“One,” we heard them say. One minute without taking a breath, we anxiously concluded.

Our last child took his own sweet time about being born. He was already two weeks overdue, and my wife had been in labor for around 24 hours. It was hard labor, and the birthing was long and painful.


We were used to our newborn baby being handed to his mother with all the counting of fingers and toes and oo’s and aw’s that accompany an anticipated and longed for arrival. But, no! They rushed him away across the room without explanation.

Finally, we heard him cry. It was the sweetest, most exciting sound. Our previous pregnancy had ended in miscarriage. The fear of a stillbirth was gone. The joy, wonder, and amazement of new life was fully celebrated.

Job 10:8-12 (NKJV)

Your hands have made me and fashioned me,
An intricate unity;
Yet You would destroy me.
Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay.
And will You turn me into dust again?
Did You not pour me out like milk,
And curdle me like cheese,
Clothe me with skin and flesh,
And knit me together with bones and sinews?
You have granted me life and favor,
And Your care has preserved my spirit.

Job is still complaining to God about his woeful condition. He asks God why He would deface and destroy His beautiful creation. Reminds God of His favor and blessings bestowed. His providential care. Sustaining preservation. In between the unanswered mysteries of verse 8 and 12, Job recounts the marvel of conception from seed (milk, v.10) to sinew. Life and spirit.

  • You are hand crafted.

Unlike the rest of creation, which was spoken into existence, God formed you from the dust of the earth and the rib of a man. Like a potter, He molded you. Shaped you. Fashioned you with intricate craftsmanship and unity of design. It was personal and intimate.  

Scientists say that 99% of the human body is made up of six elements – oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Think about it! God took the ingredients of the earth He created and joined them together to make you and me. You and I were designed, and God is the designer. We breathe because God breathed into us the breath of life.

  • You were made in the image and likeness of God.

Not only did God craft you, but He also made you after His own image. We bear the likeness of God as moral creatures. Only the most hardened skeptic would assert that morality does not exist. Righteousness and indecency are evident in our world today. Holiness and impurity are manifest all around us.

The image of God in us gives us reason, relations, and spirituality. Intellect, the ability to discover and construct, comes from God. We would not know love or the joy of relationships in our lives if it were not for a loving and relational God. Reaching for a power greater than ourselves is the God given trait of spirituality. Something/Someone is above and beyond us.

  • You are the pinnacle of God’s creation.

God pronounced His work “good” several times during creation, but He graded it “very good” after He created humankind. Dominion of the earth belongs to the favored and loved – you and me.

Take hope, my friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God cares about what befalls you, His unique, handcrafted creation.

God brought order from chaos. Light from darkness. Refreshment from dryness. Fruit from barrenness. Life from nothingness. If God can do all of that, He can bring joy out of your misery. Stability out of your mess. Peace out of your turmoil.

Hope in the LORD,



As the pastor walked through the door the lady started to weep. Things were pretty tough for the family, and she had reached the limit of her endurance and understanding. “Our neighbor is a wicked man,” she blurted out. “He doesn’t go to church. Curses God. His language and behavior are so bad that we must bring the children into the house when he’s in his yard. Yet, he’s working and my husband is laid off and can’t find a job. Why does God allow that to happen? We go to church. Pay our tithe. Try to live right. But that awful man succeeds, and we are going bankrupt. Why? Tell me why?”

Job 10:1-7 (NKJV)

10 “My soul loathes my life;
I will give free course to my complaint,
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me;
Show me why You contend with me.
Does it seem good to You that You should oppress,
That You should despise the work of Your hands,
And smile on the counsel of the wicked?
Do You have eyes of flesh?
Or do You see as man sees?
Are Your days like the days of a mortal man?
Are Your years like the days of a mighty man,
That You should seek for my iniquity
And search out my sin,
Although You know that I am not wicked,
And there is no one who can deliver from Your hand?

If you Google “I hate my life,” about a dozen suicide prevention hotlines and counseling pages will pop up. But that is the sentiment Job expresses right off, “My soul loathes – weary, disgust, hate – my life.” Complaint. Bitterness. Accusations against God. Feelings of being condemned, oppressed, and despised by God. In a state of isolation that is impossible to escape. Job is contentious with God.  

Several things are evident in Job’s lament that is common to all of us who face overwhelming challenges.

  • Comparative Thinking

Like the wife above we compare our circumstances to those we judge to be evil. It’s an observation as old as Psalm 73 “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.” Who among us can avoid depression with such thinking.

It’s easy to say, “don’t do that,” but much harder to practice especially when your antagonist is living in the neighborhood. Unfair! Unjust! It’s difficult to let loose of those dark thoughts.

  • Helplessness

We feel we can do nothing to change our circumstances . . . Powerless! At the mercy of others and/or the tides of time. Desperation. Resignation.

  • Under God’s Judgement

Like Job we feel guiltless, but only see God working against us.

This kind of thinking leaves us hating life. Without remedy. Unwittingly though, Job hits on the answer – total surrender (v. 7b). When all other saviors are removed and we stand with no hope of rescue but from God, we are in a good place.

Being totally at God’s mercy is not a dangerous thing. No other deliverer – but God. No other support – but God. Surrender to a holy, loving, grace filled God is not such a bad place to begin life anew.

In a jail cell, I surrendered. I gave up trying to be the master of my depression. Trying to be my own savior was what put me in jail to begin with. No more self-direction. I quit undermining the true source of my hope and totally put myself in God’s hands. It was the most freeing thing I have ever done.  

I Peter 5:10 tells you that God uses our temporary suffering to “perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you.” Rest in the hope of a more perfected faith and character. Catch a glimpse of a glorious eternity.

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am . . .

You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am . . .

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

 HOPE in the LORD,



Mike (not his real name) went through a dark, dark time during the winter months two or three years back. Severe depression stole his joy, his confidence, and very nearly destroyed his faith. Every day, Mike would get up (a victory in itself) and fall into the chair beside his bed and spend the day there. What little he ate was brought to him in that chair. He didn’t talk. Aimlessly watched TV not knowing what he watched. Mostly he hung his head in despair.

His faith was nearly shattered as he quit reading his Bible and praying. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was his daily mantra. Successful people in the faith make him feel like a worthless failure. Occasionally, Mike reached out for assurance that he had done some good with his life, but there was no answer. He felt like God was uncaring and far, far away. That Jesus the Mediator between God and humanity was not interceding for him. There was no Spirit to refresh him. Three long winter months passed.

Job 9: 32-35 (NKJV)

“For He is not a man, as I am,
That I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together.
Nor is there any mediator between us,
Who may lay his hand on us both.
Let Him take His rod away from me,
And do not let dread of Him terrify me.
Then I would speak and not fear Him,
But it is not so with me.”

Job felt like Mike. Alone. Hopeless. In despair.

As we finish this court scene that the author paints in chapter 9, Job is left without a way to access God. No one to subpoena God. No one to serve God notice. And in these verses, no mediator between him and God.

Job wants a mediator – a person who attempts to reach agreement between two parties at variance – but there is the realization that none exists. Terror. Dread. Fright fills Job’s heart. This mortal man has no answers. Flesh and spirit cannot stand against the Immortal. No way to confront God. No authority to meet God in open debate. A court settlement is out of the question.

As I read this passage some years ago, I printed on the margin of my Bible – Jesus – beside verses 33 and 34. John Wesley wrote about these verses that we could no longer complain that there is no mediator.   I Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 8:6, and 9:15 all tell we that live in the New Testament that we have a Mediator. Mike, whether he felt it or not, had a Mediator.

Depression is a liar. It lies to the Jobs and Mikes among us that we have no access to God. We are alone. Worthless. A failure. Undeserving of life. Lies. All lies.

Jesus is your Mediator. He is the Mediator of redemption. By His death we are given the promise of an eternal inheritance. He is the Mediator of a new covenant (a new testament) that supplants the old and is filled with grace. He is the Mediator between God and humanity through whom we may approach God.

I like a verse of one of Charles Wesley’s hymns that proclaims, “My God is reconciled….” Through Jesus Christ the enmity of God toward the sinner and the guiltiness of humanity was resolved. The conflict is over for all who believe. Thanks be to God. A song we used to sing in church years ago gives us the assurance that “the old account was settled long ago.”

Mike eventually overcame his severe depression. He took his medicine. Started showering. Dressed himself. Kept his mental health appointments. Eventually he emerged from that dark, dark place. He recovered his faith as he realized that even in the pit of despair he was never alone.

Hope in the LORD,



The Mask is a 1994 American film about a luckless man named Stanley Ipkiss. In despair for his lack of abilities, ordinariness, shyness, and general social awkwardness, Ipkiss, played by Jim Carrey, goes to the river with thoughts of ending his life. There he finds a box and inside a magic mask that transforms him into everything he is not. The green mask causes Ipkiss to be romantic, brave, debonair, and popular with the ability to catch the eye of the girl he dreams about. The wooden mask gives an introverted Ipkiss an opportunity to be someone else.

Job 9:25-31 (NKJV)

“Now my days are swifter than a runner;
They flee away, they see no good.

They pass by like swift ships,
Like an eagle swooping on its prey.

If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face and wear a smile,’

I am afraid of all my sufferings;
I know that You will not hold me innocent.

If I am condemned,
Why then do I labor in vain?

If I wash myself with snow water,
And cleanse my hands with soap,

Yet You will plunge me into the pit,
And my own clothes will abhor me.”

Most of us are familiar with wearing a figuratively magic mask in public. We smile outwardly when troubled inwardly. We say everything is “okay” when everything is in upheaval because that’s the polite social thing to do. We hide behind an alter ego so we don’t have to talk about what ails us or draw attention to ourselves. Some of us are worthy of Oscar recognition with our splendid acting.

Job suggested wearing a mask long before professionals gave a moniker to that behavior. Can a painful life swiftly passing in the night be covered by a contented look? Will sufferings that cause fear for the future hide behind an uncreased brow? Is a smile capable of obscuring sadness? Can an innocent look distract the Judge from His condemnation? Will the vain labor of my hands be made pure by the whitest of snow? If I wash my face and hands to appear clean, is that enough to fool people from seeing my dirty clothes and pitiful pit of existence?

Can you see yourself in Job? I sure can. I remember washing my hair in the sink so no one would notice I hadn’t showered in a few days. Rubbing my face with water to appear fresh. Putting on cologne to mask my odor. It was all a mask. A mask that the public expected and my acquaintances wanted to see. The truth was too painful to wear. Too consuming to show.

There’s not anything positive in the words of this passage. It’s overwhelming grief, depression, misery, and an unnerving spiritual battle. Yet, I find hope.

Job can be honest with his friends.

I know they’re miserable company at times, but they are there. They’re not going anywhere. They’re in it for the long haul. They have staying power. And they are listening. Sometimes not very well, but they allow Job to voice his complaints and feel heard.

Two of the greatest things a person in trouble needs are your presence and your ear. No advice. No overly used and often meaningless phrases of comfort. Romans 12:15 and following admonishes us to “. . . weep with those who weep. . . . associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”

Job can be honest with God.

Job says some things that I would be afraid to say to God. He bears his soul. Catalogs his complaints. Accuses God of injustice. God well knows the pain and suffering – physical, mental, and spiritual – that Job is going through because Job lays the whole unvarnished mess at the feet of his Heavenly Father. Psalm 137 reminds us, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” Even in the darkness, God is there with you.

I’m thankful that I have a couple of places and a few people with whom I don’t have to wear a mask. I can show my true face and be accepted with open arms. Thanks be to God. No matter the depth of your circumstances, if you have friends, you have hope. If you have a place to go where you can be yourself, you have hope. If you have God, you have the best hope of all.

Hope in the LORD,



According to Wikipedia “a whodunit is a complex plot-driven variety of detective fiction in which the puzzle regarding who committed the crime is the main focus. The reader is provided with the clues to the case, from which the identity of the perpetrator may be deduced before the story provides the revelation itself at its climax. The investigation is usually conducted by an eccentric, amateur, or semi-professional detective. . . A defining feature of the whodunit narrative is the so-called double narrative.” 

Job 9:21-24 (NKJV)

“I am blameless, yet I do not know myself;
I despise my life.
It is all one thing;
Therefore I say, ‘He destroys the blameless and the wicked.’
If the scourge slays suddenly,
He laughs at the plight of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked.
He covers the faces of its judges.
If it is not He, who else could it be?”

In the story of Job, the apparent narrative is the suffering of Job. However, the primary narrative is a search for justice and we have a tertiary plot concerning the justice of God. Is God just? If He is, why am I suffering? If God is not causing my suffering then who is? “If it is not He, who else could it be,” cries a desperate Job.

In Job’s theology God rewards the righteous and destroys the wicked. But Job asserts his innocence even in the face of his suffering. He declares his blamelessness. Maintains his righteousness. Quite an affirmation in the face of the magnitude of his calamity.

Job proposes a solution to his conundrum – God crushes both the good and bad. – Laughs at both the righteous and wicked. – Blinds earth’s judges from the truth in favor of the wicked. It’s the only answer to this life Job despises.

The major fallacy of this thinking is it makes God the author of sin and evil. It turns God into a tyrant bereft of justice. A despot devoid of a moral compass.

If you have read the first and second chapters of Job, you know the answer to Job’s puzzle – “If it is not He, who else could it be?” It is the enemy of Job’s soul – Satan, the devil, Beelzebub – Job’s, your, and my adversary.

  • The enemy of your soul devours (I Peter 5:8); God feeds (Matthew 4:4).
  • The devil lies. He is wily, crafty, deceitful, beguiling, coming as an angel of light (John 8:44, Ephesians 6:11); It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18) and Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  
  • Satan tempts (Matthew 4:3); God doesn’t tempt anyone (James 1:13). God draws us to Himself. (James 4:8).
  • The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10); God comes to create (Genesis 1:1) in you a clean heart and renewed spirit (Psalm 51:10) and make all things new (II Corinthians 5:17).
  • The enemy of your soul is your adversary (I Peter 5:8); Christ is your advocate (I John 2:1).
  • The devil accuses the saint (Rev. 12:10); God forgives (Mark 2:10).

Christianity is not a dualistic religion. Satan and God are NOT equal. Good and evil are NOT two sides of the same coin. No, God wins. Good wins. The devil may be the prince of power (Ephesians 2:2), but God is omnipotent, Almighty God, ALL powerful. The enemy of your soul may be the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), but God is the God of heaven and earth.

So, NO Job! It is NOT He; it is your enemy.

Are you physically suffering? In unbearable pain? Experiencing deep depression or the throes of mental illness? Heart broken in a lost or damaged relationship? Intensely grieving? Financially ruined?

Whatever it is, turn to God for hope.

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Reuben Timothy Morgan / Benjamin David Fielding

Hope in the LORD,



An elderly lady slowly made her way to the open checkout line at the grocery store. Just as she was about to enter the queue a young man dodged in front of her. He put his things on the counter and paid with his credit card. But each time he swiped his card it was rejected. As the embarrassed young man crept out the door, he heard the older woman say, “God gotcha!”

Job 9:14-20 (NKJV)

“How then can I answer Him,
And choose my words to reason with Him?
For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him;
I would beg mercy of my Judge.
If I called and He answered me,
I would not believe that He was listening to my voice.
For He crushes me with a tempest,
And multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
If it is a matter of strength, indeed He is strong;
And if of justice, who will appoint my day in court?
Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.”

Job wonders aloud if anyone can reason or dispute with God. Can one construct a convincing defense to persuade God to withhold His judgement? Job pleads his moral innocence – the idea that he has not consciously or voluntarily sinned against God. To prove such a thing before the Judge of the world is surely an insurmountable task.

Verses 16-18 are the voice of one in deep despair. Trust in God is shaken. Who can trust a God who has unjustly caused so much suffering? Job is crushed. Knocked about. In a storm without shelter. Wounds multiplied upon wounds. Job feels it is all without cause. No reason. Meaningless. It disturbs his faith to the very core.

Job pleads for a moment to catch his breath. He is overwhelmed. Bitterness and misery are his constant companions. Do you see yourself in Job? Have you been to the bottom of hopelessness as he was? Is his vocabulary familiar to you?

Mercy is his only plea. I like how my pastor, Ray Still, defined grace and mercy. Grace is receiving that which you did NOT deserve. Mercy is NOT receiving that which you DID deserve. Job decides to throw himself on the mercy of the court.

The Old Testament sacrificial system was for unknown sins – faults, shortcomings, unintended, unwitting, thoughtless, unintentional unfaithfulness, accidental deception, and sins of omission. This is known as the legal definition of sin – anything and everything that falls short of the perfection of God. (It would take the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross to be efficacious enough to forgive us of “on purpose” sin.) Job feels that if God doesn’t find some moral guilt in him, He will find some legal guilt. It’s a no-win situation. It’s “gotcha” thinking.

“Gotcha” is defined as satisfaction at having defeated, captured one, or uncovered someone’s faults. It is the use of tricking someone or exposing them to ridicule, especially by deception.

Just when you think Job’s misery could go no deeper, helplessness invades his thoughts. What’s the use? What’s the use of pleading righteousness; God will find something somewhere to justify His actions. If it is a question of strength – God wins. Justice – God wins. Who can subpoena God and challenge Him – God wins. God’s gotcha.   

Too many of us tremble beneath the strong hand of the “gotcha God.” It’s like playing Monopoly not knowing what’s behind each card drawn – advance token to the nearest railroad and pay the owner twice the rent. Advance token to Boardwalk where you are certain to go bankrupt if there are hotels on that property. Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.00 dollars.

One pastor wrote about “gotcha” Christians. One parishioner asked if the mark of the beast was in the Covid vaccine. GOTCHA. Another felt guilty about failing one day in 30 to give a homeless man at his train stop some money. GOTCHA. Someone I talked to thought eating one more potato chip then what’s in a serving size was a sin. GOTCHA.

God is so far away from that kind of thinking, my friend, as to have no resemblance to the thought at all.

  1. God is holy and all that He does is holy. He is a holy Judge. His justice is holy. Remember, God’s sovereignty is not capricious, and His power is not arbitrary.
  2. God is love. He loves you with an everlasting love.
  3. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
  4. God is good all the time.  
  5. God is great beyond every rival.

Seek to know Him, my friend. Not how you feel this moment. Not by the events that shape your day/life. Seek to know Him as He has revealed Himself through the Word of God. I pray that will “get’cha!”

Hope in the LORD,



In 1901 the founder of a Bible college in Cincinnati, OH died leaving his property to God. His devoted gesture touched off what was to become the longest civil court case in the history of Ohio – more than 75 years. The case tackled many issues surrounding the will and the continuing disposition of the College. One of the decisions reached in the course of the case was . . . God cannot own property in the state of Ohio.

