God’s Word Amidst Hard Changes (Part 1 of 3)

One of my favorite things to do is to listen to the speakers during the gathering time right before our women’s Bible Studies on Thursday mornings. Though I haven’t gotten to many gathering times this fall, I am always encouraged by the gifted speakers.

A recent talk I attended was so good I want to share it with you. So “listen” in the next couple of weeks, as Tana Tuttle gives us her insights on the first 9 verses of Joshua 1:

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.                     Joshua 1:1-2

Change is almost always hard! Everyone faces this unwelcome guest many times throughout his or her life. We may not know when change will hit, but there are ways to navigate through it. In Joshua 1, we find several concrete and substantial elements that are essential to move through those changes.

We can always find the direction we need in God’s living and active Word. God is up to something in everything He sovereignly allows in your life and mine ~ be encouraged that His unchanging character and nature will undergird all the changes we will encounter. Let’s turn to Joshua 1 and see how!

First, however, we need a little background. As we come to Joshua 1, we see that a chapter in Israel’s history had come to an end. Moses, having heard from God out of the burning bush, had returned to Egypt to lead this group of probably two to three million people from Egypt to the Promised Land. Moses had been their strong leader, one who knew God face to face. In fact, the entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses recounting what God had said specifically to the Israelites (see Deuteronomy 1:3).

But now their fearless leader is dead. We are told that the Israelites mourn for Moses for 30 days, then, as we see in Joshua 1:1, the Lord speaks. This implies that for 30 days the Lord didn’t speak.

This would have been one of the most difficult times in Israel’s history. They were on the threshold of the promised land when Moses died……and then God was silent.

I wonder if perhaps some of you are in a “30 days” when God is not speaking. Perhaps something has happened ~ medically, financially, relationally ~ in your extended family , or maybe there’s just a host of difficult challenges confronting you, and God seems silent.

There will be times in our walk with God that He doesn’t “speak.” Often these are times that we feel we need Him the most.

But I believe that the reason God didn’t speak to the Israelites is. . . that He had already spoken.

Moses had faithfully recorded everything God said, everything the Israelites had needed to know. (see Deuteronomy 1:3 again) This 30-day period was a time not only to mourn Moses death, but to remember what God had said. God desires that we focus on what He has said, not on who delivers the message. God wanted the Israelites to depend upon Him, and He had already given them everything they would need for the next stage of their journey.

God had not changed His mind about anything He had said. Sometimes for us, like for the Israelites, God doesn’t speak because He has already spoken. 

In Joshua 1:2, when God speaks, He says “Moses, my servant is dead”. Well, now, that seems a bit obvious. God waits 30 days after the crisis, and then God tells them the obvious, Moses is dead. There was no question about that.

So why in the world would God’s first word in thirty days be to speak the obvious? I believe that God was helping the Israelites to acknowledge the facts. He was telling them the obvious because it had to be faced. God never asks us to pretend everything is just fine, or to sweep a hard situation under the rug and hope it goes away. God is a realist. God “honored” their loss and their grief; He designed us to need the release of emotions loss brings, whether it is the loss of a job, a pet, or something catastrophic. Big or small, He will allow us time to grieve our losses.

God had given the Israelites 30 days to mourn, to regroup, to get their emotions out, to face their loss. He was acknowledging how their lives had changed, giving them time to accept their new normal. I don’t know about you, but my life has gone through quite a few “new normals.” The Lord has never rushed me through my grief, but there comes a time when it is unhealthy to continue grieving, and God will gently move us on. In verse 1, I believe God makes a clear statement. He is saying: “This is your situation. It’s time to acknowledge and accept it.”

God will not pretend. He will not sugar coat anything. He will always tell us the truth. Remember, God will always acknowledge the truth that needs to be faced.

What’s the next word in your Bible? In my translation it is “now”. “Now” means….Now! In the present! Right away! Such a little word, but so important. Why is “now” such an important word?

tana photo

Tana and her daughter Kara

The first statement God made when He spoke after 30 days of silence was what had happened in the past (“Moses, my servant if dead”). But “now” implies the present.   Why is this word “now” so important? Because no matter what your situation is, no matter what has happened, no matter what your new normal is, or your current difficulties, God desires to speak into the present “Now.” Today.

