Shaky Foundations – Job 11:14, 18

“If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents….
And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.”

Job 11:14, 18

At first glance, these words of Job’s friend might seem wise. But I sense danger in them. The danger of making my righteousness the basis of my hope, the foundation of my security.

What a shaky, uncertain foundation that would be.

And how contrary to the gospel.

Because while, yes, we must put away our iniquities, that is not my hope. We are commanded to pursue righteousness, but that is not my security.

Christ is.

My hope is found in His righteousness, not mine. My security rests in His promise to never let me go and to continue His purifying work in me to ultimately and joyfully present me before His throne, blameless (Jude 1:24).

If my security and hope rest in my own righteousness, or in my repentance, I will lose them each time I fail. Despair will enter in, along with the question of whether God will forgive me this time – or if I pushed Him too far. But making Christ the foundation means that hope remains. I am still secure, because I know that my God is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9), and He will redeem even my wrongs to bring Him glory and shine light into a dark world. It does not free me from responsibility, but it does free me from fear. Because His love is steadfast and His salvation is forever. For Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23). Notice – our confidence comes not from our perfection, our feeling sorry enough, or our not pushing God too far. Our confidence comes from the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. He opened the way for us to enter confidently into God’s holy presence and draw near in full assurance of faith and with unwavering hope.

Rest assured today, if you have placed your faith in what Christ has done, you have an anchor for your soul that will not fail. You can hold fast to hope and take your rest in security, because you have fled for refuge in the One who will never remove His saving hand. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

“So when God desired to show more convincingly…the unchangeable character of His purpose,
He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie,
we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”

Hebrews 6:17-20a

When God Feels No Longer Safe – Job 9:16-18

“If I summoned [God] and he answered me,
I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.”

Job 9:16-18

This cry resonates with sad familiarity in my heart…It was not long ago that these words could have been my own. Because while my mind knew verses of God’s compassion, my heart just didn’t believe it true for me.

How sorrowful I became when I realized this. When I saw fully how much I doubted His compassion. All those thoughts that I didn’t even know were there came pouring out of my heart. Because how could He really care, and yet let things play out the way that they did?

Thus began the struggle. The struggle of deciding whether or not to trust Him again. Do I let Him close…and does He deserve that closeness? I was hurt. And I was angry. And His compassion just didn’t seem evident.

That’s what happens when our circumstances overwhelm our heart…when waves crash, and in response to the pain, we shut down and shut Him out. The One who is supposed to be our refuge in the storm. The One who had been my refuge in the past. I retreat when I’m in pain, withdrawing to a safe place, and God was no longer welcome there. Because, in my view, He was no longer safe.

Oh believer, if your heart connects with this, I pray you will know that you are loved. Because you are. Without reserve, without hesitation, and without question. I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but God grieves with you. He is not unfeeling. He hurts with you. He “rides through the heavens to your help” (Deuteronomy 33:26). His compassion toward you is strong and unending. He will uphold you in steadfast love. Please, oh please let Him. He is listening to you. He is drawing near to answer in faithfulness, to show you the good Father that He is.

Allowing God near isn’t an exercise in logic. Our hearts don’t work that way. He understands that – He understands your questions, your fears, your anger, your pain. So tell Him all of that. Rail at Him if you must. I did. That’s where the conversation begins. And I pray that then, however slowly, you will begin to lower your walls. Those walls you built to keep Him out.

What I found is that He is wonderfully gentle and compassionate in His love toward us, and He will not force Himself through. He is waiting, patiently, for you to let Him in. So He can begin to heal those hurts. So that you won’t feel so alone. And so you can see good come from all that pain. He won’t waste it. And He is not distant from you. He is as close as a breath, ready to pour out peace, comfort, and strength for your days.

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench”

Isaiah 42:3a

“But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.’
‘Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’”

Isaiah 49:14-16a

Pain and Purpose – Job 8:5-6

“If you will seek God,
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.”

Job 8:5-6

“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

John 9:2-3

Oh how these words of Job’s friend connect with us – with how we want things to be. That “surely” God won’t let bad things happen to good people. So when we see it happen, our conclusion is that if we’re good enough, if we pray enough, He’ll fix it – or else He must not really be a good God at all.

But what if it goes deeper than that? What if real truth is found not in what we see and what makes sense to us at the moment, but rather in Jesus’ words in John 9, that “bad” things – difficulty, sickness, loss of dreams or loved ones – are not necessarily the result of sin, but rather are designed to display God’s glory and power and love and goodness in and to us?

My heart is drawn to Psalm 73. The writer is perplexed and discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked. At one point he cries out, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13).