Job 9:1-13 (NKJV)

Then Job answered and said:

“Truly I know it is so,
But how can a man be righteous before God?
If one wished to contend with Him,
He could not answer Him one time out of a thousand.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength.
Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?
He removes the mountains, and they do not know
When He overturns them in His anger;
He shakes the earth out of its place,
And its pillars tremble;
He commands the sun, and it does not rise;
He seals off the stars;
He alone spreads out the heavens,
And treads on the waves of the sea;
He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the south;
He does great things past finding out,
Yes, wonders without number.
If He goes by me, I do not see Him;
If He moves past, I do not perceive Him;
If He takes away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’
God will not withdraw His anger,
The allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him.”

“I know it is so,” (9:2) Job freely acknowledges to Bildad (chapter 8) that God is just. In admitting this, Job’s thoughts are the same as Bildad’s, “Behold, God will not cast away the blameless, nor will He uphold the evildoers.” Job’s dilemma is his profession of righteousness.  “How can all these bad things happen to me,” Job ponders, “if God is just?”

Job presents a novel, but futile, idea – take God to court. The word “contend” in verse 3 is a legal term. It suggests adversaries in a civil court of law.

Job acknowledges from the start that it’s a hopeless case. God can satisfactorily answer any question put to Him. Furthermore, no one has more than a one-in-a-thousand chance to answer questions put to them by God.

God is wise and mighty. His power can create a mountain, tear one down, or move it to another place. The earth shakes at the sound of His command and gravity trembles as it holds the earth in place. By His voice the sun can rise or it can set or it can cease to exist. With His hand the stars are spread out in the heavens and the seas become His foot path. He casts the constellations in their place.

Oh, His ways are beyond our comprehension and His wonders are without human understanding. (I think verses 4-10 make a beautiful call to worship.) Who can win against such an opponent? Who can question His ways? Who can stop God?

Job understands the futility of accusing God of being unjust. Who do you appeal to when you feel like God has let you down? Is there a greater than God?

I can empathize with Job in his loss for what to do. Perhaps you are in a place where you can’t see or perceive God? Seemingly, He is nowhere to be found. The heavens are brass as you try to pray. Inwardly, God appears more than an adversary in a court; He is an enemy on a battlefield. Like Job, you feel crushed beneath His hand.

In the Old Testament God appeals to two things in asserting His authority. First to creation – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In creation God brought order out of chaos. Read that sentence again. Meditate on it. Now make it personal. Trust God to bring order to your chaos, too.

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don’t see
How they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth

Our Father knows what’s best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don’t see Him,
Remember you’re never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart
Trust His Heart

He sees the master plan
And he holds our future in His hand,

So don’t live as those who have no hope,
All our hope is found in Him

We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry He’s weaving you and me,
To someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart

When you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart
Trust His Heart

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Babbie Y. Mason / Eddie Carswell

Hope in the LORD,



A college friend recently posted a video of his 98-year-old mother-in-law singing I Love Him Better Every Day.

I love Him better every day.

I love Him better every day.

Close by His side

I will abide.

I love Him better every day.

Her frail voice was shaky. She sang slowly with inconsistent timing. There was no distinguishing key to be heard. In every way it was imperfect, but to Stan and his wife Jan it was likely the most beautiful sound they’d heard all day.  And I believe strongly that God thought it perfect, too.

Job 8:1-21 (NKJV)

Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:

“How long will you speak these things,
And the words of your mouth be like a strong wind?
Does God subvert judgment?
Or does the Almighty pervert justice?
If your sons have sinned against Him,
He has cast them away for their transgression.
If you would earnestly seek God
And make your supplication to the Almighty,
If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place.
Though your beginning was small,
Yet your latter end would increase abundantly.

“For inquire, please, of the former age,
And consider the things discovered by their fathers;
For we were born yesterday, and know nothing,
Because our days on earth are a shadow.
Will they not teach you and tell you,
And utter words from their heart?

“Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh?
Can the reeds flourish without water?
While it is yet green and not cut down,
It withers before any other plant.
So are the paths of all who forget God;
And the hope of the hypocrite shall perish,
Whose confidence shall be cut off,
And whose trust is a spider’s web.
He leans on his house, but it does not stand.
He holds it fast, but it does not endure.
He grows green in the sun,
And his branches spread out in his garden.
His roots wrap around the rock heap,
And look for a place in the stones.
If he is destroyed from his place,
Then it will deny him, saying, ‘I have not seen you.’

“Behold, this is the joy of His way,
And out of the earth others will grow.
Behold, God will not cast away the blameless,
Nor will He uphold the evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughing,
And your lips with rejoicing.
Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
And the dwelling place of the wicked will come to nothing.”

As I read through Bildad’s words I thought about titling this piece, You’re No Help at All. He cruelly suggests that Job’s children went to hell (v. 4). He accusingly questions Job’s uprightness before God (v. 6) and calls Job a hypocrite (v. 13). It’s abundantly clear Bildad missed school the day they talked about comfort and compassion.  

How could Bildad be so far off – his belief system was wrong. The parable of the two builders at the end of Matthew 7 reminds us of the catastrophic results from building on a faulty foundation – get it wrong and the superstructure fails.

Bildad believed . . .

  • God’s justice was easily understood.

Bildad narrowed God down into a simple theological proposition – God will not cast away the blameless nor will He uphold the evildoers (v. 20). Live upright and prosper. Misbehave and be judged. The truth is more complex. Everything does not fit into such a neat and tidy little box.

My friend Jim and I learned that common sense isn’t defined the same by everyone. At an intersection we pulled up behind a car with keys in the trunk lock. Jim dutifully jumped out, retrieved the keys, and took them to the driver. Then the oddest thing happened. On his way back to our car Jim put the keys back into the lock. I asked him what was up. He said the man gruffly told him to “Put ‘em back.”

It’s a mystery to me why anyone wants to drive down a public road with a set of keys hanging from his trunk. Neither Jim nor I ever found out. But I’m confident the driver had a perfectly sound reason. The same is true with the mysterious ways of God. We live in a fallen world with imperfect understanding and myopic vision. We are blind to what is in the future.

It behooves us to remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 13:12, For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” When the day is done we take our unknown bundles and trust in the omniscient God.

  • Power, prestige, and possessions equal God’s blessing.

Politics is a power game, but with it comes a multitude of burdens and responsibilities. Prestige is accompanied by glamour, high society, and the loss of anonymity. Possessions are nice to collect but require maintenance.

Those that achieve one or more of the three P’s can become the saddest people in the world. Two of the richest men in the world had failed marriages in the past three years. Suicide and premature deaths dog the famous. Walls, safes, guards, and a whole assortment of methods are required to secure things. Often a large staff is employed to keep up with it all.

The three P’s are a poor indicator of God’s blessings.

If you are experiencing tough times that shake your faith, endure, my friend. Trust in the God of wisdom to work out your circumstances.

Ask Stan’s mother-in-law living in a nursing home with the frailty and loneliness that comes with advanced age about the vicissitudes of life and God’s place in the midst of them all. Hear her answer,

 I love Him better every day.

I love Him better every day.

Close by His side

I will abide.

I love Him better every day.

Hope in the LORD.



Brad Cohen has Tourette syndrome. I’ve met two people with Tourette’s. The first was the stereotypical person given to spontaneous cussing. The second, like Brad Cohen, made involuntary clicks and pops. Tourette’s does not give one an easy life, but Brad overcame.

He graduated college with academic honors and applied to be an elementary teacher in the Atlanta area. Brad was rejected 24 times before an administrator decided to give him a chance. In 1997 he was awarded the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher of the Year. Cohen is now an author, teacher, motivational speaker, and teacher supervisor.

Tourette’s almost caused a capable man to be rejected.

(Read Job 7:1-21)

I made a list of people I have observed in the Christian community with mental illness and how they were judged.

Autism spectrum (which is a not a mental illness but a developmental delay) – ostracized.

ADHD – treated as a behavior problem.

Addiction – condemnation.

Mood disorder – sin.

Anxiety disorder – spiritually deficient.

Dissociative disorder – lying, unbelievable.

I wondered where Job would fit into this list – he was accused of sinning.

It’s easy to assume that I am different and the church I attend is different, but I’ve been on the receiving end of much of the above. I thank God for the many who took me in and embraced me, but what came as a complete and unexpected shock was the way so many rejected me.

Like Brad Cohen and millions of others who have emotional and physical health issues, we face rejection. Job shows us that God accepted him. Job 2:10 states, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Call me peculiar, if you will, but I find great comfort and hope in Job expressing such deep, dark, and depressing feelings WITHOUT sinning.

Job 7:1-21 is not an easy chapter to read. It’s like the few imprecatory Psalms that leave us wondering how they made it into the sacred canon of Scripture. There is nothing positive in this chapter. It’s complaining. Pleading. Sadness.

The chapter can be divided into four sections:

                The Futility of Life, 1-5

                The Despair of Life, 6-10

                The Bitterness of Life, 11-16 and

                The Burden of Life, 17-21.

“I have been allotted months of futility,” (v. 3) Job complains. Weariness. Sleeplessness. Sickness haunts his days.

With resignation Job states, “My days . . . are spent without hope.” (v. 6b) To be without hope is the very definition of despair. I was always taught that despair was a sin, but here is a godly man finding himself in that very condition.

“I will complain in the bitterness of my soul,” Job tells God. (v. 11c) Anguish during the day and nightmares at night are Job’s lot. “I loathe my life,” he continues. (v. 16a) If given the opportunity, Job would not choose to live forever.

Job questions God with, “Have I sinned? What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as Your target?” (v. 20) Here Job is willing to confess to any number of unknown and unwilful sins if his burdens would only be relieved.

Can you identify with Job?

Where do you turn when life tumbles in?

Go to God, my friend.

Pour out your soul to Him.

Talk out loud and let your pleadings and complaints be known to God.

List all the injustices you feel. The hurts. The pain. The troubles. Tell it all to God.

Don’t be worried you will offend Him. I have found that God is far less judgmental than people. You are His child. Go cry in His lap. And take comfort in the knowledge that a saint like Job was there before you.

Hope in the LORD,



Diana Bonet, listening consultant and author of The Business of Listening, relates this story.  A dispatcher for a trucking company routed a fleet of drivers hauling building materials to the wrong state. The dispatcher heard the city, Portland, quit listening, and assumed it was Portland, Oregon. Not until the trucks were on the wrong side of the country was it discovered the intended city was Portland, Maine. It was a 3000-mile, $100,000 error.

Teach me, and I will hold my tongue;
Cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
How forceful are right words!
But what does your arguing prove?
Do you intend to rebuke my words,
And the speeches of a desperate one, which are as wind?
Yes, you overwhelm the fatherless,
And you undermine your friend.
Now therefore, be pleased to look at me;
For I would never lie to your face.
Yield now, let there be no injustice!
Yes, concede, my righteousness still stands!
Is there injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my taste discern the unsavory? 
Job 6:24-30 (NKJV)

Job’s friends are perfect in so many ways, but they err in one fundamental belief (false premises end in false conclusions) and lack one critical skill – listening. These verses are a plea to be heard.

LISTEN! Support me, don’t betray me. (verses 24 & 27)

Job must have visited the “Show Me” state, Missouri, at some point. He pleas with his friends to show him his error. What is my fault? What have I done wrong? Job is willing to hold his tongue and be taught if what is being said is true.

It is extremely difficult to listen when the accusations are false. It is equally hard to defend yourself when the charges are worded in global generalities. God always deals in specifics.

Many times, people, especially youth, have approached me and said something like, “I feel such a heavy burden. That God is not pleased with me. But I don’t know what’s wrong.” I have frequently asked them, what sin have you committed? Whom have you wronged or offended? What are you not doing that you should? More than once, puzzled faces met my eyes. It is then that I tell them God always deals in specifics. It is the enemy of their soul who uses generalities.

Job feels betrayed. Sold out. Undermined. His plea is the desire of us all – Listen to me! Help me! Support me!

LISTEN! Prove my sin, don’t assume I’m lying. (verses 25-26 & 28)

The sad reality for Job is this: his friends must assume he is apostate, the worst of sinners, for such great calamity to befall him. This is so painful for Job to bear.

He challenges his friends: Prove to me any conscious and willful sin I have committed. Demonstrate by my free moral choices my corruption. Job says what so many of us lack the courage to say to our blusterous friends, “You are full of hot air.”  

Job is desperate. He is clothed in despair. And all he is getting from his friends is unconvincing, ill-conceived reproof.

Experts tell us there are ways to catch a person in a lie. One sign is dropping contractions – can’t to cannot, etc. Another is a rise in vocal inflections. Rapid blinking or furtive eyes. Job invites his friend to look him in the face and judge by his vocal and physical gestures that he is lying.

Many years ago, someone suggested I was faking my depression. It hurt. But I concluded that I was the best actor, faker, liar in the world if what he said was true. It was a preposterous statement in the light of all the accumulated evidence.


LISTEN! Accept my righteousness, don’t accuse me. (verses 29 & 30)

Stop being suspicious, Job cries. Reconsider your position. My reputation is at stake. Halt the condemnations, already. False or un-contextual accusations are agonizing.

A malicious rumor cost me a pastoral position some years back. A woman started publishing on Facebook that I was having an affair. There was not a scintilla of truth to it. A total fabrication born out of a heart bent on revenge. But because of the public nature of the claim and how far it had spread, I was asked to resign. (There were some other extenuating circumstances, but this was the one thing the district superintendent cited when he asked me to leave at the end of the fiscal year.)  

Job asserts, “I’m innocent,” but his friends weren’t listening.

Instead of comforting Job, it had become a prosecution. You’ve been there, no doubt. Falsely blamed. Not believed. Betrayed. Where do you turn? What do you hold on to?

  • Count on your righteousness through Christ Jesus. It is by grace you are saved. Rest in that assurance.
  • Maintain your innocence. Don’t confess to wrong to gain peace. Stand firm in the truth.
  • Find a support network. I have a place I go to where I can take off my mask. In whatever state/mood I am in, they accept me.

Go to God, my friend. There’s not another who loves you and wants to help you as much as God does.

Hope in the LORD,



Christmas comes with a boatload of expectations. Most of the time, I think, we impose them on ourselves.

Did I buy the right gift? Is it exactly what they wanted? Will the quality be good enough? We stew putting one thing down to pick up another. Replacing a choice we already made with something we think will be better.

Did I spend the right amount? Did I spend an equal amount for each child? Do I have the same number of gifts for each? My wife, looking at the boxes of things I have stacked in the bedroom, asked me if she needed to get anything more to match my level of expenditure.

Am I going to get the right response? Will they like it? Will they be excited? We shop for more than a gift; we shop for a reaction. If it’s not the one we expected, it haunts us until next Christmas.

Job had certain expectations of his friends that, in his opinion, are wildly unfulfilled.

 “To him who isafflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend,
Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook,
Like the streams of the brooks that pass away,
Which are dark because of the ice,
And into which the snow vanishes.
When it is warm, they cease to flow;
When it is hot, they vanish from their place.
The paths of their way turn aside,
They go nowhere and perish.
The caravans of Tema look,
The travelers of Sheba hope for them.
They are disappointed because they were confident;
They come there and are confused.
For now you are nothing,
You see terror and are afraid.
Did I ever say, ‘Bring something to me’?
Or, ‘Offer a bribe for me from your wealth’?
Or, ‘Deliver me from the enemy’s hand’?
Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of oppressors’?
Job 6:14-23

Job expected kindness, he receives affliction.

The word translated “kindness” may indicate that Job had a covenant of grace with his friends. Any one of them could expect the others to respond with comfort and compassion. Instead, he feels forsaken and that his friends are without sympathy.

Job expected brotherhood, he gets accusers.

When his friends came, no doubt Job’s spirit lifted. Perhaps now, he thinks, someone will gather the little he has left and help him to start over. Maybe, his friends would help him nurse his wounds and cover his scars. Instead, he feels disappointed. Deceived. His companions unreliable.

Job expected refreshment, he gets desert.

He tells his friends they are like a stream that promises water but is all dried up. He likens himself to a trader who travels north and south down the Arabian Peninsula looking for a spring to quench his thirst. When he needed his friends the most, they come evaporated of anything soothing. To him they are a wasteland.

Job expected comfort, he finds confusion.

He expresses himself as one disappointed. Distressed. Confounded. Confused.

Job expected help, nothing comes.

Terror comes instead of joy. Dread replaces peace.

Job asks his friends four questions.

Did I ask you to bring me something? Did I ask you to give me something? Did I ask you to deliver me from my enemies? Did I ask you to redeem me from oppression? Perhaps these practical and heroic things would have been easier. They are tangible, Job needs the intangible. They are seen, Job needs the unseen.

I like Job because he speaks the language of the grieving. For the depressed. For the one living in pain. For the ones who feel their friends have forsaken them. Job didn’t ask anything of his friends, and he got less than he asked for.

*How to be a comforter.

Listen more than you talk. Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for.  Don’t try to explain. Watch your words carefully.

Accept the mood swings. The pain. Accusations hurled at God and others. The “what ifs” and “why fors.” The denial, bargaining, and anger that come along with loss.

Respect your friend’s time and space.

Help with practical tasks.

Be genuine.

 What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–
take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

by Joseph M. Scriven

Hope in the LORD, my friend


*adapted from cancercar.org and helpguide.org


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received word in November of 1863 that his eldest son, Charles, had been severely wounded on the battlefields of the American Civil War. Grasping for hope, Longfellow wrote the poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” on Christmas 1863. As the bells tolled, Longfellow expressed his despair and hopelessness in these anguished lines.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Job continues his response . . .

Oh, that I might have my request,
That God would grant me the thing that I long for!
That it would please God to crush me,
That He would loose His hand and cut me off!
Then I would still have comfort;
Though in anguish I would exult,
He will not spare;
For I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.

“What strength do I have, that I should hope?
And what is my end, that I should prolong my life?

Is my strength the strength of stones?
Or is my flesh bronze?

Is my help not within me?
And is success driven from me?                                 
Job 6:8-13 (NKJV)

As I read this paragraph, I concluded that Job is solely focused on what he does NOT have.

What hope do I have? vv. 8-9

What comfort do I have? v. 10

What strength do I have? v. 11a

What future do I have? v. 11b

What help to I have? v. 13

Dr. John E. Culp notes, “Eliphaz’s high toned challenges for Job to suffer manfully while God disciplines him seem worse than useless to a man whose life was simply unbearable.” How many times, in an effort to comfort, do people say the wrong thing? You wish they’d practiced the art of silent soothing.

