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WHEN SORROWS LIKE SEA BILLOWS ROLL

tragedy-at-seaThis is a drawing of an historic tragedy at sea. On board the Villa de Havre, which sunk after being struck by an iron ship, was Horatio Spafford’s wife and his four young daughters: Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanita.  All of his daughters drowned. His wife was rescued from a plank of wood and taken to Europe where she telegraphed her husband with these famous words:

Saved alone. What shall I do?

He came on the next ship, but asked the captain to stop at the place his four little girls drowned. After looking into those deep dark waters, he went back to his stateroom and penned: It is Well With My Soul.

Spafford has been called a contemporary Job, and he was.  Most of us know this story — but there is more. He was a wealthy Chicagoan who loved the Lord deeply — he was extremely active, at risk to himself in the anti-slavery movement. He was a great friend and supporter of D. L.  Moody. Like Job, his first tragedy was loss of property, for Spafford lost tremendous wealth in the great Chicago fire. After the fire, the family decided to go to a Moody crusade in Europe, but Spafford was detained and sent his family ahead. It was then, like Job, that he lost all of his children.  Spafford, like Job, trusted God and clung to Him.

After this tragedy, Spafford and his wife were blessed with a son — a son who died at the age of four.  (If you happen to be a Netflix member, I heartily recommend renting the documentary on five songs called “Amazing Grace” — not the movie about William Wilberforce, though it has the same title — but a documentary on five songs, including It Is Well With My Soul.)

Please memorize all of It Is Well With My Soul, quieting yourself in the presence of God with it each morning, before you study.

Here are your questions to ponder for January 7, 8, and 9:

1. Looking at the first chapter of Job, what parallels do you see between Job and Horatio?

2.  Ponder verse 1 of It Is Well With My Soul. What new thoughts do you have, knowing the Spafford story?

3. According to the first chapter of Job, what was the reason that Job suffered? What thoughts or questions do you have about this?

4. Why did Satan think Job served God? What does loss reveal about our hearts?

5. Ponder the second verse of It Is Well With My Soul.  Do you think Satan may have also been behind Horatio’s tragedies? Why or why not?

6. What does Satan hope will happen to the Christian who suffers loss? What truths, according to the 2nd and 3rd verses of It Is Well With My Soul allowed Horatio to overcome Satan?

7. How can you apply this to your storm right now — or to storms in the future?

Finally — I want to issue a personal invitation to anyone in the Chicago area to sign up and come to the live event next Thursday at Moody.  I’ll be there and would love to meet any bloggers. Amy Shreve will be there, playing “It is Well With My Soul” on her harp as well as other great songs. I realize most of you cannot, though we covet your prayers, and hope you’ll listen online or on the radio! You can connect to the Midday site through my homepage.

I’m praying for you as you study! Thanks for praying for each other as well. He is with us.

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67 comments

  1. Hi all!

    1. Parallels between Job and Horatio:
    They both feared God.
    They both were wealthy.
    God had blessed both the work of their hands.
    They both lost their wealth.
    They both lost the children God had given them.
    They both praised God in the midst of their tradegy.
    Neither one blamed God for their tradegy.

    2. The new thought I had after reading the 1st stanza of “It is well
    with my soul,” is the thought that God “had taught” Horatio to say
    whether in good times or in bad (my translation), “It is well with
    my soul.”

    3. I think the reason, according to the first chapter of Job, of why
    Job suffered was to prove what was in his heart, after all these
    things were taken away from him.

    The question that comes to my mind is: “Why would God listen to
    Satan and put Job through all that grief?”

    4. Why did Satan think Job served God? I believe Satan thought Job
    served God because God had placed a hedge about him (made
    everything good for him). I think loss reveals what is “in” our hearts.

    1. Hi Teri,
      I’m wondering if what I just posted below (and a related question) might start to tap into some of the reasons why God let Satan attack Job. But I know my answer isn’t complete—maybe someone else can expand.

  2. 1. Both are experiencing great grief and while Job cried out to God, Horatio wrote it out in song. And I am so thankful for that song that helps me express, in his words, my own sorrow as I sing.
    2. We have peace…we have sorrow…but God our soul to sing on.
    Boy, is that hard to do sometimes. I guess that’s when we really cry out to HIM and be honest with our feelings.
    3. Satan wanted to test God’s people…I think He still is and we need to remember in ALL things God is in control…This song; “God is in control We believe that His children will not be forsaken God is in control We will choose to remember and never be shaken God is in control There is no power above or beside Him we know whoa o God is in control” song by Twila Paris I love to sing this when I need strength.

