Why Does God Send Worms?

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By Larry Short

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

I don’t know whether women struggle with this as much as we men do, but, as Americans, I think we are all way too performance oriented. Whenever something good happens to us, we have a tendency to feel a bit buoyed up. We may think, “Yes, I deserved this.”

Conversely, whenever something bad happens, we are deflated and frustrated. We also may think, “Yes, I surely deserved THIS.”

Scripture provides great anecdotal perspective on these, our very American tendencies. In the fourth chapter of the book of Jonah, we find our reluctant prophet—who so far in the story has struggled with massive disobedience issues, prejudice, and lack of compassion—acting like a spoiled child, disappointed because God has given grace to his enemies, and sitting alone on a hillside overlooking Nineveh, hoping for fire and brimstone while a spiritual revival of historic proportions is going on in the city below him.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

“But the Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.”’

As Jonah sat and sulked, two very interesting things happened:

“Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.”

“But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’ ‘It is,’ he said. ‘And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.’

“But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?’”

Jonah 4:1-11 NIV

As Elim’s young adults group, Pulse, was studying this chapter, God sent a worm to take away a shade tree I had enjoyed for 22 years: my job at World Vision. I’ve had the privilege there of doing enjoyable, meaningful, and rewarding work for more than two decades. I can’t remember when I last felt bored at work. I started an Internet program that is now the third-largest online nonprofit fundraising platform in the world, pioneered online products that now raise hundreds of millions of dollars and save or change countless thousands of lives, and enjoy a huge amount of respect and a significant sense of accomplishment.

Then along came a worm. I was informed that I was being laid off on August 3.

World Vision is a wonderful organization, despite being staffed by fallen human beings like me, and I’ve learned not to take such things personally. I’ve gone through a lot of challenging transitions in my four decades of adult work life, and each and every one has ultimately proved the truth of Paul’s words in his letter to the church at Rome:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV

It’s awesome news … we, too, can claim this promise if we love God, knowing that we have been called “according to His purpose!”

I know many of you reading this are going through far tougher things than I am right now: cancer, heart disease, family or marital struggles, addictions, or financial challenges. But God’s promises are true. The same gracious and loving God sends both shade trees and worms. He cares more about building Christ-like character in us than He does about making us comfortable.

I am praying for you as you face whatever “worms” God sends your way. Thank you for praying for me as well!

P.S.—One quick insight about the worm God sent Jonah. The Hebrew word for that worm is a very specific one: Tolah, the crimson worm who, throughout Scripture (as in the messianic Psalm 22), represents Christ Himself! Our suffering Saviour is present in a very real way in the midst of whatever sufferings God brings our way to build our character. So chew in that one for awhile!

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Those Trials and Tribulations

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By Jim DeAngelo

James 1:2-4 says to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I have found this Scripture difficult to reconcile with my experiences and feelings as I’ve been through these events in my life. We all go through them, and it isn’t usually much fun. I understand it does change us, but I have found it is the rest of the Scripture that requires more understanding.

First, why should we count it all joy? As I have grown to understand these difficulties and subsequent challenges in my life, I realize I wasn’t seeing the situation correctly, from a Jesus perspective. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus saw the fulfillment of His ministry and the redemption of us, His children, and through that joy endured the cross.

When I see the benefit of the trial and the testing of my faith as the growing experience it is, I have a different expectation and view of the results. I see it as the benefit it is. I then find it easier to choose to take joy in the experience and to see the trial as a process that leads to perfected faith. I get to see how God uses them to bring me face-to-face with my issues, wrong thinking, problematic relationships, lack of faith, etc., as well as how the Holy Spirit works with me to bring it to conclusion. My faith grows and I find myself better equipped to rest in Jesus. As a friend of mine said the other day, we graduate to the next lesson.

