Holding On To God
One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you."
The Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing. Job 1: 13-22 (NRSV)
Ted Witham is from Western Australia. This year he has suffered heavily from anxiety and depression. He never knew how debilitating mental illness could be. His brain and body seemed to stop functioning. Ted had ceased his regular morning prayer routine and suffered from a sense of God's absence.
Part of living is undergoing such trying times. We don't want them, but they hit us at the most unexpected moments. It can be easy to respond like Job's friends and try to explain them away.
Like Job, we wrestle with these experiences and wonder why this is happening to us. Ted has concluded that they just are. They are not the revenge of God or punishment for our sinfulness or random attacks of a meaningless universe. They are dark nights that show up on bright days. And somehow we find that God was always there in the midst of them.
When we experience difficulties, we can remember Job, who discovered that no matter what, God is. God is beyond all time, the Creator and loving Sustainer of all of life. So when we experience the darkness of illness - mental or otherwise - we can sit with two truths: Challenges just are, and God is. That knowledge can give us hope to hold on.
Prayer: Loving God, hold us in your embrace when we are struggling to hold on to you and to a joyful life, in Jesus' name. Amen.