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God is our first, last, and only option

How to Pray in the Storm

Reaching out to God in turbulent times

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Jim Carpenter

What do you do when you’re suddenly in the path of a tornado?

I found out on June 29, 1998, as I huddled in the darkness of the basement, our house shuddering from the force of the wind as it cut a swath through the northern Des Moines metro area. In only minutes, the sky went from a serene blue to an angry charcoal. Rain, whipped by nearly 100-mile-an-hour winds, plastered shredded leaves to the sides of our house and poured through an open window. Broken glass sliced through my office as the window casement was wrenched away. Trees snapped off 15 feet above the ground or were torn out by their roots. My neighbor’s camper landed upside down in someone else’s backyard. Shingles sailed by like flocks of Frisbees.

As the thunder and lightning escalated, the power went out, and the entire house began to tremble. Sirens started to blare. I headed for the basement, and a scene from the movie Twister flashed through my mind—the scene where a man is ripped out of a storm shelter and sucked into the mouth of the monster wind.

What do you do when your house may be leveled by a storm, when you might die? You pray. And not a neat, textbook prayer. You pray in desperation and beg God to spare you and your family. You plead with Him to preserve your house and stay the force of the storm. You cry, “Have mercy! Have mercy!”

When Storms Threaten

Storms swirl into our lives in many forms: a doctor’s grim diagnosis, a financial disaster, a slick road on a dark street, a teenager’s tragic choice. Storms bring us to our knees, cowering in the dark basement of our fears. And so we pray.

When the tornado struck, I had been studying 2 Chronicles 20. Now my Bible falls open to that chapter, the pages permanently wrinkled from the ferocious rain that streamed into my office that day. I realized I had a lot in common with King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah. They, too, were standing in the path of a storm.

An angry alliance of Judah’s enemies was marching inexorably toward Jerusalem, determined to destroy the nation. The word came to Jehoshaphat: “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea” (v. 2). The enemy horde was already on the west side of the Jordan, only 40 miles from Jerusalem!

Significantly, Jehoshaphat didn’t spend any time consulting with his generals. He knew that Judah had no military defense against such a foe. No, “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast” (v. 3).

God’s response to Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer was gracious and powerful. Looking at desperate times through the lens of the king’s example, I began to discover some principles of prayer for the storms that lie ahead.

Measure the storm by the character and promises of God.

Jehoshaphat brought his people together in grave recognition of the nation’s peril. But then he led them to focus on Almighty God, claiming His power and promises.

First, he focused on God’s attributes.

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

—v. 6

When we gauge the fury of the storm by the power of Almighty God, the storm is absolutely dwarfed!

Next, Jehoshaphat reminded God of His promises to His people.

O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.

—vv. 7–9

Jehoshaphat echoed the words of King Solomon, who prayed to dedicate the temple a century before. The night after that ceremony, the Lord appeared to Solomon and made a promise that His people have been claiming ever since. It must have been on Jehoshaphat’s heart in the middle of the storm:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

—2 Chron. 7:14

Centering our thoughts and emotions in the Scriptures will help us pray through the storm. For years, I have printed four-by-six-inch cards with passages about God’s wisdom, sovereignty, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. His Word, hid in my heart, helps me ride out storms in confidence.

Our son Zach joined the army (right before the tornado) to finance his college education. At the time, the world seemed to be at peace. But in the months since, the U.S. military has been embroiled in one regional crisis after another.

At times I am overwhelmed with fear for my son. Often, the Lord brings Psalm 91 to my mind, a song of God’s protection. The familiar words quiet my heart: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . . For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (vv. 1, 11).

Then I am able to pray through the psalm, personalizing it for Zach, and once again entrusting my son to my faithful heavenly Father.

Demonstrate helpless dependence on God.

Judah’s assembly was an eloquent testimony to their dependence upon the Lord. Whole families stood together, babies in arms, praying and fasting (v. 13). They knew God was their only hope. If He didn’t intervene, they would be destroyed.

Jehoshaphat ended his prayer with this humble statement: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (v. 12).

The storm forces us to this place of dependence, confessing that nothing else has the slightest chance of saving us—not our possessions or our connections, not our personalities or our education. Not our religion or our luck. Letting God know we know that He is our first, last, and only option is a good thing.

While it is true that we can pray from any position, our posture can mirror the attitude of our hearts. Sometimes I feel the need to pray flat on my face. Other times I stand with hands raised to heaven. Similarly, when we say no to food or to sleep for a time, we remind ourselves—and God—that we are counting on Him and Him alone.

