God transforms our hardest days, our “Good Fridays,” into the glorious victories of Easter. But He does so in His time and way, and we must trust Him.
“How was your day?” Nancy asked as I trudged in the door from work.
“Good,” I replied, with drawn face, slumped shoulders, and a shuffling gait.
Nancy frowned, “You look like it was awful.”
“No,” I said, “Every day above ground is a good day.”
“Mark, I am your wife. You need to tell me the truth – not just lies that you think that I want to hear.”
“Today was good, in the same way that Good Friday was good. Jesus died a horrific death, but God worked wondrous acts and eternal salvation from it,” I answered.
Nancy gave up the questions and followed me to the bedroom. I changed my clothes and laid on the bed where she gave me a back rub. Finally in a safe place with people who cared, the tension rolled out of my muscles. The gates to my heart, shut tight at work since I had to be, or at least appear to be, the perfect doctor and leader, cracked open. Soon Nancy brought love into my dark castle, and we began to heal.
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We need deep roots in faith, family, and friends, to allow us to weather the storms of life. Otherwise, we will fall.
On Thursday, November 15, a ferocious ice storm hit southern West Virginia, downing trees, knocking out power, and causing major property damage across several counties. Our family lost power for over 30 hours, and six large trees came down in our yard. The children were cross, sitting in a cold, dark house and unable to get on the internet. More importantly, they were unsettled. To them, electrical power is a fundamental fact of life. It is always there – you flip a switch and…shazam! When you need power, it is suddenly there. They could not imagine living like my grandmother, raised in rural southern Arkansas, whose only power was fire in candles, oil lamps, and stoves… or sunlight.
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The world tells us that we are helpless against the insults of others. It insists that every hardship leaves a wound that will never heal. Our forebears thought differently, and better.
“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I am old enough to remember a time when parents taught this pithy little rhyme to their children, and society at large believed it. We live in a new day, in which many Americans consider emotional injury as deadly, and more enduring, than physical injury. News accounts of emotional abuse, cyber bullying, and their mental health consequences such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide, pull at our heart strings. Girls, the lonely, and the young are at greater risk. Colleges, including those which my children attend, have safe spaces, trigger warnings, and strict rules against insensitivity and inflicting emotional trauma.
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What do we do when crisis comes? What should we do? How can others help?
Carolyn, a friend in her 90s, approached me at church after the morning worship service a few Sundays ago. She and her husband Alan had had a terrible week. The previous Tuesday she was hit by another car while driving, destroying her vehicle but leaving her mercifully with only a few bumps and bruises. On Friday there had been an electrical fire in her house. She and her husband were safe but their home was badly damaged. They were living in a nearby hotel and needed prayer. The couple, another friend and I prayed together immediately, and my family has lifted them up before the Lord several times in the past few weeks.
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How do leaders and influential groups in the world view Christians? How do Christians view themselves? How does God view His people?
As a leader, a seminary teacher, and a medical professional, I keep abreast of events throughout the world. To do so, I review news on many websites every day (see the Virtual Business and Intelligence Center), and read the Economist, a highly regarded British news magazine, every week. The 18 September 2015 cover story was an article entitled “Two Mexicos”, but what struck me was the cover image, contrasting the two Mexicos. The upper half of the image showed a man playing a guitar, three cactuses, a well-appointed factory, and a smiling statue. The lower half of the image showed a man holding a rifle, three crosses, a ramshackle house, and a frowning statue.
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Tragedy and suffering are inevitable parts of life in this world. Justice is always delayed, and is never perfect in this world. We have pain in this world, but take heart, Christ has overcome the world.
America has been riveted by the trial of George Zimmerman for the 26 Feb 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. Race, Zimmerman is a white Hispanic and Martin was black, has played a major role. The all female jury rendered a final verdict of “not guilty” on all charges, which ranged from second degree murder to manslaughter. Some people are elated and others are furious, as is inevitable in such a highly charged case.
Continue reading “The Hand of God When We Are Suffering”
We all suffer, and many of us suffer most of the time. How can we live despite the pain?
The Background of the Book of Job
Uz was the first born of Nahor, brother of Abram (Genesis 22:20-21). Since Terah, the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran, lived near Ur of the Chaldeans, it is likely that Uz did as well. Job was probably a child of Uz, living in the lands of his father. Alternatively, the “Land of Uz” could have been near ancient Edom in modern day Jordan. Notably, Genesis 31:53 refers to God as “the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.” Since Job was not a child of Abraham he was by definition a Gentile, and the Book of Job is therefore the only Gentile book in the Old Testament. Given the timing it is likely that Job was a contemporary of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson.
Some argue that Job is not history but rather a fable. Bible writers treat Job as history (Ezekiel 14:14, James 5:11) and there is no reason for modern readers to behave differently. Job may have been written by Job in his later years. If so, it is the only Old Testament book written by a Gentile.
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Nearing the end of a career can be heart-wrenching. Have I done anything worth doing? What am I going to do now? Why did I do so much wrong?
Last week one of the women who works for me was despondent. She is approaching retirement and has worked on a major project for many years, but some people in another organization seem to oppose it at every turn. “It has become hard to come to work” she said, “and it is hard not to think that most of my efforts for the past five years in this area have been in vain.” This woman is a true professional and her discouragement was palpable. I replied with one of the most encouraging passages in Scripture, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap.” I reminded her of the good she was doing and her personal excellence in doing it. Nonetheless, she found it hard to be encouraged. “How can you be so sure,” she demanded, “that this will turn out alright and that my work has not been for nothing?” I replied with a favorite story of mine that demonstrates how tiny causes, given the right timing and conditions, turn out to have huge effects.
Continue reading “Encouragement When Nothing Seems Right”