Monday, April 16, 2012

Heavy weight

I recently spoke with Jane, a friend living in a different part of the country, who shared her oh so familiar story with me.  Her situation and environment at work were getting harder and more painful to endure.  Her managers expected more and more while they withdrew resources, support and encouragement.  Those she served also demanded more time and attention.  Whenever someone made unreasonable requests or acted-out, she got zero help or backing.  You could sense the level of frustration and pain in her voice.  Through Skype, I could see lines of worry in her face; her shoulders were slumped from the weight of pain.

And if this was not bad enough, next week was going to be even more demanding and stressful.  In addition to her normal staggering workload, she was expected to perform an extra job.  This additional responsibility was going to be watched carefully, and if she did not do everything as prescribed in a 600-page manual, she could be disciplined and potentially terminated.

Jane is not afraid of measurement or accountability; she truly wants to do an excellent job.  But her ability to succeed while expectations rise like the tide is really discouraging.  Additional weight and pressure was put around her neck while receiving threats of discipline, reprisals and termination. 

With this as a backdrop, we prayed.  We poured out our hearts to God, asking him to provide comfort and relief.  As we concluded with AMEN, Jane did feel somewhat better and encouraged.  But there still was that sinking feeling – had anything really changed?

Little did we realize that God was already listening.

The next morning she was called into her manager’s office.  Because of the constant demands, she was nervous about what it meant.  Her manager said, “You’ve been called to a meeting by corporate, so you will be excused from the extra job next week.”

In an instant, Jane’s heart went from concern to celebration.  More than just an individual situation was addressed when she realized afresh that God is alive and personally involved with her and her life.  Her hope was renewed.

When I got an email about the news, I knew this deserved more than just the normal “Reply All.”  I was able to catch up with Jane later that day, you could hear the excitement and release in her voice.  Together we thanked God for his personal concern and care.

As I write about Jane’s true short story, there are five truths for us:

  • God’s nature – God has a personality and nature to which he is always true.  He does not change and we can depend on him not to turn on us[1].  This means that we don’t have to wonder what God is thinking about us, we can be free to trust him.
  • God’s control – God remains in control during the storms of life[2].  He is never overpowered or outmaneuvered by anyone or anything[3].  While he is in control, pain and hurt come from our personal decisions, choices others make and the spiritual enemy.  This means that when pain and sorrow do come, he stays by our side, he is not forced outside, he is still in control.
  • God’s humor – God has a great sense of humor and laughs at those who think they can ignore him or abuse his people[4].  God is not worried or wondering what the enemy is going to do next.  There is great comfort in seeing God laugh at his enemies.
  • God’s timing – God has promised to take care of us, but the timing may not be what we expect.  We want it now while God’s plan and timing are not based on our expectations, what is most convenient or pleasing to us.  We are encouraged to wait on God, trusting that he knows not only what is best but the right time to deliver us[5].
  • God’s glory – Glory is the idea that encompasses everything that makes God known[6].   God wants to let people know who he is through these shouts of “glory”, words and actions that point to him.  This can be his actions and expressions that show who he is.  It can also be our words and actions that show/tell everyone about God, who he is and what he means to us.

During an interview with Oprah, someone said; “Trouble is given to make us stronger.”  And on some level, that’s right.  We can and do grow stronger through pain, problems and persecutions.  But if trouble just stops at the “why” level of our heart, it will not fulfill its destiny.  There comes a time when we need to move beyond “why” and onto “who.”  Is God good and can I trust him?

Job came to the same fork in the road through his physical suffering followed by the greater pain of rejection from his supposed friends.  At the end of all his misery, Job and God had a long and straightforward talk.  When all was said and done, Job came to the realization that before his pain, he had only heard of God.  But now, after the suffering, Job sees God and is willing to release his pride and life to the greater freedom of a personal relationship with him[7].

Hearing God is good, but being able to see him is so personal and fulfilling.  I like talking with people as much as anyone else, but you have a greater relationship with those you meet face-to-face.

Isn’t it time for all of us to see our pain in this same light?  Moving from “hearing” to “seeing" - transitioning from “why” to “who”.  I promise you, it makes all the difference in the world.

[1] Malachi 3:6
[2] Job 38:1-2
[3] Psalm 48:7
[4] Psalm 2:4
[5] Habakkuk 2:3
[6] Philippians 2:11
[7] Job 42:5

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