We all know the familiar Scripture passage from the Book of Job that’s been repeated so often people think it’s folklore: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.”
This verse is Job’s response to unspeakable loss: his ten children, his herds, his home, his employees and his health, all gone in just a few minutes. The loss of life alone was enough to overwhelm even the strongest believer in God.
The Lord still gives and takes away today. He took Nate from us but then gave us Micah, Evelyn and Thomas. He took our house in a sale that was necessary but then gave us the Michigan cottage full time. He took everything from Job but then gave it all back later.
That, however, isn’t always how it works.
Sometimes God takes from us in multiples (as he did from Job) but doesn’t give anything back. It’s never without good reason, but when we’re in a loss-phase that makes no sense, we plead with God to make it end.
Our family refers to the year 2005 as “the year of death” because of the six precious family members we lost in eight months. In January we traveled to California for the memorial service of my Dad’s brother, Uncle Edward. In mid-March, three died on the same weekend, one only 23 years old: my Aunt Joyce who mentored me, my cousin’s daughter Amy in a hit-and-run accident, and my mom’s brother, Uncle Jack. Two weeks later, on April 5, Mom died, and that summer my brother’s father-in-law also passed away. We wondered, “Who’s next?”
None of us could explain it then, nor can we now. But the alternatives are either to surrender to the mystery of what God is doing or trust in our own short-sightedness.
Sometimes the Lord asks us to undergo losses less significant than death but nevertheless important: a job, a house, a friendship, a boyfriend, money. My own family members experienced multiple losses in 2008-2009, even before Nate had cancer. One day during my prayer time I had nothing to say to God, no questions, no praises, no thank you’s.
As I sat completely depleted, not knowing what to do, he put a thought into my mind: “Write Me a Psalm.”
I wasn’t sure if it was my crazy idea or God’s good one. After looking at a few of the biblical Psalms, I realized many of them were written about losses: of reputation, health, friendships, power, safety, homes, physical strength and more. Although the Psalms were Spirit-inspired, if I wrote one it would be un-inspired. Still, I knew I could write something from my heart.
The biblical psalmist often began by detailing his burden of loss, but then ended with a personal surrender to God. I decided to follow that model and hoped my words would honor the Lord. And since the Book of Psalms is described as poetry, I also decided to use rhyme.
Tomorrow I’ll post my un-inspired but very sincere “Psalm of Surrender.”
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)