prideful.

We are called to not be self-seeking. The church isn’t about what any of us can gain from it. It is about what we can give to it. If anyone had the right to be self-seeking, it was Jesus. The whole universe was his. But instead of taking from the people of God, he gave his life for the people of God. Are you trying to create your kingdom of sand in your church, or are you giving your life for it?

We are called to not be easily angered. Let’s be honest with ourselves. What is at the root of the issues that fire us up? Is it about the glory of God and health of his church, or is it about  our own egos or preferences?

We are called to not be a keeper of wrongs.

This does NOT mean that you are to be a welcome mat, treated poorly over and over.

This does mean that you shouldn’t hold a grudge, but instead you should forgive them. This isn’t an easy process, it doesn’t happen in an instant, but it is what you’re called to do.

Regardless of what someone in the church has done to you, it is a far cry to all you’ve done in your rebellion towards God, which was forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Reconciliation is the desired end result here.

Divisions and disunity, cliques and squabbles, pettiness and immaturity. These grieve the heart of God.

Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Before you think that this is an idealistic view of the church, let me remind you what the church in Corinth was like. This was a messed up place. Yes, more messed up than the church you left or the church you’re in. There was incest that wasn’t being addressed, and the people were suing one another in the church. I’d say that’s some pretty grotesque and intense stuff.

Yet, Paul doesn’t give them a way out here.

He doubles down and tells them to love one another. To be the body.

I’ll be honest, few things break my heart more than seeing the people of God full of hate for each other. Sure, there are people you will get along with better than others. There will be some that you never have a deep relationship with. There will be some that are not easy to get along with.

You know what?

You’re still called to love them.

Let us all set an example for the world around us of a people who aren’t petty, who aren’t angry, who aren’t envious or self-seeking. Let us be different. Let us be loving.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

What God Taught Me About Community When I Had No Friends

About a year ago I moved to a town where I had no friends other than my soon-to-be husband. Although we were thrilled to be living in the same town after almost two years of long distance, my whole concept of community was changing. Suddenly, “community” didn’t look like five 21 year old girls, five spoons, and a pazookie. Community didn’t look like living in the same building as two hundred other girls on a campus full of people who were approximately the same age as me and roughly in the same stage of life as me. I moved to a town where there are very few people my age and in the same stage of life as me.

In school, you can pretend to have community even if you don’t. The people around you are at least similar to you in some way. Then you graduate. You go to work, come home, and then what? There’s no club meetings… no events… no wandering down the hall to find someone to hang out with.

You have to work for community.

My friendships now don’t look the same as before. We don’t eat every meal together or hang out every weekend. They are moms and some of them are even old enough to be my mom! But you know what? They show up. They check in. They encourage and share wisdom.

College spoils you. It’s so great, but it spoils you! Friendships and community won’t look like that your whole life! And sometimes that is hard. But you find people who share in the important things – people who will help when needed and celebrate when needed!

Matching pajamas and pazookie nights are great, but community changes just as the seasons of life do. When I let go of what I think friendships should look like at this stage of life, God provided me with great friendships that spur me on toward what is good.

To all of you college peeps out there… soak it in. But make it about more than just fun. Find encouragers and supporters and people who push you closer to Christ. Those relationships last.

To graduates… trust the Lord to provide you with community… and then get involved in a church. You may have to let go of some expectations about what you think your friendships should look like and that’s okay. God knows our desires and our needs and He will provide. But also don’t forget that He is the ultimate companion and can provide all that you need. If it is taking a long time to find your community, be patient and lean into Him.

When I had no friends, God brought me a community more caring, wise, and encouraging than I’ve ever known! And I am so thankful.

– Jamie Roach

Worst Fears

What is your worst fear?

I’m not asking about what you’re afraid of. I’m afraid of plenty. Just yesterday some close friends of mine were having a ball with the fact that I’m terrified of spiders and really bugs in general. I’m not a fan.

I’m asking what is your worst plausible fear.

For many of us it would be the unexpected loss of a family member, the loss of health, the loss of relationships, the pain of a child. School shootings. Natural disasters. Cancer. These things bring fear to our hearts and minds.

Now, what if a combination of all of these horrible fears came to fruition in a day?

