Do not be far from me


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Do not be far from me
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
23:1 Then Job answered:
23:2 "Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning.
23:3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!
23:4 I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
23:5 I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me.
23:6 Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me.
23:7 There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.
23:8 "If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him;
23:9 on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
23:16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;
23:17 If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm 22:1-15
22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.
22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
22:4 In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
22:5 To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
22:6 But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people.
22:7 All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
22:8 "Commit your cause to the LORD; let him deliver-- let him rescue the one in whom he delights!"
22:9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother's breast.
22:10 On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
22:11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
22:12 Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
22:15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

One of the most important parts of our church service is the sharing of our Joys and Concerns. There are a number of reasons for this, and one of this is practical. It is a sharing of information. We learn about what is going on in the body of the church.

We like hearing the Joys. We can hear who is having a baby. That is always a joy; it is a new soul coming into the world. The parents might need our help. You can take them a covered dish. Maybe slip them an envelope with a twenty in it. You can learn who is getting married and who has been married for 50 years.

But there are also the concerns, and you hear about the folks who are sick and the folks who’ve lost a loved one. These are opportunities for you to help as well. Often a covered dish and a twenty will help there as well.
But there is a value beyond simply sharing the information. It is a part of our education about what it is to be a human being. It is the great story of living and dying being told over and over again.

Now you can learn all of this news down at the coffee shop, but when you hear it in church you might be in a more thoughtful mood, you might try to tie it to God, and you might be able to see that some of this is going to happen to you.

One of these days you might get married, you might have a baby, you might get sick, you might lose someone you love, and you might even die yourself.
You know what I can practically guarantee each of those last three is going to happen to you.

We’ve had a lot of changes going on in my household and one of these is that I’ve got a new job in administration at the university. I’ve learned to divide my work up into two types. There is the stuff we do every day that we get better at, and eventually it comes as second nature. Then there is the stuff we don’t do very often, and it can be a problem. We don’t do it very often, we don’t get to practice it, and quite frankly it’s such a big pain in the backside we don’t want to do it very often.

I am sure you’ve come across things like this in your own work. When this happens, it helps if you’ve kept your ears open so that you have some idea of what is on the horizon. If you’ve reached out to help others when they’ve been in these situations themselve, it puts you in a better place when it is your turn to endure whatever is sent your way.

It also helps to know that you are not alone. I am not saying this in the sense that misery loves company. I am saying that it does help when somebody says “I’ve been there before, Buddy. I know how it feels; I know that it hurts.”

I can find comfort in knowing that whatever I may go through has been endured by others before me—even death. Death is the ultimate one time activity.

That sounds funny, and I don’t really mean it to.

The scriptures I’ve read today are not happy scriptures, and I don’t mean for them to be. There are not a lot of big belly-laughs in the book of Job, and the reading from the Psalms is one Christ quoted from the Cross. It is one of the saddest passages in the Bible.

We read the Bible not because we like everything in it, but because it shows us life in the way it really is. It shows us all of life, not just sweet babies, not just beautiful girls in white wedding gowns, not just fuzzy puppies. It shows us Job covered in boils. It shows us Christ hanging from the cross. Life has all of those parts, and God is with us in each and every part.
You might be closer to God when you are in a hospital bed attached to a morphine drip than when you buy a new car.

You might be closer to God when you are standing by a graveside than when you take off in an airplane to go on vacation in Hawaii.

You might be closer to God when you have lost your job and don’t know when your next meal is coming from than when you get that promotion.
Sometimes when we are stripped down to our essentials there is less to get in the way. When we lose it all, there is less between us and God.
Don’t get me wrong. We work for success, and we want to keep our health, but God is there with us in the pit, even when we can’t see him, ever when we can’t feel him, he is there.

At that point we can cry out: Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.

We pray that such a day would never come. We pray that those days of trial would be short, but God is with us in the blackness.
Our Father, be with us in the blackness. Be with us in our time of trials. Let us know you are with us even then. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus who carried all of our suffering. AMEN.

The God in the valley is the same God as the One on the mountaintop, but we are more likely to take His hand in the valley so He may lead.

Thanks Okie--

I know about those valleys. They do make the mountaintops more meaningful.

As you know, I always enjoy your articles, even when I don't have time to comment. I am a subscriber to your newsletter. I still haven't caught up. I am enjoying your filmmaking ventures, as well. My husband is quite interested in amateur filmmaking--he hasn't posted anything on the Net, but I have seen some of his work. Not bad.


Edit: I guess I am travelling through one of those valleys right now. My mom is real sick. Pray for us, please. (And thanks to the three or four of you who have been doing that the past few days. I don't have many chances to log in right now, but maybe you will see this.)
InLove: :kitty: vibes being sent to your entire family. *meowr*

Okie: As usual, something rather profound (even though I'm not familiar with the excerpt concerning Christ, I am quite familiar with the excerpt from Job.) *meh*

Phyllis Sidhe_Uaine