Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

The Secret to Unshakable Hope (Oregon, Part 2)

Last week, I was honored to be published on Desiring God. The article I wrote was based on my reflections on the tragic Oregon shooting. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read it here.

Candle Burning

Photo Credit: ni_mykon via Compfight cc

In many ways, this post picks up where the article left off. What strikes me most about Job is his incredible perspective. How was he able to bless God in the midst of tragedy? What enabled his perspective?

I’ve come to this conclusion: Job’s hope came from an open-handed life of surrender.

Living with Open Hands

When God took everything away from Job—his property, his wealth, his family—what kept Job from cursing God?

Job 1:21
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Here’s what I see in this passage:

1. Job understood where he had come from and where he was going.
2. Job understood everything had been given to him.
3. As a result Job blessed God in his hardship.

Job had many possessions, but he abandoned any claim to them. His hope was not in possessions but in God, who is imperishable. Setting his hope in God, Job was able to rejoice in the face of incredible tragedy.

When we face crisis—like the Oregon shooting or Job or even the daily pressures of life—the answer to experiencing hope daily is living with open hands.

Like Job, we need to come to the point of surrendering to God everything we are apt to hold above Him.

That doesn’t mean selling everything we own; however, it does mean intentionally putting God above things. I love what author and spoken word artist Jefferson Bethke writes about keeping God the main priority.

When you concentrate on God, you can actually enjoy His gifts in a meaningful way. But when you pursue just the gifts themselves, they become the product of despair rather than joy.

Job wasn’t rattled when his possessions were taken away because Job had already surrendered them to God.

Surrender to the Mystery

Many of us grew up regularly saying the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

The most familiar prayer is also the most countercultural. In praying, “Your will be done,” we’re agreeing with Jesus when He knelt in Gethsemane, saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

Not only was Job willing to surrender his possessions, but he was willing to surrender his own life. When we pray for God’s will, we must be willing to surrender ours.

Take Elisabeth Elliot, for example. Her husband was one of five missionaries to be massacred by the Auca tribe. In reflecting on the tragedy 40 years later, she wrote,

If [God] is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to….. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice.

We all have a choice, to hold our own lives or surrender them to God. I must make my decision before tragedy strikes. 

As C. S. Lewis rightly said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”

Untouchable Hope

Job was able to bless God because his treasure was imperishable—his treasure was God Himself. When Paul says our life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), that’s what he’s talking about.

The question is not, “Will I face tragedy?” The question is, “When I face tragedy, what will be revealed as my treasure?”

Will you be destroyed when your possessions are destroyed? Or will you be immovable because God is immovable? Then, Paul says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

That’s it. That’s the anchor for hope.

Does it make life easier? Not always. But it does give us hope, as Elisabeth Elliot expressed, for a joy far greater than we can yet understand.

I believe with all my heart that God’s Story has a happy ending…. But not yet, not necessarily yet. It takes faith to hold on to that in the face of the great burden of experience, which seems to prove otherwise. What God means by happiness and goodness is a far higher thing than we can we can conceive.

 

What are you holding with a closed fist that God is asking you to let go? How have you found hope in painful circumstances? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

  • Donna

    I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Why, God!?!” Then, in the midst of a deeper anguish than I had ever known, I found hope by grappling with His Word. In every way overwhelmed and exhausted by the situation, I chose to seek for understanding with all my heart. Intense prayer? Yes. Hours reading His Word? Beyond count. I asked myself, “Do I trust really trust the life examples He gives us to learn from in the Bible?” At that point I got quiet enough to listen intently–to wring out a core of constancy in His truth. Surely and silently guided by the Holy Spirit, I landed here: His ways are higher than my ways. Then, I gave me up. I surrendered. I recognized I had no real control or impact on the outcome of that awful circumstance. I cast the weighty burden at the foot of His cross. Painfully, and yet in the end, peacefully, I made the conscious and Bible-informed choice to trust Him with ALL my heart and allow Him to direct the path of the life circumstance. I knew He knew the why. I knew I trusted Him. I hoped for the happy ending. I still do.

    • Powerful story, Donna. That Elizabeth Elliot quote was so impactful for me because it hit on not only The sorrow we face, but also the incredible hope we have an God. I’m glad you’ve found a firm foundation. As I’ve come to realize, faith isn’t about holding on to God; it’s about knowing God is holding on to us.

  • Dakota Lynch

    Excellent thoughts. I was particularly encouraged by this sentence: “Job wasn’t rattled when his possessions were taken away because Job had already surrendered them to God.”

    What astounds me about Job’s spiritual strength is that it doesn’t seem to be something he acquired during his trial like most of us. His acceptance of God’s sovereignty was immediate, not eventual.

    It’s been said that people are like tea bags; put them in hot water, and what’s on the inside always comes out. This was true in Job’s case as well, and what was on the inside proved to be remarkable: a strong love for God, coupled with unshakable faith and immovable hope.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Dakota. It’s true that trial only reveals what’s already there. That’s one reason developing Character right now, right where we are, is so important.