It would probably lead you to say something like this:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. – Job 3:25-26

The third chapter of Job is when Job begins to let it all out before God. In the first two chapters, he has shown exemplary faith (Receiving Bad From God) while having his world rocked by unjust, abject suffering. Now he is ready to tell God how he feels about the situation.

If you’re like me, you probably read the first two chapters with an air of annoyance. You start to feel like Job is a superhero, a super Christian, only ever praising God. The third chapter humanizes him no doubt. He is still not walking in consistent, unrepentant sin, but he lets his emotions come pouring out. I strive to teach my students regularly that God is more than capable of listening to and bearing your emotions. To hide from Him how you really feel about any given situation is not only unnecessary, but impossible due to His omniscience. Job worships, but he also wrestles.

We too can both worship and wrestle with God at the same time.

In Job’s wrestling, we see that there are some aspects of his heart that still need to be worked on, still need to be molded by the grace of God. As I’ve written about earlier in this study (A Man Named Job), Job had a karma-like view of God to some extent. He consistently sacrificed offerings to the Lord (that weren’t mandated by God) in order to protect his children from harm. It’s a noble idea, but it’s one that has a quid pro quo view of God just under the surface. If Job gave offerings to God, then surely God would keep his children safe.

Now, Job is facing the reality that all of his good deeds and good intentions did nothing to prevent him from suffering. His worst fears were being realized, and his gut reaction is to curse the very day of his birth. Reading through the book of Job is like reading the innermost thoughts of those in our churches and in our communities that are facing incredibly difficult circumstances. Job, a follower of God, curses the day of his birth, repeatedly saying he wishes he had never been born, for that would be better to him than the suffering he was going through.

That’s a level of pain I’ve honestly never experienced. But I know that it’s a level of pain that some are experiencing right now. As I read Job, the question that keeps coming to my head is whether or not our churches are a place where people can say the type of things that Job says with the knowledge that they will be listened to and loved.

Think about it.

If someone said something like that in Sunday School, the majority of us would cringe at best, offer our theological proclamations of God’s goodness at worst (again, I’m talking at the very beginning of suffering Christian, Be Quiet).

Our churches need to be places where there is space to mourn, to grieve, to suffer in community.

There’s something else interesting I want to point out about this chapter. Let’s look at verses 13-14, and 19.

For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and rulers of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, . . . The small and great are there, and the slaves are freed from their owners. – Job 3:13-14, 19

Job proclaims that if he were to die, he would be at peace. He would be at peace with both the small and the great. He mentions also that those who built kingdoms for themselves here on earth would have nothing to show for it, as their kingdoms now lie in ruins.

While you can’t make grandiose doctrinal assumptions from passages like this, we know for a fact that this is true. The small and great die. Job’s view of death is not inherently Christian at this point, since his view of death is just rest, not communion with God. That being said, all people face this. Everyone faces either an eternity of communion with God or an eternity of separation from God.

So those kingdoms we’re building for ourselves don’t matter. They don’t go with us. Job said it in chapter one, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.

We can’t really judge for certain what Job’s motivations were throughout his life, but he had a kingdom. He had power, prestige, money, a solid family. He had everything that most people want. Yet it was all stripped away from him in a day.

The reality is, we will all be like Job at some point.

Death strips us from all of our kingdoms of sand.

In death, all we lived for other than the Lord comes down, gets left behind.

Job 3 is an opportunity to look into the mind of a man who has lost everything. And it’s just the start.

My prayer is that our churches become places where raw emotions can be shared without judgment or disdain. My prayer is that our churches become places where people are reminded that there is only one Kingdom that lasts and it has nothing to do with us.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hanging out at my apartment in Phoenix, AZ with my friend Matt and my then girlfriend, now wife, Jamie. I got a text that my dad needed to talk to me, so I stepped outside into the 112 degree heat and gave him a ring.

My dad informed me that my eighteen year old brother who had run away about a year prior had chosen to legally remove himself from our family. This was something he could do without consulting us given the laws in Texas.

Before I even got off the phone, I was already in tears. Questions were racing through my mind.

Why would God allow this?

