There are so many parenting “experts” out there. People love to give unsolicited advice to young parents. Some tell a visibly upset mother in the grocery store, “You’re going to miss this,” as her kid practically melts onto the dirty floor during a fit. Some insist on reminding parents, “They grow up so fast, enjoy every minute!” And some hear your struggles only to respond with, “Oh, just wait until they get older,” like it’s a competition. But one piece of advice that I’ve hung onto is a quote by author Catherine M. Wallace, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” Ouch. That one resonates. So I’ve tried to implement this as silly as their problems sometimes seem.
Last week my son got a Happy Meal which included a Fast and Furious toy car. When my daughter got home, she wanted to play with the new car, too. Our house rule is that if one kid gets a new toy, that first day they are allowed to be the one to play with it whenever they want. After that, it’s fair game to be shared like any other toy. But my son took it a bit too far, telling his sister, “You’ll never get to hold it.” My daughter came to me upset, having walked from the playroom that literally contains about 200 other cars to choose from. She gave me the full report including how upset she was about him banning her for life from this cheap little car. As I’m trying to keep my eyeballs from rolling so hard that I see the back of my head, I’m reminding myself of the quote by Catherine Wallace. And man, it’s hard. I know that if she heard herself saying this even a couple of years from now she would understand just how trivial this is. I ended up saying something to the point of, “If you only knew how small of a problem this is, you would not be so upset.” It may not have been Catherine Wallace approved, but as I was speaking, I immediately recognized that this is something God often says to me.
I felt God pointing me toward the book of Job, which isn’t exactly the feel-good section of the Bible. It is an account of a meeting between God and Satan. God permits Satan to take everything away from Job to test his faith in God. Satan kills Job’s farm animals and workers, then his children, and he took away Job’s health. Job is rattled, stripped of everything in his life. His wife and friends repeatedly offer bad advice, advising suicide and placing blame on his sins. He’s so broken down, but he remains faithful to God.
“I vow by the living God, who has taken away my rights, by the Almighty who has embittered my soul - As long as I live, while I have breath from God, my lips will speak no evil, and my tongue will speak no lies... For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life?” Job 27:2-4,8
Job still refused to renounce God, but he began to argue with God and try to plead his case to him. The majority of the book is Job lamenting over his new, terrible circumstances. He becomes so hopeless saying, “I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer. I stand before you, but you don’t even look.” Job 30:20
Finally, Job hears a clear response from God: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” (Job 38:2) “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?” (vs 4,5) Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” (v 12) “Where does the light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created and you are so very experienced!” (vs 19-21) “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (Job 40:2)
Job eventually replies, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you…I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance. (Job 42:2,6) After this, God blessed Job with even more animals than he had in the beginning; he gave him seven more sons and three more daughters. Job lived 140 more years and lived a full life.
There is so much unpack here. First, God speaks fluent sarcasm, and I see now that I am a woman after his own heart. But really, one big thing I see is that there are things in our lives that we allow to have so much power and influence over our joy. We have our jobs, our families, our health. When these are taken away, we find ourselves flailing and hopeless. But to God, these things are so small. While I am a firm believer that God wants us to invite him into everything, the small things and the seemingly big, I also think it’s important for us to understand that even our biggest problem or concern is so small in comparison to God’s infinite wisdom, power, love, and his overall view of everything. I think God implements what Catherine Wallace says to a degree. He wants us to bring our problems to him, but mostly so that we’re in constant relationship with him. He wants to hear about it. But while we pour out our hearts to him, it should be with the understanding that one day, when we are face to face with him, we will get it. We will understand that the thing we gave so much power to destroy our lives here on earth is worth nothing. It is nothing compared to God and his glory, and one day we will wonder how it had that tight of a hold on us.
What is it today that holds power over your joy? How might you hand it over to God so that you can be fully present in your relationship with him?
Think of something you struggled with as a younger person that you now feel is trivial. What would you tell your past self about the eventual impact/result of this problem?
A.j. is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
If you are interested in learning how the book of Job points to Jesus, the Jesus Centered Bible highlights the areas in the Old Testament that do this (with an explanation). I have found it to be very helpful when studying!
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