  3. I was curious if the hymn had changed since Spafford first wrote it. I found a couple more verses I hadn’t heard before (on Wikipedia):

    For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

    But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

    1. Oops! Now I am wondering if those two verses I just posted were added later, because here’s a copy of the original in Spafford’s handwriting:
      http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/americancolony/images/ac0008s.jpg

      (from a Library of Congress exhibit)

  4. God knew what was in Job’s heart, that he loved the Lord God no matter what and He was certain that Job would be respond in a blameless and upright manner as he did. Job had the free will any of us has, yet made the conscious decision to trust God. Job’s perseverance and steadfast spirit has certainly given me courage, especially the thought “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)

  5. Hi all! I’m encouraged 🙂

    3. I had either forgotten or never knew the sequence of events described in Job 1 — and this sequence changes my thoughts about Job’s suffering (as well as some difficulties of believers). I think the reason Job suffered was related to a spiritual battle, a “discussion” between the Lord and Satan, and that Job suffered BECAUSE he was godly. Scary! The Lord provided Job as an example to Satan FIRST, before Satan said that Job only served God because God had blessed him. In my eyes, this also “raises the status” of Job’s suffering. It was part of a “big picture” spiritual battle, and the Lord wouldn’t have provided Job as an example if He didn’t trust Job’s character.

    Focusing on the larger spiritual battle is encouraging because that means some of my suffering is not about me! (I do suffer for my sin and stupidity, too — and believe that God can redeem those difficulties, but I don’t think Job was suffering for his sin or stupidity). Beginning in childhood, I’ve observed situations in which believers were told they must be doing something wrong spiritually if their sufferings continued for a long time. But unless I’m completely misunderstanding this passage, Job’s story opens up the possibility that suffering may occur because the person’s relationship with God is sound enough to endure suffering, and thereby glorify God. This makes the suffering an honor. (and also is consistent with I Cor. 10:13).

    Question: When I the order of events in Job 1 first soaked in, I was wondering WHY God would “set Job up.” ??? Recognizing the bigger picture of a battle in the heavens, I’m “okay” with Job’s situation. Thoughts on this??

    1. Thanks Renee – good thoughts.

    2. Renee, thank you for your insight. As I was working through this question, I wondered myself why did God bring up the subject of Job (with Satan) in the first place? You are right, Satan did not first ask about Job, God mentioned him first. The idea of our sufferings being part of a bigger spiritual battle is encouraging, but also it is scary, suffering because a person is godly and can withstand it! I also thought of Peter, when Jesus told him that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat, and Jesus had prayed for him. Peter was not yet a spiritual giant, and I think his trials served to grow him into that future leader of the church.

  6. One more posting: A picture of the telegram from Anna to Horatio was also on the website listed above. I was curious about the other people mentioned in the telegram — so “googled” them. I’ve read a lot of junk online about the Spafford, but this article from Christian History seems solid (this is the cached version; original is no longer available)
    http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:GW5K3iX4jtwJ:www.christianhistorytimeline.com/GLIMPSEF/Glimpses2/glimpses210.shtml+willie+culver+goodwin&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    I was particularly impressed by reports of their children’s godly comments.

  7. Hi Ladies! I love this study. It’s really making me think and taking me deep. This portion of the study in particular gave me a lot to think about – and I mean a lot! – so I will be breaking down those thoughts over the next three days with three major points that I have written in my journal on this subject.

    I have titled it: “It is well with my SOUL”

    Beginning with the second verse of the song, which I am taking the time to learn (praise God!) I copied Horatio’s “Though Satan should buffet [strike] though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

    God is more concerned about our souls than our physical, mental, emotional, or circumstantial well being.

    Through reading the 1st chapter of Job and comparing the stories of their lives, a few key points have struck my heart (I’ll share #1 today, with #2, and #3 tomorrow – Lord willing, I’m learning to say that).

    #1 – As Job was considered “the greatest man among all the people of the East,” I think that there is a reality that because he was rich as well as righteous, that many – Satan included – saw him as being especially favored by God (and maybe this was so – but that is not the point). But God wanted to teach us a lesson through Job’s example. For it was God who suggested to Satan, in verse 8: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

    The lesson, to me, is that it is GOD – not things or people or even blessings that makes it all well with our souls. For our souls were not made for this world (for earth), but they were made to hope in the next (our heavenly dwelling).

    For too many people (myself included) seem to think that when a person is being blessed than God’s favor is upon them (and again that may be so) but then when trials come and things are taken away (a sickness happens, loved ones die, houses and business are burned down or goes bankrupt or are foreclosed upon, or the economy crashes, or a ministry does not go as planned) we then begin to wonder if God has taken away his blessings and if He is angry at us. But I think God was trying to prove a point here, even as Satan has pointed out, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” that this is not always the case. There is a greater story that God wants to reveal to us – a picture of His grace!

    As I also noticed that Horatio did not sing – “It is well with my heart… or it is well with my flesh… or it is well with my circumstances…” for surely he was grieving deeply over his losses. But God has taught him to say…”It is well with my SOUL!” – For even while it may seem like it is Satan who is doing the striking, it is ultimately GOD who is “in control.”