Corporate prayer, fasting, and confession allow us to say, while the storm rages around us, that our hope is in You, Lord. Only You.

Wait for God to communicate.

When Jehoshaphat finished his prayer, there was nothing more to say. While the enemy army drew nearer, “all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord” (v.13). They simply waited.

And God spoke through a man named Jahaziel (v. 14).

The Lord’s communiqué matched their situation perfectly. They were fearful, so He comforted them.

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.

—vv. 15, 17

They didn’t know what to do, so He gave them explicit instructions.

Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.

—vv. 16–17

Prayer was never intended to be a monologue. Learning to practice “listening prayer” has transformed the lives of many of God’s children and prepared them for gathering storms ahead.

So how does God speak? Well, certainly through His Word. He might communicate through the counsel of a friend or through circumstances. Sometimes He even speaks to us through dreams. He might also bring impressions to a yielded mind. For years I have depended upon semi-annual prayer retreats, where I withdraw for a day or two to pray and to listen.

The night after the tornado, the Lord communicated with my wife, Dionne. While we were thankful that God had preserved our lives and home, we were still very discouraged. We had been trying to sell our home for months, and one disaster after another had prevented it.

In the aftermath of the storm, our property looked as if it had been shelled. A dozen of our huge trees were shattered, the remains littering every part of our acre lot and crushing our neighbor’s fence. Our roof was damaged, and the back wall of our garage hung by a few nails. Who would want to buy our house now? We went to bed very depressed.

That night Dionne could not sleep. She got up, grabbed a Bible, and headed for the living room. Desperate for a word from God, she prayed for God to speak.

The Lord led her to Is. 43:1–3:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

The next night, 24 hours after the tornado, we sold our house!

Respond with courageous obedience.

Obedience may not always require courage, but in this case it did.

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa” (v. 20).

Only hours before, the Israelites had been paralyzed with fear. Now, in obedience to the Lord, they rose early to meet an army bent on their destruction. But rather than lead with their best soldiers, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness” (v.21). They marched forward, praising God with triumphant words from Psalm 136: “Give thanks to the Lord… His love endures forever.”

Did you ever think of worship as an act of courage? In my first year of seminary, a student was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. One of our professors broke the news to us, and before he led in prayer, he said, “In times like this, I don’t know what to do but worship.”

Worship takes courage because it is the ultimate expression of trust. When you stand in the path of the storm, when circumstances are close to destroying you, when you look around and see nothing but chaos, to worship is to say, “My God is bigger than this. I trust Him and His promises more than my eyesight, more than my perception of reality.”

So we worshiped and prayed. Weeks later, we rejoiced that God had chosen to heal our friend.

The summer of our Iowa tornado, Paul and Jule Becker were in the middle of their own storm. Jule was fighting a battle with cancer that had lasted, to that point, seven long years.

As I prayed for Jule with a friend, we sensed God was leading us to organize an intense time of prayer and fasting for her. Her team of intercessors already numbered in the hundreds. In obedience to God’s leading, people all over the world determined to fast and pray, worship and wait. God preserved Jule’s life for another year. But in the end, with great grace and dignity, Jule went to be with Him.

The howl of the wind and the crash of the thunder may threaten to dislodge us from the habits of obedience we normally practice: worship, witness, stewardship. To keep our footing will take courage—the courage to obey even in the darkest hour of the storm.

Expect God’s best.

The Lord exploited the diverse factions of this conglomerate army. Some believe He also intervened with angelic warriors.

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men . . . who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

—vv. 22–23

The invaders were routed. The voluminous provisions they brought became an abundant overflow of God’s blessing. “There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it” (v. 25).

And it all happened without a single weapon being raised in Judah! God’s people prayed a desperate prayer, and He delivered them through the storm.

Sometimes God’s best is victory over the enemy. For Jule, God’s best was not physical healing but homegoing. Either way, God carries us through the storm, connected to His love and buoyed by His faithfulness.

When my wife was a little girl, her parents were missionaries to Jordan. Violence permeated that part of the world then, just as it does today.

One frightening day the political climate turned stormier than usual, and a mob of angry men swirled together. They stood shoulder to shoulder, many men deep, locked arms, and began to march with murderous resolution toward the mission compound where Dionne’s family lived.

The compound was walled on all four sides, but that day the gate was open, and Dionne and her younger brother were playing in the courtyard.

As the mob came nearer, the children were hustled back onto the porch. The family watched in horror as the men marched in rank through the open gate, across the courtyard, and directly toward the front door.

