GOD STILL ALLOWS "JOB ENCOUNTERS"
I'VE PAINFULLY DISCOVERED
(By: Norm Rasmussen - Founder, Precious Testimonies)
I believe the most difficult trial one can experience in this life as a believer on Jesus Christ is what I call 'the trial of feeling betrayed by God.' If you have been a devoted believer in Christ for any length of time, you most likely can share one or more experiences of your own where you felt like God has let you down -- like God has actually betrayed you. Maybe you are in a trial right now where you believe God has betrayed you -- where God has failed you -- where God can't be trusted anymore.
I know the feeling. It feels like your soul has been ripped right out of you -- like you've been spiritually violated -- spiritually and emotionally raped ... and God doesn't even care. If He did, He wouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place, right?
My purpose for writing this is to try to help those who are going through a season in their life where they may be tempted to simply give up in trusting God anymore -- certainly from a Christian perspective. In fact, you may be strongly angry and upset at God, because of what He has painfully allowed to happen in your life, and you feel like: 'What's the use in ever trusting you again, God?'
I've been there. I've been there a number of times in my relationship with the Lord. In fact, my entire Christian experience seems to be one of being tested and tried - tested and tried - refined, purged, and purified - through trial after trial. Can you identify?
Before launching into some of my own experiences of how I "felt" like God betrayed me, I want to present you with some great hope in your pain. I've come to learn that God is still in the business of allowing His people to experience "Job Encounters." -- mini-Job to maxi-Job trials is what I now call them, and you'll come to understand why if you read the entirety of this writing. Please do so, especially if you're going through a painful trial right now. Maybe you don't realize that the pain you are experiencing of feeling betrayed by God is the result of God visiting you with a "Job Encounter" of your own ... perhaps even one that has lasted for years? God doesn't waste "Job Encounters," precious one. They are reserved for those who God has special plans for in the future. Your trial of "feeling" betrayed by God has great significance. I'll share more in-depth about this later on in this writing.
God tells us in the Bible that "trials" will indeed visit those who call themselves Christians, and the eternal purpose they serve. If you haven't familiarized yourself with this portion of scripture lately, allow me to bring it to your attention:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)
Christians sometimes fail to realize (often from bad teaching from the "Greed preacher/teachers") that the above portion of scripture highlighted in yellow applies to THEM. Meaning - they want a great deal of their reward now, and likened to a young infant, they will throw every temper tantrum imaginable and work themselves into an emotional frenzy without even realizing what they fully are doing nor care, and about all that is being accomplished is that they are actually hindering the peace and faith they can have in their relationship with God until they get to heaven ... and I can so well identify! However - this is a subject that requires a whole separate writing, so I'll move on ...
I believe the most painful trial a disciple of Jesus Christ can experience is the trial of "unjust" suffering. It can be the most painful test to pass, but God truly wants you and I to pass it -- pass them.
My first trial of "feeling" betrayed by God visited me when my wife, Kathleen, and I had launched out in obedience to what we believed was God's will for us to start publishing born again testimonial booklets and giving them away for free like tracts. That was around 1986. I had been born again for roughly five years at the time; Kathleen six years.
At that season in my life, I worked for a company that was going through a lot of turbulence. The turbulence was getting to me, and I walked in a constant state of anger it seemed at how that company was not only treating their employees, but also their customers. As many feel these days, profits seemed to come first, and the welfare of its employees simply didn't matter that much. You're just a number. Perform or quit. You're very replaceable. Maybe you know the feeling?
Through a series of events that I chose to believe were God-ordained, I quit that company, to go in business with another Christian brother. The business did not get off the ground, and I lost money instead of making any money, trying to help get the business started.
Picking up the pieces and moving on, in the process of looking for employment with any company that would hire me, Kathleen and I received a letter from the IRS, wanting to audit our taxes for the last three years prior. I shared this issue with the church home group we were a regular part of the night before I was to meet with the IRS for the audit. I shared my apprehension and my fears, and the leader of our prayer group tried to assure me that it was just the devil trying to put fear on me, and that because we had done nothing illegal, God would make sure nothing would happen to us.
Interestingly, an older gentleman who had become a recent believer in Christ was there that evening. He was an Accountant. He had his own business. He took me aside later that evening and told me that he would be willing to represent me free in the audit. I thanked him, and politely told him it wouldn't be necessary, because I had done nothing wrong.
He very forcefully tried to tell me that he sensed the devil was going to rake me over the coals in the audit, and that it was nothing more than an attack of the devil because of our faithfulness to the testimony publishing call God had given us. The leader of the group overhead this conversation and became greatly upset -- trying to communicate with me a bit later that it was the devil trying to use this young Christian convert to put unnecessary fear on me, and "don't listen to him."
I won't bore you with the bloody details of that audit the next day, except to say that the IRS determined that we owed them back taxes of the tune of about $7,000. I tried to convince them that I had gotten some bad counsel from a lawyer, and was totally ignorant of the way the IRS determined the law was written for my particular situation, but that brought no compassion or sympathy or forgiveness on the part of the IRS. In fact, when I told them I had no job nor money to pay them back, they politely told me that they would then have to sell our house that we had scraped and scraped to get into the year previous (our first home from moving out of Kathleen's little trailer when I first married her).
As I drove away from the IRS audit that day, I felt devastated and "betrayed" by God. We had used money out of our own pockets to publish testimonial booklets to help win lost souls. We never made a dime profit from those efforts, and the IRS determined that what we were doing was a "hobby." I told them it was not a hobby, but a ministry, but they could not find in the official written IRS law book any place that covered our situation about conducting a ministry. According to the law they went by, what we were doing was either a business or a hobby (The "hobby-loss rule," to be technical), and I was clueless as to what I had been guilty of from the council I had received prior to the audit anyway.
I WAS EXTREMELY ANGRY AT HIM
As I drove away, I began talking to God. I was extremely angry at Him, because the accountant the night before had been right on! The audit was a setup of the devil all right. (Later I found out that had I allowed the Accountant to represent me, or a Tax Lawyer represent me, we would not have had to pay the IRS a dime. I would never go into another IRS audit without a good Tax Lawyer representing me, by the way!)
Driving down the road, I began to pour my frustration and anger out to God, asking Him why He would allow such a thing to happen to us. This may not give much comfort to anyone else, but I believe in eternity it may be of great consequence to someone possibly reading this. Here is what God replied back to me:
'I have allowed you to feel just a little the feelings some people will experience on the Judgment Day, when they get sentenced to hell for eternity. I wanted you to understand a little better that when people try to convince me on the Judgment Day that it is not fair that I send them to hell because they believed they are innocent of any wrongdoing, and I tell them that ignorance of My law recorded in the New Testament Bible is no excuse for being excused from eternal punishment, I wanted you to experience just a little of how these people are going to feel to help keep you motivated in reaching out to lost souls while you are on earth."
'Secondly, this is your introduction to spiritual warfare. You had better learn all you can in how to wage effective spiritual warfare, because your desire and willingness to be used to help win lost souls is never going to escape Satan's attention.'
I'll be honest with you. Neither of those two answers made me shout with joy. At the, I "felt" like salt was being rubbed into festering sores all over my body. I didn't realize at the time that I had my first 'Mini-Job' trial. Satan had been allowed to do some sifting, and rather than be angry at Satan for doing so, I was angry at GOD for allowing him to. Can you relate?
As a little follow-up, most likely in fear more than hearing God clearly, we were able to hide the real reason we needed the money, and got a loan from a credit union to pay off the IRS that was much cheaper interest than what it would have cost us paying off the IRS in installments, having no job at the time, mind you, and diminishing hope at the time of getting one.
In the weeks that followed ' though a different trial all of its own, God got me a job back at the original company I had been terminated from, in the 11th hour. I stayed with that company (although it went through a lot of metamorphosis after that, and turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise for us in many ways in the years that followed. I retired from the telephone industry after 26 years in 2003, which will dovetail with a major trial I'll be sharing later).
My marriage with Kathleen went through trial after trial, as most marriages do. (I'll be honest; I'm probably not the easiest person to be married to.) Yet there was a period of months and months where the pain of the trials became so intense that I knew they were nothing more than outright attacks from Satan, yet when you are in the middle of pain with your spouse, the devil is so deceitful in convincing us that the problem is really our spouse, and the devil is having no part in it. I've written about that period of my life in other places, so I won't rewrite about it here, other than to say that at one of the most painful times during that period of our lives, I grew to become angry at God often, feeling tempted to believe that He had betrayed me in even allowing me to marry Kathleen in the first place. Have you ever been tempted to feel that way with your spouse when you have been at odds with him or her? Like God has betrayed you by allowing the marriage to ever come together in the first place? What a field day the devil can have with married couples (two Christian believers who were believers at the time they got married; no condemnation here; I fully realize the phrase 'Christian believers' can mean many different things and holds very little weight when it comes to obeying what God tells a believer to do to keep the devil out of one's marriage when it comes under attack from demonic powers) who fall for that lie.
The job I had with the telephone company as a Telephone Cable Locator was very stressful for me at times, as anyone who has ever done that kind of work will testify to. Responsibilities of the job was to mark buried telephone cables in a timely fashion through snow, rain, intense heat and freezing cold and in the hours of darkness that excavating contractors needed to know about so they wouldn't get damaged while excavation of various sorts was being done. Color-coded flags and color-coded paint is what is used to mark the path(s) of the buried cables. Placing those flags and paint meant bending over a lot every day, and slipping and falling frequently if one was not very, very careful. From injuries that happened in the military, and from bending over for years on this job, and falling a few times that resulted in great back strain, discs in my backbone weakened and deteriorated over the years, and eventually began to cause so much pain and distress that I realized that I simply couldn't keep doing that job and maintain much quality of life any longer. Perhaps I even waited too long to get off that job, only God can say. I liked the job in many ways, even though it involved a lot of stress, and I probably remained in denial to what was happening to my lower spine, until it may have been too late.
In the fall of 2002 major changes were taking place in the department I was in at that company, and in my opinion, not for the better. As my frustration grew, along with my back pain, came some heart issues, I decided to take a special severance package and retire from the company.
Before sharing any more, I need to say that in 1998, I was lying on a warm sunny beach on beautiful Lake Michigan when I felt the Lord spoke very clearly to me these words after praying about a profession change for several months previous: "Learn how to make money in the stock market. Don't use a financial advisor. Make your own financial decisions."
At the time, I didn't understand a thing about stocks or mutual funds. But as time went by, I began to educate myself, and by the year 2000, I transitioned from no-load mutual funds and began buying and selling individual stocks on the Internet through a couple of different discount brokerage firms.
By 2002, I was fully convinced that if I could sit behind a computer most of the day and watch how stocks were trading, I could make a comfortable living at it. I was sure I could make $1,000 a week, about what I was making at the phone company, plus have a lot more time and energy to do ministry. So, when a buyout offer presented itself in late 2002, upon praying and receiving a last minute dream just days before the buyout was to expire, I signed my retirement papers, and by the end of January 2003, at age 56, I retired from that profession to launch into a new profession.
I became an official Day Trader shortly thereafter. As a rookie Day Trader, starting out with a little over $50,000 in my trading account, I immediately began to make close to $2,000 a week, double what I made at the phone company. This went on for the first three weeks, and then something happened that brought my career as a Day Trader to a screeching halt.
During March, 2003, President George Bush announced mid-week that the U.S. had commenced 'shock and awing' Sadam Hussein's forces inside Iraq. A couple days prior to the official announcement that evening when President Bush spoke on TV saying the U.S. was 'shock and awing' Baghdad, I became aware of a hot moving stock that it seemed half the world was interested in buying - speculating in. Upon doing a little research on the company, I discovered that it was a little company in Texas (Boots and Coots International/Well Control) that put out oil well fires during the 1991 Kuwaiti war, when Sadam Hussein ordered his people to set oil wells on fire before exiting Kuwait, and now this very same little company may soon be called upon again to put out oil well fires in Iraq, depending on how things played out.
IN FOUR DAYS, I WAS ABLE TO CONVERT ROUGHLY $150,000 FROM TWO DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS INTO $1,300,000
In four days, what I believed to truly be the grace and leading of God, I was able to convert roughly $150,000 from two different accounts into $1,300,000 simply by buying and selling over and over shares of stock in this little Texas company. I was able to do this mostly with "margin money" - money the brokerage firm loaned me. Then in one hour, on the fifth day, I lost all but a few thousand dollars of that 1.3 million dollars I had made hours previous!
(I feel to inject a tip here for stock market investors. Be extremely cautious - extremely wise in using margin! Many investors have learned, as I did - very painfully - the pitfalls of using margin unwisely.)
How did I lose it? Well, first off, I was using margin unwisely on that day. But it was more than just abusing margin. Most likely, what happened was that some major computer (router) glitches took place that the discount broker I was using did not want to own up to. Data in two of my accounts was erased before I could make copies of it, keeping me from being able to win a lawsuit against the brokerage firm had I wanted to file one, had they not honored filled trades of that stock on the day I got taken to the cleaners by them.
Twenty-six years of my retirement essentially down the drain in one hour, though no fault of my own (other than putting all of my eggs in one basket, albeit for a very short proposed time). Let me tell you, I was highly upset and distraught, to say the least.
That evening I was not able to sleep. I simply couldn't believe that God had allowed the events that happened earlier that day to transpire. I got out of bed and went to my study and opened the Book of Psalms. God always gave me comfort somewhere in Psalms when I was at a low point in my life, and I trusted Him to do so this evening, as before. Yet as I opened Psalms, nothing jumped out at me; nothing was quickened to my spirit.
After much time, frustrated even more, I then turned to Proverbs. I was hoping that maybe the Holy Spirit would quicken some comforting words from that book, but after nearly two hours, God had nothing specifically to say to me in that Book either.
Pushing nearly 1 a.m. the next morning, I turned back to Psalms and began praying even more intensely, believing God as best as I was able that He would give me words from Psalms to comfort my very troubled mind and spirit ... and perhaps let me know what I may have done wrong to allow all this to happen, because after all, (what I had been doing in investing at that time had been bathed with a lot of prayer to make that $1.3 million dollars). Still nothing.
Somewhere around 2 a.m. I closed my Bible and closed my eyes and began to try to hear God say something to me directly, (a rhema word), rather than through His written Word. Upon doing so, very faintly, I though I was hearing "Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 5:20", over and over like a stuck record.
I thought I was very familiar with the Book of Ephesians, and I was quite convinced there were no comforting words to be found in that Book, not for this occasion anyway.
Thus I opened my eyes and opened up the Book of Psalms again and began praying out loud, telling God I really needed Him to quicken something from Psalms to give my spirit and soul some peace to get some sleep. Many more minutes went by, and, silence. I was getting so desperate I was about ready to turn to Ecclesiastics and see if I could find something in that Book to comfort me, desperate as I was.
Then my frustration began to intensify. "Lord,C'mon. Please give me a comforting word after what has happened today. I need to hear from You so bad. Please let me know if I have somehow disobeyed you, or never heard you in the first place about investing money myself in the stock market. What did I do wrong that caused all this to happen, if I've done something wrong. I was sure you were giving me your blessing in trading this particular stock."
Still nothing from Psalms. More frustration. Grrrrrr. Again I closed my eyes, which must have been around 3 a.m. by this time, and again tried to quiet my mind to hear whatever the Holy Spirit might be trying to say to me. Upon doing so, again I faintly began to hear: 'Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 5:20, Ephesians 5: 20' over and over. In fact, it was getting louder, the longer I listened.
In great frustration (some might call it anger at this point!), I stubbornly opened the Bible and read Ephesians 5:20:
"...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,"
Huhh? Upon reading this portion of scripture, I slammed the Bible closed and truly believed it had been the devil trying to rub salt into my festering wound. "Lord, please don't let the devil have any more room in my mind to play tricks like this. Please give me a comforting word from Psalms like you always have in the past."
So, I opened up Psalms again. And, again nothing was quickened to me. Eventually I closed the Bible out of greater frustration still, and once more closed my eyes and asked the Lord if He would give me a direct comforting word to my spirit. Again, all I could hear was: 'Ephesians 5:20" ... being repeated over and over.
Finally, I began a different dialogue with the Lord. "Lord, surely you don't want me to thank you for allowing our 26 years of hard earned retirement to be lost in one hour,do you?"
Instantly I heard back, very clearly, this answer: "Yes I do. I want you to thank Me for allowing what happened here today, out loud. I want the devil to be able to hear you say it as well."
My mind began to race out of control. Give thanks for what happened here today? How crazy does He think I am? What kind of cruel game is He playing with me anyhow!? This is nuts! What is going on here anyway?!
What happened next has to be the most difficult thing I've ever had to do, ever. Tongue-and-cheeking-it, so to speak, with blood dripping off my lower lip because I was symbolically biting it so hard, and snarling lips and an ugly scowl, I said out loud:
"Lord, I thank you so much for allowing the devil to steal my 26 years of retirement today. There! Are you pleased?!"
I'm telling the absolute truth. As soon as I said what I said to Him, I waited for my heart to either quit beating, or lightening to come through the roof and take me out! Had I been God, I'm sure I would have done so to me -- I was so angry and bitter when I said what I said.
I then waited for a response back from God, but none came. That made me even more angry!
Totally disgusted, I stormed off to bed. Somewhere around 6 a.m. - later that morning - in and out of fitful light sleep, clear as a bell, I was asked this question:
"At what price would you have failed that test I gave you earlier? Two million dollars? Five million dollars? Twenty million dollars? Just how much of a money loss would it have taken for you to flunk that test ... by not thanking Me for losing it?"
Let me tell you, at that moment I was wide awake! I pondered the question. I knew it had been the blessing of God to take $150,000 and turn it into $1,300,000 in just four days. I also knew if that blessing remained upon me, the day might come in the not too distant future that I could turn that 1.3 million dollars into much, much more, so by God asking me if I was to lose much more than what I had already lost, in other words, at what price would I be so angry, so upset, feeling so betrayed by God for allowing such a thing to happen, would I refuse to give God thanks for it?
Somberly, I honestly had to realize that I had no way of knowing what amount of loss in money would cause such a thing to happen to me, to refuse to give God thanks for the loss. I knew only God knew that much about me.
Upon telling God I had no way of knowing, and feeling very bare in my soul, again, very clearly in my spirit, I heard God then say this:
"You know . . . I'm still in the business of allowing 'Job encounters" with My people: Mini to maxi-Job encounters. This has just been a mini-Job encounter."
Maybe this isn't making much sense to you, so please allow me to explain a little before going further. Up until that moment in time, I had always placed the Old Testament Book of Job way back there, like eons and eons ago. Like, so long ago that it couldn't possibly be applicable to anything happening today, and for certain, to little ole' me. I mean ' that was really a cruel thing to do, God, allowing Satan to inflict Job with the suffering you gave Satan permission to inflict upon him. Boy, I sure felt sorry for that poor guy Job. What a rotten thing to have happened to him. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be that poor guy. God, I think you're a little cruel, don't you?
Now can you understand a little better why I was so shocked when God told me that He is still in the business of allowing "mini-Job to maxi-Job encounters" to come upon born again believers in Christ Jesus? It absolutely stunned me!
In the days that followed, I began to seek God intensely about this matter, and as the weeks and months went by, I came to the full-blown realization that God allows trials from Satan to come upon God's people today to see if they are going to turn their back on Him, or not. When absolutely nothing makes logical sense to a suffering born again believer, is that person going to draw away from God in low-level anger and resentment, believing the lie of Satan and/or their flesh that God has betrayed them, or will they choose to keep serving God anyway, and perhaps the most difficult test of all, literally THANK Him for being allowed to be tested and tried, as God asked me to do?
I SHUTTER TO THINK WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD I FLUNKED THAT TEST...
Ashamed as I am to admit it, I came so close to flunking. So close ...
Yet the testing didn't end with losing the 1.3 million dollars. A more difficult test was yet to come.
In 1998, my lower back began to hurt so bad (which had progressively been getting worse years prior leading up to that time) so much of the time that I was having a very difficult time being able to sleep at night, let alone be pain free during the day. Even with various medications, I was having a difficult time getting a restful night's sleep because of the pinched nerves from bones constantly out of place and spasming muscles in my lower back.
Upon praying and trusting God about what counsel I should listen to, in 2005, two highly respected doctors in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area told me that I needed surgery alright, but that the surgery would possibly cause permanent damage, or at least result in complications down the road, and therefore they didn't recommend I have conventional lower back surgery. Rather, they recommended I wait until I could have four artificial discs placed in my lower spine. (Which means I can wait years before that will be a safe and successful surgery, because artificial disc replacement is not progressing at a very fast pace at all.)
By mid-2005 my wife and I desperately needed money to live on. I began putting out resumes to land a job. Of course I didn't reveal my lower back problem to every potential employer, or the fact that I was not sleeping hardly at all, walking around in sleep deprivation with memory loss most of the time.
A few job opportunities seemed like they were going to materialize, only to fall through at the last moment, without good reason. Meanwhile, to try to get four hours of sleep a night, I was trying just about every kind of pain and sleep medication the doctor could prescribe. Prescription pain medications screwed up my head but did very little for the pain in my back and down into my legs, let alone enabling me to get a better night's sleep.
Eventually, I tried the sleeping medication Ambien, and that was the only thing that gave me a good night's sleep, enabling me to sleep so deep that I wasn't aware of the pain in my back and legs. However, the time came when I began to become addicted to it, and had to give it up, which then put me back to square one.
In was in February of 2005 that things came to a head between me and God: no job, little money, no sleep, a lot of physical pain. I had fasted; I had prayed; I had trusted God to free me from my back pain so I could get just a few hours of quality sleep to build a little confidence in me that I might, just might, be able to perform at a job, if I ever was able to get one.
Come bedtime, I began to grow paranoid. Night after night of thrashing and crashing around, trying to find some spot where I could get a little relief from my pain so I could drop off to sleep. Nights seemed to be like decades before dawn came. I wanted sleep so bad, but couldn't seem to get it no matter what I did (I was trying to stay away from Ambien during that time period).
I remember being at church one Sunday morning. During praise and worship, we started singing a song I had sung many times before. The words to the song were words like: "God, you are so good. You are so faithful. You are so loving. You are so kind ''
As I stared at those words on the screen that morning, slowly I stopped mouthing those words. Why be hypocritical about it? Why tell God He was 'so good' and 'so faithful' and 'so loving' when He wouldn't even give me one good night's sleep? Was that too much to ask of Him? Was that too much to expect? I didn't think it was. Thus I stopped singing the song. Why be a hypocrite, I concluded? With tears running down my eyes, I came so close to walking out of church and never entering another church door the rest of my life. I realize that only by the grace of God (when we are weak then He is strong: You can read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 for understanding) was I able to stay there that morning.
Later that night, the trial intensified even more. As I laid on our couch, wide awake, back throbbing with pain, somewhere around 3 AM, I lost it. I totally lost it, and I started cussing and swearing at God. Full bore, I told Him what I really thought of Him, which was less than 0. When I got done, I waited for my heart to stop, or lightening to flash down through the roof and smoke me. Neither happened, thank you Lord!
I laid back down on the couch, simmering with anger and frustration. God "seemed" so far removed from my situation I pretty much came to the conclusion He must have split long, long ago from where I lived.
Then as clear as a bell, when I was convinced He couldn't be bothered with me, He said: "Go take a look in the mirror and tell Me what you see."
When I first heard it, I thought my mind must be playing tricks on me, from utter exhaustion from the lack of sleep. Then I heard the voice a second time, very clearly: "Go take a look in the mirror and tell Me what you see."
I thought a few moments, then decided it was either God or the devil talking to me, because I surely had no interest in getting up and walking to the bathroom and looking at myself in the mirror, so I got up and walked to the bathroom and turned the light on and looked at myself in the mirror.
"What do you see?" Came the question somewhere deep inside my being.
"I see a tired, worn out ugly face that hasn't slept in a long, long time. What do you think I see?" I answered flippantly (with blood dripping off my lower lip from biting it so hard - again symbolically expressing my bitter feelings at that time).
"Look again, and tell me what you see?" the voice said again.
"I told you, I see a tired old ugly face that hasn't slept in a long, long time. What else is there to see?" This was getting ridiculous.
A third time, He said: "Take a closer look, and tell me what you see?"
Once this happened, I became convinced He wasn't going to stop until His point was made, whatever that point was. So again I looked at my tired old ugly face in the mirror, only this time I saw something totally different. Don't ask me to try to describe what I saw. I couldn't possibly, unless I told you that I saw selfishness looking back at me. Somehow, I saw selfishness in the reflection of my face that makes no sense in trying to describe here, yet that is what I saw.
Then God said, "Have you ever met anyone more selfish than yourself?"
I had no answer for Him. I stood there stunned, dazed.
He then went on to say further: "Norm, selfishness is so strong in you that you had better see it as an idol. If you don't begin to deal with your selfishness, I will."
I walked back into the living room and got down on my knees and began to tell God how sorry I was for cussing and swearing at Him earlier. I also began to tell Him how sorry I was for being so selfish, and asked Him to please give me wisdom in how to deal with my selfishness.
In the days that followed, God began to reveal to me that giving verbal THANKSGIVING and PRAISE to God when I least felt like it was the best way I could start getting delivered from my selfishness. I also came to the revelation that Satan absolutely hates it when we give thanksgiving and praise to God vocally when we least feel He deserves it. Talk about waging effective spiritual warfare!
I learned something else about being visited with 'unfair' trials. There is nothing that will build Christ-like character in a person better that being visited with an 'unfair' trial.
Think about it. Having health, wealth and favor from God in everything one does really does not grow unwavering Godly character in us. Suffering 'trials' and 'unjust suffering' is what tries our souls. 'Unjust suffering' is what reveals the motives of a person's heart. Anyone can be a 'Christian' if God allows health, wealth, and wonderful things only to happen to them. But when 'unfair' trials are allowed to visit them, that is when we see how much a person truly wants to think well of God. That is where the rubber meets the road. When we diligently have put our trust in God, and we feel like that trust evidently has been a waste ... that is where we find out what we're truly made of in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am now convinced that God is far more interested in having heaven full of people dripping with righteous character than anything else they could possibly acquire. Having unshakable Christ-like character is worth more to God than all the wealth of this world, I'm quite convinced. I'm fully persuaded it's the greatest wealth of heaven as well, second only to the wealth of angels. Afterall, creating financial wealth is no big thing for God. If He can create galaxies innumerable in number, which astrologers now say exists, how difficult would it be for Him to create galaxies of money? Not hard at all.
God's greatest challenge yet His most wise and glorious creative ways are being demonstrated in the lives of born again Christians -- through their trials that builds priceless character that will pay ETERNAL dividends for both us and God.
So dear one, whatever 'unfair' trial God may be allowing you to suffer at the present, God desires only one thing from you: To pass your test.
How can you be sure of passing the test? Well ... I can tell you how He helped me that very same night, after I had repented for being so angry at Him, and swearing at Him. He turned up the "blow torch" real hot on me, and said this:
"You will do well to determine soon whether I'm a good God or not. If I'm not a good God -- if you don't believe I know what is best for you in light of eternity, then quit serving Me. I'm not forcing you to serve me, you know, nor trust in Me."
Talk about being taken to what I call God's big woodshed and spanked with His great big cosmic paddle -- ouch!
I sat there on the couch in the dark, thinking about what He had just said to me. My mind began to rehash some basics about God and Satan:
God has all power and all wisdom. He always has had all power and wisdom, and always will have all power and all wisdom. The only power -- the only influence Satan has over me or anyone else is what God allows him to have, ultimately. Does it make God a "bad God" for allowing Satan to sift a disciple of Jesus Christ like wheat - like Satan was allowed to sift Peter like wheat? Was God a "bad God" for allowing a demon to constantly afflict the Apostle Paul? Does God not have the right to do as He pleases to each of us, for reasons we may not understand this side of eternity? If I was God, wouldn't I want to reserve that right for myself?
Ahhhh ... there it is! I want to tell God how He is supposed to do things. I want my right to pick and choose what is best for me - not someone else - not even Him. Uhhhh ... I was demanding my right to be God -- without even realizing it.
Uhhh ... didn't Satan and a third of the fallen angels demand that same right once upon a time? Where did it get them?
Then something became settled in my mind. Yes - God is a "good" God. He can't be anything BUT a "good" God. He is not a "good" God sometimes, and sometimes a "bad" God. He's an all wise - all knowing God. I will put my total trust in Him that He knows what is best for me and I don't. If I do anything other than that ... I am making myself to be my own God, and that is only going to cause me more pain and heartache, and very likely ... cost me my salvation. Don't be that stupid, Norm!
The wisest words a person can say are the very words Job uttered when everything inside him at the time felt like God was NOT a "good" God, and God surely had betrayed him: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." (See: Job 13:15). I know the Bible doesn't record this, but I have to believe God then said to all watching and listening from the spirit realm to what Job had just said: "Now there is a very wise man."
The Bible does say that God blessed Job doubly for passing his painful test. But what the Bible doesn't tell us is how much God blessed Job once he passed into glory. Furthermore, no one has a clue how much God will yet reward Job at the Judgment Seat Of Christ to come. I think what we may fail to realize is that every time a child of God passes a mini-Job to maxi-Job test-trial down here ... and they read the Book of Job as an example to follow ... there may be no one, other than our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who smiles bigger in heaven than Job himself!
BEFORE WE RECEIVE MAXIMIZED BLESSING FROM GOD IN ETERNITY, SOME OF US MAY HAVE TO HAVE SOME THINGS BURNED OUT OF US BEFORE WE FULLY QUALIFY FOR AN INCREASE OF BLESSING FROM GOD - SUPPOSE?
It is our very nature to want God to bless us. It is the very nature of God to want to bless us. However ... before we receive maximized blessing from God in eternity, some of us may have to have some things burned out of us before we fully qualify for an increase of blessing from God - suppose?
Selfishness - self-centeredness - assumptions that may not be totally correct ... is in each of us to different degrees, until it gets exposed and God burns it out of us. How much pain will it take to realize that you and I are not God; we never will be God; and He has every right to do with us as He pleases? He's the potter; we're the pot. He's the Creator; we're the created. He has all power and wisdom; we have only what power and wisdom He imparts to us. Only God knows how much pain it will take in each of us to bring us to that point like Job came to where we decide we no longer will walk with God - or - "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in His wisdom and ultimate goodness for me."