  8. Belinda,
    Love your #1, looking forward to #2 & #3. As you said, we are quick to credit God’s blessing when good things happen to us. Seems to me we are also quick to credit Satan’s curse when bad things happen to us. What the set up of Job says to me is that we might reconsider all that and credit everything to God’s blessing. In Job’s case, it is a blessing that he was chosen by God to suffer for the sake of his faith. Jesus, too, was blessed in that way … chosen to suffer. St. Francis of Assisi and many other holy people praised God for being worthy to suffer for their Lord. Many things in my life that have seemed like a curse have turned out to have been huge blessings. One of those is the letter I received today from my son in jail asking me to help him understand two pieces of scripture he is struggling with! Thank you, Lord, for immersing him in your words of comfort and hope!

    1. Thank you Janet. I’m praying for you and your son. I understand to some degree what it is like to have a son in trouble, as mine also had some trouble with the law a while back. It’s terribly heart wrenching to see someone you love so much go through trials that you cannot fix. Praise God that he is turning to the Lord and to you for understanding and counsel. Love it when that happens! God is good!!!

  9. Janet,I just don’t know what to say about how God has reached your son’s heart. It is too wonderful for words. It encourages me so much because of where my son’s heart it right now. He seems so hardened toward the Lord, but I know that many times that can be a facade. God has assured me that he will return! I am holding on to that and trying not to look at circumstances.

    I don’t have anything to add to the similarities between Job and Horatio.

    The song strikes me as saying that no matter what happens, the good news is that his soul is secure. God has provided for ‘his helpless estate’. While his circumstances are horrible, he can praise God because of this one fact. That is why it is well with his soul. I’m sure this also applied to his children. I noticed that Job made sacrifices for his children ‘in case they had sinned’.

    In question 3 I am reminded that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. God knew what was in Job’s heart but He did not argue with Satan. In fact He did not even respond, He just gave him the power to strike Job. Now why God brought the subject up is a mystery to me.

  10. 5. HARD question. Is “maybe” an adequate answer ?? 🙂 It’s possible that Satan might benefit from being involved because Horatio was a prominent man; in addition, there were several believers onboard the ship — so I guess Satan could have gotten some “points” (not exactly a biblical concept). Also, Horatio wrote “though Satan should buffet. . .” indicating that he thought attacks from Satan were a possibility. Satan was indirectly involved because the ship sinking and the death of Horatio’s son from illness were part of fallen humans living in a fallen world. From quickly reading the end of Job, I didn’t get the impression that Job ever learned of Satan’s involvement in his own tragedy (Is that correct?). We do know that Satan’s power on earth has been restrained. Both Job and Horatio trusted God — “Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

    My short answer to the question is either “maybe” or “I don’t know.” Whether sufferings are due to a direct hit from Satan or because we are fallen beings living in a fallen world, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (I Jn 4:4).

    Question: If when I am suffering (or even after a difficult season), what might be the pros/cons of knowing/trying to determine whether Satan was behind a tragedy?

    1. Good stuff here. Christ is the thought. His amazing and unconditional love for us. His sacrificing all He had to become like us (restricted in body) and live a sin-free life then to die on the cross losing fellowship with the Father for a time to bear all our sin. Then to beat death on our behalf. We will never be the same! Amazing God that we serve. That should overcome any lie of the enemy. Keeping our eyes on the gospel.

    2. Dee, Your question at the end hit me hard, not so much because I’ve been thinking (now anyway) that suffering proves He doesn’t love me, but because as I’ve been wrestling through this my focus gets “off-target.” Ultimately, the knowledge that “Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own blood for my soul” is proof that God loves me and trumps any struggling I might have regarding meaning of verses in Job or Psalms. Thanks!

  11. These are good thoughts, but I still struggle with question # 3. Because it still doesn’t seem very “loving” to me that God would “set” Job up, much like a prize fighter – like boy, have you seen my boy, he’s big, he’s strong, he can take it, so bring it on. That doesn’t seem very loving to me.

    I don’t think suffering was ever a part of God’s orginal plan, nor do I think death was. It was only after sin, that suffering and death came into the picture. Death was the penalty for our sin. And Christ came to defeat death, by dying for our sins, thus making a way for us to live forever.

    Now because sin and death entered the world, and I think sin brought suffering and it affected all of creation in various ways, but when sin entered the world it brought suffering with it. And I think God allows it for a season, but it won’t always be so. I don’t have all the answers but I think our suffering allows us to show our love to God, and our suffering can also be used to draw us closer to God. I think God redeems suffering but is not the cause of it.

    1. Teri, I like your prize-fighter analogy because that’s how the verse is striking me, too. The only hints at resolution that I have are that God knew Job and that it’s ultimately about God’s glory (which can’t be separated from His love for us). Seems like the prizefighter analogy is what “fits” at an emotional level; the assurance that God knew what Job could bear is starting to soak in; and the focus on God’s glory is still at an intellectual level for me.