Just as the first group of men reached the front step of the porch, Dionne remembers a dazed look coming over their faces. Suddenly the lead men veered left, marched to the side wall, and clambered to the street. All the men behind followed suit, scrambling over the wall like a stream of fire ants.

Weeks later they received a letter from my wife’s grandmother in Chicago. The Lord had awakened her in the middle of the night and told her to pray for her family in Jordan. Gripped by a sense of imminent danger, she dropped to her knees in earnest intercession. Finally the burden lifted. She was writing to discover what crisis the family might have faced.

The date and time of her prayer matched precisely the date and time of the threatening mob and their sudden detour away from the family.

There are storms coming—that much is certain. Christians have no special immunity from the fury of the tornado. But whether the storm passes us by or visits us with crushing force, prayer is our refuge under the darkening sky. In desperate times, prayer connects us to the God of the storm. The same Jesus who brought peace to a boatload of terrified disciples still reigns today. And the wind and the waves still do His bidding.

The Most Misunderstood Woman in the Bible

Why Job’s wife may have gotten a bad rap

Editor’s NOTE:  This article gives pause to consider another perspective or other possible reasons why a person says or does something we might take exception with.  There can be other factors involved that must be understood before we rush to judgment based upon how things seem.  Without compromising truth or values or failing to realize we can always “do better next time” and “learn from our past,” it is also important to look at things humbly and gracefully in the context of the present circumstances.  Not only must we do this in reference to others, but also with even ourselves as we seek to embrace God’s direction to love others as we love ourselves (Mt 22:39).

SOURCE:  Christianity Today/Daniel Darling

Her name was never revealed and yet she may be the most infamous woman in the Bible. Augustine labeled her “the devil’s accomplice.” Calvin called her “a diabolical fury.”

And the contemporary understanding of Job’s wife hasn’t improved on Calvin or Augustine. It’s difficult to find a book or sermon treatment of the life of Job that doesn’t include the usual condemnations toward his wife. It has become a standard joke to pity Job, as if his wife was yet another cross God called this man to bear.

If the Proverbs 31 woman represents a model of Christian virtue, the wife of Job occupies the role of least desirable, sharing space in the Hall of Shame with the likes of JezebelDelilah, and Michal.

But is this image an honest assessment of her character? Or is there a possibility that in our rush to empathize and identify with Job, we’ve rushed to cast judgment on his wife?

What We Forget

I wonder if there isn’t a gap in our understanding of the Job story. Although clearly Job is the main character, he is not the only one. She may not have been the primary subject of the cosmic argument between God and Satan (1:6-112:1-4), but she was still caught in the crossfire. You might argue that every hardship endured by Job was similarly felt by his wife:

She watched her children die (Job 1:13-19).  Ten times God had blessed her womb. Ten times she endured the joy and pain of childbirth. Ten lives nurtured to love, honor, and respect Jehovah. From the account in the first chapter of Job, this appears to be a fun-loving, God-fearing, tight-knit family. Who was the heartbeat of this home? Likely Job’s wife played a part in that. It’s unlikely he could be such an esteemed man in society (Job 1:1) if his wife was not an integral and influential leader in her own right.

Imagine the grief that overwhelmed her soul as she looked down in disbelief at ten freshly dug graves.

She experienced dramatic financial loss.  The Bible describes Job as a wealthy man, perhaps the richest in the world (Job 1:3). Undoubtedly his wife was accustomed to a lifestyle of luxury and comfort. I imagine her home was adorned with the finest furnishings, her clothes spun from the most expensive threads. Her children likely had everything they needed.

In one really bad day, she lost it all. All their wealth, property, and way of life (Job 1:13-22). She was not only bankrupt, but homeless, forced to beg outside the city dump.

She became a caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband.  Although Old Testament scholars don’t agree on the nature of Job’s illness, clearly his pain was so excruciating, he asked God to take his life (Job 3). It distorted Job’s appearance so dramatically that his closest friends could barely recognize him and when they approached, fell to the ground in pity (Job 2:12). This last temptation brought by Satan was so severe, it nearly broke Job’s soul. Every day Job spent at the ragged edge of death, only experiencing momentary relief brought by the heat of the burn piles and the scrape of pottery shards.

While we weep with Job, we miss the faithful, steady presence of his wife. She put aside her own grief to stay care for her husband. Imagine the exhausting drain, caring for a suffering soul like Job. Imagine the loud howls of agony, hour after hour, day after day. Imagine the one you love walking the thin line of sanity, suffering excruciating, debilitating pain.

Job’s wife continued this mission of mercy without the resources of a helpful support network, without any financial resources, without relief. Their children were gone, their friends and family scattered, her God seemingly absent.