So too, Job. All he has to hope for is death. He prays to die. For God to finish his destruction – crush, squash – and loose him from the reins of this life. I can remember being in so much despair that I envied the dead. Job wants to end his life. Death is the only friend he has left.

But God . . .

(Please let me strongly interject here that death is NOT the answer. Call 988 if you are having suicidal thoughts.)

The only thing Job takes comfort in is that he has NOT cursed God. Though challenged to do so by his equally despairing wife, Job finds what rudiments of confidence he has left is in his faith in God. But it is a comfort in the prospect of death. A joy in unsparing pain and sorrow that the God to whom he is committed will grant him his request.

I recently asked a person who went through great tribulation what brought her through with her faith unbroken. She said she learned to praise. Everyday she looked for things for which to give God thanks. Job, though, was too far in despair to find comfort in anything than death.

But God . . .

Cicero wrote, “For man is not chiseled out of the rock, nor hewn out of the oak . . .” Homer said something similar, “Nor are their bodies rocks, nor ribbed with steel.” Job confesses his humanity when he reminds his friends that his constitution is not stone, and his flesh is not bronze.

I can remember sitting in a jail cell knowing full well my strength was wasted. All my ability to do recovery on my own was abandoned. All hope for pulling myself up by my own bootstraps was discarded.

But God . . .

Have you ever lost it all? Everything. No livelihood. No family. No resources. Nothing. Job found himself there. His future was bleak. He would have to start over without anything with which to start.

But God . . .

“The discouraged person feels there is no way out for him; all his resources are gone – he has no help.” (Dr. Culp). It was more than discouragement, it was despair. Job felt that no one could show him a way out.

But God . . .

I stumbled onto a prayer I wrote for a friend who has since passed away from brain cancer. Here is a part. “Father . . . be the strength of Paul’s life. Turn fear into courage. Weakness into strength. Helplessness into hope. Aloneness into company with the blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Walk with Paul though this shadow and make it light unto him.”

God can change everything, my friend.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

What do you have?

Hope in the LORD,



Billy, Doug, and I were pretty much inseparable from the time we went to kindergarten to our freshman year of high school when Billy moved away. We walked to school together. Took classes together. Played in Little League together. From Spring to Fall we played basketball, baseball, or football nearly every night. In the winter we played in the snow, built snow forts, had snowball fights, and shoveled walks together to make a little cash. Our family owned a tent camper that became our bedroom for most of the summer. We used to sneak out and go to the local all-night grocery store to buy snacks. We thought we were big and getting away with something.

Billy and Doug both died too young. Doug of a stroke in his early 50’s. Billy, a heart attack at 17. It was the summer after we had graduated from high school. I was working at the college where I attended when my mother called me to give me the news. It shook me to the core.

The right to complain is likely not enshrined in any country’s constitution or codified in the rule of law. Grumbling against one another is discouraged in the Bible. So is hurdling accusations toward God. But there are several examples of complaining to God.

When Mom told me about Billy, I complained. I went to the prayer room and locked myself in the inner closet there. And I yelled and screamed and asked why.

Job responds to Eliphaz

Then Job answered and said:

“Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, And my calamity laid with it on the scales!

For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea– Therefore my words have been rash.

For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; My spirit drinks in their poison; The terrors of God are arrayed against me.

Does the wild donkey bray when it has grass, or does the ox low over its fodder?

Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?

My soul refuses to touch them; They are as loathsome food to me.”                                          Job 6:1-7 (NKJV)

In a way, talk therapy is about getting all your well-hidden issues out of your heart, soul, and mind into the open. Complaining, if you please. In our journals or diaries, we protest injustice and put into print our deepest, often negative, feelings. In individual and group counseling we make bare the disease that ravages our thoughts.

Job has good reason to complain.

Great Grief

This man, Job, is carrying a bitter load. Anguish for the loss of his livelihood. Agonizing sadness over the death of his children. Excruciating pain from the failure of his health.

Complicated grief is debilitating. Sorrow can be severe and emotionally painful. It can linger and get worse with each passing day. One may focus on little else than the loss suffered. Bitterness arises. Life becomes meaningless and purposeless. There is a persistent belief that you may have done something wrong.

Job sits in ashes scratching himself with broken pottery in a futile attempt to get some relief. The shards are for his skin only because they cannot reach his soul.

Great Burden

The weight of it all is beyond Job’s ability to cope. The load is too great. He confesses to rash, impetuous, incoherent, impulsive words. Calamity is his fortune. Misery his fate. Trouble his inheritance. And disaster his future.

It would break the back of any man or woman to bear such a burden. The heaviness is unjust. Out of balance. The scales tipped to tumbling.  

Great Affliction

Job feels, as he believes, the poison arrows of God piercing him with judgement. His spirit is in terror as the wrath of El Shaddai, God Almighty, is arrayed against him. For Job, it appears God has marshaled all the forces of heaven, nature, and humankind as an army against him.

Job alienates the very source of his comfort when he assigns to God the cause of the tragedy he endures. It is hard to find help and peace in the one you think is torturing you. As a result, his affliction deepens.  

Job defends his right to complain by saying even the ox and ass have a right to bellow and bray when they have no food. A person has a right to whine when his food is tasteless, inedible. Life for Job is loathsome. Sickening. Repugnant. Repulsive.

I learned a valuable lesson the day Billy died . . . God is big enough to handle my hurts and pain no matter how intense they may be. God would rather you yell at Him than not speak to Him at all. No matter your grief . . .  No matter your burden . . .  No matter your affliction . . . Bring your protest to God.   

The Psalmist said it best, “I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path.” Psalm 142:2-3 (NKJV) 

Find hope in bringing your wounds to God.

Hope in the LORD,



My son, Austin, and his wife, Sarah, are new parents to my granddaughter, Morgan. Now I’m sure she is perfect in every way, but her parents might say that a 10-month-old displays moments of self-will that need corrected. She may not want to put on clothes. However, her parents know she needs clothes to protect her from the sun in the summer, wind in the fall, cold in the winter, and rain in the spring. She may not want to take off her clothes. But her parents know that she and her clothes need to be washed. I can’t imagine there are foods she may not like. Yet her parents know that food, though distasteful, provides the needed nutrients and calories for a growing, healthy girl. You get the picture?

Eliphaz finishes his first discourse.

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects;
Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.
For He bruises, but He binds up;
He wounds, but His hands make whole.
He shall deliver you in six troubles,
Yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.
In famine He shall redeem you from death,
And in war from the [
e]power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue,
And you shall not be afraid of destruction when it comes.
You shall laugh at destruction and famine,
And you shall not be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
For you shall have a covenant with the stones of the field,
And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
You shall know that your tent is in peace;
You shall visit your dwelling and find nothing amiss.
You shall also know that your descendants shall be many,
And your offspring like the grass of the earth.
You shall come to the grave at a full age,
As a sheaf of grain ripens in its season.
Behold, this we have searched out;
It is true.
Hear it, and know for yourself.”                
Job 5:17-27

This passage points out three important principles.

God Disciplines You Because He Loves You.

Just as much as a 10-month-old finds correction unpleasant, you and I find the chastening of the LORD Almighty to be disagreeable, too. Still, it is necessary for Morgan’s well-being to receive discipline and no matter how old you are in your walk with God, humbling before Him is a good thing.

The proverbial sores, wounds, and bruises you get now will be your strengths later. The injuries today become thorns of victory tomorrow. The skillful Heavenly Surgeon slices with one side of the double-edged sword in order that He may make you whole with the opposite edge.

God disciplines on purpose. . .

  1. To train us. (see Ephesians 6:4)
  2. To instruct us. (s/a/a)
  3. To give us wisdom. (see Proverbs 3:11-12) and,
  4. To make us holy. (see Hebrews 12:10-11)  

Mature Christians know that pain equals spiritual growth. I’m not talking about self-flagellation or arbitrary events. No, it is the purposeful testing of God that, faithfully endured, gives us an opportunity to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love. (see II Peter 1:5-7)

God Delivers You Because He Loves You.

John Wesley believed affliction was a pledge of God’s love.

There is a beautiful promise of deliverance in verses 19-26. Job, who has lost much to warring bands is promised no famine or war. Later in this book Job will experience scathing accusations, but here he is promised protection from such. The wind and the fire of nature turned against Job, but some day in the future he will have a treaty of peace with the stones and the beasts. A home broken by loss will find safety. A father of only buried children will have beautiful daughters and dutiful sons. This man, Job, sick unto death will live to see four generations of his offspring.

There is something important to note, these promises are for Job in particular and only for you in principle. God may not deliver you from famine. War. Destruction. A tongue lashing. Beasts mauling your livestock. Rocks in your garden. A peaceful and safe home. Childlessness or wayward kids. An early death.



GOD WILL DELIVER YOU, TOO. Don’t appropriate Job’s story and miss the special plan God has to work all things for your good who are called according to His purpose. (see Romans 8:28)

God is Dependable Because He Love You.

The Old Testament courtroom was never to convict a person on the testimony of one witness. Eliphaz has more than one witness to the dependability of God. Millions and billions from the beginning to now can testify of God’s faithfulness.

Find hope, my friend, in the God who loves you.

Hope in the LORD,


ALL TRUE, but . . .

R. K. Storey and his family were missionaries establishing a Bible college on the Philippine Island of Luzon when the Japanese invaded in December of 1941. During their flight into the mountains, their little girl died and was hastily buried along the trail. Returning to visit her grave the family was captured by Japanese soldiers and imprisoned in an internment camp.

The conditions were appalling. Until the liberation of Luzon, January 9 – August 15, 1945, the Storey’s endured separation, humiliation, hunger, disease, and starvation. Their son, David, once stole the hide of a cow the soldiers butchered for his family to eat. After liberation R. K. Storey returned to the United States and became a Bible college president and pastor. Yet, until their deaths, he and his family bore the physical and psychological scars of their experience on Luzon.

Eliphaz continues . . .

“But as for me, I would seek God,
And to God I would commit my cause—
Who does great things, and unsearchable,
Marvelous things without number.
He gives rain on the earth,
And sends waters on the fields.
He sets on high those who are lowly,
And those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,
So that their hands cannot carry out their plans.
He catches the wise in their own craftiness,
And the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them.
They meet with darkness in the daytime,
And grope at noontime as in the night.
But He saves the needy from the sword,
From the mouth of the mighty,
And from their hand.
So the poor have hope,
And injustice shuts her mouth.” 
                Job 5:8-16 (NKJV)

Such a beautiful passage of Scripture. Verses 8 and 9 are an excellent call to worship. Verse 16 is a wonderful affirmation. Everything Eliphaz states here is true. It is all within the power of God to accomplish. But, . . . it’s not true all the time.

However, despite Eliphaz’s confused belief, he stumbles onto three critical truths.

  1. Seek God, v. 8.

The Bible is full of admonitions for us to “seek God.”  

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8.

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:6

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

My friend, when you are in trouble. When life turns in a way that is hard to understand. When you feel alone and overwhelmed. Seek God. It’s always the right thing to do. I can assure you that God responds to a seeking soul every time.

2. Watch God work, vv. 9-15

God has been, is, and always will be active in our world as long as it exists. God is never unobservant, unreachable, or unable. Look at all the verbs that reflect God’s work – “He gives.” “He sends.” “He sets.” (He lifts.) “He frustrates.” “He catches.” “He saves.” Thanks be to God.

It is an error to think that God is at our beck-and-call to do what we want, the way we want, and when we want. I could not help but note the contradiction as I attended a funeral in a church with canes, crutches, and wheelchairs displayed on the walls. It is erroneous to believe that God is predictable and that He moves in a prescribed method to every predicament. God is mysterious and we cannot, must not confine Him to a box of our own making.

Trust in the providence of God and watch Him work.  

3. Hope in God, v. 16

Someone said God must love the poor, He made so many of them. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to laugh or cry at this saying. Or if it is an acknowledgement of reality or an accusation against God. One thing sure I know, “The poor have hope.”

I have always admired the songs that embodied a hope for some sweet day of freedom.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.

1) I looked over Jordan, and what did I see,
Coming for to carry me home.
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home. Oh, [Refrain]

2) If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home.
Tell all my friends I’m coming too,
Coming for to carry me home. Oh, [Refrain]

3) The brightest day that ever I saw
Coming for to carry me home.
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Coming for to carry me home. Oh, [Refrain]

4) I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,
Coming for to carry me home.
But still my soul feels heav’nly bound,
Coming for to carry me home. Oh, [Refrain]

This was the great American Moses, Harriet Tubman’s, favorite song. She sang it to let slaves know that they would soon be escaping to freedom.* And who can ignore the hope of the anthem, We Shall Overcome, of the American Civil Rights movement. I love the Christian gospel song, The Solid Rock. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness . . .”

Just like the family of R. K. Storey, you may face tragic insult in your life. Degradation. Injustice. And a myriad of other wrongs. These are NOT a reflection of your righteousness or the lack thereof. Rather, use it, my friend, as a time to seek God, watch Him work, and find hope in Him.

Hope in the LORD,


Note: All Scripture references are from the New King James Version.



The movie Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey (Bruce) and Morgan Freeman (God) is about a man who thinks he can do a better job than God. So, God gives him omnipotence. Bruce uses his newfound power for selfish purposes. He gets his job back. Impresses his girlfriend. Exacts revenge. Bruce performs miracles just to amaze and show off. He develops an automatic prayer response machine that always answers “yes.”

The result of omnipotence without holiness is catastrophic. Apocalypse-like weather conditions explode upon the earth because Bruce pulls the moon closer to the earth. Everyone who prayed to hit the Powerball begins to riot when their share of the multi-million-dollar jackpot is a mere $16.00.

Bruce comes to realize that he is not God. He is not qualified to be God. He is not equipped to be God. He is not knowledgeable enough to be God. And ultimately, Bruce realizes that he doesn’t want the responsibility that comes along with being God Almighty.

Eliphaz continues his discourse to Job

“Now a word was secretly brought to me,
And my ear received a whisper of it.
In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones shake.
Then a spirit passed before my face;
The hair on my body stood up.
It stood still,
But I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
There was silence;
Then I heard a voice saying:
‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?
If He puts no trust in His servants,
If He charges His angels with error,
How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
Whose foundation is in the dust,
Who are crushed before a moth?
They are broken in pieces from morning till evening;
They perish forever, with no one regarding.
Does not their own excellence go away?
They die, even without wisdom.’
                Job 4:12-21 (NKJV)

Eliphaz attempts to speak to Job in a non-offensive fashion. His message is indirect, but clear enough. “Job, you are not God.”

Eliphaz recalls a dream he had. Dreams were important in the Ancient Near East (ANE) and continue to be in many parts of the world today. In my own life I have come to appreciate the subconscious communication of dreams to help me deal with or be aware of very conscious issues. Eliphaz uses his dream to lend credibility and authority to his message. He denotes its seriousness by emphasizing his fear and trembling, and his hair standing up on end. For special effect, he includes the appearance of an angelic or God-like figure.

His message is three-fold.

God is perfect.

Eliphaz is suggesting that Job is pleading perfection equal to God’s. That is not the case. Job is not suggesting that he possesses divine perfection, angelic perfection, or even Adamic perfection (the perfection Adam and Eve had before the fall). Job is not pleading sinlessness. Rather he is saying that he has not voluntarily, willfully, purposely, or knowingly sinned against God. Moral purity is his appeal. 

God is incomparable.

Humanity and all we make is temporary. God is eternal. Earthly life is but a vapor that quickly passes. God is omnipotent. We are limited in our power and abilities. God is all wise. We are fallible. Mortals are not equal to God. The morally righteous are not purer than God.

God needs no counselors.

None of God’s creation – be they angels, seraphim, cherubim, 24 elders, humankind, or creatures of the earth can give Him advice. God is unique in His perfection and needs no consorts or cabinet.

Like Job, you do not have the ability to stop the tragic circumstances of life. Nor can you control the effects that it may have on you. However, take comfort and gain hope in the fact that you are not God. You are not the end of all things, He is everything. You’ll mess up, He won’t. You can have confidence that there is One far greater than you to turn to whatever befalls your journey.

Hope in the LORD,



Richard Jewell was working as a security guard during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia when he saw a suspicious package amidst the crowd gathered in Centennial Olympic Park for a concert. Peering inside he discovered three pipe bombs. Immediately he notified the authorities and his fellow guards and started clearing the area. Before completing the task, the bomb exploded killing one and injuring over one hundred. Without Jewell’s quick response dozens would have died and multiple hundreds injured.

For about 72 hours, Richard Jewell was hailed a hero. . .until he wasn’t. A psychological profiler pointed authorities toward Jewell as a potential suspect. For the next 88 days Jewell’s world was ripped apart. Rigorously investigated. House publicly searched twice. Associates questioned. Background probed. 24-hour surveillance. The FBI attempted to intimidate him into waiving his rights. Relentlessly tried by the media, Jewell was portrayed as a failed police officer and a want-a-be hero. NBC newscaster, Tom Brokaw, reported on his nightly program, “They probably have enough to arrest him right now, probably enough to prosecute him, but you always want to have enough to convict him as well.” But. . .Richard Jewell was innocent. In 2005 Eric Rudolf confessed to the crime.

Eliphaz speaking – “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright ever cut off?
Even as I have seen,
Those who plow iniquity
And sow trouble reap the same.
By the blast of God they perish,
And by the breath of His anger they are consumed.
The roaring of the lion,
The voice of the fierce lion,
And the teeth of the young lions are broken.
The old lion perishes for lack of prey,
And the cubs of the lioness are scattered.”                                                                           
Job 4:7-11 NKJV

Today’s reading begins the concerted effort by Job’s friends to convince this innocent man that he is guilty of sinning against God. Job and his friends are laboring under the notion that 1) Only good things happen to righteous people and 2) Only bad things happen to wicked people.

Eliphaz reasons the innocent does not perish. The righteous are not cut off. The upright is not destroyed. Those who are in a right standing with God do not lose out and end up on the scrap heap of life. Eliphaz continues, those that sow wickedness, iniquity, evil, trouble, and do harm reap the same. The sinner experiences the blast of God’s anger and wrath. He is consumed and dies beneath the hand of God.

This is good theology if one puts it in the context of eternity. The righteous will experience glory while the sinner suffers. But it’s very poor theology if you apply it to life on this earth. It does not have the ring of truth. Nor does it match the experience of the saints past or present.

As a parent and a counselor, I told the children and teens in my care that actions have consequences. Generally, good actions have good consequences and bad actions have bad consequences. There are exceptions. Some righteous are diseased and forced to beg like Lazarus (see Luke 16:19-31). At the same time the Bible speaks of the rich, vile living, devouring, and successful wicked ones (see Jeremiah 12:1, Habakkuk 1:13, and Psalm 73:12-14).