But seeking to understand, he comes to God’s sanctuary. And receives a bigger picture.

What happens here, in this mortal life, is not the end. This is temporary. And it is all impacted by the brokenness caused by sin’s presence here. And yes, maybe God will display glory and power by miraculous, unexplainable healing. Maybe He will save from the fire as He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all those generations ago. Maybe He will cause our dreams to fall into place beautifully and give us that for which our hearts long. Maybe He will, and we must have faith that He is able.

Or maybe – just maybe – He will show His power through our weakness, sustaining us and filling us with Himself, allowing us to come to know through experience that He is enough. Maybe He will display glory by making our lives abundant and our hearts fill with wonder at His nearness and love as we continue to walk through difficulty – and maybe that is not less. Maybe His purposes in the hardship are greater than any dreams we had for ourselves, and maybe our lives will be more full than they would have been had He let us settle for the things for which we asked.

Your path, whatever it looks like, is filled with the beautiful purposes of our good God. And please know, I do not say that lightly. I don’t come from a perspective of everything having gone according to my plans. There are dreams left unfulfilled, scars from deep hurts, and painful things that I still don’t understand. But what I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, is that my God knows those who are His. He sees you. He is continually with you. He will withhold no truly good thing from you (Psalm 84:11-12). And while those good things might look different from what we thought we wanted, in the words of John Piper, “God will give you all you need to live the life fully pleasing to Him, and fully and deeply and eternally satisfying to yourself.”

“Thus says the LORD:
‘The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness…
I have loved you with an everlasting love,
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.’”

Jeremiah 31:2-3

“‘For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.’
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”

Isaiah 54:10

“Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked….
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence….
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin….
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:1-3, 13, 16-18, 21-26

At Full Price – 1 Chronicles 21:22-24

“And David said to Ornan, ‘Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD—give it to me at its full price—that the plague may be averted from the people.’ Then Ornan said to David, ‘Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.’ But King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will buy them for the full price.
I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’”

1 Chronicles 21:22-24

I love seeing the hearts of these men in this passage. Ornan, readily offering all for service to the Lord at no cost to David. His words, “I give it all,” strike my heart – he withholds nothing and asks for nothing in return. Perhaps it was the culturally appropriate response to the king’s request, but the heartfelt detail of what he offered for use, “oxen for burnt offerings…threshing sledges for the wood…wheat for a grain offering,” point to a deeper reverence for God within his statement.

And David…Scripture reveals the flaws in this man whom God said was a man after His own heart. The truth of God’s declaration, I believe, is seen in part in the sincere repentance David exhibits when he realizes his sin. David’s insistence here to purchase the property at its full price, and specifically his emphasis that he will not “offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing,” bring to mind words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship: God’s grace to us “is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us…it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.”

David saw what we often fail to recognize: God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are not to be taken lightly. Those with truly repentant hearts do not shrug, duck the head, voice a quick apology, and then go on with no further thought. No – repentant hearts mourn the breaking of relationship. They allow the Spirit of God to reveal the depth and danger of sin, not to make them wallow in shame or despair, but to rid them of sin’s destructive cost and free them to live joyful, abundant lives. Repentance brings healing and wholeness. It reconnects us with this magnificent God who did not consider His own Son too dear a price. And it opens our eyes to the wonder of that Son’s love, that Jesus did not consider His own life too dear, but determined to go to the cross and willingly offered Himself.

Oh, let our hearts rejoice at this costly grace, and recognize that giving our all to this One who gave His all to save us is not losing; it is gaining everything worth having, everything that will quench our thirsty souls.

Cheap grace – claimed without repentance, without commitment, without time and energy devoted to seeking God and loving Him with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – it is empty. It doesn’t fill us, doesn’t heal us, doesn’t enliven our hearts, embolden our faith, or enlighten our eyes.

It doesn’t save.

It is costly grace that saves us. Grace that demanded much of God, and grace that inspires a beautiful, surrendered response like David’s.

Lord God, may I not seek a cheap, easy way out of conviction. Fill my heart with wonder that You have taken my iniquity away and clothed me with pure garments (Zechariah 3:4), that You have saved me through the shed blood of Jesus and will never break that covenant. Open my eyes to see the depths of what You have saved me from. Not just consequences avoided, but the depth of sin’s evil itself. Effects seen in life’s pain and difficulties, in sickness and death, in nature’s thorns, harsh weather, and unforgiving landscapes. Sin did that. Sin brought brokenness into Your perfect creation. Break my heart with how I have broken Yours. And mend it together in Your beautiful way, shining light into all dark places and making me whole. May I be radiant in joyful freedom, for You set me free from sin’s bondage. And in that freedom, may my life reflect Your heart, pursuing You always and pouring out my life in love toward others.