My parents followed God’s call to open up our home to this young man, to adopt him, to make him part of our family and bestow upon him all the blessings of parents that love him dearly.

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

For a year I prayed and prayed and prayed and now God allowed him to leave our family. No hope of reconciliation and restoration. No hope of a family reunion down the line where broken things are restored.

Instead, my parents lost a son and I lost a brother.

I made my way back to my door, got through it, and then collapsed to the ground. I sat there crying right in my doorway. Jamie and Matt came running and I barely eked out the words “Trevor left our family”.

For what felt like an eternity, I sobbed as Matt and Jamie sat on the floor next to me, consoling me. They didn’t speak. All you could hear were my cries.

In the book of Job, we see Job get blasted with suffering in the first two chapters. By the latter half of chapter two, Job is alone in his suffering, his own wife leaving him to suffer in silence.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Job 2:11-13 

We learned from the first chapter of Job that Job was a man of renown in the region where he lived (1:3). Word of his suffering spread, and three of his friends from the surrounding area came and sought to encourage him.

They noticed how much pain he was in, joined in his pain, mourned with him, and said nothing to him for a week.

These three will later show their foolishness to us, but here at the onset they teach us a considerable amount about how to respond to the suffering of a friend.

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

Suffering as a Christian is a reality. It is a promise straight from the lips of our Savior. It is to be expected. That being said, what a Christian or non-Christian for that matter needs to know in the midst of their suffering is that you are for them and that you are with them.

I’m sure many of us have stories where we sought to open up about a difficulty, a tragedy in our lives, only to be told right off the bat by good-hearted, well-meaning Christians that God has a purpose for our pain.

There are a plethora of Scriptures that teach that. We saw just in our last blog that God uses good and bad for our benefit, and that we should be willing to accept both from Him (Receiving Bad From God). But, in the throes of intense suffering, the best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut. Cry with them. Mourn with them. Sit with them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry out about God and against him. As time progresses, then you can share the beautiful truths of Scripture. But you do the faith a disservice when you come in with cookie-cutter statements.

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

They let me get angry, get sad, wrestle with God.

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

Imagine if I had come through the door of my apartment, collapsed on the ground, only for Matt and Jamie to say “Don’t cry, God’s got a plan”. That would have been the most detrimental thing they could have done in that moment.

Look at this verse.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 

I’m sure we all have stories of when someone spoke too soon instead of listening to us in our pain. I have been on both sides. I have been spoken to instead of listened to, but I’ve also opened my stupid mouth in the midst of the suffering of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not be the type of people who take away coats on cold days. Let’s not be people who, even in a church setting like Sunday School, offer up trite and flippant sayings from Scripture instead of letting people have a place to suffer and yet feel loved.

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that many have left church, or even given up on following Jesus, because you and I open our mouths instead of keeping them shut.

Christian, be quiet.

Let us show our communities that our churches are places where they can suffer, where they can be raw about their doubts and angers, their fears and anxieties, their wrestling with God. If our churches aren’t a safe place for people to wrestle with God in suffering, we will continue to see our churches die out as the next generation finds more loving people outside the church than inside it.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone of malicious ill will.

I’m rather reminding us that we all struggle, we all wrestle, we all fight, we all doubt, we all lose hope in the midst of suffering. If you have had a suffering-free life, you’re likely a kid or the luckiest person alive. So why do we not allow people to suffer? Why don’t we allow them the place and space to get to the point where they, like Job, can say “My Redeemer lives”.

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

For me, it has taken years to get to the point where I can reflect on Trevor’s story and have hope. Some days it still wanes.

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Receiving Bad From God

It’s easy to praise God on good days, isn’t it? When things are stable vocationally, relationally, financially, and physically, our worship of God is pretty natural.

What about on difficult days though?

What about on the days when one thing after another seems to be falling apart in your life?

On those days, it doesn’t come nearly as natural to us to open up our mouths and hearts in praise to our Heavenly Father.

Yet, this is exactly what Job did in Job 1. He faced the most excruciatingly difficult day of his life, and he was able to praise God regardless.