I thought this was supposed to be about hope, Jay. Oh, but it is, it is. Eliphaz, even in his error, speaks the truth. Did you see it in verse 7? “Where were the upright ever cut off?” (NKJV) When has God ever abandoned a righteous one? NEVER! You can be assured, my friend, regardless of the difficulty of your path in life, God will never forsake you. Never leave you. He is with you always.

Be not dismayed whatever betide
Beneath His wings of love abide

Through days of toil when heart doth fail
When dangers fierce your path assail

No matter what may be the test
Lean, weary one, upon His breast

God will take care of you,
through every day, over all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

(Civilla D. Martin, Author)

Hope in the LORD,



It’s hard for a giver to receive.

Charlie was a giver. He didn’t have much, but he didn’t hesitate to give what he had. Once he showed up at my door with a lady and her children in tow. He met her at a gas station, and she told him she was running from an abusive husband. We gave her shelter for a few days and Charlie’s daughter kept her after that. It was a typical Charlie.

After working for the same company for 28 years, Charlie was laid off. The company was closing its doors. Charlie was too young to draw Social Security and his 8th grade education couldn’t compete with younger workers in an age of technology. He found himself living off unemployment.

Charlie’s church gave out groceries every week to the families affected by the shut-down. Being the giver he was, he always found something in his mostly bare cupboards to donate. When his name was attached to a bag of groceries, he slipped away from embarrassment leaving his wife to gather the food. Charlie was a giver who found it nearly impossible to receive.

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

“If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary?

But who can withhold himself from speaking?

Surely you have instructed many,

And you have strengthened weak hands.

Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,

And you have strengthened the feeble knees;

But now it comes upon you, and you are weary;

It touches you, and you are troubled.

Is not your reverence your confidence?

And the integrity of your ways your hope?                                                                             Job 4:1-6 (NKJV)

After seven days of silence and the desperate lament by Job, Eliphaz, Job’s friend, speaks. In the fashion of the ANE (Ancient Near East), Eliphaz asks politely, respectfully, and gently to respond. He has a message for Job he wants to convey. He can be quiet no longer.

He says . . .

  • You are quick to give.

Job was a giving man. The author tells us throughout the book he helped those who were in trouble. Ministered to the sick. Gave to the poor. Took in orphans. Job had committed himself to the giving pledge millennia before Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

He admonished the thoughtless. Instructed the unlearned. Strengthened the weak, feeble, and faltering. Supported the stumbling and falling. Encouraged those who were crushed in despair. Gave fresh hope to one about to collapse or quit.

Job was an Old Testament Barnabas. Giving to others needs. Encouraging the leadership. Vouching for a redeemed man when others were afraid. Taking a deserter and making him useful.

Keith Drury, pastor, administrator, evangelist, and educator shared five steps to teach independence.

  1. You do. They watch.
  2. You do. They help.
  3. You do it together.
  4. They do. You help.
  5. They do. You watch.

I imagine Job used a similar formula to help people overcome their trials and tribulations.

  • You are reluctant to receive.

Job was weary and troubled. Reeling from the blow. Hit hard. Faint. Broken. Hurting. His faith tested. His hope crumbling into despair.

For others in trouble Job offered help. The discouraged received his encouragement. The stricken – healing. Dismayed – joy. Those who lost confidence he made to feel useful again. Despairing – hope. Adversity – safety. But when Job was in his desperate condition, he found it hard to believe the words he told others.

When our child died in the womb I called my daddy, who was going through his own deep waters at the time, to tell him of our loss. “Well, son,” he said, “I used to tell people ‘All things work together for good . . .,’ but I’m not sure I know what that means anymore.” I understood his pain and identified with his doubt. Job, too, was in a place of questioning all that he thought was true.

  • The giver needs a gift.

Eliphaz urges Job to remember his reverence and respect for God. His integrity and uprightness.

Remember the confidence and hope you had because of your relationship with God.

In Psalm 143 David feels crushed. But interwoven with his depressed spirit he remembers. . . the days of old. The works of God. His lovingkindness. Trustworthiness. Goodness. There Job . . . there, my friend, is where you find a stronghold of safety.

Hope in the LORD,





She was 107, the oldest person in Howard County. We were in the surgical preparation area with our son when they brought her in. While moving her from the gurney to the bed, she cried out in pain, “Just let me die.” She had a broken hip. Finding a vein for an IV portal caused another yell, “Just let me die.”

I couldn’t help but empathize with her. The limitations of age had robbed her of independence. A great-niece made the medical decisions for her. She had no children. Her siblings and friends were long gone. Loneliness was her plight. The prospect for a successful surgery was poor. Unfamiliar surroundings and strangers in a nursing home was her future. “Just let me die,” she intoned again and again.

Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul;

Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;

Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?

Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?

For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

Job 3:20-26 (NKJV)

This chapter is Job’s lament. The dark nature of it makes it difficult reading. Grief. Misery. Bitterness of soul pour from Job’s mouth. Sighing. Groaning. Cries of despair his daily companions. Peace shattered. Quietness gone. Rest unattainable. To Job, God isn’t there. Turmoil and trouble take His place.

As a parent like Job, you understand the fear of losing your child. You know the dread of losing your livelihood. Apprehensively you wait for test results and the consultation with your doctor.

You recognize Job’s feelings of being trapped. All that makes sense is hidden. Uncertainty reigns. Every choice available is wrong. The sun is shining, but darkness is all you see.

We must give Job a measure of grace here as he longs for death. He envies the dead. For Job death means relief. The thought of release brings gladness in his intense agony.

Some years ago, through tears of desperation I asked my pastor, “Please pray that I will die,”. “No,” he replied, “I won’t do that.” Perhaps you identify with Job and me and have made the same request. Job wasn’t suicidal, (Please call 988 if you are.) rather he romanticized death as the only way out of his anguish.

There is another way.

Talking to all you Job’s reading this, I say . . .

  • You are important.

The creation story demonstrates just how special you are to God. Unlike any other part of His creation, He formed you with His hands. God made you in His likeness and image. He breathed His breath into your lungs.

God loves you unconditionally. Jesus came to show God’s love and give you a way to fellowship with Him. He is preparing a place for you to be with Him for all eternity.

  • Your life has purpose and value.

Your life has meaning. It is not dependent on what you can do, think, or contribute. They are of no consequence in defining the importance of your life.

I have known severe pain in my life. It has been worth it. Pain teaches me compassion. It gives me life lessons I pass to others. Without pain my life purpose would not be so clear.

  • There are people who love you and want to help you.

I did it my way, Mr. Sinatra, and it didn’t work. To partially borrow from an African proverb, “It takes a village.” There are people who want to join your wellness team – doctor, counselor, case worker, pastor, therapeutic group, peer group, faithful friends, committed family, and others.

  • God has not forsaken you.

God did not cause your tragic circumstances. He keeps a hedge around your soul. God is with you.

  • Hold on.

Death is not the answer. Put your faith in God for each moment and hope for the future will come.

Hope in the LORD,



A young couple. First child. About two weeks from term. Stillborn.

I made my way to a room of mourning on a maternity ward. A contradiction of settings. Inside a mother and father held their silent child. “Will you baptize her?” the mother asked. It wasn’t a time for a theological discussion. It was a time for pastoral ministry.

I asked a nurse for some water. She notified the priest on duty. He sent up holy water. I gladly used it. Taking that lifeless girl in my arms, I baptized her assuring her parents that she was with Jesus.

We buried her a few days later. The unanswerable question, “Why?” laid on the morning dew. It whispered on the wind. It was etched on the faces of the mourners. All around that little grave was the feeling of unrest. Yet, in a cruel irony, we were laying this precious child to rest. We were troubled. She was at peace.

“Why did I not die at birth?

Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?

Why did the knees receive me?

Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?

For now I would have lain still and been quiet,

I would have been asleep;

Then I would have been at rest

With kings and counselors of the earth,

Who built ruins for themselves,

Or with princes who had gold,

Who filled their houses with silver;

Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child,

Like infants who never saw light?

There the wicked cease from troubling,

And there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners rest together;

They do not hear the voice of the oppressor.

The small and great are there,

And the servant is free from his master.                                                            Job 3:11-19 (NKJV)

These words are spoken by a father with no children. A husband forsaken by his wife. A boss without employees. A wealthy man in poverty. Health broken. Unforgiving pain. Disfigured beyond recognition by his friends. Is it any wonder that Job would wish that he had died at birth?  

We are put off by Job’s words. Isn’t it selfish to wish such agony upon one’s parents? For 25 years I dreamed of the child we lost in the womb. Some were troubling. Others comforting. All saturated with longing. How could he yearn to have perished at birth?

But past the first revulsion, you learn Job’s true desire. Quiet. Rest. No trouble. No weariness. No oppression. Freedom. It doesn’t matter to Job if he is counted among the kings, princes, and counselors of the earth or as a prisoner or slave. What does he care if his tomb is lined with silver and gold or be it unmarked, hidden, and forgotten. He cries for rest. Rest! REST!

God created rest. “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work.” (Genesis 2:3 NKJV) Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 NKJV) God didn’t need to rest. He created the day of rest for you and me. The Hebrews writer moves beyond the physical to the spiritual. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” (4:9 NIV)

Jesus shouts that great invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 KJV) Troubled? Rest. Weary? Rest. Prisoner? Rest. Oppressed? Rest. Enslaved? Rest.

Oh, my friend, although Job longs for a rest that comes with death, there is a rest in Christ Jesus that comes with life. It is not a rest FROM trouble, weariness, imprisonment, oppression, or slavery. It is a rest AMIDST those things. A peace in the soul. A Presence that sustains. A faith that is firm. A hope that holds.

1. There is a place of quiet rest,

near to the heart of God,

a place where sin cannot molest,

near to the heart of God.


O Jesus, blest Redeemer,

sent from the heart of God,

hold us, who wait before thee,

near to the heart of God.

2. There is a place of comfort sweet,

near to the heart of God,

a place where we our Savior meet,

near to the heart of God. [Refrain]

3. There is a place of full release,

near to the heart of God,

a place where there is rest and peace,

near to the heart of God. [Refrain]

Cleland Boyd McAfee

Rest in your faith in God for today and your hope in Him for the future.

Hope in the LORD,



The perennial Christmas favorite, It’s A Wonderful Life, is about a man, George Bailey, who wishes he had never been born. An angel, Clarence, shows him the consequences of his desire.
His younger brother, Harry, drowns because George was not there to save him. The pharmacist, Mr. Gower, is ruined when George was not there to stop him from giving the wrong prescription. The building and loan that his father worked so hard to build closes, George is not there to save it. Uncle Billy, who helped run the building and loan, is institutionalized. The poor that George helped to get into better housing are condemned to squalor without him. George’s mother is forced into running a boarding house to make ends meet. His wife, Mary, is a spinster. The men that Harry saved during World War II are killed because Harry drowned without George.
One man’s life, judged by himself to be worthless, touched the lives of so many.

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job spoke, and said:
“May the day perish on which I was born,
And the night in which it was said,
‘A male child is conceived.’
May that day be darkness;
May God above not seek it,
Nor the light shine upon it.
May darkness and the shadow of death claim it;
May a cloud settle on it;
May the blackness of the day terrify it.
As for that night, may darkness seize it;
May it not rejoice among the days of the year,
May it not come into the number of the months.
Oh, may that night be barren!
May no joyful shout come into it!
May those curse it who curse the day,
Those who are ready to arouse Leviathan.
May the stars of its morning be dark;
May it look for light, but have none,
And not see the dawning of the day;
Because it did not shut up the doors of my mother’s womb,
Nor hide sorrow from my eyes. Job 3:1-10 (NKJV)

In chapter three Job makes three wishes . . .
• I wish I never was. (3:1-10)
• I wish I had died at birth. (3:11-20)
• I wish I could die. (3:21-26)
Have you ever wished you had never been born? Never been conceived? Never existed? I have.

Job is so distraught with the burden of his physical and emotional pain he curses the hour of his conception. The day of his birth. The day itself. And the date. He asks God to totally obliterate his history and anything related to it. No sun, moon, or stars. Darkness! Blackness! Death! Elimination! Eradication!

Job is depressed and in despair, both mentally and spiritually. Hopeless. No meaning to life. Absent strength to carry on. I was always told that despair is sin. But God has said that Job did not sin with his words. How can the two be reconciled?

I think I have experienced despair without sin. To think of the future (hope) was too agonizing to contemplate. The “dark night of the soul” had descended. Enveloped me. Smothered me. Would not let me go. Yet faith remained. Hope was unreachable, but I still believed.

Job expresses such. “May God above . . .” is his appeal. “I wish I never was, God. Only You can make it so.” Weak? Yes. Unwise? Yes. Desperate? Yes. But enough faith, enough belief in God to plead with Him. Even though that request would not be granted.

What if I never was? My mother could’ve been seriously injured when I wasn’t there to catch her after she blacked out. A young lady wouldn’t stop me on the street to tell me about getting clean in the program I supervised. A consumer with severe anxiety, misdiagnosed by others, wouldn’t have stabilized and been able to live again. My son wouldn’t exist to be ministering in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky.

What if you’d never lived?

May you have faith in God for the moment. Even, like Job, a negative moment. Until those moments continue one second or minute at a time while you are waiting to find hope in Him.

Hope in the LORD,



It occurred to Pooh and Piglet they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days. They found him in his little stick house.

“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.

“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.

“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you. Are you okay?”

“Am I okay?” Eeyore asked, “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. All I can tell you is I feel Sad, Alone, and not much Fun.”

Pooh and Piglet both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore.

“What are you doing?” asked Eeyore.

“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. True friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, Alone, or not much Fun. True friends are there for you anyway.”

“Oh,” said Eeyore. And the three of them sat there in silence.                                                                                                                                                                        (A.A. Milne & E.H. Shepard, adapted)

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. Job 2:11-13 NKJV

BFFs (best friends forever) have common characteristics. Job’s friends demonstrated at least three of them.


These men loved their friend Job. They had genuine concern for his wellbeing.

It is not known with certainty where Job lived. Two places rival for that recognition. Wherever it was, two of the friends had a very long journey. It may have taken days or weeks to reach Job’s home. It was arduous, dangerous, and expensive. Months would pass before they could return to their families. But they cared enough to be there.

Several years ago a dear high school friend suffered a sudden and horrific loss. My wife and I had previous plans to see Janet (name changed), but because of her emotional state several days were pared down to a two hour lunch.

Upon arrival we met one of Janet’s friends that had come to live with her for a time. Her friend left her home, which was quite some distance, family, and presumably a job to care for Janet. All the time we were there, this friend assessed Janet’s health and her tolerance for the chaos and conversation we brought. She served as waitress, busgirl, dishwasher, and nurse. When she thought Janet had reached her limit, she signaled that it was time for us to say our goodbyes.

To my knowledge she stayed with our friend for several weeks. She cared enough to be there.


In the ANE (Ancient Near East) it was common to hire professional wailers for a funeral. Job had no need of them. His friends came with voices lifted in agony. Tears cascaded down their faces and off their beards.

They were not mourners from a distance. Each tore his robe as a sign of affinity with Job. His torn heart was their torn heart. His adversity their adversity. His mourning their mourning. Their lives enjoined with the ashes of Job’s life.


Seven days of silence. A profound expression. What words did they have to relieve Job’s pain? None! Pythagoras reminds us that “Silence is better than unmeaning words.” For seven days Job experienced the succor of presence from his friends. The comfort of silence.

If all we knew about Job’s friends were contained in these three verses, they would be counted among the greatest friends in the Bible. Moses and Joshua. Naomi and Ruth. Jonathan and David. Elijah and Elisha. Job and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.

Oh, that you and I could be so blessed to have friends like these. Oh, that we could be a friend like this to others.

Loyal friends can inspire you in your pain and darkness to put your faith in God for today and hope in Him for all the tomorrows to come.

Hope in the LORD,



Grief, especially for a child, can draw a husband and wife together or tear them apart. No manual exists to guide you how to handle your grief, let alone that of your spouse. Grief, especially complicated grief, turns your world upside down. It is chaotic. Challenging. Disruptive. Tumultuous. Unpredictable. You will express grief in your own way. But then, so will your spouse. Your grief cycle will likely not be on the same timetable nor felt and expressed the same as hers/his. (University of Rochester School of Medicine, Health Encyclopedia)

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:7-10 NKJV)

Two things happen in these verses –

Job’s health fails. He was violently struck (smote [KJV]) with an agonizingly painful, loathsome disease. Head. Face. Neck. Chest. Back. Shoulders. Arms. Armpits. Hands. Fingers. Stomach. Buttocks. Genitalia. Legs. Feet. It was a whole-body experience. No escape. No relief. No cure.

It’s possible he was contagious; therefore, he was alone with his illness. The smell foul and repulsive. The sight revolting as ulcers oozed. The itching incessive. Shards of pottery were used to incise and drain the boils. Scabs and scars took their place. Job probably expected his disease to be fatal. Death would have been preferable to the measure of his emotional and physical suffering.

The author paints a pathetic picture of this man. Job sits in a rubbish heap, his life in ashes. He uses broken jars as his only source of comfort. He is a broken man.

I had a 1988 Chevy Nova that went through a severe hailstorm, some softball size. The windshield was broken, and the body left with deep dents. At the time I was in seminary and supporting my family. I needed the insurance money to pay off the car more than I needed it to be made whole. Once I passed through a toll booth, the attendant said, “Looks like you’ve been in a hailstorm.” It showed.

For the rest of his life, Job bore the scars of his near-death experience. They were obvious.

Not only did Job’s health fail, but his wife forsook him also. In Mrs. Job’s defense she was living through her own kind of torment. Grief and brokenness were her daily companions, too.

                She recognizes Job’s integrity, but out of her own pain tells him it has not served him well. “You’re a good man, my husband, but all your goodness has been for naught,” I can hear her say. At that moment her faith fails, and she becomes an ally of Satan in wanting Job to abandon his integrity and curse God. No doubt Job felt forsaken and terribly alone.

Job is you. Job is me. We bear the scars of our past. Each one tells a story. Something dumb we did. An accident. Abuse. There are unseen scars. A harsh word. Broken promises. Betrayal. Loss. We, too, sit in the ashes of our own burned-out lives.

Like Job, many of you have felt the sting of abandonment. In your darkest hour “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until parted by death,” didn’t mean for your spouse what it meant for you.

