Tag Archives: loss

Judges 19-21; Mark 16

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT).

These are the opening words to a tragedy. A story that ends with this:

25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).


The tragic story in Judges 19-21 didn’t begin when the troublemakers of Gibeah beat on an old man’s door.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him” (Judges 19:22, NLT).

It began here:

There was a man from the tribe of Levi living in a remote area of the hill country of Ephraim. One day he brought home a woman from Bethlehem in Judah to be his concubine. 2 But she became angry with him and returned to her father’s home in Bethlehem (Judges 19:1b-2, NLT).

Whatever happened between them, I don’t know. But something happened, and she reacted. Likely, he didn’t count the cost of his actions. Surely, she didn’t count the cost of her actions. Catastrophe starts small, with an unchecked thought, word or action.

I sit with words, watching a scene unfold, grimacing at the abandonment (a host abandoning his daughter; a husband abandoning his wife; troublemakers abandoning all decency and mercy), eyes widening in shock as deaths mount by the thousands in a warfare of tribe against tribe.

I can look all over these scriptures and point out places where there’s fault. And maybe there’s something to their opening and end:

Now in those days Israel had no king (Judges 19:1a, NLT) … 25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25, NLT).

Father God, you are Lord over all. Be Lord over my life. Be Lord over my heart. Be Lord over my words. Be Lord over my actions. I don’t want to be right in my own eyes. I want to live right by your standards. I only want your approval.

Courtney (66books365)

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Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Psalms

Deuteronomy 20; Psalm 107; Isaiah 47; Revelation 17

Over the years, the enemy has looked different. Whether it has been wounding by many people or by one, a wandering or a circumstance–hardships come. I don’t say any of this lightly. Dreams are shattered. Hearts broken. Lives fractured. Lives lost. In all of it, I’ve learned to look for God as my savior, my hope, my strength. He has taken me from wounded to warrior.

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you! When you prepare for battle, the priest must come forward to speak to the troops. He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’ Deuteronomy 20:1-4, NLT

Sometimes the warrior in me throws off the things that entangle with a fury force and roar. Sometimes the warrior in me just shows up and takes the next staggering step forward in faith. Sometimes the warrior in me calls out, “Lord, help!”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
    Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. Psalm 107:1-2, NLT

Desert wanderers, dry and parched. Prisoners of darkness and gloom. Fools in rebellion, starving when a feast is spread out before them. When life tosses and plunges to wit’s end–the Lord is near. Cry out.

He satisfies the thirsty. He breaks down prison gates. He sends out his word to heal. He calms the storm with a whisper and stills the waves.

33 He changes rivers into deserts,
    and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
34 He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
    because of the wickedness of those who live there.
35 But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
    the dry land into springs of water.
36 He brings the hungry to settle there
    and to build their cities.
37 They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
    and harvest their bumper crops.
38 How he blesses them! Psalm 107:33-38a, NLT

His faithful love endures forever.

42 The godly will see these things and be glad,
    while the wicked are struck silent.
43 Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
    they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord. Psalm 107:42-43, NLT

Thank you, God, that you love this broken world so much that you sent your son to die for our sins, that we would not perish, but have everlasting life. Thank you for your faithfulness and nearness, for your unending love and power. Thank you for thinking of even me, to not leave me wounded or forsaken, but to hold me up in your righteousness. You call me daughter, and I can call you Father. In deep gratitude, I praise your name.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; I Corinthians 3

We didn’t have those kinds of talks. He’d tell me about a new recipe, or teach me a crochet stitch, or recount a recent outing. Likely the last words I said to him were, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Only later never came. Goodbye was never said. So many questions never asked, never answered. All of this is hard. And in the grief, I find myself surprised by what surfaces. And this one question: what did my father think of me?

I wasn’t expecting my dad to die that night. He spoke to me as if he weren’t expecting it either. Perhaps our conversation might have gone differently if we had known.

Jacob speaks last words over his sons, and I cry.

Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come. Genesis 49:1, NLT

Some of his words sting and some of his words bless.

In Job, Eliphaz responds to Job, and a shaming storm pours from his mouth.