The second chapter of Job takes us back to the throne room of God. The angels are again presenting themself before His splendor and majesty (v. 1), and Satan again comes into the room. God is quick to bring up Job again, showing Satan that Job’s integrity and righteousness remained intact (v. 3), despite the tremendous suffering that was thrust upon him.

Satan is prepared for this, and he quickly responds.

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” – Job 2:4-5 

Satan’s point is clear. Job’s family and finances were destroyed, sure. But his body was still intact. Satan’s argument is that if God would affect Job’s physical body, Job would respond in anger and cursing.

Let’s read together what happens next.

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”  – Job 2:6-8

I want you to see this first. Our good, glorious, gracious, and generous God allows this next test to be played out, just like He allowed the first. Beware any prosperity gospel that promises an easy life as a follower of Jesus. There is no such thing. It is a good life, absolutely, but it is not one devoid of suffering. Job’s life makes this abundantly clear to us.

Satan leaves the throne room of God and immediately goes after Job. Job is afflicted with a skin disease that isn’t exactly clear to us as the reader. It sounds like some sort of leprosy. Regardless of what it was, we see that Job is full of painful sores that go from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. There is no relief to be found anywhere.

Then Job’s wife enters the picture.

Now, I personally am blessed with a wonderful wife. When I face difficulties in my life, she is quick to encourage me and share wisdom with me. She’s done so in a couple instances just this week.

Job however had a less than great wife in this circumstance.

It’s interesting to note that there are some who actually believe that the wife was more or less on Satan’s team in this story, being used by him to encourage Job to fall into sin.

I personally don’t see her as a willing participant in the schemes of Satan. That’s a little extreme.

That being said, her faith is not grand. In the throes of pain (all this suffering surely affected her too, right?) she encourages Job to simply curse God in such a way that would cause God to strike him down in justice.

What happens next is another one of the most powerful sections of Scripture (well writing that sounded like a clickbait Facebook article. “We adopted a goldfish, what happened next will stun and amaze you!”).

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. – Job 2:9-10

Notice that Job doesn’t call her wicked, nor does he say that she is in fact foolish. Rather, he says that she is simply talking like someone who is a fool.

I’m not really sure what happens to Job’s wife after this, not gonna lie. She doesn’t ever show up again in the book, even after Job’s life is restored (chapter 42). He has more children, so maybe that’s proof she sticks around? I’m not sure. Consult someone smarter than me.

Let’s focus in on the second part of his statement though.

Dang.

That’s some A-level faith. We willingly accept good from God, we should be just as willing to accept evil (side-note. I was reading a commentary that mentioned that the Hebrew word here means ‘bad’. Don’t think that God is capable of doing something wicked or sinful).

“. . . for when the bad as well as the good is received at the hand of God, every experience of life becomes an occasion of blessing. But the cost is high. It is easier to lower your view of God than to raise your faith to such a height.” – Francis Andersen

Job’s faith is powerful, as is this quote.

Again, remember, Job is going to wrestle with God throughout this entire book. Yet, his faith here at the onset is secure. He doesn’t get it. He can’t fathom why this has happened to him. Yet he knows that it is from the Lord.

Again, the prosperity preachers and their thirty second clips getting shared on Facebook will tell you you’re an overcomer, a champion, a conqueror. They’ll tell you that you can overcome sickness if only your faith is strong enough. You can be blessed financially and spiritually and relationally and vocationally if you just have enough faith.

They must have cut this book out of their Bibles.

Job teaches us something powerful.

Following God is not about the level of your faith.

It’s about what your faith is in.

I’ll say that again. Following God is not about the level of your faith. It’s about what your faith is in.

Job is going to incessantly wrestle with God, but his faith is in God. That won’t waver.

The text goes so far as to say that Job didn’t sin in what he has said.

He hasn’t sinned, yet the affliction will remain for dozens of more chapters.

As followers of Jesus, we must have the faith to receive the bad as well as the good.

Job models that for us well.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Problem Of God’s Control

In a day, everything he had was taken from him.

It started out like any other Sunday. His children were together, feasting and celebrating with joy. His flocks were well maintained by his ample and qualified servants. He had arisen early in the morning to offer an offering to God for his children. All was well.

Yet, now here he sat.