Through it all Job found the grace of God was sufficient. God was good in the good times, and He is still good in the bad times. Although the worst of life had taken grip of Job’s world and his body, it did not possess his soul. What was true for Job is also true for you.

The Imperials performed the song, Jesus Never Fails. Here are some of the phrases . . . Tested souls. Broken hearts and minds. A world of troubles. Deep in despair. . . . followed by the chorus

Jesus never fails,

Jesus never fails,

You might as well get thee

Behind me, Satan

You cannot prevail,

Because Jesus never fails.

With faith in God for today and hope in God for the future, you are an overcomer.

Hope in God,



“Spiritual surrender is not mush. It produces a heightened personality… Jesus does not reduce people to their zero. He raises them to their zenith. He is not a strong man making men around Him weak. He is the Strong, creating the strong…. Life has come to its maximum in Him – it is not ‘nothing’; it is something, and something significant.” (E. Stanley Jones, The Way to Power and Poise)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.” (Job 2:1-6 NKJV)

Job 2:1-6 and 1:6-12 are almost identical. Nearly verbatim. But, the small difference between the two is hugely significant – “He holds fast to his integrity.”

Integrity can be defined as – an internal moral compass from a moral God in an immoral world.

Integrity is your moral compass. Before the days of GPS, knowing how to read a map, compass, sun and stars, or other signs of nature were essential if you wanted to travel beyond familiar places. That knowledge could get you from where you were to where you wanted to be.

There was a youth camp off I-68 near the West Virginia/Maryland line where I was scheduled to speak. I followed the map but couldn’t find the right road. Fortunately, there was a police station ahead. Pulling out my map and pointing to a road I asked an officer where it was. He replied, “That road doesn’t exist.” To get where you’re going in this life with integrity, a reliable map is essential.

Note that word “moral.” Morality, if it is to be a certain guide, depends on objective truth and a Lawgiver greater than oneself. If there is no truth, there is no morality. If there is no Lawgiver, then I can make laws to suit myself. To resist evil, I better know what it is. To actively do good, I must know what it looks like.

God’s moral standards are the foundation for integrity. Secular ethicists define integrity as an internal standard of values, beliefs, and principles you adhere to. If that is true, then by the end of 2022 there will be the potential for eight billion codes of behavior on earth. I think most people would agree that is a bit unmanageable.

Another flaw in that definition is the fact that many people have done a lot of evil while adhering to their own internal standard of values, beliefs, and principles. In the 20th century Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol-pot all lived consistently with their personal moral code. Around 150 million people are dead as a result.

No, integrity depends on a source outside oneself to which you are called to be loyal and accountable.
An adopted system of beliefs. Internalized and adhered to. Only God can be that source. My personal conscience is not good enough because it is neither infallible nor am I an unbiased judge of my own behavior.

We live in an immoral world. Personal wealth is stolen by people who think they have a right to take it. Property is wantonly destroyed in the name of someone’s agenda. Killings happen because someone has the wrong color of skin, uniform, or insignia on their jacket; or they’re from the wrong tribe, religion, or region of the world.

It was easy for Job to maintain his integrity when everything was promising. It is for you and me, too. After the disasters and tragic losses Job still held fast to his integrity. You can judge the mettle of a person by what they do when everything goes wrong. Doing the right thing even when it seems pointless is the test of integrity.

Faith in a moral God for today and hope in a just God for the future can keep your personal integrity firm.

Hope in God,


Catastrophic Worship

A breathless, ashen faced employee rushes in. One-third of your wealth is gone. Before he is finished another employee smelling of smoke and colorless with fear appears. Two-thirds of your wealth is gone. Waiting in line, gasping for air and covered in dust a third employee delivers his harrowing tale. Three-thirds of your wealth is gone. Nothing of material value remains of the business you spent a life time building.

There is one more to be heard. With eyes red and swollen he draws near, his body slumps with the burden of his news. They’ve all perished. Seven of seven sons. Three of three daughters. Dead.

How do you respond? . . . Job worshiped.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)

I vividly remember the Sunday after May 15, 1991. On that day our world took a sudden and sharp turn onto a road that none of us had ever traveled and none of us knew how to navigate. As a family – Dad, Mom, my brother and his family, and my family and me – we decided to go to the eight o’clock service. There would be fewer people to face. Fewer questions to answer.

During the service Daddy, broken in spirit and weighted with grief, rose and said, “I have no sad luck stories to tell. Jesus is my Savior and God is good. I have no sad luck stories to tell.” I’m pretty sure that couldn’t have come out of my mouth. But Daddy was carried higher to a different realm that morning, a place of praise and worship.

Faith and hope are not based on blessings.

Those that serve God for the health and wealth are coming to a day of reckoning when neither will be available. When you follow God for the material benefits, you are going to be sorely shaken when the enemy of your soul troubles you.

If you are laying up a generous amount of treasure in heaven, you can withstand losing some earthly treasures. If you trust God and seek Him first; you don’t have to fear those who can wreak havoc in your world.

Faith and hope bows to God in submission.

As was the custom in the Ancient Near East (ANE) upon receiving such disastrous news, Job tore his garments and shaved his head as a sign of mourning. That wasn’t the end though, Job worshiped.

Job did not complain. He acknowledged that God gave it all to him and God had a right to take it away. God was good when He gave. God was still good when it all vanished.

My friend, God is good in health and He is good in affliction. God is good in wealth and He is good in poverty. God is good in success and He is good in failure.

Satan predicted that Job would curse God. That old snake was wrong. Job blessed the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Faith and hope acknowledge that God is in control.

His sovereignty is not capricious. His power is not arbitrary. The pitiful plans of man do not challenge His authority. The riotous rage of nature does not move His throne. The sorry schemes of Satan do not alter His design.

Faith and hope bring comfort and consolation.

In this life you and I will stare situations in the face where only the God of all comfort can sooth our torn spirit.

The author of Job does something subtle in Job’s pronouncement that drives home part of the reason for Job’s later agony. Did you catch it? “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”

Wow! Such a heroic spirit. We admire it so much that we put it in our songs. Include it on our post cards. And use it in our counseling.

There’s one big problem – it’s bad theology. It wasn’t God that caused the Sabeans and Chaldeans to attack. It wasn’t the “fire of God” (Job 1:16) that fell from heaven. It wasn’t the wind of God that killed Job’s children. “Satan brought Job’s troubles upon him.” (Matthew Henry)

Trials, tribulations, and temptations that are designed to make you curse God do NOT come from God. They come from the enemy of your soul. And here is the reason why it is so important to get it right. Most of us will not have faith, find hope, or seek comfort in someone or something that just destroyed our livelihood and killed all our family. Admire Job’s spirit, emulate Job’s spirit, but don’t repeat his error.

Like my daddy, you can worship God in the midst of the cruelest of times if you have faith in God for the moment and hope in God for the future.

Hope in God,



“God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:6-12)

I’m sure these verses have been an occasion for pause and a cause of much consternation for many first time and casual readers. Does God call counsels to get advice or dole out duties? No. God is all wise and doesn’t need anyone or anything to offer Him suggestions. Does Satan (literally Adversary) get to go into God’s presence? No. When Satan was thrown out of heaven, he was banned for all time. Does God make bets with Satan to see how strong we are? No. Trials and tribulations come our way because we live in a fallen world and because the enemy of our soul – the Adversary – wants to defeat us.

The author of Job is using his imagination to set up the story he is about to tell. In verses 1-5, Job is described as a righteous man of character, wealth, and faith. Today’s verses give us a glimpse into the nature of God, who is for us, and the nature of the Adversary against us. They show us the source of suffering in this world and how God, in His divine wisdom, allows it to happen.

First, the Adversary . . .

                Devours. I Peter 5:8 alludes to verse 7 when it says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The enemy of your soul doesn’t tiptoe through the tulips or dance among the roses. He roars. He hunts. He preys. Looking for the vulnerable, the weak, the careless, the alone, and the inattentive.

                Accuses. Revelation 12:10 called Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” He charges Job with following God for the benefits. Jesus said a similar thing about less than devout followers. “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” (John 6:26) These fair weathered folks abandoned Jesus when He didn’t say what they wanted to hear. Not so with Job. The accusations hurled at Job grew in severity, but he was God’s man for the long haul.

                Destroys. I stood at the graveside with first time parents of a baby carried to term, but was stillborn. I reminded the crowd gathered in that city of the dead that their loss was not the work of God. It was sin that entered the world through the enemy of our soul that caused suffering and death. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17) Evil, suffering, and destruction belong to Satan.

In contrast the LORD is . . .

                Sovereign. Nothing and no one can challenge the rule of God over the world and over the affairs of humankind. Evil and suffering happen not because God is sovereign, but because humankind is free to make choices. God knows what will happen when we make a choice, but He does not cause us to make that choice. God’s sovereignty is not challenged by our free will. To understand the story of Job, one must understand that evil begins in the mind of the Adversary, and although God allows it, He does not cause it.

                Providential. Providence means that God will work out things for the highest good and the least evil for those that love Him and cooperate with His grace. (See Romans 8:2) Providence rests in the wisdom of God – “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) Charles Spurgeon, who suffered from disabling depression most of his life, wrote, “It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by His hand, that my trials were never measured out by Him, nor sent to me by His arrangement of their weight and quantity.” God knew Job’s capacity for suffering and He knows yours, too.

                Protector. God is the hedge builder. “So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise, they won’t worry me; for I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God. He walks with me, and naught on earth will harm me, for I’m sheltered in the arms of God.” (Dottie Rambo/Jimmie Davis)

The fundamental battle in this life is not between good and evil, it is between God and evil. And, my friend, it is an uneven conflict. God wins. God always wins. Like Job, you may experience great suffering, but God doesn’t let go of you. Hang on. There is hope.

 Hope in God,



On almost every list describing resilience, character and faith are prominent. 

And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly. Job 1:4-5 NKJV

This man called Job was a man of character – blameless and upright, feared God and shunned evil. The above verses highlight his serious faith, not only for himself, but also for his family.

To grasp how a mere human like you and me can survive the sudden and severe losses that Job was subjected to, the author points to the importance of faith.

I’ve ministered to and have friends who have lost a child or grandchild. In our day and age, it’s not natural for the older generation to bury the younger. When my Uncle Harry died, Grandpa refused to look at him in his casket. He resisted saying, “I don’t want to see any child of mine that died before I did.”

What gets you through it all? Faith in God for the moment. And hope in God for eternity.

I’ve observed a huge difference between the funerals of people who died in the faith and ones who didn’t. One of my first funerals, at the tender age of 20, a family without hope in Christ was burying their husband and father. There was wailing. Fainting. At the graveside, his daughter screamed, “Don’t put my daddy in that hole.”

A couple of years later, a dear man of God died suddenly. There were tears of sorrow. Grief over the loss. But there was confidence and assurance that Otis was with Jesus. The funeral service was like Sunday morning church. No despair. No outbursts. No mournful dirge. Hope filled the air.

Job could have hope that his children were with God because he was meticulously careful about his faith and theirs. He was . . .

  1. A shepherd for his family.

Some read the above verses and assume that Job’s children were involved in some sort of debasing orgy. It’s highly unlikely. In the Ancient Near East (ANE), birthdays were culturally important and celebrated for several days. The feasting and drinking most probably refers to that type of event. Furthermore, who invites their sisters to some kind of hedonistic marathon? Still, Job was careful to tend to the spiritual welfare of his children.

2. Scrupulous about his family’s piety.

                The words “sinned and cursed” in verse five denote outward and inward transgressions. Job was concerned both with his children doing wrong and thinking wrong – sins that everyone could see and sins that no one could see. Therefore, Job had a “come to Jesus” meeting with his children.

                This pious father sanctified and sacrificed for his children. The first denotes his vigilant intercession on their behalf. The second a recommitment of each one to their relationship with God. As they each laid their hands on the animal that was soon to die, they immediately understood and had a vivid example of the consequences of sin.

3. Sensitive to his family’s destiny.

                For the Christian, the question of eternity looms large. Job was determined that his children be ready to meet God. I can’t help but believe in the midst of Job’s catastrophic loss, there was a steady hope that his children died in the faith.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift, or firm remain?


We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll; fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love!

2. Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear, when the breakers roar and the reef is near? While the surges rage, and the wild winds blow, shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow?

3. Will your anchor hold in the floods of death, when the waters cold chill your latest breath? On the rising tide you can never fail, while your anchor holds within the veil.4. Will your eyes behold through the morning light the city of gold and the harbor bright? Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore, when life’s storms are past for evermore?

4. Will your eyes behold through the morning light the city of gold and the harbor bright? Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore, when life’s storms are past for evermore?

words by Pricilla J. Owens

Hope in God,



“The more you have, the more you have to lose.”

Abraham Maslow identified basic human needs as food, water, clothing, sleep, and shelter. Air and reproduction are frequently added to this list. In a sense, everything you and I have above these is a blessing.

When the author of Job lists the children, wealth, and reputation of Job, he wants you to understand how much God had blessed this man.

And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East. Job 1:2-3 NKJV

If Job were alive today, (aside from being very old) he would be among the 0.0003 percent of the richest people in the United States.

Job had 10 children. In the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture, it was thought that one achieved eternity through his children. When a man died surrounded by two or three generations of offspring, he could be confident that he would live on through them.

Another part of the ANE culture was the idea that good was rewarded and evil was punished in your lifetime. Job’s abundance witnessed to his world how pleased God was with him.

The champion boxer, Muhammad Ali, let everyone know, “I’m not the greatest. I’m the double greatest.” That may or may not be true in the sweet science, but with Job we have no doubt. Along with his great wealth came great honor and great authority. He had a reputation of compassion for the needy and physically challenged. He cared for the dying and gave a home to orphans. Job was truly blessed and a blessing to others.

I think the author had another reason for listing all of Job’s blessings. It makes you feel the burden of his appalling loss as you read farther into the chapter. He lost it all . . .

                Posterity and its hope of eternal life.

                Prosperity representing his standing with God.

                Profession and the ability to help others.

                Position of power and reputation.

                Physical health.

                Partners and friends.

Although nothing compared to Job’s, I know what loss is. Nine years ago in the space of 48 hours I lost my family, friends, and church. My house, car, and money. Ministry, reputation, and freedom. BUT, LIKE JOB, I DID NOT LOSE MY FAITH AND HOPE IN GOD AND GOD DID NOT LOSE HIS LOVE FOR ME.

My friend,

Possessions do not define your worth. You have intrinsic value because you are made in the image and likeness of God.

What you do doesn’t define who you are. You are a child of God, bought with a price – the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Who you know doesn’t define your importance. John 3:16 tells you the depth of your status. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV)

Hope in God,



Imagine it was the worst, most horrific, mind shattering, emotionally draining, faith challenging day of your life . . .
Your working animals were rustled and the oxmen and herders killed.
Your sheep and their shepherds were consumed in a wild fire.
Your camels were stolen and the camel drivers slaughtered.
Your seven sons and three daughters’ lives ended in an F-5 tornado.

A few days later . . .
Painful boils cover your body from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head.
Your wife, in the midst of her own crisis of anger, depression, and despair, screams at you to give up on your faith in God and just die.

As time passes . . .
Your friends call you a wanton sinner and accuse you of despicable things.

At a time like this how do you maintain any semblance of hope and confidence in a just God?

The ability to recover from the vicissitudes of life in a relatively healthy manner is called resilience. Two of the most common characteristics of resilience cited by mental health practitioners is . . .
Faith and
Both of these qualities can be found in the first verse of the first chapter of Job.

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was BLAMELESS and UPRIGHT, and one who FEARED GOD and SHUNNED EVIL.” (NKJV)

This verse, before you read any more of the book, tells you what kind of person can have a healthy recovery in the face of tragic disaster. The pain of loss, the holes left permanently empty, the scars of bad health, and the hurt of betrayal will always remain. Still . . .
Hope can be alive.
Living can resume.
The future can be worth living.

Job was blameless and upright. In short, he lived right and he acted right. Honesty. Integrity. Strong moral principles. Incorruptible. He could not be bought at any price. He was a man of character.

Job feared God and shunned evil. By willful and voluntary choice, he turned away from wrong, bad, and sin. Although fearing God can mean that one is afraid, in this context it means Job was a man that stood in reverence of God. In awe and devotion. Job so respected and honored God that he rejected all words, thoughts, and deeds that might break fellowship with God and grieve Him. Cautious, not reckless. Careful, not careless. He decided to avoid, turn and stay away from sin. He made a covenant to not knowingly put any evil before his eyes. (Job 31:1) Job was a man of substantive faith.

An old carpenter that I knew said that any home repair must begin with the foundation. Remodeling a house with a bad foundation is like putting lipstick on a pig. Life built on a resilient foundation of hope is firm. Solid. Stable. It is able to hold in the suffering that we all endure as a part of this fallen world. Arthur John Gossip reminds us, “It is a little too late to buy homeowners insurance when the house is on fire.”

On what kind of foundation are you living your life?

Hope in God,



The book of Job has few answers for the questions scholars like to ask.

Who wrote it?

We don’t know. Tradition attributes it to Moses. Some say Isaiah. Still others an unknown writer some time after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

When was it written?

We don’t know. There are many references to Job scattered throughout the Old Testament – Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Zephaniah. This can point to an old Job from which several quoted. Or a newer Job that quoted from all of the above.

Who is Job?

We don’t know. Was he a real man or a character created by a poet? James 5:11 is the only definitive verse in the Bible that appears to refer to Job as a man of history.

When did Job live?

We don’t know. Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his children which suggests a time before the law of Moses. It could also mean a time during which the priesthood had collapsed. This assumes Job was a Jew. That, too, is unknown. Job lived in the land of Uz. The best a location can be narrowed to is east of the Jordan in the land of Edom (present day Jordan) or beyond the Euphrates River in what is today Syria. Both areas are outside the territory of Israel.

What is the message of Job?

This we know. Bad things happen to righteous people. Trials, tribulations, threats, troubles, toils, and travails in this life do not define your relationship with God.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NKJV

Like Job, when all else that makes life worth living is washed away, you too can find hope in Jesus Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

The Lord be with you.