      Some of my writing on this blog has probably been thinking “on paper,” and the Holy Spirit is changing me by my going to Scripture and thinking about this. Seems like when others post their thoughts on here, it is opening doors for me to see things differently or affirm what I already believe, then take my own thoughts to the Lord, meditate on Scripture, hymns, but I’m still not completely “settled” with answers to some questions. But I’m a whole lot more on some questions/answers than I was when I first read them. (Not sure if this paragraph makes any sense whatsoever!)

      1. Thanks Renee. I try and do the same. I love reading everyone’s thoughts and I also think I “think aloud” on paper. I don’t know that any “one” of us has all the answers – that’s proably why God made us “all” a part of the “Body.” I do like to bring up questions that linger on the “outskirts” of my mind. I know I may not get all the answers that my mind ponders, and ultimately, I think, we do have to “trust” when we don’t have all the answers – just knowing who God is. I appreciate your input on this blog and all the other ladies. Thanks Renee!

  12. 1-Job and Horatio are very alike.
    Both blameless before the Lord.
    Both feared God and shunned evil.
    Both had great losses of wealth then family.
    Both clung to the Lord despite the loss.

    2-These song lyrics just amaze me. He suffered great loss but could
    still say-“Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, it is well”
    God does teach us this in the midst of recovering from tragedy if we
    let him.

    3-suffered because there were none like him on earth, blameless and
    upright man who fears God and turns away from evil-Job 1:8

    Really I think we fail when we live with a sense of entitlement in
    our walks with the Lord. God does give and take away and still we
    need to chose to say blessed be His name-as the contemporary song goes
    It seems to be a honor or privledge to suffer. God knew his servant
    Job’s heart.

    4-Satan though Job served God because God blessed him.
    Loss reveals what really is in our hearts and the reasons why we love
    and serve God. It purifies our faith and makes it real and strong if
    we go toward God.

    5-Perhaps. I really wonder about tragedies and who is behind it. Either
    way though God is in control and all has to filter through His hands
    so it is something we will not really know until we are in glory.

    6-That they turn away and curse God. Christ.

    7-Truly trust God be strong in Him. Know who He is and His real character
    Know His great love for you and then cling tight to that in the storm.
    That rock will keep you strong in the darkest of hours.

    Wish I was in Chicago!! That will be fun. Praying for you!

  13. Job lost his business to fire and all of his children were killed by an enemy. Horatio lost his business to fire and all his children died by drowning on a sinking ship.
    2. When peace like a river attended my way..When sorrow like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Knowing that his children died by drowning, the parallel (when sorrows like sea billows roll) is uncanny. He was sticken by grief with this loss and the song came from the depths of his brokeness. Wow!
    3. Job suffered because of his perfect life…huh? That doesn’t make sense to me. The devil challenged God in saying that Job could be broken and break his relationship with God. Job proved the devil wrong. Wow, that throws a spin on the assumption that bad things happen to bad people. Wow!

  14. Loved your responses to these questions. God is in control and He is teaching us to trust Him right along with Horatio and Job that His love and His grace goes far beyond this life. This brings me to point #2 that I wrote in my journal to share, as I agree with so many of you that because we do live in a fallen world where sin and Satan dwells, for a time (and only for a time) God has given him access to our lives. I love the short rope analogy. And I trust that God, through the sufferings of Christ, has already given us the victory!

    As I was reading the account of Horatio’s story, about how he had lost his business (which must have been extremely hard for a man) and then all of his children, the part of his story that I found extremely heartbreaking was when he heard not only that all four of his daughters had died but that his wife had lived. And then wrote to him in her most desparate estate “Saved alone. What shall I do?” For it was then that I realized that he must have been under incredible pressure to “pull it together” for her.

    It then made me wonder, did he write this song for her? For surely her letter must’ve have been haunting him as he was on his way (I assume) to get her, when the ship took him by the place where his daughter’s lives were taken. And so it made me think of the role that such a leader in God’s kingdom might take, as both Horatio and Job also had surviving wives and stood as a witness to these grieving women.

    With that in mind, as I titled this part of the study “It is well with my SOUL” – I wondered if Horatio thought of the following scripture reference when he wrote his song:

    “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~Matthew 10:28-30, NIV

    If he knew this truth – then he also must’ve known that God was in control and that his children’s bodies were not the end of them. This reminds me of a man, who upon attending his son’s funeral (he had four sons in all) kept saying, I still have four sons. Because he understood that the soul and the body were separate. God is never surprised by death or loss, as I have learned a long time ago that “God either causes it or allows it.”

