Recently after the destructive path of Hurricane Irma came through Florida and took out our power, exhausted from the stress of the storm and sticky humidity, oddly I found myself humming an upbeat show tune from the 70's entitled: "It's Not Where You Start It's Where You Finish." It must have been an angel whispering in my ear, because I've not thought of this song in years and our circumstances were less than ideal. Humming merrily I stopped and reflected for a moment on what I was actually singing. This was a song about perseverance and not giving up. God was speaking to me.
How often are we bombarded with events in various seasons of life that come in waves where all you can do is hold on and try to keep your head above water. You overcome one obstacle only to be hit with another one. Exhaustion and discouragement begin to set in. Here in Florida hurricane season is sometimes like that. One storm passes and another one forms. If you are breathing, you have probably also experienced seemingly out of control seasons. Our forefathers all walked through challenging times too. I can not think of one person in the Bible who didn't at some moment experience pain, suffering or loss. Even Jesus experienced moments of humiliation, extreme pain and rejection. It's just a fact of life that problems will surface living in this fallen world. And even though we all like to feel secure and in control of our future we only truly know today. Even our multitudinous questions regarding human suffering and evil are still debated and basically go unanswered. Where is God when I hurt? How could God make such an evil world? Why should I believe or follow God? Why do good people sometimes suffer while sin seems to go unpunished? Does God really watch over and protect His children?
I've pondered these questions since my head on car wreck by a drunken driver in 1975. It was on that rainy evening awakening in the hospital that I realized I was not immortal. I always come back to the same conclusion as Job. In my youth I looked at him as a very sad character. I hoped I would never experience any suffering. I mean really - it was only what Job experienced back in his day, right? It didn't have anything to do with me? God just allowed Job's testing to teach him some things. It just didn't seem relevant. Fast-forward now sixty years later and I now know that everything in scripture is relevant for today. It brings truth and revelation as well as comfort for the seasons you will eventually experience.
In my youth I had difficulty with Biblical stories, but through my journey I can look back and see my life has paralleled theirs. I've personally walked through times of questioning God and ignoring His mandates while murmuring and complaining just like the Israelites. I've experienced the pain and loneliness of waiting for His promises like Sarah. I've doubted like Thomas, and I've become undone in my sin, self righteousness and criticalness of others like Paul. But I've also looked into His face and sensed the depth of His unconditional love, and wept and repented as I poured myself out at His feet like Mary Magdalene. At times I've danced wildly and joyfully before Him filled with overwhelming joy and thanksgiving in His salvation, mercy, faithfulness, loving kindness, goodness and forgiveness like David. And like Job, I've experienced pain and loss that left me with more questions than answers.
I am now beginning to see more beauty in God visiting Job rather than what once seemed to be harsh punishment. Psalm 11:5 speaks of God testing the righteous, and if you are devoted to Him you will be tested. As a child I never wanted to believe that He tested His children. It was scary to me and seemed unloving and cruel. But I have come to understand that God's testing is not for Him, but for us. He already knows what is in our hearts. Just like in school the results of our tests reveal what we have learned. Tests are kind of like the dashboard of our car that lets us know what is under the hood. Through our testing and hardships, we find out how much we have grown in knowing Him and matured in Him. Over the years I have more insight with the wonderings of Job, and can now more clearly identify with his own questioning and final conclusions. Job eloquently shares with us his revelations from his own sufferings in his confession found in chapter 42. "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and do what You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I retract and repent in dust and ashes."
God, through His stunning and sometimes painful work of transformation and sanctification, sometimes allows circumstances much like Job, to change us into more of His likeness and image. It is a work we cannot do ourselves. We may surrender to it, but it is a divine work by His hand through Holy Spirit. It is the narrow path, sprinkled with unknown situations that you may choose not to walk. And yet it is the road that will take you to a more intimate relationship and deeper understanding of Him and His ways.
Everyone comes to God as a child. Everyone is to be trained and taught to grow into maturity. Surrendering to Him and His plan for you is a great key to finishing well in life. The dark places of failure are where we exponentially grow and mature. As you run the race with God, remember that in Him it will end well. Like Job, it truly doesn't matter where you start, but it's where you finish that brings wisdom, understanding and maturity. Whatever you experience in His plan, He will redeem it. Whatever task He assigns, He will help you prosper and complete it. Whatever pain or loss you walk through, He will bring healing, wisdom and truth. He will teach you to trust Him. Through out your life He will walk with you. He will help guide and direct you, so you by His great grace and excellence will finish well.