An Ancient Man Speaks to Modern Culture

“Life is suffering,” is frequently announced by Dr. Jordon Peterson, formerly of Harvard and the University of Toronto, in his lectures and interviews. The first noble truth of Buddhism states, “Existence is suffering.” Psalm 34:19 reads, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” And Jesus reminded his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

Job is the Old Testament character most associated with suffering. He experienced a series of catastrophic events in rapid succession that ticks off four of the five most stressful life events:

  • Death of a loved one . . . check
  • Divorce (major marital crisis) . . . check
  • Major illness . . . check
  • Job loss (destruction of livelihood) . . . check

As a result, Job went hurling into a chaotic vortex of multiple crises. He had the worst case of “bacterium Staphylococcus aureus” – boils – his doctor had ever witnessed. Job’s psychiatrist prescribed a number of psychotropics (anti-depressants) for his severe depression aggravated by a profound case of complicated grief. His social worker assessed Job’s psychosocial and environmental problems:

  • Problems with primary support group: children killed and marital stress.
  • Problems with social environment: discord among friends.
  • Problems with occupation and economics: sudden and extreme poverty.
  • Problems with exposure to disasters – natural and man-made – and hostilities – war like conditions.

On the Global Assessment of Functioning scale – an assessment tool, Job scored a 41 out of 100 – serious symptoms. (Anything below 41 indicates suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts. An argument could be made that Job deserved a lower score because of his weighty expressions of death and wish that he had never been born.)

As if this were not enough, Job had a significant crisis of faith. His theology is totally upended. What he had been taught and believed all his life was suddenly incongruent with his life experience. He descends into despair, aggravating all his other symptoms, in a tsunami of lost hope.

But . . . I’m so thankful for the “but” stops. It is said there are over 30 “but God” statements in the Bible. (One of my favorites is Ephesians 2:4-10.) In the midst of Job’s despair, in the depths of his darkness, he found a pen light of hope. Small like a photon of nearly nonexistent light. Almost extinguished. But . . . a confidence that, though severely shaken, held firm.

A weak, raspy whisper comes from Job’s tortured lips, “I know my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25) A microscopic slither of hope that is never released.

“Hope in God.” Psalm 42:5

The LORD be with you.



Social distancing. Shelter in place. Furlough. All too familiar terms during this pandemic. Fear. Frustration. Helplessness. Loneliness. Feelings challenging our realities. Our sense of community and belonging are threatened. Our sense of self is upended. When will it end? It is the great unknown.
Ego is often connected to what we do or the role we play. When we lose those, our self-worth can really take a hit. What am I? I am . . . a hospitality worker without a resort. A manufacturer without an assembly line. A coach without a team. A leader with no one left to follow me. I am . . . a daughter who cannot visit her parent in the nursing home. A mother separated from her children because she is a health care worker. A parent or guardian feeling impotent against an unseen enemy that threatens his/her family.

If this crisis becomes prolonged with an indefinite ending, many of us may begin to feel worthless. Guilt ridden. Humbled. Shamed.
The sixth symptom of depression is “feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.”

Several months ago, I slipped into the office of the mental health director of the clinic where I go. He and I have developed a professional friendship over the years. He asked me how I was doing. “I feel like my life has been worthless and that I haven’t helped anyone.” He quickly said, “Well, you’ve helped me a lot.”

I was grateful for his comment, but it did little to allay the heavy burden I bore. Intellectually, I knew what I was saying wasn’t true. I’ve had a rewarding and mostly successful career. But mood is a different animal than brains. Feelings can often overwhelm and hide reality. Logical reasoning has its place; however, the siren call of unhealthy emotions can drown out all other sounds.

More than 20 years ago when my full-time pastoral ministry was ripped from my hands because of depression, I had a crisis of identity. Who was I apart from being a pastor? It wasn’t until I disconnected my “being” from my “doing” that I began to recover from the grief associated with the loss of that career.
Value and worth are above and beyond the jobs we do or the roles we play. We are someone because of who we are and not because of how we can perform. The fact that God made us in His own image and likeness gives us intrinsic importance. That “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” died on our behalf, rose so that we may have victory, and ascended to be our Advocate is more than enough to show how truly significant you and I are.

Still, guilt for real or imagined wrongs of the past and shame that attacks the very core of our essence, threatens to obliterate the light of revelation. As this pandemic takes away more and more of our freedoms and impedes our ability to fulfill the function for which we feel we were born, “feelings of worthlessness” can haunt our days and nights.

There is a plethora of advice columns available on how to cope with this pandemic. Let me highlight three.

  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy. Bathe. Dress in street clothes. Exercise. Keep a reasonable schedule. Take breaks from the news. Work on a hobby. Carve out some alone time.
  • Stay connected. Phone. Skype. Social media.
  • Help others. Take what you need at the store and leave the rest for others. Donate to front-line organizations. Show your appreciation for first responders and medical personnel. Say “thank you” to the store clerk and other essential workers.

If your feelings of worthlessness become overwhelming, contact your local mental health agency immediately. There is no shame in asking for help.

The LORD be with you. Stay safe.



Many things happen in this world that remain unreal to us until it becomes personal. The novel coronavirus became very personal for our church family this week. A 44-year-old husband, father of six, kindergarten Sunday school teacher, and contributing member of our community died this week from Covid-19.

It wasn’t supposed to happen to him. He was young. Strong. Active. Healthy. None of the high-risk categories that the experts tell us are most susceptible – the elderly, the infirm, those with compromised respiratory systems – fit him. Two days after being diagnosed, he was dead.
We are shocked. We wonder why. We are grieving and hurt. But we are not without hope. The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians not to grieve for their dead in Christ like those who have no hope. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said about those who had an assurance of eternal salvation, “Our people die well.”

Hebrews 6:13-20 gives us four sureties on which to rest our hope.

  • We have hope in the immutability of God (v. 17)

God does not change. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” His holy nature does not change. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.” His unconditional love does not change. “God is love,” and you and I are the object of His redemptive purpose. God’s attributes do not change. He always has been and always will be wise, and just, and good.

There is nothing in this world that does not change. It is constantly recreating and reshaping itself. There is nothing in our lives that do not change. Change is constant. In such an uncertain and changing world, you and I can rest in the unchanging nature and purpose of God.

  • We have hope in the sure word of God (v. 18)

It is impossible for God to lie. God forbid that you or I should purposely, deliberately lie. But it is possible for us to unintentionally lie.

As a seminary student, I worked in the lady’s shoe department in a high-end department store. A customer came in and asked for a particular shoe in a certain color and size. Because I worked on commission, I was quite interested in making the sale. But despite my efforts, I had to tell the lady her shoe was out of stock.

A couple hours passed. As I waited on another customer, my gaze fell on the exact shoe the prior customer wanted. I said outload, “I lied to that lady.” Of course, it was not intentional. But nonetheless, I told her we didn’t have it when we did.

But God can’t even accidentally lie. It is beyond the realm of possibility for God to tell an untruth. You and I can wholly count on His word to be true and sure.

  • We have hope in the promises of God (vs. 13-15)

The Hebrew writer uses the story of Abraham and Sarah to illustrate the certain promise of God. To demonstrate the greatness of His power and the firmness of His word, God waited until it was naturally impossible for Abraham and Sarah to conceive.

Abraham, at 100, was well past the years where it was likely that he could impregnate Sarah. And Sarah, at 90, was well past the years where she could conceive. Yet, it happened. Isaac was born to an old man and woman well beyond their child-bearing years.

God said it would happen. He promised on His name it would happen. And it happened just as He said.

  • We have hope in the eternal priesthood of God in Christ Jesus (vs. 19-20)

The Apostle’s Creed states it succinctly. Jesus was born of a virgin. Lived. Suffered. Crucified. Died. Buried. Arose. Ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty to make intercession for you and me.

Unlike the sinful priests of the Old Testament era, Christ did not need to make sacrifice for Himself. He was the sinless sacrifice that made a way for you and me to enter into the presence of God.

Unlike the temporal priests that lived and died, Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. It is without end. Never wavers. Never threatened. Always reliable.

We are living in uncertain times. The world’s economy is crashing. As many as 50% may become unemployed. An unprecedented number.

Our lives are in danger like no time in living memory. This virus is a killer of a teenager in Los Angeles. A young father in Texas. Thirty-five nursing home residents in Washington state. One-hundred-eighty-one nations of the world report the virus is in their territory.

How are we to live? How are we to survive?

The Psalmist expressed it well,

Why are you cast down, O my soul?And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. (42:11)

In times like these, hope is the anchor of your soul.

The LORD be with you. Stay safe.



It was 1999 and I was pastoring in Kokomo, Indiana. After one worship gathering a sweet lady approached me and said anxiously, “Pastor Jay, you’re going to have to preach on this Y2K!” She was afraid of the possibility that some computers were not programmed to recognize the year 2000. And the chaos that might ensue as a result. It was a legitimate concern.

“What text should I take?” I replied jestingly. But she was right. So, to the Bible and the newspapers I went searching for an unforced intersection. I found it in the multitude of commands to “Fear not,” – 62 times – and “Be not afraid,” – 60 times – found in the Bible.

The sermon introduction sounded something like this. . . “Let’s take the worst case


scenario. Everything that has a computer chip fails. The electric grid collapses. Water stops running to homes. Gas shuts off. All vehicles with a computer – planes, trains, and automobiles – fall from the sky, stop, or won’t start. Electronic communications cease. Unable to produce, all production businesses shut down and workers are sent home. Warehouses quickly empty as no new supply is forthcoming. Retailers run out of goods. Food and safe drinking water become scarce. Homes become bitterly cold. Looting begins. Rioting. Armed conflict with police and military. Government becomes feckless. Martial law is declared.

“If all of this happens”, I paused for effect, “God will still be God.”

Of course, none of that happened. There were a few minor glitches that were quickly remedied. January 1, 2000 was an ordinary day in the history of humanity.
Enter the coronavirus and the resulting Covid19, and we are once again faced with the unknown. The uncertain. The unforeseen. And we are afraid.


People are getting sick. The elderly and medically fragile are at highest risk of death. Households are tempted to hoard their favorite things – apparently toilet paper in the United States, go figure – and shortages are readily seen on our grocer’s shelves. Any unnecessary – and I’m finding that term is defined by region – business is closing. Gatherings greater than 10 people – including sports and churches – is moving toward being prohibited. Non-essential personnel are not to report to their government jobs. The educational system from pre-school to doctorate degree is shuttered. The economy is facing a catastrophic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression. Government is empowered to tell the manufacturer what to produce like was done in World War II. Social-distancing and self-quarantine may become law.
Do you know how many of our rights – guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States – have been restricted or denied? Freedom of religion. Freedom of assembly. Freedom of movement. There may be more. And yet, only the hedonistic, ill-informed, and unreasonably independent are insisting on their rights. The rest of us have freely given them up temporarily for the greater good.

As a lover of history, I tried to think of similar events in world history. World War II and the Great Depression quickly came to mind, but neither of them fit completely with this global crisis. The misnamed 1918 – 1920 Spanish Flu pandemic is the nearest recent parallel in scale and potential devastation.

The Plague of Justinian, 541 – 542, was the first epidemic to become cross-continental. The Black Death, 1331 – 1333 killed as many as 75% of Europe’s population making conditions right for the economic middle class to form and the beginnings of our current economic system. The first Cholera Pandemic of 1829 – 1851 is cited as the first worldwide pandemic. Within the last 20 years we have had two pandemics – the swine flu and Ebola.


As a former counselor, I also thought about the psychological effect. I noticed how quickly Maslow’s hierarchy of need inverted itself in the mind of the average American citizen. Maslow contended that there were three human needs. Basic – physiological and safety. Psychological – belonging and love, and self-esteem. Self-fulfillment – self-actualization. Maslow suggested that the lowest need had to be mostly met before one could move up to the next level. Food and shelter needs had to be met before security issues were addressed. Later disciples of Maslow asserted that the urgency of a need determined its priority.

The United States is affluent enough that the vast majority of our citizenry live beyond concerns for basic needs. It was amazing to me to witness how swiftly the emergence of food, shelter, and security became the all-consuming priority. We went from a wants-based economy and culture to a needs-based one in a matter of a few days. We are living in the midst of a seminal event in human history.

As a Christian, I also think about the spiritual implications of all this. We are faced with so many unanswered questions. Full of anxiety. Fearful. Our ordinary resources – self, family, friends, greater connections, and private and public institutions and government – can’t give us the normal assurances we seek. It is like we are facing a thick and heavy darkness with a dimly lit flashlight.

I say the same thing I said in 1999, God is still God. He is powerful enough. God can do anything that is within His purpose to do. He is wise enough. God has all knowledge and understanding. He is involved enough. God is present and active in our world today. It is safe to put my trust in Him.

Our teenage granddaughter was crying yesterday. She was afraid about all that was going on in our world. Grammy was the first to find her and offer comfort. And then it was my turn. This is what I told her. Perhaps you can find comfort in these words too.

We have enough food in this house to last a couple of weeks. We may have to eat oatmeal – somehow we ended up with four boxes in our pantry – but we will not go hungry. We have electricity and water. A means to heat and cool our house. There is nothing wrong with our house.

We are safe. There have been no widespread reports of people being mugged in the grocery store parking lot. There is no looting going on. There are no riots. The police are still patrolling the streets and our government is functioning.

You are loved. You are loved by Grammy. You are loved by me. You are a part of our family. And we will do everything within our power to provide for your needs.

You are a member of a household of faith. We have a larger than earthly Presence with us. We are not alone.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” The Apostle Paul, II Corinthians 4:8 – 9

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Franklin Roosevelt, 1st inauguration speech, March 4, 1933

The LORD be with you. Stay safe.



woman-feeling-exhaustedIt was the Christmas season of 2000. After more than a year of illness, I finally felt like going with my family shopping. We parked outside the J. C. Penney, one of the two anchor stores at our small-town mall, and headed in. As I browsed through the racks my energy started to leak out. Before I had made it a hundred yards, I was drained. Done. Exhausted. My family parked me on a bench in the common area where I stayed the rest of the evening.

Depression can rob you of your strength. The fifth symptom of depression is “fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.” And it means exactly what it says.

There is a lot of stigma that accompanies fatigue.

  • “You’re just lazy.”
  • “You don’t want to work.”
  • “You’re just using this as an excuse.”
  • “You look healthy enough.”
  • “What you need to do is just get up and go.”

I’m sure some of the ones who say such things mean well. They are trying to motivate us or shame us into moving. But no amount of cajoling or coaxing or persuading is going to make any difference. It just adds to our guilt.

Do you know why that person you love and care for does not get out of bed? One reason is, they can’t. They want to, but don’t have the strength to lift the weight of their bodies out from between the sheets.

Don’t think that that person who hasn’t changed their clothes or attended to their hygiene needs for several days doesn’t know how bad they look and smell. They know. They can both see and smell themselves. They simply don’t have the fortitude it takes to accomplish the task.

We want to go for a walk with you. Sit down at a nice eatery. Enjoy a concert or a play. But we know that by the time we get ready and get to the car, we will have already exhausted our supply of fuel for the day.

A few years ago my son told me how hurt he was that I didn’t attend his games like I did his older brother’s. I tried to explain to him that by the time I came home from work, every ounce of energy I had had been expended. Even now at 27, I don’t think he fully comprehends or understands the effects of clinical depression.

To those who love we that have a depressive disorder I say,

  • Be kind.
  • Be patient.
  • Be understanding.

To those of us that have been neglecting to care for ourselves I say,

  • Don’t quit.
  • Fake it till you make it.
  • Keep reaching for the stars and perhaps you’ll touch the moon.


The LORD be with you.




( The final in the series – The Quest for Character: Love)

“No human can love unconditionally.” So said my mentor during one of our monthly supervision meetings. All we that worked in substance abuse treatment for this particular agency, gathered around the conference table heard him say, “No human can love unconditionally.”

I spoke out, “My dad did.” I explained how my father made no difference between my two brothers and me. He loved us equally. Praised us effusively. Bragged on us unrepentantly. One of us had strayed far, far away from the example our father showed us. But it made no difference. He demonstrated his love all the more.

After my description of my father, my mentor said, “I believe you, Jay.” I believed it because I saw my dad in action. His life testified to me that it was indeed possible for a human to love unconditionally.

The great Christian apologist of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book entitled, The Four Loves. In it he describes the Christian interpretation of the four first century Greek words for love.

  • 74c4fb7af7470c2f3b942ea2d4929203Storge. According to Lewis, this can be defined as natural affection. It is the feeling a mother has for her child. A desire to feed, shelter, protect, and nourish. It is the kind of love that is demonstrated in most of the animal kingdom between mother and offspring.

Jesus alluded to this kind of love in Matthew 7:9-11. 9“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

  • friendshipPhileo. This is the root word for Philadelphia – The City of Brotherly Love. It refers to friendship love.

I remember the above mentor, Leo White, sharing the story of a man with an alcohol addiction bragging about how many friends he had. Leo challenged him to call his “friends” and ask them to take him to Lexington (about a 70-mile trip one way) for a doctor’s appointment.

Leo said he felt sorry for the man as he watched him call one so-called friend after another and be turned down. The man had several drinking buddies, but none of them were his friends.

Friendship is that rare bond between two people that is deeper than blood. S/he’s the one who remains after everyone else walks away.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”b3d22103-5eb4-4c3b-a54f-5b0c5c689931_rt_0-cr_0.11.2048.1035-rs_1024

  • Eros. The word “erotic” comes from this term. Unfortunately, eroticism is a perversion of the Christian understanding of this word. It does, however, refer to romantic love. The kind a spouse has for his/her mate.

God created this kind of love. The Song of Solomon in the Old Testament celebrates the pleasure of romantic love.

“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” (Hebrew 13:4)

  • Agape. Often referred to as divine love. But I think that is unfortunate because it suggests that this kind of love is only obtainable by the gods. I prefer to think of it as unconditional love.

Of the four loves, Lewis said, only unconditional love cannot be turned to selfish use.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (I John 4:7-8)Quotes-On-Unconditional-Love-3-600x576

In my quest for godly Christian character, I want unconditional love to be at its beginning. Its middle. And its end.

I pray you feel the same way.


The LORD be with you.




Depression, paranoia, and a dissociative episode resulted in me committing some crimes. I have little memory of what I did, but I took/take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence in county jail. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

letters from jail 6

Dear_____                                                                                                               August 12-14, 2013


I sent out five letters today. One to each of my lawyers. One to each of my brothers. And one to you. I received two. One from you and one from our friend in Nashville.

  • Growing in grace

I fell asleep during devotions this morning. That hasn’t happened in a very long time. I barely got through my reading in II John. Then I went back to bed. Sometimes the flesh wins. Is that okay? I’ll pick up again tomorrow.

I must keep reminding myself to keep my grudge box empty. I just got back from a pastoral visit and I found myself bringing up those burdens. May the LORD help me. Matthew 18 is a hard chapter to live, but it is harder to live without it active in our lives.

  • Future plans

Today, just today, I’m feeling like I can survive. Surely there are jobs out there for a man like me. It might be tough. I may earn minimum wage, but I’ve done it before. I’m fugal. I don’t need much. If I pastor or fill pulpit, that would be extra. The LORD being my helper, I can make it. Right now, I’m living on $40.00 a month. God will supply.