Devastated by innumerable tragedies. Living in the wilderness certainly had its dangers. Sabeans and Chaldeans sometimes went on raids, natural disasters were just a part of life.

But this?

This was like an overly dramatic sitcom you’d see in the mornings on NBC.

His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Servant after servant came in to inform him of some destruction, some loss. First it was his oxen and donkeys getting stolen. Then lightning burning up his sheep. A massive lightning storm no doubt, since it plundered thousands of them. Next came the camels being stolen.

None of that compared with the last message though.

His children.

His precious children whom he prayed for and made sacrifices for to God.

They were dead.

Not just one of them.

All of them. In a freak accident brought about by a whirlwind.

He could only imagine what they went through. Joyous laughter and celebration quickly turning to screams of fear and then. . .

silence.

 

This story is found in the first chapter of the book of Job. Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God, someone who feared God and turned away from evil (1:1, 8). In a black and white world, he would be the man that we would assume would be continuously and perpetually blessed by God. Instead, Satan lays down the gauntlet: if all was stripped from Job, would he still praise the Lord? Or is his worship of God only because of God’s favor and blessings? God allows Satan to come after Job, and what happens is the utter destruction we read in the passage (vv. 13-19).

Now, Job finds himself in a place that we too find ourselves in after suffering strikes us.

He has a problem.

That problem is the control of God over all things.

His sovereignty.

Now, I’ll just tell you now, I’m not going to even attempt to philosophically argue through the “problem of evil”. That’s not what I’m trying to do. If you’re looking for writing of that depth and intelligence, look elsewhere.

What I am instead wanting to highlight is that for those of us who follow Jesus and believe in God, what happened to Job and what happens to us is harder to accept.

The following quote is long, but it is better than I could say it.

Desert brigands, lightning and cyclone are all part of man’s life in the East. Things like this happen to everyone, if not always on the same scale. The intense faith of job immediately sees the hand of God in every ‘natural’ event. There are no ‘accidents’ in a universe ruled by the one sovereign Lord. Hence Job’s problem. Such mishaps are not a problem for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, the agnostic. An annoyance, a tragedy even, but not a problem. – Francis Anderson

There it is.

In the modern world, it is extremely sad that hurricanes, cancer, and gun violence take the lives of men and women, boys and girls. What’s even more sad is that these losses are seen as the dangers and realities of modern living. For the atheist in 2019, there is no real ‘problem’ to be wrestled with. When tragedy strikes, it’s just fate. It’s just an accident, just the luck of the draw.

But when tragedy like that strikes the life of a Christian, we know that God orchestrates all things. So we have a problem.

Job had a problem.

Job responded to his problem with amazing faith. Let’s read it together.

At this Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22

Wow.

That is powerful stuff.

Job took the problem of God’s involvement in his suffering and used it as a means for worship. The section I highlighted is one of the most powerful morsels of Scripture. The Lord gives and takes away. But His Name should still be praised.

No, that’s not philosophically deep. It may not be a satisfactory answer for most.

There is certainly lots of wrestling ahead, as the majority of the book of Job is full of debates between Job and his friends about why he has fallen into this suffering.

Contrary to the Satan’s forecast, Job has the same good opinion of God’s blessedness, even when things go wrong. But this faith cannot survive without a terrible struggle. . . Job is hurled into a cauldron of doubt concerning the justice and equity of God’s ways with him. He must suffer and grow before he can see why this has happened. So far he has begun superbly. – Francis Andersen 

Still, Job’s immediate, knee-jerk reaction to the darkest day of his life is to worship.

Job points us forward to Jesus.

When I read the phrase “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”, I can’t help but think of Jesus proclaiming “not my will, but your will be done”.

They both unjustly suffered (obviously Jesus way more so since He was completely devoid of sin), and they both responded with worship.

The book of Job continues to be a soothing balm for my soul. It is dark and gritty, yes. In fact, in a lot of ways we’re just getting started.

But my prayer for you as you read is that you will be encouraged and reminded that God truly is in control. He may cause us some problems, but it also leads us to joyful dependence on Him when we get through the suffering to the other side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Why The Long Face?

