“You May Not Know How, You May Not Know When”

(Psalm 126: 4-6, The Message) And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Summer, 1988…I was 7 years old, just out of second grade.  We lived in South Carolina and we were in the midst of a typical southern summer…muggy, scorching hot, and days so long you might find yourself praying for the sun to set.  At 7 years old, I didn’t understand what drought meant.  I heard about it on Good Morning America while I munched on my PopTarts and sipped my Tang from a crazy straw, but I didn’t experience it…other than being asked not to leave the hose turned on in the yard.  At 7 years old, I saw TIME magazine in the dentist’s office, and I knew there were farmers in trouble…fires burning in California…but I didn’t experience that.  My daddy was a preacher…I didn’t depend on the rain to ensure my livelihood.  To me, rain meant mud and thunder and a cool-down from the summer heat.  I never considered it a source of LIFE.  I didn’t know, because I hadn’t lived without it.

A drought sort of creeps up on you.  It’s not like a tornado, which is sudden and quick.  It’s not like a hurricane or flood, which is expected and passes soon.  A drought starts slowly, so slowly that maybe you don’t really notice how dry it’s been until things around you start to wilt and die, and when it’s in full swing, a drought devastates every component of our domain.  It is a genuine hell on earth. 

Just like the land becomes dry and thirsty, our souls go through times that seem like a dusty hell on earth.  However, in seasons when it seems useless to even try, we cannot lie down in the dirt and give up.  Instead we must continue on, in faith, and we must proclaim, “And now, God, do it again.”  He’s done it before…and that word “again” implies our faith in Him.  So what is a drought to us?   It’s a trial.  And what does the Word tell us about trials?  “7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”  (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)

So welcome the drought, and continue to plant your crops…even in despair…because it is through being forced to go without the things we’d never just give up on our own that our faith is perfected.  No trial lasts forever…no devastation is beyond repair…and when God allows drought we must keep moving in faith with arms open wide in expectation of the harvest and blessing ahead.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  (James 1: 2-4, The Message)

The drought of 1988 lasted well into 1989 and impacted our entire nation.  It was the worst natural disaster to take place since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and was so until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2004.  To the people directly affected, it must have seemed like eons passed before the rains finally fell and rejuvenated the earth.  Yet in the larger scope of time, it was but an instant.  It is a part of history, from which we are able to learn and use that knowledge to face similar difficulties in the future.  Experiences give us wisdom, and they are the foundation of our faith.

Prayer:  Father God, I trust You in all things.  Thank you for teaching me what it is to be without, and for helping me to understand that YOU are my source of life.  Amen.

I Had Heard, But Now I See!

(Job 42:1-6 ESV) 1 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Many years ago, there was a commercial on TV that used the tagline, “Try Kelloggs Cornflakes again for the very first time!” It was an intelligent way to entice individuals to reevaluate a well known and very popular breakfast cereal. It worked. The commercial was well received and it accomplished its goal of increasing the sales of the product.

The book of Job is a laborious read. It is an extremely important document that reveals theology unlike any other book in the Bible. Job is not a book that can be quickly read and understood. It takes time, and scholarly commentary is often helpful. With that said, there are many obvious points of interest that can be understood even by a child!

Without rehearsing the whole storyline, let’s agree that Job’s experience with God was one that took him from the height of prosperity, to the depth of dispair, and back again to blessing. He was very rich. He had impressive flocks. A loving wife. Great kids. He was well known, greatly respected, and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. He lost it all. Even his health.

But the wonderful thing about this historical account is that through it all, Job remained faithful; he maintained his integrity. After this lengthy, and difficult trial Job declares that his former knowledge of God was based more on what he had been told rather than personal experience. He said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear…”  In other words,… Daddy told me. Momma told me. The preacher said it was so. My Sunday School teacher reinforced it. Ooh, I heard through grapevine…

I have good news and bad news. Bad news first… Are you ready? God will allow you to be tested, sometimes severely, so you can know him as never before. There is some knowledge you can only obtain by experiencing difficulty. You must taste the bitterness of tears before you can enjoy the sweetness fo victory. That’s just the way life is. But the good news is, God reveals his strength during our weakness. And when we come through the hard times, we will have a new and exciting knowledge of God’s power.

Job finishes his thought by saying, “but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job now has first hand knowledge of God’s mercy. We often acknowledge that Job was blessed in his last days even more than in his younger years. But, I would suggest that the greatest blessing was the new revelation of God that came through overcoming his terrible circumstances. As faithful as Job was, God proved to be even more faithful.

PRAYER: I’ve been through many difficult things in my short lifetime. But you have always proven yourself faithful. With each victory I have experienced a new level of spiritual understanding. Thank you that I have seen you at your best! amen.

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