Remember, God never plans to leave you in the past; there is always a “now” word coming from God.

(To be continued next week!)

For Olivia

I met Olivia when she was barely a year old. She was just a couple of months younger than our son Morgan, and they were fast friends before they could even talk. Well, at least before Morgan could talk. As an IMG_4552
18-month old, he couldn’t say “Olivia” so settled for GG. It made the more verbal Olivia furious. She would respond, clear as a bell, “My name is O-li-vi-a!” Of course, we called her our GG ever after!

Olivia was a child full of joy. She and Morgan laughed together often as they recreated our playroom–as a fort, a hovercraft, or a Power Rangers movie set.

But Olivia was no pushover. We teased her for years about when, as a 5- or 6-year-old, she kicked her shoe across an exam room at my husband’s office, fighting to avoid getting a shot.

oliviawithnameplacardOlivia was strong, smart, and kind. She overcame more adversity than any child should have to endure, without losing hope or her sense of humor. Even as distance kept us from in-person visits, it was a joy to hear how she exceled at school and in life. I loved listening to her dream about the places she’d travel and the
adventures she’d have.

But sometimes life dishes out more than even the strong can handle. Such was the case for Olivia. She fought till the end, pushing forward as best she could. But the struggle finally became too hard. The darkness won the battle.

It’s hard to believe that Olivia is gone. We will miss her laugh, her compassion, and her fighting spirit. We will mourn all that she was and all that she never got to be.

But I hope that we will also get angry. Angry enough to fight against the world’s violence. Angry enough to look for others who are hurting and fight alongside them for health and wholeness. Angry enough to make the world a place where others don’t have to fight so hard.

Though darkness won the battle, I am thankful to know that it did not win the war. In her best moments, Olivia knew that God was with her in the midst of her pain and struggles. It’s good to know that He is with her now, her Source of eternal comfort and healing.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

Julie Valentine Center (sexual assault and child abuse hotline) 864-467-3633

CRISISLine (Mental Health America) 864-271-8888

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Getting Unstuck from Grief

by Beth Marshall
Every day I drive by this quaint antique shop. It might be my imagination, but it appears to be the same charming furniture outside every single day. In the morning the antique treasures are carefully placed in the front yard, and every evening they are brought back inside. A few Coca-Cola chairs may have been added since the turn of the century, but otherwise it seems the process is repeated every day. For the antique store, it seems like time has stood still.
The death of someone you care about deeply is one of life’s most difficult challenges. It’s easy to fall into a rut of doing the same things day after day. And while a repetitive routine may add to an antique store’s charm, in a time of grief, it can leave you lonely and feeling stuck in the sorrow.
If you’re struggling to move forward in a time of grief, would you consider trying something different to help break through the intense sadness? Hopefully one of these ideas will help:
Help yourself first.  Remember the crew on your last airplane flight, instructing you to “place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others?” The same applies to people who are grieving. Whether it’s an early morning walk, listening to music or creating something artistic, intentionally taking care of yourself will help as you journey through a time of grief.
Remember. Memories of your loved one’s life are treasured gifts to keep close in your heart. Take some time to record memorable stories and save photos in a notebook or journal. Remembering happier times is a beautiful way to honor the person you’re missing and allow some light into a challenging season of life.
Get help. People who have been where you are now can be a great source of hope and encouragement. It might take a few visits to know if a support group is a good fit for you, but don’t give up. A caring group or maybe a professional grief therapist can provide a safe place to process traumatic loss.
Never forget the timeless promise in Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That’s news we all need to hear!
Beth Marshall is a speaker, freelance journalist and author of A Time to Heal, a grief journal. She will be a member of the Grief Panel at Take Heart 2014 (www.TakeHeartTogether.com/conference).To contact Beth, please email info@atimetohealjournal.com.  Or visit http://www.atimetohealjournal.com/  for more nuggets of encouragement through grief.