Enough – Job 6:11-12

“What is my strength, that I should wait?…
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?”

Job 6:11-12

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.”
Psalm 18:1

Hearing Job’s despair, reflecting on all he had lost – his property, his servants, his health, his children – I was drawn to this cry in chapter 6. This was a man who had lost everything. A man whose very integrity, which held fast even amidst these losses, was then called into question by his closest friends.

A man at the end of himself. Crying out that he hasn’t the strength for this. And truly, who would?

Yet as I read his words, a quiet whisper in my heart breathed Psalm 18:1, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

Oh, how comforting to realize that my strength doesn’t have to be enough.

In sickness, in loss, in confusion, when circumstances overwhelm or life just falls apart – I don’t have to be enough.

Because my God is.

God my Savior, my strength, my hope, my very breath – He is enough. When I don’t know how to do life anymore, how to even keep walking a painful, darkened path, there is One who is my foundation, who puts breath in my lungs, covers me as a shield to silence the enemy, and carries me if I cannot walk further. This One is my light when all else fails. When darkness closes in. If I will study His Word, letting it seep into my heart and root itself deeply as truth, and fix my eyes on who He declares Himself to be, light begins to pierce through.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Because I am not alone here. Dear reader, you are not alone here. It will still be hard. It will still hurt. But you will not be alone, even in the darkest hours of the night. Jesus is enough for you. He died to restore you to Himself, and to restore all of your hurts to beautiful abundance. Let Him be your hope, your strength, your light. You will need no other, and your soul will find rest and true belonging – a home where you are beloved and upheld forevermore.

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

God’s Love For Sinners – Romans 5:7-8

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person
—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:7-8

“For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

No other religion displays a love like this. A love of this magnitude – that God, holy, infinite, and majestic, would send His own Son to die for sinners.

But for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, the Roman cross on which He died and the agonies He endured are the evidence of how greatly our God loves us.

There is much in the Bible about the love of God, speaking of His constant presence, His awareness of us, His power at work on our behalf. But nowhere is that love manifested so fully as in the willing death of Jesus. The radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature, who upholds the universe by the very word of His power (Hebrews 1:3), and who came to ransom people for God, rescuing them from darkness, sin, and despair. Who came not only to rescue, but to reconcile, restoring our relationship with the God who makes us whole.

The God we willfully rejected and greatly offended – He wanted us back. Not to punish or shame, but to heal. To redeem our stories and make us beautiful. He loved us enough to step down from heaven; our redemption was purchased with the blood of God’s own Son.

It isn’t just a warm, fuzzy kind of love. This love, the love of the infinite God of heaven, is deep. It is powerful, steadfast. Filled with the wonder and might of His matchless and unchanging character. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe…He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:17, 21).

This is the God who loves us. The God who went to all lengths to save us. And the God who works and fights for us now, for His great glory and our resulting joy.

Showing Faith – Philippians 1:27

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”
Philippians 1:27a

As I contemplated this verse, my heart’s cry went out – May I live my life in a manner worthy of the gospel. Not merely in righteousness. But in Faith.

Faith in the character of my God. His goodness, His grace, His wisdom, His mercy. His steadfast, unchangeable love.

Faith in my relationship with Him. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). “[God the Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13). “But now thus says the LORD…’Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’” (Isaiah 43:1)

Faith in His power, working in and through and for us. “And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20). “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:2-3).

As I walk through my days, may my life reflect who my God is. He is holy, yes, and I am called to be holy as He is – displaying love in my obedience, trusting that He is wise, His commands are good, sin and selfishness and pride are destructive, and He will strengthen me to walk a righteous (but not self-righteous) path. But the reflection of who He is shines through more than doing good things. It is displayed in our believing Him when we can’t see what He’s doing. It is tested as we face fears and unknowns – in these moments, what does our life show? Is our reaction worthy of the gospel of Christ, of what the gospel declares about our God?

O, may our lives show faith. As we wrestle with fear and faith, may we come out on the other side walking in a manner worthy of who our God is and the beautiful, powerful gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made peace by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20) and who calls us to abide in His love that our joy may be full and our lives be abundant (John 15:10-11; 10:10).

Our God is good. He is mighty. None can stand against Him. And He is for us. So whatever you face, let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Though you may be facing intense fire and water and difficulty, He is with you and will not fail (Isaiah 43:2). What the enemy intends for destruction, our God has purposed for good, that many will see and be saved (Genesis 50:19). May we find our unfailing hope and joy in this truth.