How do I know if I am in a trial that is designed to produce steadfastness? All I have to do is check my emotions. If I am not in a place of peace and joy, but am experiencing anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, frustration — you get the picture — I am in the process of experiencing a trial. Sometimes they are short and sometimes they impact every aspect of our lives. God sees it through the prism of our transition to the image of His son Jesus and with eternity as the horizon. My challenge has been to broaden my view and attempt to see it His way instead of my way, which tends to focus on my comfort.

So, when the next trial comes, I ask you to join me and attempt to look at it through Jesus’s eyes and see it for what it is, a situation to grow me and promote me in my journey to a life of faith, lacking nothing, and, at the end of this life, to begin eternity with Jesus, the perfecter of my faith.

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Strangely Dim

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By Tom Chase

Have you ever felt overwhelmed, burdened, defeated, or just plain stressed out by all life has to throw your way? Hard times, difficulties, and troubles hit us, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised since God tells us “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), but somehow I still get blindsided. All these difficulties, hard times, and troubles in life can show up on our doorsteps for a host of reasons. Sometimes it is us succumbing to our sinful nature, sometimes it’s making poor choices, sometimes it’s just life, and still other times I guess we simply have no idea why. We can get a small glimpse of God’s purpose from James: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3). Somehow, I simply don’t achieve “pure joy” at the arrival of hard times. Lord, help me in that!

It’s funny. I can get stressed on both sides of the same issue. Here’s what I mean: it was not that long ago I was earnestly praying, hoping to get enough work to pay my employees and pay the salary for my partner and myself. While I felt mostly at peace about the situation, I found it real easy to get stressed out about the whole thing. Now a relatively short time later, God has answered those prayers in a big way, we have so much work that I can get stressed out just trying to figure out how to get it all done—working long hours, hoping to make all the deadlines. How is that possible?

As I write this article, my heart goes out to all of you who are experiencing hard times, who are hurting, who feel that life has hit really hard, whether by broken dreams, health issues, struggling relationships, the wrong amount of work, financial difficulties, housing needs, or the loss of someone. So what are we to do? I understand that what I am about to suggest is somewhat simplistic in that there is much for us to consider, but there is hope! The weight of what we carry can at times be helped by changing our perspective to an eternal one.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

If this is all there is, then life would be pretty hopeless. But this is not all there is. Those in Christ Jesus have an infinite amount of time, an eternity in His presence, where there is joy evermore (yeah!).

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)

This time on earth, though extremely limited in the light of eternity, is our time to live life as a response to God. We (especially I) need to be reminded of the truth of who He is and all He has done. I guess this is how Paul can speak of our troubles as “light and momentary.” Now that is a change of perspective.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

I know that this change in perspective does not make all our troubles disappear. But our focus on eternal things and the eternal One diminishes the havoc that all these concerns create in our life. The song “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli has been encouraging me to adjust my perspective to the eternal:

I’m gonna fix my eyes on all that You are
‘Til every doubt I feel
Deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
Let all my worries fade
And fall to the ground
I’m gonna seek Your face
And not look around
‘Til the place I’m in
Grows strangely, strangely, strangely dim.

(for more …)

Keep looking up!

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Life unexpected

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by Bill Parsons

“I have more tests tomorrow, and I sure hope we find out something. I haven’t slept much, and neither has my wife, since the doctor first mentioned the word cancer.”

I hung up the phone after calling my uncle. The last time we talked, they were excited about some of the homes in eastern Washington they had contemplated buying so they could retire in a few years in a quiet, small town. Now, they are “weighing their options.” Their future is in the results of the next round of tests. This was not what they had planned.

The day after that phone call, I went to work to find out that a superintendent on a neighboring jobsite had collapsed and died at the feet of his crew. Nothing had alerted anyone that he was even sick. That was not what his family had planned.

With parents at the 80-year mark, we dread answering a ringing phone past 10 p.m., but our last midnight phone call was our overjoyed daughter: ”I’m engaged!” Although we were very happy, we had to change our plan to gradually remodel on our household budget. “We think we might be pregnant.” Our son and his wife didn’t plan on having a child for several years. Those phone calls suddenly changed the plan we had for our lives.