Words of Despair

And we come back to those seemingly bitter words of resignation, the only recorded words of Job’s wife in the entire story. Words shared at the lowest point of her life.

“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9, ESV). These are tough words that appear to reflect a heart bitter and angry toward God. This is where most commentators pounce, accusing Job’s wife of collusion with the Devil to force her husband to do exactly what the Devil predicted Job would do: give up on God. Many question her faith, wondering if perhaps her faith in Jehovah wasn’t real.

I find both scenarios difficult to believe. Every human has moments, words, thoughts we’d love to have back, shared in the crucible of a crushing trial. Imagine if those words were recorded in history for everyone to dissect and analyze.

Clearly God chose to record her thoughts in Scripture, yet sometimes I wonder how fair it is to define an entire life based on one conversation. Nowhere before or after this incident are we given any indication that Job’s wife was a perpetually bitter, unhappy wife.

And perhaps her advice to Job wasn’t born out of her own misery, but out of compassion. Day after day, she witnessed her husband live out his days in utter agony, no relief in sight. Maybe she was seeking the most compassionate way out for Job. Curse God, pull the plug, and get it over with. Perhaps she longed to see an end to Job’s suffering, a painless journey to the sweet relief of heaven. This is certainly something Job himself desired of the Lord.

It’s not uncommon to find raw, honest, expressions of grief spilled on the pages of the Bible. Yet we celebrate David, Moses, Jeremiah, and even Job as being authentic and honest, but heap judgment on Job’s wife for similar expressions.

A Husband’s Response

Job’s response is fascinating. He carefully listens and watches his beloved wife shrink under the weight of their shared hardships.

I imagine Job lifts his blistered hand and strokes her hair. At first, his words read like a harsh rebuke: “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, ESV).

Yet, if you listen to Job, you almost hear admiration. “You speak as one of the foolish women.” He didn’t say his wife was foolish. He didn’t even say her words were foolish. He said, “She sounds like one of the foolish women.”

In other words, “You don’t sound like yourself.” You might read these words like this:  Sweetheart, that’s not you talking. This doesn’t sound like the woman of God I know and married. That is not you talking, my wife. Let’s remember God’s promises. Let’s remember his goodness.

Such a far cry from the ringing condemnation she’s received in the centuries since. Job knew his wife’s suffering was just as acute as his. In fact, seeing the pain in her eyes may have added to Job’s great suffering.

It’s likely she was in a state of shock. Sudden loss has a way of clouding our judgment, distorting our view of reality and of God. Often those living in the thick of tragedy make contradictory statements about faith and life. Today we might even conclude Job’s wife suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Apparently Job’s words were the balm his wife needed to soothe her soul, because she isn’t heard from again in the remaining chapters of the story.

What Does God Think?

Curiously, while authors, commentators, and pastors all rush to judge her, God is silent. The Scriptures don’t record specific words of blessing for Job’s wife like they do for Job (Job 1:8).

Yet we don’t find divine rebuke either. Surely, if God was displeased with her, he would have expressed it. He didn’t hesitate to rebuke Job’s friends (Job 42:7-9).

All we know of God’s treatment of Job’s wife is how he blessed her after the trial was over. She shared in the doubling of their wealth (Job 42:10). She had the privilege of giving birth to ten more children, whom the Scriptures declared the most beautiful in all of the land (Job 42:12-15). And it’s likely she shared in the many more fruitful years of her husband’s life. The Scriptures say that Job lived long enough to see four generations of his offspring (Job 42:16).

A Model of Endurance

So what can we learn from Job’s wife today? Perhaps her greatest testimony is her simple presence during her husband’s lowest moments. At the end of Job, we read that his siblings and friends returned and “consoled and comforted him because of all the trials the LORD had brought against him” (Job 42:11). It’s easy and safe to show compassion after the fact, but during Job’s lowest moments, they were nowhere to be found.

Yet every single day, there was his wife, caring, loving, and enduring the trials Satan inflicted.

The trials that would split many marriages didn’t split Job and his wife. They stuck it out together. And at the end of this story, we read of them conceiving and raising another ten children.

Was her attitude perfect throughout the storm that engulfed her family? No. Did she say things she would later regret? Absolutely.

But through it all, she endured, her faith in God remained intact, and maybe, just maybe, her service to her husband should be held up as a model of biblical character.

————————————————————————————

Daniel Darling is the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He is the author of Teen People of the BibleCrash Course, and iFaith. He and his wife, Angela, have two daughters and a son. www.danieldarling.com.

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