This past week we have all been inundated with news about hurricane Harvey. I watched news on CNN as people spoke and cried over their shock of losing everything in an instant. Homes they had saved up all their lives to build were gone just like that in a moment of time. Some lost their belongings, others their loved ones. No one was prepared the night before that they would not see their beloved ones or would suffer such tragic loss. I saw how one woman stated to the reporter that she is now practically homeless because her camper had overturned and her belongings were mercilessly strewn by nature’s fury.
This week I have also been reading the book of Job in my quiet time. Suddenly, without any notice, Job lost everything he had- his children, his material possessions and his respectable place in the society. He was not prepared the day before that the very next day he would wake up to such unsurmountable loss. He experienced the most tragic, unexpected, and unexplainable tragedy in his lifetime…
How we respond to tragedies in life speaks volumes about our faith in the Lord. How we respond to others facing tough times in life show how alive our faith is (dead faith does not go beyond words. Faith that is alive acts. It is not merely words. It is practical.)
Job responded in a way that may seem bizarre to many of us. Hearing bad news one after the other, Job responds in Job 1:20-21 in this manner: “Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, saved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed.” Wow. Job displayed such humility and such a heart of purity to give God praise for the unspeakable horror that was just meted upon his family. His response showed he trusted God more than he trusted his wealth. It showed where his heart was! Job knew beyond a shadow of doubt that everything he had was from God and if He wanted, He could take it all away!
Job’s story is a reminder for all of us today that tragedy can strike anyone at any time. None of us are immune to it. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we are unlikely to escape from life’s storms.
Job was a good man. Yet God allowed bad things to happen to him. Sometimes God allows tragedies in our lives to test the affections of our hearts. How do I know it? When my husband lost his job and fell ill shortly thereafter, we were plunged into this sudden and deep abyss of hopelessness and despair. One morning as I was agonizing over the misfortune that struck us, I felt the Holy Spirit gently convict my heart about my affections. Were my affections towards God present only as long as my husband had a job and good health? Do I praise God only as long as He provides me with “good things”? Or do I praise Him even when hell breaks loose like it did for Job? Do I decide like Job did to stand with firm, resolute, unshakable faith declaring like he did with a resounding “I KNOW My Redeemer lives and He will stand on the dust at last”? I must admit, there have been days when I have felt so weak that I have barely been able to manage to weakly squeak those words of faith! Yet God in His amazing grace and relentless love has carried us, not one week or one month but a whole year. We have come far enough after many experiences of miraculous provision to boldly declare that God is faithful. We have learned to trust Him enough to know that He is able to restore everything that was lost. Even the ever elusive job…
Our sudden bend in life’s road also caused me to reflect on my reactions to others who are suffering: How do I respond to people who go through such unexpected, tragic moments in life? Job’s friends were unkind and inconsiderate. Here was a man who was in deep despair and in an extremely vulnerable place of hurt and pain. Yet instead of reaching out to him with words that comfort and heal, and with actions in the form of practical help, his friends chose to lash out at him, mock, judge and accuse him. Their presence brought little comfort to Job’s aching and grieving heart.
How has your response been during the time a friend or a family member suffered a sudden tragedy in life? Have your words brought healing to their hurting hearts? Have you reached out to them with practical help? Or are you too busy with your own lives to stop by and help someone in need, much like the religious priests who pretended not to see the distress of the hurting Samaritan? Have you become callous and hard hearted to reach out to people who are hurting? Do you offer help that is unwanted? Do you withhold practical help in the form of time, finances and resources because you want to tightly hold on to these that God has given you? God never gave us time, money and resources to selfishly own these- we are to steward them wisely so we can bless others. We ought to remember that ALL that He has given us is NOT ours. Everything comes from God. We own nothing!!!
This morning I watched a video where many generous minded ‘donors’ sent relief material in the form of clothes, toys and shoes when tragedy hit people during the time of tsunami in South East Asia in 2004. Often when people watch others suffer, in their absolute eagerness to do something about the situation, they often do everything that barely offers any help or comfort. The relief workers on ground were overwhelmed with the outpouring of this ‘unwanted’ help! People affected by the tsunami were not in need of clothes (surprised?!) It was ideal to send money so the workers could buy what was needed by the people. Since the relief workers only had time for the herculean relief work, they had no time to sort the mass piles of clothes. In the end, most of the clothes had to be burned for want of space, much to the heartbreak of the donors.
It is my prayer today that the Lord would help us not to attach our affections to the material possessions He has given us. That in the wake of difficult circumstances in life, we will exhibit mature faith and declare like Job did in Job 19:25, “But I know (=without a shadow of doubt!!) MY (=personal God!) living (=He is NOT dead!!) Redeemer (=my deliverer, my rescuer, the One who vindicates me), and He will stand (=this I know without a shadow of doubt!!) on the dust (=when ALL else is gone) at last (=so I can stay calm in the midst of calamity and breathe a deep sigh of relief!).” May we also show Christ like love to those hurting amongst us and refrain from judgmental and condescending attitudes. May we be mature Christians who walk the talk and not merely talk the talk! May we be Christians who display faith that is alive- namely faith in word and action!