You know, if I ever get married again, I would have a unique proposal. Down on one knee with an arm full of plastic roses and a ring from a candy machine, I could say, “Name, I am $30,000 in debt, I have no prospects for a job, I’m sleeping in the back of my 1993 Ford Taurus, cleaning up at the local truck stop, and eating at the mission. I had to beg for gas money to get over here, but I love you and want to be with you for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?” Now what girl would refuse such a proposal?

  • As the cell turns

Bowie got sent to the hole. He has some deep emotional issues, I think. He definitely can’t handle conflict.

  • Contemplations

Ninety days today. One-fourth complete.

I really needed support during my depressive episodes. I strongly believe if I had acted quicker to get myself help and been supported better, things would not have lasted as long or the depression been as deep.

  • Trying to be a witness

Last night one of the guys, Kevin, wanted me to pray for him. I replied that I pray for all my cell mates. “No,” he said, “I want you to pray for me now.” Then Love, a new guy facing 20 years on drug charges, said, “Me too.”

Hogue testified to me that he just wants people to see Jesus in him.

  • Grateful

Wow! Thank you for reading my sermon. That is a high compliment.

Thank you for the encouraging Scripture.

I have fears and scars. Weak and vulnerable places. I try to protect them and am reluctant to leave them exposed. Thank you for allowing me to unburden myself with you.

I have 10 more push-ups to do. Brush my teeth. And wind down for the night. Sleep well.





Guest post by Mary A. Sacra-King

Losing my birth mother last year was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to walk through. I’m still not on the other side of the dark, despairing grief that swallows me up and suffocates the very life out of me. Grief changes you at your core, guts you of everything you thought you knew about yourself and spits you out as an emotionally ravaged person you don’t recognize any more. That’s where I’ve been the last year and 29 days.

Let me give you some perspective though…I’ve been working so hard to get out of my own head, be intentional in the moments I have, and try operating outside of the smothering grief I find myself in.


Last night the Hakuna Matata Children’s Choir from Kenya sang at our church. I didn’t feel like going. When I found out there was no special needs care, I was tempted to not try to get someone to watch Daniel and just stay home. He doesn’t function well at events like this. It’s stressful. But I had invited my momma and I decided I needed to go with her. Some friends graciously kept Daniel.

The Choir blessed my socks off!!! They sang with such energy, passion and pure joy!!! It was contagious and I was infected! I knew they were going to leave the next morning and I wanted to do something nice for them. I found a really good deal on fruit snacks at Sam’s Club and I thought I would drop a few boxes off for them to snack on while they were traveling to their next destination.

I arrived at the church office waiting for the rest of the kids to get there. Then I presented my meager boxes of fruit snacks to one of the adult leaders. I stuck around to fellowship with the kids before they left.
The longer I stayed with the kids the more I wanted to do something else for them. I started doing math in my head. How many $5 items times 15 kids could I afford? I asked the leader if it was ok, so I loaded up the first batch of kids and off we went. The seven girls with me got out and gave my Aunt June a quick impromptu concert! Aunt June is 99. She was unable to attend the concert, so it was really a blessing for the kids to sing for her.

Off to 5 Below to shop! I stood back and watched the kids chatter excitedly among themselves, oohing and awing over all the treasures! I fully expected them to buy stuffed animals, toys, coloring books, markers, trinkets…the same stuff my kids like to buy. But I was mistaken. The most popular items were: water bottles, shoes, and headphones or blue tooth speakers. One girl picked out perfume, because she wanted to smell good.

One little girl was carrying a wad of something. I asked her if she finished picking out her items. She opened her arms up for me to see t-shirts. I held them up and noticed that they were huge! Probably an XL. I said, “Sweetie, these are way too big for you! Maybe we should go back and look for your size.” She said something in Swahili. The lady with the team said, “She’s getting them for her mom”. Her mom is a struggling single parent back home in Kenya and her daughter just wanted to take Mom something back, at the expense of sacrificing her own wants. Talk about a lump in my throat! Wow! I took the t-shirts from her and told her to go pick out something for herself.
Perspective. I found it in doing something for someone else.

Whether you’re grieving or just stuck in a rut in life, run down, emotionally drained, exhausted…look outside yourself and you’ll find the perspective you need. That little girl’s unselfish, thoughtful heart touched mine. As I turned away, big tears formed in my eyes. I hope I can strive to be as unselfish and thoughtful as that angel is…While everyone around her was excited about what they were getting for themselves, she was thinking about her mom and put herself aside to create joy for someone else. We could all learn from her!

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After all the kids went to 5 Below there were two leaders who hadn’t gone yet. “We’re the leaders,” they said. “It is our job to make sure the kids are taken care of. If they’re happy, we’re happy. We don’t need anything.”
Perspective: true leaders lead by example, in humility and sacrifice!

We talked them into going anyway. On the last trip back to the church, they told me that this was the first time the kids had been given an opportunity to go shopping and pick out whatever they wanted! What little things we take for granted here in the U.S.

We are a blessed nation. We live lives others around the world can only dream of and yet we can be some of the most miserable, unhappy, ungrateful people on earth. How many children in America would be thrilled with a new water bottle??? Again…Perspective.

After hugs all the way around I said my goodbyes. After I hugged what I thought was about 15 kids I thought to myself, “I know I’ve hugged everyone at least once!” I noticed them getting back in line to hug again! By then I was bawling!!! Then they gave me a huge group hug. I think they hugged a few of my broken pieces back together again.

I went about my tasks the rest of the day with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, something I lost over a year ago… Today the Hakuna Matata Children’s Choir helped me find my song again.


I think the song in my heart is in Swahili now…

…and get back in line to hug someone AGAIN!



P.S. If I go missing in the near future….might check Kenya.


26LargeI’ve moved more than a dozen times in my adult life. In everything from the largest moving van available to the renting public to a 2000 Ford Mustang convertible. The hardest move I ever made was to an apartment next door. It was quite discouraging when both places looked a mess. The easiest move was one of 700 miles.

It was the summer of 1991. I was moving my family from Jackson, Mississippi to Jackson, Kentucky in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Before I rented the van, I measured my furniture and boxes to see how much square footage I’d need. Then I diagramed where every piece would fit. Where every box would go. And the order in which they needed to be loaded. (I know, I know, I’m a nerd.)

We followed the plan and everything fit exactly where I’d designed it to. It was the easiest loading experience I ever had. Nothing had to be tied down because everything fit so snuggly.

But this article isn’t really about your next household move. It’s about how your brain moves. How your mouth moves. How your feet and hands move. How your body moves.

If you’ve ever had severe depression or observed it in another, you know the subject of movement is important.

The fifth symptom of depression is psychomotor agitation or retardation. It is the slowing down of your thoughts and physical movement. Nearly every day, all day. Observable by others.

imageDo you remember the sloth scene in the animated movie, Zootopia? In a hurry to follow up the next clue, the rabbit and fox head to the department of motor vehicles. Of course, the DMV is run by sloths. Everything slows down to a mind numbing, exhausting, and frustratingly perturbing speed. Enter in the day light. Exit in the dark.

Clinical depression is not so dissimilar. Speech. Facial expression. Eye movements. Posture. Speed and degree of movements can all slow down. It is agonizing for others. It is agonizing for the consumer.

  • “Observations of pause and speech times, volume, tone, inflection, articulation, and response length” are prevalent in the literature.
  • “Fixed gaze and poor eye contact.”
  • Slow “movement of hands, legs, torso, and head.”
  • “Slumped posture.” (See “Psychomotor Retardation in Depression: Biological Underpinnings, Measurement, and Treatment” by Jeylan S. Buyukdura, Shawn M. McClintock, and Paul E. Croarkin.)

In my 21-year journey with severe, recurrent major depression, I have experienced many of these symptoms.

My speech slows to the point of stuttering at times. It is so aggravating to have someone interrupt you in the middle of your sentence because they thought you were finished. It’s not their fault. I just can’t get my words out fast enough to make decent conversation.

I know there are times when my face is frozen in a perpetual look of sadness. After telling one psychiatrist that I was depressed, he said, “You look depressed.” My face and posture gave me away. We that struggle against depression know how to put on a public face. But sometimes the mask fails us and our true feelings are etched in the lines on our face, the droop of our eyes, and the curve of our lips.

Movement can be exasperatingly slow. The simplest chore can be an all-day agony. You want to move. You want to complete your to-do list. You want to keep up. But you just can’t. A couple of years ago I set out to paint our 1200 square foot house. There were natural obstacles that impeded my progress. But the greatest impediment was depression. What should have been a week with a roller and a brush took over a year.

Are you moving? If not, please find help through a psychiatrist or mental health counselor. You can start moving again.


The LORD be with you.




(The seventh in a series on the quest for character.)

You gotta show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb.

Love ain’t a thing,
Love is a verb.

Songwriter: John Mayer

Love is a verb. It is the action that takes over when the feelings are gone. It is the work that must be done when difficulty comes. It is the glue that holds us together when everything would pull us apart.

I’ve heard love proclaimed in a thousand ways. “I’m crazy about you.” “Have feelings for you.” “Care about you.” “Head over heels for you.” You’ve heard them too. But words are cheap without action.

I’ve tasted love. It was in my mother’s Thanksgiving and Christmas noodles. It was in my wife’s coconut cream pie with meringue that she fixed for me at Christmas. It was in the salty sweat on my father’s brow. But taste turns sour if it is not accompanied by action.

I’ve touched love and been touched by it. It came in an electric tingle that coursed through my body after an intimate hug. By a comforting and understanding hand on my shoulder. But a touch is hollow when there is no action behind it.

I’ve smelled love wafting from an aromatic bath given to a baby by his/her mother. From an antiseptic bed where lies a dying patient carefully attended. But smells turn odiferous when neglected for want of action.

I’ve seen love. It was in the gait of my father as he tramped to work through snow or rain or heat for 25 years. It was in the presence of my brothers and nephew when everyone else turned away from me. It was in a gift from my cousin when I had nothing.

Chuck Swindoll relates this story from antiquity. “One of the most profound comments made regarding the early Church came from the lips of a man named Aristides, sent by the Emperor Hadrian to spy out those strange creatures known as ‘Christians.’ Having seen them in action, Aristides returned with a mixed report. But his immortal words to the emperor have echoed down through history: ‘Behold! How they love one another.

The second century theologian and Christian apologist, Tertullian, wrote, “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us.” Oh, to be condemned for love. What a glorious thought.

The Bible speaks of the Church in familial terms – children, fathers, brothers, sisters, and mothers. One of the essential character traits of the Christian family is “mutual affection.” We love one another.

What does “mutual affection” look like? There are some very descriptive words from holy writ that answer that question. Brother/sister love looks like . . .

  • Humility in action – preferring another above oneself.
  • Gentleness in action – compassionate toward the shortcomings and failures of others.
  • Patience in action – waiting for others to grow in grace and knowledge and wisdom on their timetable and not our own.
  • Kindness in action – sensitive to the needs of others.
  • Forgiveness in action – releasing grudges and not demanding justice.

These flow from a godly heart of sincere affection. O LORD, make it so in my life.
Love is a verb. Put it into action.

The LORD be with you,



Depression, paranoia, and a dissociative episode resulted in me committing some crimes. I have little memory of what I did, but I took/take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence in county jail. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

letters from jail 6

Dear_____ August 8-11, 2013


A new day, a new letter. Waiting. Trying to grow in grace.

  • Growing in grace

I don’t want to be the same person I was when I came to jail. I want the burdens gone – the uncertainties, the hurts, the grudges, the pain – all gone. If the LORD wills, I want to have a new peace and serenity, a new strength to properly respond to stressors, a new state of mental health, a smaller body, new disciplines. I want a new love for God to be poured over my soul, a new assurance that I am His and He is mine. I want to be an “altogether Christian” as John Wesley stated.

Reading a covenant prayer this morning reminded me of my need to submit to the safe arms of God. “LORD, I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will. Let me be employed by You or laid aside by You, exalted by You or brought low by You. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.”

  • Court Requirements

Today was our next to last anger management class. It was on forgiveness and grief. I needed the emphasis on forgiveness. I was dwelling on the pain too much. Here’s one thought: Forgiveness is for my own sake, to keep my personal and mental accounts in order.

I thought of you when we talked about grief. Grief is for healing. Grief acknowledges your losses and related feelings. The focus is outward on God. Interaction with God. Grief communicates pain to self, friends, and God.

  • Future plans

What are my plans after I get out of jail? I don’t know, but I want it to be God’s plan. I’m a planner. I don’t deal with uncertainty well. I once planned a move including where everything was to go in the moving van. Keep reminding me about God’s plan. It’s not clear to me right now.

My brother, Jim, and I discussed my finances for when I get out of here. He thought I could break my retirement accounts in order to pay my lawyers and other debts. We also discussed disability benefits.

  • As the cell turns

Friday’s are boring in the cell. We’ve been waiting on “pop call.” He hasn’t been here since Monday. I need more paper. My brothers want me to write and I need to write my attorney and you, of course.

  • Contemplations

You mentioned an “unblessed” marriage in your last letter. I had never thought about my marriage as being “unblessed.” Mom had her reservations, especially because of my youth and worry over the stress level I could handle. She cried often leading up to our wedding. There was a clash of cultures from the beginning and a clash of willingness to whole-heartedly follow God without reserve. A clash of wills. But the concept of “unblessed” never occurred to me.

  • Trying to be a witness

Page pointed at his tattoo of Jesus and said, “This is you, preacher man.” I could only say I hoped I reflected Jesus in some small way. I have Mr. Houge joining me at 4:00 AM for devotions. He reads his Bible and has started praying. Page is beginning to face the consequences of his actions. One of the guys gave him a Bible and I encouraged him to find common ground with his wife. All they know is getting high together. Now she’s not sure she knows him at all. I thank God for the times He gives me to share Jesus and redemption. One other guy, Bowie, talked to me about a call to ministry and how to go about fulfilling that calling. He get’s out in about 10 days.

The chaplain let me start the service this morning. At least one employee is taking me as a serious, redeemable person and a Christian. We sang Blessed Assurance today.

  • Attempts at humor

Yes, I can eat fiber. Just not too many seeds. Two-by-fours are my favorite source of fiber. They’re best when seasoned with salt.

  • Grateful

Thank you for your kind words about my letters. I’m sure it’s my own insecurities and perfectionistic tendencies that make me feel they are inadequate. I always want to make you feel that you’ve been heard and understood.

Thank you for wanting to share my burdens. Right now, the greatest issue is financial. My lawyer’s fees are going unpaid and I have a hospital bill. It’s times like this I feel helpless. The last three years I worked hard to save money and build a reserve. It’s all gone now. Gone in 90 days. I will have to start over from scratch when I get out of jail.

Thank you for your letters. I love hearing from you.




A guest post by Mary A. Sacra-King


Molly Agnagvigak Ahkiviana Rosa.
June 6, 1948 – January 15, 2019.

One year ago, Mom was tragically taken from us. There hasn’t one day gone by that I haven’t thought of her this past year.

Growing up, my childhood was full of many dysfunctional, painful memories. But I want to remember Mom for who she was without drugs and alcohol.

Mom was a vibrant, independent woman. Before drugs devastated her physically, she was a strikingly beautiful and strong woman. Long before the wrinkles around her eyes appeared from age, her eyes crinkled at the corners from her huge smile that lit up her face and her deep, soulful brown eyes danced with mischief, energy and light.

Her smile took up her whole face. It wasn’t just a grin. She smiled with her mouth open, eyes crinkled at the corners, rosy, round Eskimo cheeks and laughter that came from her belly. If she was smiling, she was probably laughing at the same time.

Mom had a petite frame. I’ve never known her to have an ounce of fat on her body. Ever. She was always so small, trim and slender. But even though she was small, she was fierce. She didn’t back down from a fight and if she got into a fight, you’d better watch out, she might give you a beat down and win. Despite her tough side, she loved to work with her hands. Sewing, drawing, beading, fixing things.

Mom loved finding a good bargain. Things people were getting rid of because they were broken or discarded. She could always find a way to putter around and fix them to make them functional again. She took such delight in knowing she made something useful again and that she got the item for free! I’ve seen her do this with clothing, watches, shoes, jackets, purses. If something had a rip or was missing trim, buttons, a zipper – she would take it apart and remake it and add a native flair of fur, beadwork or leather. She was resourceful.

Mom was a wonderful artist. Her drawings looked like black and white photographs. She had such an eye for detail. Every little nuance of shading was so intricately incorporated into her drawings. She was a perfectionist when it came to her sketches. Every little detail had to be just right.

Mom had an innocent, child-like sense of humor. She could be so silly and animated and would tease and go on telling a story and then would end it with “I jokes!” followed with a hearty belly laugh. Mom could easily laugh at herself when she did something absent-minded or dumb. She loved to laugh. She couldn’t talk to you without laughing at something.

Mom never met a stranger. It didn’t matter where we went, she would strike up conversation with someone. Observing her, you would think she was talking to an old friend. She had a way of putting people at ease with her warm friendly way that she connected with people.

Mom loved to help people. She was humble enough to remember where she came from that if she saw someone in need she would do what she could to help them, even if it meant giving them the coat off her back.

Mom was “organic”. She loved nature: flowers, animals, trees, sunsets, stars at night, snow in winter. She loved natural remedies and teas. She loved our Inupiaq heritage. She loved the “native” way of doing things.

Mom was independent and a free spirit – very much a rebel and non-conformist. She never did settle down and marry again. She had too many things she wanted to do and she didn’t want a man telling her she couldn’t do them. She was proud of her independence. Even though she struggled financially at times, she was glad she didn’t have to rely on a man to make it.

Mom was often restless. She had so much energy wrapped up in her small frame. She always had to be busy doing something. She loved to socialize and visit with friends. She couldn’t stay home long, she always had to get out and about and see what was going on. She loved people, relationships, friends and most importantly – Family.

Mom was spiritual. Maybe not in the way Christian/Church people thought she ought to be, but despite her lack of religious practice, she had a conscience. One time she came to church to see me and it was cold outside – probably 0 or below. She stood outside, shivering. I told her to come inside and wait where it was warm, because church wasn’t over yet. She refused to because she said she wasn’t “dressed appropriately”. Another time she came to attend one of my school events at the church and she said she had to find a “dress with sleeves” because she wanted to be respectful in God’s House. There were certain lines she wouldn’t cross because she said it wasn’t right or she read a verse in the Bible that said you shouldn’t do this or that… She was always careful not to offend people of faith.