    In thinking about the similarities between Job and Horatio’s lives, I was also reminded of another man who seems to have been “caught in the crossfire” in a similar battle between Satan and God (I’ll share more about this tomorrow). Which brings me to this next verse, beginning in Matthew 16:24-26:

    After Jesus rebuked Peter for being a stumbling block to Him and for not having in his “mind the things of God but the things of men” (see the previous passage in vs. 21-23) – he went on to say to His disciples, “If anyone would come after me,” he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can man give in exchange for his soul?”

    This world in not our home. All we can do is trust in God and pick up our cross and move on, as Horatio’s song and the testimony of his life represents. As Christians, we are all called to “take up his cross,” suffering included: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18, NIV).

  15. Belinda, I think one of your gifts must be encouragement because everytime I read your remarks, I’m encouraged! Thank you.

    1. Thank you Mary for that encouragement! I used to think so, but I was so discouraged before I began this study that I was beginning to wonder. This study and all of you ladies have been a blessing and have brought comfort to my soul. Praying for you all! 🙂

  16. The prize fighter analogy would seem to fit this scenario but it does not fit what we know about God. His ways are not our ways seems very trite. A good pat answer for when I just don’t understand. But I am seeing this more and more as I watch God. It is humbling. He is awesome and holy, wise way beyond my understanding. I look at how I parent. I love my children, therefore I may or may not do the hard things. I want to bail them out of difficult or hard situations. I do things for them, way too any things. But God has a syllabus! A lesson plan that goes so much better if I submit to it. Because He is merciful it can take me years to learn, to really learn, a very simple thing. I love the last chapters of Job when God shows up. What did Job learn? God certainly had his attention.

    1. Thanks, Anne! Great — and encouraging–reminder “but it does not fit what we know about God.” And God, knowing Him and who He is, focusing on Him (vs getting distracted by my “issues”) is ultimately my source of strength and comfort.

      I smiled at the syllabus example because I have to finish writing one in the next couple of days —- and not too long ago, I pointed out syllabus information to a student. I need to remember THE syllabus — it really helps to read it 🙂 I have this big grin on my face as I’m writing this, because the syllabus example says to me “Practice what you preach!” So thank you, both for encouragement to look at what I know about God and motivation to finish a syllabus! (I expect I’ll be grinning until my “grin” muscles get shaky)

      1. Renee, you must be a teacher. I have the highest regard for teachers because I am so not one. It takes such a strength of character. I will pray for your syllabus and it’s execution in the lives of your students.

        1. Thanks! This week, a snowstorm and this Bible study helped my strength of character for teaching 🙂 Next week, I’ll be working a little more!!

  17. I am enjoying all the good comments.
    I keep thinking of the old saying that God is not as interested in my comfort as he is in my character. I believe Dee mentioned that earlier.
    I work with the elderly in home health and on Wednesday night I sat with an elderly Christian lady who is gravely ill. She has dementia and can’t pray for herself. All night long I kept praying for her comfort and the Lord kept reminding me of the line “Christ has regarded my helpless estate…” It was precious how the Holy Spirit seemed to sing that line to me each time she cried out. It ministered to both of us.
    These trials may seem hard but I’ll take them if it means I know my Father better and become more like Him! That is the goal after all.
    Question 7: Horatio was heaven minded. When bad things happened to him he remembered what was in his future. That glorious hope that we share. This world and it’s trials are all temporary.

    1. Kim, do I recognize a fellow nurse here? Only in the last few years have I realized how much I love nursing. I think because now I work in a recovery room. I can be as nurturing and comforting as I want to be, then send them to the unit and let the nurses there do the hard things like getting up and all that.

      I know this is off subject but all this talk about teachers and nurses and Dee being in Chicago makes me think of The Yada Yada Prayer Group. Has anyone read these books? I highly recommend them but not until we finish the study. I could not stop until I had devoured every one of them. I do wish we were all in the same city.

      1. Loved the first yada yado book! That would be cool if we were all in the same city.

        1. Maybe we CAN all be in the same city — for a day over a weekend or during the summer when teachers have part of it off and nurses must have a day or two off sometime 🙂

        2. That would be fun. I wonder how far we are spread out

      2. Hi Anne,
        I own/manage a small caregiving service and take some hours with my clients because I love people and enjoy the hands on work.

    2. Hi Kim, as I too am serving God as a fulltime caregiver for my mother-in-love, she has dementia also, along with a lot of other serious health issues and I know how difficult it can be to be a strength and bring comfort to someone who is so weak. But God… in this, He is also teaching me so much about how He truly does regard us in our helpless estate as I think of how much I love her, “though I am wicked,” and want to build her up, as this verse also often comes to my mind regarding my current ministry – “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children [in this I think of my mother-in-law who often now acts like a child, but this can apply to other people as well], how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:9-12, NIV). When we serve others, even in our helpless estate – He blesses us!

      1. Hi Belinda,
        I cared for both of my husband’s parents before they died and I know how difficult and how blessed it can be. Bless you as you bless her!