It was late Saturday night, and I had woken up groggy and disoriented yet again. For a few nights in a row I was having experiences where I awoke from my sleep with the sensation that I was coming out of anesthesia. I knew where I was, but things felt hazy and cloudy, and my arms and legs felt weighted as if they were moving through water.

It had been five days since my jaw surgery, and I was getting over the hump of the discomfort, only to have my sleep continuously upended by these lingering side effects. The day had been a little rough, and I was just so done.

Jamie woke up to my groans, quickly coming to my side to see what was wrong. I told her, and started to tear up. All I wanted was to sleep.

Jamie, in her always on point wisdom, encouraged me to pray aloud while she went to the kitchen to get me some medicine.

I didn’t feel like praying, not gonna lie. Yes, all things considered, my suffering in the aftermath of my surgery was minor. My pain was not extreme, my battle not with death. But, in the moment, I was fighting despair.

So that’s where I found myself. Disoriented and uneasy in bed, encouraged by my wife to pray aloud.

As I stared up at the fan, I started to pray.

The words got louder and louder, my heart pouring out and echoing down the hall. The tears started flowing and things continued to escalate until I yelled loudly, “Look at what I’m doing for You, and this is what you did to me.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, things got quiet in the room and in my heart. You see, Scripture clearly teaches that our words come from the overflow of our hearts. Every thing we say displays some aspect of where our hearts are at.

Suffering tends to really reveal our hearts.

My suffering had revealed some things in my heart I didn’t really like.

I strive to serve God in all that I do. I strive to be obedient. I strive to point others to Jesus. I strive to show others the wonderful grace of God. I strive to extend the love of God to others. I strive to be a lifelong disciple of my risen Lord and Savior.

There’s nothing at all wrong with any of those desires of mine.

Yet my scream of anger at God showed that I certainly felt like I was entitled to a good life, one of prosperity and blessings. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I tried to serve God faithfully, so it only made sense that He should bless me with favor.

In the quiet stillness after my outburst, I felt God lovingly but firmly reminding me of what is true about Him. He doesn’t need me. If I wasn’t a family pastor in Vernon, someone else would be brought in and fill the same role.

Talk about oof.

What followed was the reminder from God of all the bazillion good gifts He had given me. A wonderful wife, parents who pray for and care for me, a brother and sister-in-law that let me have a fun weekend stay at their place before my surgery, a church family that has been continuously so amazing towards me (they’ve brought me meals and mowed my lawn), friends, a wonderfully talented surgeon, in-laws that let me stay with them when I got out of the hospital. The list goes on and on, and that’s centered around simply this past week or two.

Big oof.

Suffering causes us to lose sight of all of the light of God’s good and gracious gifts to us.

God continued to speak through His Word to me. He reminded me of His control over the situation. He reminded me that in the darkest of moments, He is still at work and still cares for His people like me (this has been slammed into my face since I’ve been studying Job for my blog and teaching Judges to the youth on Sundays).

All of this happened in my heart so fast.

Jamie came back in the room, helped me take some medicine, and soon I was back to sleep.

I wanted to share this experience with you for a handful of reasons.

First, I want to hopefully take away some of the stigma associated with acknowledging a hard day. It’s easy for us to compare our suffering to that of others, feeling like we can’t share that it’s been tough on us in fear of sounding pathetic or wimpy. If you’re struggling through something in your life right now, I genuinely pray that you have a faith community around you that can uplift you and that you can be open with. Stop the facades people, we need to be more real with others about our suffering and struggles.

Secondly, I want to remind us all that is in those dark nights (in my case literally) that we can ask the Lord to reveal the content of our hearts to us. Hear me, suffering is NOT always the result of sin. We don’t live in a black and white world like that. But, suffering can be used by God to reveal some sinful attitudes, motives, desires, etc. Just as He did with me.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Lastly, I want to encourage you that our God reigns. Every single day, He has walked with me through this. Some days are harder than others, but He has brought stability. As I’ve been studying Job, I’ve been so encouraged by the following verse. Job cries out in all his emotions to the Lord all throughout the book. He despairs of his very life. Yet, in the midst of despair, He has a confidence in God. He is able to make the following declaration.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. – Job 19:25

Living in 2019, we are able to say the same. Our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives.

Whatever you’re going through, you’ll get through it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach