Holding on to Hope: Drawn by Suffering to the Heart of God


More Reasons to Hope from Nancy Guthrie

Framing her own story of staggering loss and soaring hope with the biblical story of Job, Nancy Guthrie takes her fellow hurting readers by the hand and guides them on a pathway through pain—straight to the heart of God.

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More Reasons to Hope from Nancy Guthrie

Framing her own story of staggering loss and soaring hope with the biblical story of Job, Nancy Guthrie takes her fellow hurting readers by the hand and guides them on a pathway through pain—straight to the heart of God.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414301266
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

For information about the author, please visit NancyGuthrie.com
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First Chapter

Holding On To Hope

By Nancy Guthrie

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Nancy Guthrie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4143-0126-X

Chapter One

There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred teams of oxen, and five hundred female donkeys, and he employed many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.

Every year when Job's sons had birthdays, they invited their brothers and sisters to join them for a celebration. On these occasions they would get together to eat and drink. When these celebrations ended-and sometimes they lasted several days-Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, "Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular practice.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan the Accuser came with them. "Where have you come from?" the Lord asked Satan.

And Satan answered the Lord, "I have been going back and forth across the earth, watching everything that's going on."

Then the Lord asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil."

Satan replied to the Lord, "Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! You have always protected him and his home and his property from harm. You have made him prosperous in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!"

"All right, you may test him," the Lord said to Satan. "Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don't harm him physically." So Satan left the Lord's presence.

Two weeks after the neighbor's house burned down, I gave birth to a daughter we named Hope. For years we had planned on that name for a daughter, but I never could have dreamed how meaningful it would become.

The doctors were immediately concerned by several "small" problems evident at birth-Hope had club feet, she was very lethargic and unresponsive, she had a flat chin and a large soft spot, she had a tiny indentation on one earlobe, she would not suck, and her hands were turned slightly outward.

On Hope's second day of life, a geneticist who had examined her came to our room. He told us that he suspected Hope had a metabolic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome. Because she was missing something in her cells called peroxisomes, which rid cells of toxins, her systems would slowly shut down.

And then he dropped the bomb that most babies with this syndrome live less than six months. No treatment. No cure. No survivors. I felt like the air had been sucked out of me. While he was talking, I let out a low groan.

To be honest, it just didn't seem real. Sometimes it still doesn't. My husband, David, crawled into the hospital bed with me and we cried and we cried out to God. The next morning when I woke up, I was hoping that perhaps I had dreamed the whole thing-but I hadn't.

We called our pastor and asked him to come see us that morning. I looked at him and said, "Well, I guess here is where the rubber meets the road. Here is where I find out if I really believe what I say I believe." I knew I had to choose how I was going to respond to this incredible disappointment and sorrow.

In the days following the diagnosis, we learned how to feed Hope with a tube and awaited the anticipated onset of seizures. As we began to accept the reality that she would be with us for only a short time, I returned to the story of Job. I wanted to look more closely at how Job responded as his world fell apart.

Perhaps you've experienced your world falling apart. Maybe your marriage has ended, or your parents' marriage has ended. Maybe financial disaster has come your way and you're trying to dig your way out. Maybe your child has rejected your values and rejected you. Maybe you've received the diagnosis you didn't want. Or maybe, like me, you have faced the sorrow and loneliness of losing someone you love.

Do you feel as if your world has fallen apart? If so, you know what it is like to feel hurt and helpless and hopeless in the midst of loss. And perhaps you, too, are wondering if you will ever find your way out of this place of pain.

Throughout the pages of this short book, we're going to look carefully at Job's experience, because Job shows us how a person of faith responds when his world falls apart. We know Job was a great man of faith because the writer tells us so in the first verse of the first chapter, describing Job as a man of complete integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil. And, later in the same chapter, God himself uses these same words to describe Job.

This introduction shows us that Job was devoted to God. He had impeccable character. We could even describe Job as God's friend. In fact, when God endeavored to choose one person he knew would be faithful to him no matter what, he chose Job-with complete confidence. Job must have proved himself faithful over and over for God to have had that kind of confidence in him!

But Satan was skeptical. Satan thought Job was faithful only because Job was supernaturally protected by God and had such a comfortable life, and that if his comfortable life were taken away, Job would turn on God.

At that point, God gave Satan permission to hurt Job. We don't want to hear that, because it just doesn't square with our understanding of a loving God. But it is clear. God gave the permission and set the parameters for Job's suffering.

"'All right, you may test him,' the Lord said to Satan. 'Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don't harm him physically'" (Job 1:12).

Do you wonder why God would give permission for Satan to harm Job? More importantly, do you wonder why God has given Satan permission to bring so much pain into your life?

Before we try to answer the question "Why?" let's look closely at how Job responded as everything he had and everyone he loved were abruptly ripped away.

We'll see that Job's story is about much more than his suffering. Somehow, along the way, he discovered God in a way he had never known him before. And when his story comes to a close, we see that "the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.... He died, an old man who had lived a long, good life" (Job 42:12, 17).

Isn't that what you and I want, even now, in the midst of our painful circumstances-to understand God like we never have before, to see him as we've never seen him before, to emerge from our days of suffering with God's blessing and with a life that can be described as good?

How did Job move from profound pain to profound blessing? Let's follow Job's steps closely to discover his secret. Let's examine each stepping stone along the way. Let's follow him on the pathway of suffering so that he might lead us to the very heart of God.

One day when Job's sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother's house, a messenger arrived at Job's home with this news: "Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: "The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: "Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: "Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother's home. Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the desert and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you."

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.

Shortly after Hope died, I was at the cosmetics counter buying some mascara. "Will this mascara run down my face when I cry?" I asked.

The girl behind the counter assured me it wouldn't and asked with a laugh in her voice, "Are you going to be crying?"

"Yes," I answered. "I am."

We had Hope for 199 days. We loved her. We enjoyed her richly and shared her with everyone we could. We held her during her seizures. Then, we let her go.

The day after we buried Hope, my husband said to me, "You know, I think we expected our faith to make this hurt less, but it doesn't. Our faith gave us an incredible amount of strength and encouragement while we had Hope, and we are comforted by the knowledge that she is in heaven. Our faith keeps us from being swallowed by despair. But I don't think it makes our loss hurt any less."

It is only natural that people around me often ask searchingly, "How are you?" And for much of the first year after Hope's death, my answer was, "I'm deeply and profoundly sad." I've been blessed with many people who have been willing to share my sorrow, to just be sad with me. Others, however, seem to want to rush me through my sadness. They want to fix me. But I lost someone I loved dearly, and I'm sad.

Ours is not a culture that is comfortable with sadness. Sadness is awkward. It is unsettling. It ebbs and flows and takes its own shape. It beckons to be shared. It comes out in tears, and we don't quite know what to do with those.

So many people are afraid to bring up my loss. They don't want to upset me. But my tears are the only way I have to release the deep sorrow I feel. I tell people, "Don't worry about crying in front of me, and don't be afraid that you will make me cry! Your tears tell me you care, and my tears tell you that you've touched me in a place that is meaningful to me-and I will never forget your willingness to share my grief."

In fact, those who shed their tears with me show me we are not alone. It often feels like we are carrying this enormous load of sorrow, and when others shed their tears with me, it is as if they are taking a bucketful of sadness and carrying it for me. It is, perhaps, the most meaningful thing anyone can do for me.

Our culture wants to put the Band-Aid of heaven on the hurt of losing someone we love. Sometimes it seems like the people around us think that because we know the one we love is in heaven, we shouldn't be sad. But they don't understand how far away heaven feels, and how long the future seems as we see before us the years we have to spend on this earth before we see the one we love again.

Fortunately, we are not alone in our sadness. In Isaiah 53:3, the Bible describes God's Son as "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief " (NKJV). And so it is in our sadness that we discover a new aspect of God's character and reach a new understanding of him that we could not have known without loss. He is acquainted with grief. He understands. He's not trying to rush us through our sadness. He's sad with us.

The day after we buried Hope, I understood for the first time why so many people choose to medicate their pain in so many harmful ways. That day I tried to sleep it away. And in the days that followed, I discovered that I could not sleep it away, shop it away, eat it away, drink it away, or travel it away.

I just had to feel it. And it hurt. Physically.

I realized I had a choice-I could try to stuff the hurt away in a closet, pretend it wasn't there, and wish it would disappear, or I could bring it out into the open, expose it to the Light, probe it, accept it, and allow it to heal. I chose to face it head-on, trudge through it, feel its full weight, and do my best to confront my feelings of loss and hopelessness with the truth of God's Word at every turn. Even now I can't say I'm healed. Part of my heart is no longer mine. I gave it to Hope and she took it with her, and I will forever feel that amputation. But embracing my grief means allowing it to do its work in me.

That's what Job did. Out of the deepest kind of agony and pain from loss, Job openly mourned. He didn't cover up his sadness or put on a happy face or offer religious-sounding cliches. He tore his robe and shaved his head. He hurt. And he was not ashamed to show how deeply he hurt.

Do you know what it is like to groan with sorrow? Part of being human is that when you lose something or someone that is valuable to you, you agonize over that loss, and there is nothing wrong with that. Your tears do not reflect a lack of faith.

Rather than running from or trying to ignore your grief, would you lean into it? Would you allow it to accomplish its healing work in your heart?

Would you be willing to invite God to walk with you during this sorrowful time so that you might experience his healing presence?

Would you confront your feelings of hopelessness and heartache with truths from God's Word so that it can become a healing power in your heart and mind?

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground before God.


Excerpted from Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie Copyright © 2004 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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