I am so thankful that I grew up going to church. I loved the songs and stories, the crafts and games, VBS and kid’s choir. My family was originally from Alpena, Michigan and so we would go back there for a week in the summer and do their Vacation Bible School.
Now they went all out! It was called, “The Marketplace,” and people dressed in robes and you were divided into the twelve tribes of Israel and had a tent that you would do activities in. We got to build birdhouses, paint, hammer coins to purchase items at a store, and even go to a jail they built. It was great! It was like a mini camp.
My family also went to summer camp at Camp Lake Louise near Gaylord, Michigan. This place became a safe haven for me. It was in the middle of nowhere, and escape from the real world. There was a “blob,” kayaks, tons of crafts, rustic cabins, and a cook that snuck oatmeal into every meal somehow (to keep ups regular and not clog the toilets so much, haha!). My friendships with other believers and my faith grew so much here. I understood the importance of having a strong community of people who believed the same things and knew that it was a crucial part of life outside of camp.
Everything about those events were great. But a lot of it was people telling me about God and faith. I learned verses and concepts of the Bible, but since I’ve lived some years outside of highschool and college, I’ve begun to understand the importance of not only “head knowledge” but “heart knowledge.”
The head knowledge, I believe, can set a firm foundation, especially when our hearts are under strong emotions during trials and temptations. If we have a clear idea of what the Bible says, it can lead us to a firm ground. When we know the promises of God, we can have hope during hard times. But the heart knowledge is what draws me closer to God. It gives me the opportunity to create a relationship with God that is my own and not just stories of other faith warriors from the Bible or real life.
So there has to be a combination of heart and head knowledge. It can’t just be one or the other or else we will be on shifting sand when trials come. I think Job sets an amazing example of this in these next chapters. He has friends who are spouting out head knowledge about the Lord. But Job seems to know God on a deeper level. It’s personal and relational, not just liturgical. There is something different about his faith and knowledge of God. See what I mean in the verses below:
S – Scripture: Job 21-23
- 23:10-14 – “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.”
O – Observation:
- Job seems to be getting a little impatient waiting for God’s answer (21:4). He questions why the wicked get to live great lives while cursing God. He inquires how God works and judges: both men, wicked and righteous, end up in the dust, side by side in the grave (21:26).
- Eliphaz answers, still claiming that Job is wicked and being punished. He says that God will restore Job if he repents (22:23).
- Job is searching for God to plead his case (23:3-4) but is terrified of God because he can do whatever he pleases (23:13-17).
- God sees everything that happens, even in the midst of our trouble. He’s got it under control.
- Job knows God on a deep level. It’s a relationship. He has walked with God and been righteous before him in words and deed.
A – Application:
I absolutely LOVE the verse in Job, “And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” What a beautiful imagery and example of hope in the middle of such a difficult trial. To come forth as gold in the end, oh, how good that will be.
I did a little research into how gold was refined and made into what we see as beautiful pieces of jewelry or decor. The process uses acid to break down the gold as much as possible, removing the impurities. Gold is usually a solid thing, but as it’s being filtered, it’s a liquid; it doesn’t look like the shiny and glimmering gold we see. Sometimes it takes multiple refinements to get all of the impurities out. Then, it is placed in 2000 degrees and turned back into a solid. It takes on it’s natural, but new form and can be molded into whatever the end product is.
This really is a great picture of going through trials. The essence of who God made us is still always there, but the refining works to clean out the things we have picked up along the way that don’t fit in to our purpose. We go through what I call, an “unlearning phase.” The process can take a long time and a few too many trials it seems. It takes effort and patience.
Acid and fire don’t feel good, but they produce a magnificent result.
Job knew something that the others didn’t. He felt so strongly that this was a test from God and not a punishment. He knew that all he needed to do was speak to God and plead his case. This glimmer of hope shines through that when this is all finished, he will be refined and life would be as beautiful as gold again.
When we know whose hands we are in, and hold firmly to who he is and his promises, we can experience a bold and unwavering hope like Job. When we can look beyond our current struggles and see a possible purpose, or a potential goal to be achieved, we can withstand the pain and suffering. When we connect our head knowledge to our heart knowledge, we travel deeper into God’s love and comfort. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging, but it gives a supernatural strength to endure.
I mentioned before that I got tattoos as reminders for myself. They are small and can stay mostly hidden on the inside of my ankles. They aren’t for anyone else but me. One is an anchor, to remind me of who holds me (Hebrews 6:19). The other is a helm, like that on a ship, to remind me of who guides me (Psalm 23). They are on my ankles to show me that I can stand tall and strong in to midst of my struggles. At a time in my life, I needed constant reminders of those things. They gave me hope, patience, endurance, and strength.
Most importantly, they gave me purpose. I look down at them and feel that if I hold on and stick to my faith and to God, that I will come out as gold. There will be great purpose and redemption and a way to bring glory to God because of my story. If I can show how strong, loving, and gentle God can be in the midst of tragedy, and that gives someone else hope, then I will endure whatever he allows me to go through.
It took a long time to be able to confidently say that. But now, it’s a constant mantra that keeps me going. It keeps me wanting to get better and stronger in God so that others can see him through me.
It’s activity time! Go stand in front of a mirror, look at yourself in the eyes and say, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.” Say it again. Now again. One more time. Okay, again. Repeat until it sinks in. Write it down and post it wherever you can see it as a constant reminder. We need these sometimes (and not always in the form of permanent tattoos!)
I pray that even if there are tears streaming down your face, you can feel hope today. My deepest wish is that you can take the Words of God and plant them deep in your heart no matter how hard it is. I want you to know that you will come out as gold, beautiful and magnificent.
A psalm of David.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.”
P – Prayer:
God, there are tough things in this world. Dark and evil things that push us down and we feel like we are crumbling. But you know all of our hurts and carry all of our tears. Thank you for constantly working in our lives and especially for working to make them good. I pray that each person today will feel a glimmer of hope. And that they will set their gaze on you and hold tight to your life-giving words. You are so good. Amen