Most of us like to set goals, make plans, dream dreams. This is all good, but we know life can change unexpectedly in a moment. Some changes come as a shock, others are more gradual; some bring happiness, some bring sadness. So how do we prepare ourselves for these changes? Or should we?

The questions I wrestle with as a Christian involves placing the future in God’s hands.  How do I plan for the future, but not worry about it? It’s easy to say “Take it to the Lord in prayer,” “Spend time in the Word” “Let go, let God,” but I know when the money train came to a halt in my household, and it was impossible to pay the bills, it was an awful feeling to look  my family in the eye and admit I was not able to provide for them.

The way I grew out of financial troubles was obedience. I continually prayed to become clay in His hands. However He wanted to solve our problems, I agreed to abide by it. I climbed up in His lap and said, “Take care of me, Daddy, I completely trust You.” Some of the things we had to go through were difficult, some were painful, most were humbling.   But the more I put the future in His control, the more I understood what Paul meant: that our circumstances do not affect our relationship with Him.  (Phil. 4:11)

Jesus promised us trouble in this world (John 16:33), but we will be joint heirs with Him in the next (Rom. 8:17). We have learned the sooner we grow closer to Him, the sooner He can bless us with His total and loving care. I pray you will learn the lesson more quickly than I did and place your complete trust in Him today and every day.

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by Stan Peterson

No one is exempt from trials! God allows trials to come about in our lives so that we can be conformed to His image (Romans 8.28-9). Trials are not easy or they would not be considered a trial. Trials vary for all of us and come in varying degrees (depth, width, height) and circumstances. Remembering the three P’s, patterns, processes, and principles help us to piece together what God is doing.

Patterns deal with the overall big picture, processes deal with the way and means God uses to move us along in the overall pattern. Principles are the lessons learned (foundational truth’s). God does not move us out of a process and onto a bigger/different pattern unless we are learning and growing in the midst (grasping hold of the principles and running with them). Many test’s have come my way and I have failed many! But I press on toward the goal of knowing God and be conformed unto His image (Philippians 3.12-16).

A recent trial from my life happened when I was studying at the library and I got a call. An unrecognized number, I went ahead and answered the call. It was a company calling to dispatch me for work, which I have been out of since June. I have 4 weeks left of Hebrew, which is taking me at least 32 hours of study a week just to get the exercises completed and the vocabulary memorized. I need this class to graduate in the spring.

The offer was for a partial job, one of 4 weeks. I could not feasibly continue in Hebrew and work full time. I turned down the offer, immediately I thought of our unemployment benefits and how I would have to give them up! Immediately rationalization, justification came in as to how I could answer the questions and have a clean conscience. I wanted to turn to God and ask WHY? As soon as I started ( I told myself are you going to trust God or the government). This happened on Thursday and I call in on Sunday to apply for our weekly benefits.

Sunday came and I sat at my computer in the evening, remembering to file! I sat and knew what to do, I was going to trust in God and answer honestly. I was denied the benefits and was told to call in the following week and be interviewed. I tried to call in on Monday, could not get through. Wednesday came, I prayed and called!

The interview went great and the lady explained to me that I was still eligible for benefits. I was not sure what to do? Maybe she did not understand, so I made sure to explain to her again, and she said that I was still eligible. I hung up and shouted with joy and amazement, at our God’s goodness.

I was at the library again last night and the Lord reminded me of James 1.2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Whether we succeed or fail in a trial is crucial. No one may be able to see or hear or know! but God knows all, sees all and hears all. Our every day decisions have eternal consequences and effects that we may not know about until we stand before our God. The decisions good and bad have impact upon our individual destiny and that of our community’s.

May we fear God and worship Him in every decision that we make. May we be humble, broken and contrite before God and each other in this Journey. May we take upon the same mind as Christ! Philippians 2.5.

May you be strengthened with all might , according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy.

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