February 2, 2009

He Gives and Takes Away

My thoughts today are fighting for position like preschoolers clamoring to be line leader. I suppose I’ll go back to Thursday and start with the one that’s pressed on my heart the hardest. Refresh your coffee and get comfortable, this one is going to be long.

I find comfort in the image of God as a Father who blesses abundantly. Who protects and rescues. Who provides us our portion in full measure.

When circumstances align with our desires, I often hear others say, “God is so good. He blessed me with healing/ professional opportunity/good marriage/win for my football team/green lights while driving.” When things go our way it’s easy to offer it back to the Lord in praise and Thanksgiving.

But, how do we respond when the diagnosis is not what we hoped? When our job is eliminated? When our marriage hits rough seas? Our children rebel? Our friend betrays? When the bread falls peanut butter side down?

In the Bible, Job tells us the Lord gives AND He takes away.

“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.” (Job 1:20)
When our circumstances look bleak and we experience a “taking away” do we proclaim the goodness of God and meet Him with praise?

Late last Thursday morning, Dan took the dog for a walk and phoned me, “Check the news. There are two helicopters hovering near the neighborhood. See what you can find out.”

I turned on the TV and saw the ladies from The View chatting it up with Condoleezza Rice. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then the noon news came on and led with a breaking story: a three-car collision had just occurred. A police officer making a routine traffic stop had been hit and pinned under his car. He’d just been rushed to the hospital. The accident took place about a mile from our house—hence the helicopters.

The officer was from our local police force. He could be someone we, or the children, know. A chill enveloped me, covering me in gooseflesh. Dan and I watched the news together, praying for the officer.

That afternoon our 13-year-old daughter came home and told us the father of one of her classmates had died that day. “Was he a police officer?” I asked. She replied, “Yea, he was.”

In the blink of an eye, 37-year-old Chris Jones, a devoted son, beloved husband, loving father and respected police officer was gone. Only days before he’d received the news of his impending promotion to detective. This honorable man with an impressive past and promising future was the first police officer in our township to be killed in the line of duty—ever.

Even though tragedy fills the news every day, when it hits this close to home, especially when it touches the live of our children, the hurt cuts deeply. Though I don’t personally know the officer’s family, as I read the many articles in the paper the next day I wept. All I could think about was his wife and their children. How will they begin to fill the gaping hole his life occupied and not fall in? So sudden. So unexpected. So unfair.

God, why?

Suffering is probably the hardest thing for us to come to terms with as Christians. Through our fairness-seeking eyes we wonder, “If God is all-powerful, why does He allow suffering?”

I’m not going to try to answer a question that has piqued theologians through the ages, but I can point to what I know: God is sovereign. He is unquestionably righteous. In order to unpack the concept of suffering, we must believe this to be true.

In the book of Job, God allowed Satan to strip Job of EVERYTHING: his material security, his family, his health, his reputation. Understandably, Job was devastated. He cried out to God, “Why? I have done nothing to deserve this. Why do you make me suffer so? I wish I had never been born!” (My paraphrase.)

We find Job, in chapter 19, still struggling to pin down the ever-elusive answer to the burning question, “Why me?” On the verge of being consumed by his suffering, Job finally grabs hold of the one truth that keeps him from falling into an abyss of self-pity and rage: his Redeemer is faithful.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,” (v.25-26, NKJV)
In the end, Job realized God was beyond his comprehension. As a result, God’s judgment was also incomprehensible. He didn't understand, but he chose to trust God's judgment over his own.

Like Job, at some point in our lives, we have or will need to acknowledge the complex, yet simple truth: God is God and we're not. When the seas of life threaten to capsize and consume, God's sovereignty is the only rock onto we can confidently cling.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:9)

I lift up the Jones family and pray that despite their deep sorrow, the love and comfort of a God who has not forsaken them illuminates their dark night. Pray for them.


Gail W. said...

Kelli, this post is a diamond with many facets to inspire and comfort. I'm with Job - I hang my hopes on Job 19:25 (hence the name of my blog). I am praying for the Jones family. There is a national organization devoted to officers who die in the line of duty - I checked their website this morning, and Officer Jones' information is posted there, including a precious picture. The address is odmp.org. It is a very helpful site with lots of practical information. Peace to you and yours, especially the children.

Sassy Granny ... said...

There are so many senseless and tragic events in this life that steal our breath away and draw tears. If that's true of an older like me, then it's even more so for a young one trying to make sense of the senseless.

Just last week Techno-nana had a similar story.

God bless you and yours, as well as the precious family now coping.


Chatty Kelly said...

I just finished reading Job & have started Exodus, with God's "burning anger." It is troubling. Do I make God angry? I have lots of "whys" too - does it make him mad at me when I ask? There is so much sadness. :-(

Clink to Psalm 34:18 today. That is what I am doing.

Susan S said...

your words couldn't be more timely. This morning I found out our neighbor, 7th grader, died of leukemia on Sunday. I've been a mess all day. Thanks for your wisdom!

Katherine said...


For me, the answer to your question: 'When our circumstances look bleak and we experience a “taking away” do we proclaim the goodness of God and meet Him with praise?'

No. I haven't gotten to that point yet. I haven't gotten to Job's way of thinking yet. That's why I need your prayers.


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I cannot even begin to unpack this one in full measure, nor fully respond with appropriate words. You have written your full heart into this one girl. It's raw and real and chock full of truth.

Suffering will be our perfection in the end; it comes wrapped in many packages. Some less and some more, but nevertheless our requirement.

I am moved by something I read by Charles Spurgeon the other night...

"The promise of the old covenant was prosperity, but the promise of the new covenant is adversity." (from January 22 evening devotional).

Even though we're called to the crucified life...the road of suffering...

rarely, does it ever make sense, but always is our God good. Always. He has never changed.

God help us all with our "theology" when roads take a detour along the lines of our confusion and suffering.


Anonymous said...

My heart is breaking for his family and your daughter too.

Your post is beautiful.

Carol said...

Kelli, this post was so heartfelt. The loss of Officer Jones does send our questions to God why? Your refelections on Job are comforting.

The Jones family is in my prayers.