East, West, North, and South

Have you ever lost something or someone very significant to you? Loss is a crushing thing, whether it’s the loss of a job, a marriage, a loved one, a home, a rebellious child … and many times when we endure a loss, we feel that God is lost from us as well. It is a normal reaction to the shock of being separated from that thing or person that you so desperately loved.

Job struggled with this when God allowed Satan to test Job’s righteousness. In a matter of days, he lost everything, including his wife and children, who perished together when a mighty wind from the desert caused their house to collapse on them. He was left with the company of useless friends for comfort. In the midst of his tremendous loss, he cried out that he could not find God anywhere in the void of all that has been taken from him: 

Job 23 (New International Version)

Then Job replied: 

“Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find Him; if only I could go to His dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me. Would he vigorously oppose me? No, he would not press charges against me. There the upright can establish their innocence before him, and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.

But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.”

Part of Job’s perspective about the loss of his property and the death of his sons and daughters was that God was nowhere to be found. Indeed, many people feel the exact same thing. Their perspective of death includes the notion that they have experienced the complete abandonment of God.

Even Jesus, in His moment of agony on the cross, cried out: 

“My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV) 

But God’s response to Job illuminates exactly where God is and has been in the midst of all of our temporal struggles:

Job 38 (New International Version

4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”

God reminds Job that as Author of creation of the earth, he was there when the morning stars sang their first song together; he was the One who marked off the depth and breadth of the earth. He was and always will be THERE…. and where was Job? In this seemingly harsh response, God is reminding Job about the temporary nature of Job’s fleeting life in comparison to the magnitude of creation, which has been brought forth over the span of eternity. In God’s perspective, Job’s complaint is but a fleeting second in the context of Time.

God is in every moment of our being. 

From God’s point of view, death is not the worst thing. In fact, death isn’t even the last thing; death never gets the last word. Hear these words from the book of Romans: 

Romans 8 (NIV)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship 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 convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, we see here that nothing, even death, can separate us from God. 

Are you struggling with a loss today? Take heart. God is wholly centered in your situation with you. You are not alone. Thanks be to God!

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Mourning Break, available at Amazon.

Morning Break by Michelle Robertson

Gaining and Losing

My grandson is fascinated with what my life was like when I was growing up. He thinks about this a lot, and he has a million questions about my childhood. He wants to know things like what my favorite Marvel movie was when I was a child, or did we have cars. (Geeze kid, I’m not THAT old!!) Recently he asked me, “Nana, what do you miss the most about being a kid?” I quickly responded, “My metabolism.” Gone are the days when I could eat anything I wanted and not carry it around with me for the rest of my life!

Who among us has not gained and lost weight over the years? Did you ever wonder what that the total poundage in each category would be? Speaking for myself, the numbers fluctuate daily. And as I’ve aged, I have had to accept that the ideal weight of my youth is not a realistic or attainable goal anymore. I have had to accept a new plateau. (Somehow that makes it sound better, right? “Plateau.” If you throw a little French accent on it, it almost sounds delicious.) In our younger years, it seems as though a few weeks of self-denial is all that it would take to get things back on track. Not so in the latter years. It’s the battle of the bulge, and the bulge is winning.

Jesus had an interesting conundrum to present to his disciples. It was also a matter of gain verses loss. But in this case, a few instances of self-denial would not be enough to turn things around. He was asking them for a life of a total abandonment of self:

Matthew 10 (Common English Bible)

39 Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.

Matthew 16 (Common English Bible)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 

When Jesus stated that coming with him not only meant saying “no” to themselves, but also taking up their own cross, he wasn’t playin’. The disciples would have instantly recognized what that meant. The cross was an instrument of torture. It was a place of humiliation. It was an invitation to join Jesus on death row.

25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?

But oh, the benefits of that choice! The reward for total self-emptying is the fullness of grace. The plateau that we reach when we take up our crosses and follow Jesus is a place of eternal life that is filled with joy, devoid of pain, and there is not a weight scale in sight. Heaven has no calories, hallelujah! Tacos, here I come.

We are invited to this same promise. Following Jesus means walking away from our sinful selves and walking toward a Savior who leads by example. This life is filled with service to others, obedience, compassion, kindness, worship, prayer, imitating the mind of Christ, and loving as he loves.

Want to come along? You have everything to gain.

Heaven to Gain by Wende Pritchard