  18. Dee, forgive me because I am going to go a little off track here, but I must tell you Dee, what wonderful gems you have here in this book. I couldn’t help but read ahead, and honestly the more I read the more I am touched. It’s like a treasure full of different gems, and each gem as you hold it up to the light – it is almost too much to take in! Thank you for this.

  19. Hi Dee! Hi all!
    Wow Dee, that’s a hard question! “Does God ever cause suffering?” Two verses come to my mind as I think about this. The first one is in Jeremiah, Jeremiah 55:8,9, which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And the second verse I think of is also in Jeremiah, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

    I think God looks way beyond what we look at sometimes. We see our lives often as being rooted here in this life. But I think God has a far more eternal perspective. And often, we cry out, “oh Lord, what are you doing?” Often, in suffering, we take our eyes off this world, and cast them on the next. Isn’t this good of God? To help us take our eyes off this world and put them on the next?

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

  20. Qu 4.Why did Satan think Job served God? Satan cannot understand a heart that is not like his. He was sure that Job must be getting something in return for devotion to God. Loss reveals motives. If our devotion is self serving how likely are we to remain devoted when we are no longer served. Love, on the other hand, cannot let go.

  21. Qu.5. Was Satan behind Horatio’s tragedies. Yes and no. He was the author of the tragedies, meaning he thought them up, but without God allowing him the power he could do nothing.

  22. Qu 6. What does Satan hope will happen to Christians who suffer loss. Just what Job’s wife told him to do, “curse God and die”! (how easily careless words come out!)

    The truth that allowed Horatio to over come Satan was the gospel, but as his sorrow rolled over him like sea billows, I don’t think that is what was on his mind. It must have come to him by divine revelation. God’s life preserver for him in the deep waters. Not thrown to him but there all the time. I’m so glad I am not blubbering all over you all. That’s one good thing about being on line.

    We can apply this truth to our storm by faithfully going back to the gospel. Communion has at times been something of a mystery to me, but I think the light may be coming on. Remember…

  23. Dee, I did the Forever in Love with Jesus study last year. I’m sure you hear stories often about how God uses your studies, because He does. So here comes another one.

    In the winter of 2008 I went to a retreat at a church in Chapel Hill NC where you spoke. I was a bout 3 months out from brain surgery and separated from my unsaved husband.

    I was so blessed by your presentation and still listen to the audio from time to time. I wanted to get a study, actually, I wanted them all, but my resources were limited and I have wasted money that way. So I asked the Lord to lead me to the right one. Forever in Love with Jesus was it. So I bought it and put it in the bedside table.

    My husband came to salvation in May of that year, (as a result of prayer that went up the day of that conference I am sure) and in September my son and I moved back home. The study went in the bookcase.

    Some time later I was drawn back to Hosea. This book has been central in my life for many years. I’ve read it over and over for this reason. I read it again but was not satisfied. So I thought what should I do? Maybe I should read Redeeming Love again. I couldn’t find it anywhere, but I did find the study in the bookcase. I was flabbergasted when I saw that it was on Hosea.

    Through that study God took me to the depths of my stone cold heart and brought forgiveness and healing. When you mention the 2nd chapter of Hosea I don’t know what to say. Words are just not enough. Yes God takes us into the wilderness at times but it is a blessed thing.

  24. 6. Satan may be satisfied when we do ANYTHING instead of, or as a substitute for, trusting God. Many GOOD activities or “interventions” help get through periods of grief or pain; these might include medication, therapy, exercise, relationships with others. But when when I substitute or DEPEND (instead of God) on any of those as my primary source of comfort, Satan will be satisfied, and I am “set up” for another crash later. When medications quit working, weather or declining health prevents exercise, and people let me down, God still is and always has been trustworthy. Certainly, Satan has been satisfied when I’ve turned to self-destructive behaviors that do temporarily relieve pain. But those outward behaviors reflect what’s inside; a lack of overt self-destructive behavior doesn’t mean I’m leaning on God as my source of comfort (but it does mean that I’m less likely to be “judged” by other people). In God’s eyes, “good” coping behaviors (without focusing on Christ) may not be any better than “bad” ones; what’s important is whether I’m looking to Him. (This paragraph is SO different from what I would expect others to tell me — am I really off track?)

    Truths in verses 2 & 3 of It is Well With My Soul: Christ died for MY sins; he rose again. My sin has been nailed to the cross; the ultimate battle has already been won —- and I can rest in that, in Him. (I’m chomping at the bit — and restraining myself from not posting about the last verse!)

  25. I see that it is God who brings up Job’s name. Vs.8 and I believe God leads us into the wilderness for our ultimate good.
    I think of the verse that says every good and perfect gift comes from above…answers whether God “causes” suffering, but God does allow it. Wasn’t it Peter who Jesus told he would be sifted as wheat?
    I’m having a little difficulty with Hosea 2:15-18.