The last few years mom talked to me on the phone she said she was reading her Bible more and praying. She talked about making things right and asking God to forgive her for things she had done. I don’t know if she made her final peace with God, but I hope and pray in those final moments of her life she found peace.

Much of my early childhood is very painful. It’s taken me years to overcome some of the deep hurts and abuse that ravaged my first six years of life. I choose to forgive. Everyday. Some days that’s easy…some days it’s not. Today I choose to remember Mom at the core of her being, who God created her to be, not her bad choices or the addictions that slowly suffocated out her beauty.


I love you, Mom…in all your beauty and brokenness. I know I carry within myself the best parts of you – in looks, genetics, personality, talents, strength, tenacity, fiery independence, free spirit and all. Thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for your second gift of making the choice to give me up. It’s been a painful decision I’ve had to live with, but I understand better now.
You are loved and missed. You will never be forgotten.
I’ll always be “baby girl” to you. Rest In Peace.

~~~~~ Baby girl,
Mary Alavine – “Kuupyuk”


A guest post by Mary A. Sacra-King

64319742_10156441528933100_4629053088055951360_nBeing the parent of a special-needs child hurts sometimes. (My son is moderate to severe on the autism spectrum.) This morning (Sunday November 10, 2019) when all the church kids and adults were up front, Daniel (my son) was already warming up to a good howl.

He was ushered off the stage before church even started. I was ready to get up. Walk out. And go home. It just hurt so bad that he isn’t able to participate. I had my keys in my hand. The tears were about to fall.

Scott (my husband) went to find Daniel and help him on stage. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out, but Daniel surprised me. He was able to stay for the one song.

This is the first time he’s ever been able to do ANYTHING in big church. He’s come a long way. I’m so proud of my Danny!!

There are still so many painful things about having a special needs child. Milestones that other kids hit that Daniel never will. Daniel should have his license and be finishing up his senior year of high school. Taking his ACT. Applying for college.

Instead we’re trying to figure out what is going to happen to him when he ages out of the public school system when he’s 21. We have to navigate the process of applying for disability. Then there is trying to find something for him to do all day. We have to think of his future without us by setting up a trust fund for him.

I don’t know what Daniel’s future holds. It’s scary sometimes when I think about it. I’m not always going to be here to take care of him. And no one loves your kid the way Momma does. We birthed them and took care of them.

I’m trying to trust God, but honestly some days reality is just too real. I’m happy he’s as healthy and as happy as he is most of the time.

Counting my blessings today instead of my worries.





The fourth in a series on the clinical symptoms of major depression.

Sleep and depression is a two-edged sword. Depression can cause you to sleep too much (hypersomnia) or too little (insomnia). And not enough sleep can cause symptoms of depression. I have experienced both.

man-napping-in-carHypersomnia can be described as the endless nap. The 18-hour sleep. The lost Wednesday between Tuesday and Thursday.

As a young man I read about the missionary, David Brainard, who struggled with depression long before it was even rudimentarily understood. In his autobiography he reported losing days to sleep.

I’ve been there. Depression so sapped my energy to make it nearly impossible to wake up, let alone get up. Even in a conscious state, there was a fog that settled over my ability to think. Slow responses. Broken speech. Lost thoughts.

In my opinion, hopelessness – the inability to face another day – contributes to hypersomnia. If I don’t wake up, I don’t have to live with the implications of another day. Sleep and skip it. Perhaps it is a conscious or unconscious choice to not wake up.

1_SjnB-XxfeeGsD7WS0SQkdwThe flip side of that coin is insomnia. The movies or endless dribble watched through the night. Tossing and turning. Twisted blankets. Untucked sheets.

I’ve been there, too. The three days before New Year’s, I slept a total of six hours. Over the past two years my sleep pattern has been very irregular. Sometimes I go for several days with very little sleep if any at all. And then I sleep for most of a day. It’s a vicious cycle that does a number on my mood.

There are times that I would rather not sleep. Last night was one of those. I had three nightmares – kicking, yelling, crying.

Many of my nightmares are of unresolved conflicts and the struggle to save myself and/or others from the effect. Some of my dreams are great fears realized. Either way it does not make for a very restful night.

Because of a medical condition, I cannot take sleep medication. So I struggle alone. At times longing for sleep. At times desperately wanting to stay awake for fear of what sleep will bring.

Quite a while back I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be descriptive in this blog rather than prescriptive. Although I am a mental health professional, I think people are looking for understanding more than they are sterile remedies. I know I am.

If you are experiencing hypersomnia or insomnia, you are not alone. I have yet to find a solution for my insomnia, but I fight on. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never. Never. Never.”


The LORD be with you.



The Quest for Character: Godliness (6th in a series)

Godliness is costly. It takes perseverance. Supreme devotion. Total dependence. Wholly sacrificed. A. J. Gossip wrote, “You will not stroll into godliness with your hands in your

pockets, shoving the door open with a careless shoulder. This is no hobby for one’s leisure moments, taken up at intervals when we have nothing much to do, and put down and forgotten when our life grows full and interesting… It takes all one’s strength, and all one’s heart, and all one’s mind, and all one’s soul, given freely and recklessly and without restraint.”

The late Jerry Bridges of The Navigators defined godliness as . . .

  • The fear of God.
  • The love of God.
  • The desire for God.

0269c6fa4bfd6640e1c737d7f8a9b5b8The fear of God is not to be understood as dread. No, that kind of fear is gone when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. For the believer, the fear of God is to be understood as veneration, reverence, and awe.

“O come let us adore Him” is more than a phrase in a song, it is a willing and joyful activity of life. There is that sense of wonder and amazement about the holy nature of God. The prophet Isaiah experienced this level of worship when he saw “the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.” There is also that marvel and astonishment at the love of God.

The third commandment is stated in the negative, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” The positive side of the command is just as true and at the heart of the fear of God. You shall respect the name of LORD your God. Worship Him. Honor Him.

The love that godliness requires is whole. It encompasses “all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” No reservations. No hidden treasures. No greater loves. A complete and total submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The recipe for godliness demands copious amounts of desire. It is a willingness to sell all in order to possess the Pearl of Great Price. To give all to find true Treasure. “Godly

character is not the result of good intentions, wishful thinking, some mystical “zap,” or even sheer Bible knowledge. It’s developed through the self-disciplined application of God’s Word at a very basic level, enabled and empowered by God’s Spirit.” (John MacArthur)

Godliness is not proclaimed by oneself. I’ve been in the church all my life and I’ve never heard anyone say, “I am a godly man/woman.” Godliness is recognized in you by others. “That is a godly man/woman.” One of my seminary professors, Dr. Matt Friedeman, said that he does not call himself a Christian. He waits for others to identify him as such. The same is true with godliness.

Godliness is a pursuit. In this lifetime there is no finish line for godliness. The race is won only as we are ushered through death into the arms of Jesus. But there are glorious rewards along the way to keep our hearts in the quest.

“With all diligence add to your faith . . . godliness.”

The LORD be with you.



timeless-time-quotes-2-638Time is very mysterious. It is linear – moving in a direction – but feels cyclical. It has a beginning and an ending, but it feels eternal. We can use it or lose it. Save it or waste it. Spend it or kill it.

Different cultures look at time very differently. In a very simplistic sense, it is said that Eastern cultures view time from the past while Western cultures view it from the future. In reality all time is present. Past time has already slipped through our fingers and future time is not yet in our grasp. Time is lived in the now. dec-26

1741979-Yasutaka-Tsutsui-Quote-Time-waits-for-no-oneAs we exit one year and enter another, we tend to contemplate the ending, meaning, and lasting significance of time. As the world passes from the 20-teens to the 20-twenties, I must accept the relentless march of time and take a personal accounting of my use of it.

In the New Testament, both Peter and Paul speak of “redeeming” time. The word redemption is a legal term which means to buy back. It is still used today especially in the area of property law.

How is time redeemed?

  • Time is redeemed by taking ownership.

As one takes ownership of a piece of property and possesses it, we too must possess the time we have. 8502d4fbd8cbf68985a61d49b622bfb0

  • Time is redeemed by exercising control.

Because time keeps ticking whether we use it wisely or not, time is best redeemed when it is used in a disciplined manner.

  • Time is redeemed by accepting responsibility.

45d461f48ac7838348857c0712a78d02When we become responsible for the use of our time, time becomes more meaningful and purposeful.

  • Time is redeemed by seizing opportunities.

I am thankful for the way time is counted. Every 24 hours bring a new day. Every seven days bring a new week. New weeks bring new months. Months, years. Years, decades. Decades, centuries. Centuries, millenniums. Each brings the opportunity for a new beginning.

How are you going to redeem your time in 2020?

The LORD be with you.



Depression, paranoia, and a dissociative episode resulted in me committing some crimes. I have little memory of what I did, but I took/take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence in county jail. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

letters from jail 6Dear_____                                                                                                                    August 5-7, 2013


How are you? Well, I hope.

  • As the Cell Turns

It’s been another uneventful day here in Cell 815. Corn must be a sedative. The whole cell has been unusually quiet.

The only scent of shampoo they have here is apple blossom. I asked if they had any manly scents like dirt, sweat, motor oil, or gun smoke. Maybe I should start a “manly scents for detainees” business.

  • Sometimes it’s really inconvenient being in jail

When I started this letter, I was pretty blue. _____ has spent half of my medical savings account. I’m disappointed that _____ is grabbing for every dollar and violating court orders. I called my lawyer. I hope he takes care of it. Why does it continue to surprise me? I’m trying not to be judgmental. I just don’t understand that level of hate and entitlement. When does the hurt stop?

I just got off the phone with my brother. He’s in panic mode about the lawyer’s fees, the disappearance of my medical savings account, and fear that my retirement accounts are being raided. I’m helpless to do anything about it from jail. What will be, will be. I’m doing the right thing. Others will have to give account for their actions.

I wish I could talk to someone. I need somebody with a cool head to talk this out. I need someone to tell me this will pass. Sometimes it’s really inconvenient being in jail. I will be glad when this chapter of my life is over.

It’s late. I’ve been blue most of the day. All the debt I’m accumulating is getting me down. I feel like breaking my retirement accounts to pay everything off. When I get out of here, I will likely have to go on SSDI. I guess I’m worried. I can’t see a clean end to all of this. I need to commit it to the LORD. It’s too depressing.

  • Jail Food

We had corn-on-the-cob for lunch. Yum! Yum! The jail has a huge garden. We’ve had squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, green beans, corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers. They don’t know how to fix most of it, but some things are really good.

  • Staying Connected

My brother, John, sent a card. He writes two or three times a month. My brother, Jim, is coming to see me tomorrow. And I got another letter today, too. It’s a good start to the day.

  • Who do I admire?

That answer can take a variety of turns. Politically, I admire Ronald Reagan. He made it okay to be proud of America again. All classes did better economically. He exposed the weak underbelly of communism and exploited it.

Religiously, Dr. R. G. Flexon. He was a pastor, district superintendent, general superintendent, head of the missionary department, college president, and evangelist. He almost single handedly grew The Pilgrim Holiness Church’s world missions, opening several fields himself. He was very influential. Do you remember when he came to Central Wesleyan Church in Anderson for a winter revival?

My parents were the most influential on me. I quote them more than anyone else.

Currently, I admire Dr. Bill Ury the most.

  • My Weaknesses

You are very perceptive to pick up on my need for respect. Try as I might, it is one of my needs. The Bible appears to confirm the old adage – Women need love, men need respect. First Peter refers to Sarah calling Abraham “lord.” It was their cultural way of demonstrating tangible respect. I find it interesting that the Bible commands a husband to “love” his wife multiple times, but only says for a wife to “love” her husband once.

I need to control the urge to expect respect. Although I believe everyone deserves respect, I forget that not everyone will give it. That gets me into trouble. I’m getting better, but I still have a lot of room for growth.

Anger is another of my issues. I rarely lose my cool when someone else is losing theirs, though. Even when angry I don’t call names or fight unfair, but I do raise my voice. It is a sin that easily besets me and I’m seeking God’s control over my anger. I try to use an “assertive” approach when in the midst of conflict. I fail sometimes.

  • Spiritual Thoughts

Turn your worries into prayers. When you find yourself worrying, say, “Lord, I make what concerns me into a prayer and conversation with You.” “Pray without ceasing” put into practice. I confess I do the same thing, but with venting rather than worry. God is concerned with our daily thoughts.

Wondering thoughts are the bane of letter writing and devotions. Do you know how many times I have reread my devotionals and scriptures because my brain chased a rabbit down some trail?

Thank you for the sermon notes. I’m a teacher-preacher with lots of history and instruction. I’m hoping some denomination will want a “slightly” flawed minister when I get out of here.

Thank you for the book mark. It’s beautiful and I treasure it. I have it marking the Psalm I read each morning. I’ve read a Psalm for each day I’ve been in jail.


The LORD be with you.



1535474908-best-fake-christmas-trees-1-1535474886Christmas morning was our time for gathering around the tree and exchanging gifts. I recall one Christmas that I was the first to greet the morning. Quietly, I set myself in front of the tree and shared stares between the gifts and my parent’s bedroom door trying to wish them both open.

Collections seemed to be a theme of our giving. I received Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Johnny Lightning cars. The family also added to my 1:32 scale slot car collection with a new racer, more track, and/or a new controller.

Mom’s collection of Lionel trains was added to annually, as well. She loved trains. I think my nephews still display them at Christmas.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, my parents exchanged underwear gifts with each other. You could count on Dad getting her bras, panties, girdles, or slips and Mom giving him tighty-whiteys and A-shirts every year.

Giving gifts, adding to collections, embarrassing moments, and special packages were part of our Christmas traditions.

The most important tradition of our annual Christmas festivities was started by Dad. Before the gift exchange could start, he opened his large black leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference Bible and turned it to the gospel of St. Luke chapter two. He read verses one through twenty from the beautiful Elizabethan/Shakespearean English of the King James Version. Then he prayed. If he was present at our family gatherings, no gifts were opened, no celebrations began without his reading and praying.

AWAAQAHQ-R897250-AEAAAAGADMAnd it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

It was the best, most sacred, and special tradition of all.

Of all the traditions I could have passed on to my children, the reading of the Christmas story followed by prayer is the only one I have faithfully kept. I read it to my children and they read it to theirs. I pray it never ceases from any generation to follow.

Christmas decorationsMerry Christmas

The LORD be with you.



57852275_10156319838498100_7828710668814516224_nA guest post by Mary A. Sacra-King

I’ve been debating about whether or not to address this issue, but the more I see it in the media, the more heavily it weighs on me. When American film producer, Harvey Weinstein, was in the news for sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, I was not really that surprised. Doesn’t make it any less horrible for the women he is guilty of committing these crimes against, but this is Hollywood we’re talking about.

Then when I saw on the news that Charlie Rose, American television talk show host and journalist, was accused of sexual abuse…THAT one caught me by surprise.

I thought he had class. Education. Sophistication. But, sexual abusers, pedophiles, and rapists can be dressed up in a suit. Educated. Put in a classroom. Behind a pulpit. In an important looking uniform. In the same pew with you at church. Next door. They can even have their own children. Depravity can be disguised as a trusted upstanding citizen of any community. That doesn’t make it acceptable or normal. It just makes it harder to spot.

One of my abusers was a trusted elder of a church. I was 11 years old. I cannot even begin to tell you what that experience did to twist and skew my view of God and how it shattered my view of wholesome men in the church.

I was already very broken from earlier physical and sexual abuse during the first six years of my life before I was removed from that situation and adopted. I was starting to regain trust. To believe in myself again. To heal.

The abuse I endured was a repeated situation that occurred over a summer. I couldn’t get away. I was preyed on. Vulnerable. I was already so beat down that I thought I must have deserved it. I was already “damaged goods” in my own mind…I thought this was just what men did.

For years I tried to forget. Tried to punish it out of myself. I hated myself for being a girl. For being weak. For not being brave enough to say anything. For somehow believing I was worth much less than those around me because of what this evil man and others had done to me. When I finally did say something, I was in college and it was too late. My abuser had passed away.

Tort-Reform-Has-“Devastating-Consequences”-for-Survivors-of-Sexual-AssaultI have four daughters and a son. I pray protection over my children. That it never happens to them. That I educate them to be aware. My scars are deep and haven’t completely healed.

Parents, TALK to your young children. Boys and girls alike. You don’t have to talk in great descriptive detail, BUT

  • Talk to them about private body parts and healthy boundaries.
  • Talk to them about what is “appropriate touch” and what is off limits.
  • Tell them what to do if/when something ever happens that they need to tell you about.
  • Be approachable to your children. Be open. Be very clear. Work to build a relationship that they feel like they can tell you about ANYTHING.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open in family and social situations. Be aware of where your kids are at all times when they are very young and the most vulnerable.

It was difficult for me to send my children off to Vacation Bible School, church camp, and overnight school trips. For as long as I could, I went with them.

It was hard to put my Daniel on the bus, knowing he was non-verbal and if anything happened to him, he would be unable to tell me. Many times, I had a near meltdown with worry over not having my kids in my sight for every event, every moment. I wish I could say it gets easier…but I’m not sure it does. I take some rest in knowing that I have thoroughly talked to them and given them a heightened awareness to the potential evils in the world.

My (adopted) mother was hyper vigilant and I always felt like I could talk to her about anything … but this. It causes such shame and guilt that should never be shouldered by a child.

I thank God for healing. I’m not going to be trite and say it never bothers me and I never think about that experience ever, because “God healed me”. He makes the pain bearable and reassures me that I am His and that I was not the cause for the abuse. It was NOT my fault.

I still have scars. I always will. But I’m stronger today because of them. I have compassion for others who have been through similar situations. I deeply empathize with their pain and their journey. I am always so very humbled when someone is brave enough to confide in me and share their private struggle. I have talked, prayed, counseled and cried with hurt individuals who wanted to commit suicide because of sexual abuse they endured.

I’ve had valley moments when a present situation takes me back to the horrible guilt and shame I felt. I know my experiences of great hurt can be used to help give others hope when I keep my life surrendered to God and allow Him to keep pouring His healing into my life.

Vulnerability is not easy. Transparency is humbling. Telling my story gives my experiences and pain a higher purpose. Encouraging another struggling survivor gives hope.

78665747_10156900987093100_1774766158419853312_nI’m not a victim of abuse anymore and never will be again. I’m a survivor and I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m not hiding, hanging my head or hoping no one knows. I will always advocate for those who cannot carry their burden alone. Some days it doesn’t take much to take me back to a very dark place…But I walk out of the dark, with my head held high…knowing God sees and knows all. One day He will right every wrong!

Keep the Faith,