Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
This is one of the most uncomfortable pieces I've ever written. It is uncomfortable partly because I am still learning how to walk this road but it is also uncomfortable because of my own pride. I have wrestled in my attempt to better learn the character of the Lord many times in my life but never so much as the last three and a half years. While chock full of trial and error, I have come to the place where I firmly believe that none of us are able to fully bless the name of the Lord and rest in His love until it (whatever our "it" may be) is taken away.
The calendar is full of dates we remember. Some of them cause our lips to curve into a smile while others make our stomach turn, our vision to blur and our throat to tighten.
January 25, 2016 was a day like that for me. That was the day everything changed. That was the day when, in one instant, my "it" was taken away.
Much of me died that day. And in the following days, weeks and months that have since stretched out into years, pieces of me have continued to die. I watched my kingdom fall and all my intensity and perseverance could not stop it. Of course in the beginning I declared that I would honor the Lord no matter what happened. I quoted Scripture and I boldly spoke words of faith, refusing to entertain the possibility that God would not restore what sin had destroyed the way I thought He should. So I did whatever I had to to ensure that my family stayed intact.
I fasted - not because I wanted more of Jesus, mind you, but because I thought I would receive a "Yes" from God if I went without food long enough. I prayed - not because I wanted to spend hours in God's presence as much as I wanted Him to hear my voice above anyone else's so I would have a better chance at getting what I wanted. I organized prayer chains - not because I wanted to unite hearts together to worship the Lord but because I thought God would be more agreeable to my petitions if more people were on my side.
Though outwardly doing Biblical things, inwardly my heart was soaked with fear and with pride. Never had legalism had such a grip on me than in those months. I felt like I had to do more to receive favor. I thought I had to pray harder and louder to be heard. I believed I had to present myself as a shining example of faith in order for my "faith" to be rewarded. I was convinced that because I had lived my life abiding by the "Do's and Don't's" of Scripture (or so I thought) that God would give me what I wanted.
But He didn't. And my heart began to frantically try to figure out the God I thought I knew. I've asked every question we all ask when the unthinkable happens: How could this happen? Why would You allow this, God? Do You still love me? What did I do to deserve this? Are You even real at all?
When Job lost his "it" he had quite a few questions for God. He didn't understand and he wanted answers just as we all do. But God was silent.
When you go through deep suffering and lose what you value most, you will walk through a season of darkness so thick and silence so loud that you will beg God to let you die instead of living without the sunlight of His voice. When answers do not come, your pride may rise and burn hot with frustration. For me, it did. I was the ministry girl. I was the woman who had championed abstinence and boasted of the benefits in God's beautiful plan for marriage. I had spent my life in churches and on stages and now I lay broken on the floor of my closet staining the carpet with tears. Job felt similarly. While sitting in ashes scraping his skin, he thought about all the sacrifices he had made for years to the Living God on behalf of himself and his family. He had been faithful and now it seemed in vain because all that belonged to him had been taken away. His laments in the Bible can attest to his confusion. I thought my faith was rock solid but when my "it" was taken away, I realized that my faith was weak. Just as the Lord knew the condition of Job's heart, He knew the condition of mine also, and my heart was in a pitiful state. He knew my frame and my frame had never been so small.
But God spoke to Job.
It may be days. It may be weeks or it may be months, or heaven may be silent for years as you sit in the empty place where your "it" once was. But you will hear the voice of God again. He may not answer your "why" but He will speak life to you with gentleness and with power that causes you to retract all your frustrations and repent in the dust before the Lord. When all is taken away, our joy means something deeper and our faith means something greater. The greatest glory we can give the Almighty is by blessing the name of the Lord in the ashes with empty hands, singing, This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.