  26. 7. I’ve been avoiding this question—it hurts to be honest enough to address it (Anne, the word “blubbering” described me, too 🙂 I don’t even like blubbering on myself!)

    I can apply this by seeking the Lord daily, moment by moment, memorizing Scripture and hymns so that they are in my brain/heart so that the Spirit can bring them to my mind during my deepest needs. And I know God is faithful, and will sustain me. But I think God is pointing out something else that is much more difficult for me right now: my self-deception. On the first day of this study, I posted that I was between storms right now. That’s not entirely true, although I’m not experiencing the worst storm of my life. Some of the peace I experience is from trusting God, but I also experience pseudo-peace by not thinking about something (i.e., avoidance). Although the ability to choose to focus elsewhere temporarily is good, even essential, when compartmentalizing my life becomes habit, it’s easy for self-deceit to slip in. What I’ve recently been experiencing may be the comfortable insulation of my padded cell — occasionally leaving to wade in a wavy lake. Locking myself away from sea billows (or at least white-capped waves) does not honor God either, unless I’m locking myself away to focus on Him. Rather than “between storms,” it might be more truthful to say that I am in a weather advisory or storm watch area.

    1. It is easy to bury stuff and not even realize we are doing it, but God is so faithful and merciful and perfect. He will take care of it. He does not beat us over the head with stuff. He allures us to Himself and leads us gently to understanding. You can have peace even in the storm because He will take care of it, all of it. I truly believe this so please remind me next week.

      1. I’ve just been reading/praying/crying and decided to check this blog before I attempted to get some work done. Your replies encouraged me — and then I read the last sentence “I truly believe this so please remind me next week.” I burst out laughing!! Isn’t that the truth?! We do need reminders.

  27. Good Day Ladies!

    In trying to answer to Dee and Teri’s question, “does God ever cause suffering?” I’d have to consider that for a while, but I do believe He allows it, and even knows about it before it happens. Proverbs 16:9 says: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Yet, He does not leave us alone in our suffering. This is why the “Valley of Achor [trouble]” (as mentioned in Hosea 2) can become a door of hope.

    In Isaiah 54:16-17, NIV: It was the LORD who said, “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

    Which brings me to my final point on this portion of the study – In Romans 8:28, we read “Ane we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son [the ultimate prize fighter], that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) And those he predistined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (31) What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (33) Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” – To get more out of this passage, please keep reading through verse 39, but for the sake of space and time I will not post the whole thing.

    In Hebrews 2:10, we are told that “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

    So therefore, we should not consider that our suffering would be anything less than for the purpose of making us mature and complete in Christ. Just as God allowed Satan to buffet [strike] Job and Horatio, He also allowed him to “sift” Peter (who also, like me, has made rash vows to God that he could not keep) “like wheat.” See Luke 22:31. But the good news is found in verse 32 – “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Which also leads me to believe that our sufferings are never just for our sakes alone, but God uses them to serve as a witness to others of His amazing grace and the power of His restoration.

    The cool thing about Job and Horatio and even Simon Peter (who was also married by the way – though not much is said about her in the Bible) is that while Satan may have been given temporary access into their lives to produce temporary pain and suffering, not one of them gave up on God. They all were restored and continued to praise God and completely live for His glory, while others watched on and were touched by their witness, and then… they all too eventually died to the sorrows of this world.

    For an additional blast of God’s super-power strength, try reading the words that were written by Simon Peter, after he was restored by God in 1 Peter 1:3-12 – Woo Hoo!

    1. Loved your response, Belinda!! I looked up the 1 Peter passage. The word “restored” that you used near the end is helping to unlock the Hosea passage for me.

      Hosea 2 describes what will happen to Mrs. Hosea/Israel. She hasn’t been faithful, and she will have ALL her stuff and relationships taken away. Then when she has nothing, the Lord will
      “allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards
      and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
      And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
      as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15

      According to this God may take away our stuff to keep us from harming ourselves and to prevent us from reflecting poorly on Him. Without all the stuff, we become free to hear Him and respond to His call. When we turn to Him, He takes care of us.

      Question: From the genealogies in the passage, it appears that Hosea and Gomer were real people, and their example is powerful. But God’s command to Hosea to marry a prostitute seems inconsistent with the “don’t be unequally yoked” instructions in the New Testament. Is this one of those things that I won’t understand this side of heaven, or is there another explanation? (I know this question is a tangent, but I think of it every time I read anything in Hosea).

      1. I think the key may be in the fact that Hosea was a prophet and many times God commanded the prophets to do unusual things to “illustrate” something that He wanted to tell the people. While Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet with good reason, I think Hosea had a very tough call. His marriage was an illustration of God’s relationship with His unfaithful people.

  28. The Hosea passage reminded me of “He Giveth More Grace” by Annie Johnson Flint. God desires to be in relationship with us and to bless us 🙂

    1. He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

    2. When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

    3. Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
    Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
    Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
    The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

    4. His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

    I’m praying the verses above will encourage you, too.

