In Mourning

Katherine von Bora was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther, a prominent figure of the Protestant Reformation.  An amusing anecdote is told of a time in their marriage when Dr. Luther was experiencing tremendous worry and depression.

This was an uncommon attitude for the normally joyful Luther.  Katherine endured days of this behavior before finally meeting her husband at the door one day dressed in a black mourning dress.  Luther asked his wife “Who died?”  To which she responded, “God.”  Surprised by this answer, Luther replied “You foolish thing!  Why this foolishness?”  Only to have his wife answer with these insightful words, “It is true.  God must have died, or Doctor Luther would not be so sorrowful.”

I love the creativity that Katherine used in getting a point across to her husband.  It reminds me of how the prophet Nathan used a fictitious story to help King David see his own sin (2 Samuel 12).  

If we really think about Katherine’s words, isn’t this how we also approach life sometimes?  Don’t we also let our circumstances get the better of us to the point of intense stress and overwhelming worry?  I know I do.  You see, when we allow the current situation to become the only thing we are focused on, then we are essentially treating God as if He has died.  We are saying, “Well, there is no hope.  This can only turn out bad.  There is no way out.”  

Have we forgotten the God that we serve?  Have we forgotten that He spoke and everything in creation came to be?  Have we forgotten that He raised his Son after three days in the grave?  Have we forgotten that He provided a way for lost, hell-bound sinners like ourselves to live triumphantly in this world and look to the hope of spending eternity with Him?  In the words of the Newsboys song, “My God’s not dead He’s surely alive.  He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion!”

I can apply this lesson as I read through the book of Job.  Job did not curse God or reject Him, after losing his family, possessions, and health.  However, he did fall into a pit of despair and began to participate in his own pity party, even to the point of wishing he had never been born.  Job was focusing on his current circumstances and forgetting the fact that God is sovereign over everything.  After horrible counsel from his friends and wife, the Lord finally spoke directly to Job.

For the next four chapters (yes I said 4!), in rapid-fire succession the Lord asked Job a series of questions that put things back into perspective.  Things like:

  • “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)
  • “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?” (Job 38:8)
  • “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?” (Job 38:12)
  • “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” (Job 39:1)
  • “Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?” (Job 39:19)
  • “Does the eagle soar at your command and build his nest on high?” (Job 39:27)
  • “Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his?” (Job 40:9)
  • “Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?” (Job 41:1)

These are only a few examples of things the Lord pointed out to Job.  I would highly suggest that you read it in its entirety.  However, after listening to all the Lord said, Job responded with the only words he could, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (42:3).  It goes on to tell us that “the Lord made [Job] prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (42:10).  Now, let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that when bad things happen to us that the Lord will turn things around and give us twice as much good.  Sometimes bad things happen to us  and we don’t see any material good come from it.  The lesson here is that if we persist in trusting God through our trials we are guaranteed a reward.  That reward may be material prosperity, or it may be a closer more intimate relationship with the Lord (which is worth way more than any material thing of this world).

That is the key to the book of Job.  Job says, “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).  Oh that this would be our response in the face of trials!!  That rather than putting on our funeral garb, and mourning our circumstances, we would instead seek God and cling to our faith knowing that He’s fully alive and more than capable of handling anything in our lives!  Let us move past the point of mere head knowledge of God (hearing with our ears) to a deeper intimacy of experiencing God (seeing with our eyes).  This can only happen when we choose to open the box (casket) that we have chosen to put God in, and trust that He has us in His mighty hand.

*For further encouragement read Psalm 104.

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