Here is a very sobering portion of scripture that you may not have given much thought to before. I encourage you to think long and hard about it, because it may be the difference of you being tested in the future, or kept exempt from it, or kept exempt from much of it:
"Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." (Revelation 3:10 NKJV)
I believe the word "persevere" is the key to passing every trial that comes our way, even to the point of death, if God so ordains. Persevering in thanks to God for our suffering for Jesus' namesake; persevering in praise to Jesus, trusting that His grace and strength will carry us through to the very end; refusing to deny Him no matter how much we may be tempted to.
Dear one ... the secret to passing every test - every trial launched against you - no matter how "unfair" it might seem; no matter how "cruel" we may think God must be; how "removed - insensitive" God must be from and to our pain ... is to never stop giving God THANKS and PRAISE for the ultimate good He has designed by that trial(s) you are visited with. God our thanks and praise when we least "feel" like it -- for whatever reason(s) for the pain -- is the mark of a true spiritual champion. It is what will pull you through when nothing else will. It is what is most precious to God, because He realizes it is the most costly "treasure" this side of eternity.
Furthermore, thanks and praise in the midst of our trials are POWERFUL spiritual weapons God has given us to combat Satan's strategies against us to hinder our relationship with the Lord.
In addition, anyone can thank and praise God in times of blessing. It is when tribulation visits us ... that is when we discover what we are really made of, in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, isn't it?
In closing, remember: God wants you to pass your test. He truly does. He has plans for you in eternity that are mind-boggling, but to be qualified to fill those plans ... you need HIS character qualities. You need to be sold out to Him whatever He allows to come your way. You need to make up your mind: How much pain am I willing to endure to remain a bruised, abused, war torn follower-disciple of Jesus Christ?
Once you cross over the threshold to the point of refusing to turn back (basically quit trusting God for much of anything anymore, let alone remain focused on how God wants to use you to minister to others -- which will translate into eternal rewards ... and even may bring you to the ULTIMATE test - thoughts of suicide) at whatever the cost ... peace and hope and a renewed faith in God's love and care and eternal well-being for you will begin to grow in your spirit like you've never known before.
AND - When we pass the tests (trials) that God gives us ... blessings of some sort ALWAYS are granted to us. We may not realize them necessarily in this life ... but God promises they will be granted to us in eternity.
In seeking to gain more understanding as to why God allows Christians to suffer so much (unfairly, it would seem to me so much of the time) ... here has become probably my most favorite promise from God:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 2 Cor. 4:16-19 (NKJV)
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, (endure the trials He allows to test - refine - purge - purify us) that we may be glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17 NKJV).
As sort of a P.S. to this writing, from time to time, people have asked me how life has turned out for me after the trials I mentioned earlier in this writing. They've asked if I've received a "double portion" yet of God's blessings, like Job did? My answer is unequivocally "Yes! (Not yet a healing for my back and related sleep issues, nor an over-abundance of finances, but bills are getting paid). I've been given spiritual riches that cannot be measured in earthly terms. Up to 2011, God has given me fingers to type with; a computer to post writings and videos on the Internet ... for the privilege of giving hope and encouragement to people like YOU! What greater blessing could I possibly want from God?! I'm doing something I love doing more than anything else I've ever done in life -- helping people move toward lasting peace with The Creator in accordance with His Truth. It's called doing my Father's will. It brings a big smile to Jesus. I'm one of His trophies. It was what I was born to do in terms of using the gifts God has given me, and the people God has given to help me survive emotionally in a technological world that long ago outran this Oregon technologically deficient, slow learning mountain boy.
Truly - I'm a VERY blessed "successful" investor these days. I'm learning how to make WISE investments in expanding the Kingdom of God, all because God has remained patient with me for so many years in helping me truly comprehend that we ALL can be successful investors in God's ETERNAL "heavenly stock market" ... and it doesn't take a nickel to do it! All it takes is the faith of the grain of a mustard seed and the wisdom to realize that engagement of "seeking the Kingdom of God FIRST and His righteousness" (See: Matt 6:33) is all that is required. Whether in good physical health or severely handicapped, one can keep investing in helping expand the Kingdom Of God. All it takes is to use what is available to us at any given time.
If God can use me to help people realize that the GREATEST blessings from God are the way we think about Truth (God's Word), God and eternity ... then I suspect my greatest purpose on earth will have been realized. Thanks for hearing me out. I hope I've been used of Him somehow to help you STAY in the fight and conclude quitting Jesus is NOT an option in this often painful journey of life. The eternal payback will be out of this world, I am fully persuaded!
Note: Some other writings you may be interested in on the general topic:
PLEASE HELP US HELP YOU SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON BECAUSE...
JESUS DID IT! and...
Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)