  29. Hi everyone! I love reading all your thoughts – I’m encouraged by all. Belinda, I loved how you said, God is conforming us to the image of His son – this super “hero” of ours – the “ultimate prizefighter.” This does shed a different light on it for me.

    When I thought about Hosea – being unequally yoked, the thought that came to my mind was, was he? I know in the New Testament it says, do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but my question would be in Hosea’s day, weren’t the Jewish people all considered God’s people, and was Gomer not Jewish? I don’t know, that is just a question.

    Hosea is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I love how God is seen there, wooing back unfaithful Israel. The book to me is full of the “emotion” of God.

    I still cannot answer the question, whether or not God causes suffering, I do know, by the Word, that He does lead us into the wilderness. Jesus, too, was led into the wilderness. I do think one of the greatest things that God desires is our relationship with him, that is why “we are stripped of all these things” that our eyes once again may turn to him. Thank you for all your wonderful comments and thoughts! Blessings to you ladies!

  30. Ladies, my love just grows deeper for each of you as I read all your responses. I just want you all to know that I am learning so much just “listening.”

    This suffering question has been a question I have lived with for most of my life regarding health issues from age twelve until now age 34. It comes and goes in my life in debilitating tides. I do not know when it will hit and do not know when it will leave. Praise the Lord I am in a period of remission of whatever and doing really well. I have learned that though God desires the best for us that health is something that I am not entitled too. Just like I am never entitled to anything. Only God’s grace gives us the gifts that He gives. If it is His will to use this ongoing struggle to encourage others and grow me(which it greatly has) then I am at His will in it. I know He allows it so I must trust. Yet not live in fear of when and what will hit next but just enjoy the moment that He has given me. Oh how I yearn for perfect health in Heaven. 🙂

    Falling In Love with Jesus really changed my life and perspective on suffering. I used to think it was something I did wrong. But as I grow in Him I see that though at times it may be discipline that is always not the case. God desires for me to be more like Him and I prayed that He just do whatever it takes by getting rid of what is me so I shine only Him. If that is a way He will work it out then I am grateful, yet it is still very painful. So I have just determined to trust. It is easy to say it now when I am doing well. May I remember when the storm hits again.

    Blessings to you all and lifting you all up in prayer. May He grow us together in understanding of His love and ways.
    Angela

  31. #4. What does loss reveal aout our hearts?

    As I answered this, the “our” became “my” heart. It was revealing, and painful. Lots of tears, and a time to repent. I wrote in my journal: Loss reveals what we really think about God.
    Do we really love and trust Him?
    Is He really the most important in our life, our treasure above all else, or is our stuff or other people?
    Reveals our maturity, or immaturity, spiritually.
    How deep do our roots in Christ really go?
    Just how firm a foundation in the Lord do we really have?
    Is my faith really real?
    Do I love God or just what He give me?
    Loss will reveal the true condition of my relationship with God. If I have been nurturing it, getting to know Him, spending time with Him, relying on Him all along, then I will turn to Him as a trusted Friend.

    If I have drifted from Him, not cared for our relationship, that lack of intimacy wilal be revealed as God will feel more like turning to a stranger for help. I may feel God is punitive, punishing me or another. I can see the wisdom in staying close to God and being in the Word at all times. The time to do it is not when tragedy strikes.

    This was a convicting question for me as I reflect on how I reacted to my loss. I cried out to God, but my lack of a consistent prayer life and lack of pursuing intimacy with Jesus was revealed.

    I remember that “in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” Job 1:22

  32. #6. Satan hopes that the Christian who suffers loss will give up, be defeated, useless anymore for God’s purposes, sink into depression and despair, “curse God to His face”, as he hoped Job would do, give up on God, turn against God, even commit suicide.
    Satan wants to see the person utterly destroyed. Perhaps turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the pain, or be overtaken with anger and bitterness.

  33. All of your responses have stretched me, grown me, affirmed me…thank you so much…

    A few comments/ponderings…

    Our response to loss tells us who we are in Christ – or are not. It sure did for me.

    Christ was fully aware of Horatio’s tragic loss (and Job’s) and fully understood his grief. He knew these kinds of losses could undo us and gave Himself up for us so that He could indwell us through the Holy Spirit to bring the rock-solid foundation we would need to stand through those losses…that we would be held when we could not stand…that we would know we are never alone…

    When utter devastation came upon me, I ran to Jesus. I didn’t know that I’d done that, at first. It took quite a while…and when I finally realized what I’d done, my soul sang that I knew I was His. I “saw” the work of His hand and His great love in my soul. That gave me the strength to continue…to persevere…and brought me to a level of trust I had not ever known before. It healed my soul like nothing else. I know He is real. I know there is more than what I can see and feel. That is what Job’s testimony affirmed for me.