I learned so much from my Dad growing up–nuggets of wisdom usually delivered with pointed humor. His best softball tips: Play that ground ball instead of letting it play you; throw the ball right to the first baseman’s chest, where she can’t miss it; you’re never going to hit the ball if you don’t ever swing! To slow us down: We’re not going to a fire; got a hot date? To teach humility: Remember, you are a big fish in a small pond–one day you’ll find yourself in a bigger pond. To remind us to monitor our words: A closed mouth gathers no foot. Spiritual lessons: I’m sure that was just a “coincidence”; salvation is not a feeling, it’s a fact.
This last lesson in particular helped ground me in my faith, not just during my temperamental teenage years, but well beyond. The awareness that God stays the same and is always present, whether or not my feeble human emotions sense Him or see Him at work, has carried me through many difficult times. I think Job had also internalized this truth before the onset of his prostrating trials. Job lost nearly everything, his “friends” stood in solidarity against him, and although he searched desperately for some sign of God’s presence, he could not find Him (Job 23:8-9). Yet, Job lived in confidence that God would again be attentive to him, and would acquit him of any wrongdoing (Job 23:6b, 7b). Instead of succumbing to pain, instead of shutting down emotionally, instead of renouncing his faith in God, Job returned to the truths about God that he knew for certain:
But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold (Job 23:10).
For he will complete what he appoints for me (Job 23:14).
Despite how bad things looked for him, and despite his friends’ insistence that he must have surely displeased God in some way, Job discerned that this time of struggle was not about punishment, but about refinement. He recognized that no matter his life situation, God’s person and character remained the same, and his own position with God was secure. So, he put aside his emotions and doggedly persevered in his faith.
Just like Job, when the going gets hard, I can stand on the incontrovertible facts: “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1Cor. 15:3-4),” that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29),” and that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love: “shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of a God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35, 37-39).”