In Luke, Mary receives words from shepherds, prophecies from Simeon and Anna, and she stores these things in her heart.

When I think of things unsaid, unheard, all the unknown, I wonder if it matters now–because I can’t know. Why does that question and answer matter so much?

I turn my focus to the Lord.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, NLT

Lord Jesus, I bring my questions to you. I find my peace in you. Your word is the final say and the one that matters. You are truth, and you see truth, and you are judge of deed and heart. I think we all desperately crave to hear your “Well done.” I pray that I keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Please equip me for the tasks at hand, and instruct me in your wisdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

I was holding my mother’s hand the moment she died. I’ve mourned the loss of children I never named or held. I’ve felt the sting of losing a job. I’ve known the ache of betrayal. But there was one loss that lingered for years, one I couldn’t name at first, a sense of imbalance I couldn’t right, a futile pursuit that exhausted. It greeted me each morning with every sunrise, and gripped me with a pressure that bruised and suffocated–oh, how ridiculous it seemed when I named it: the loss of expectation.

It shamed and embarrassed me–how it tormented me–how could something so shallow (compared to death or destruction) sink me into a depressing heaviness of heart whose tablemates were rejection and mockery? I wanted to shake it off. Every day I determined to be bigger than it, toggling between pretending none of it mattered, and raging at how it dared to touch the tender places I couldn’t protect. It created such a fracture in my heart, that my life is marked by that time as before and after.

It was a spring in the after that God stuck a verse in my thoughts, a steady repetition of the words “I will give you back the years.” I was working in the yard that day, and stopped to get to a computer and search the scriptures for those words. They led me straight to Joel  (In more than one way–we purchased this land from a man named Joel.).

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost
    to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. (Joel 2:25a, NLT)

The next sentence was totally unexpected. I stopped short.

It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. (Joel 2:25b, NLT)

And suddenly those years before made sense. The loss made sense. I was humbled and awed, truly, but above all, I was grateful.

Thank you, God, for showing me what life can be like when I lay down my own pursuits and seek your will. Thank you for bringing us here. Thank you for healing and hope restored. Thank you for changing my heart. Thank you for these five full years. Thank you for saving me from an even greater grief.

In life before, I never imagined that I would ever find myself grateful for heartache, dashed dreams, or loss of expectation. But in life after, I’m thankful for God’s intervention and the very hard heart work that changed my life.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 17,18; Luke 20:27-47

As a shepherd boy, David had repeated experiences of battling foes to save his flock. Each encounter provided skill and courage to face the next one. When an entire army of Israelites shrank back from a taunting giant, David was confident in his abilities to stand up against an enemy. He also knew Who stood with him.

A few weeks ago, I took my girls to get their ears pierced. My youngest went first, and as the first earring went in, she howled and wailed in pain. There were a lot of candy promises to get the job finished. My oldest, in contrast, sat calmly in the chair and didn’t flinch when the piercing gun fired. No change of expression. Not a single utterance. She has had many unpleasant (at times horrifying) medical experiences in her young life. As a mom, her lack of sound or expression saddened me that she would be so toughened, so young. At the same time, I felt a reverential fear of the Lord how He has prepared her for the race marked out for her. And I wonder of the battles she will face. I hope she is always aware of Who stands with her.

And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!–1 Samuel 17:47 NLT

In introspection, life events have made my heart tender. The battles I’ve faced I know prepare me for harder tasks ahead. And when an enemy wounds, I know (and I forget, and then I know again) that the battle is the Lord’s. I heard a speaker recently remark of forgiveness: the one who takes away can never fully restore–only the Lord can.

Father God, I can’t discern between unforgiveness and hurt. Can one forgive and still feel pain? Do remembrance and pain imply unforgiveness? Lord, I pray that I can hand over victory to you and stop trying to solve the unsolvable myself. You work toward the good of all who believe in you. When an offender can never erase memory or loss, you restore. Help me to turn my battles over to you, to move on in peace, to trust in you. You prepare us all for bigger battles. And you stand with us. Thank you!

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Old Testament