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Finding Joy in Pain

Air Date 07/16/2018

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Bible teacher and speaker Lisa Harper explains how God used the Book of Job to teach her about finding joy in the midst of challenging life circumstances. She offers the encouraging reminder that God does not abandon us, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

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Episode Transcript

Opening: 

Lisa Harper: He says, "God, you can take everything - just don't take your presence from me." Y'all, that's how we can retain our joy during difficult seasons, hard days, steep hills. That's how we can keep on keeping on. As we know my Goel, he's already come for me. His name is Jesus.

John Fuller: Lisa Harper sharing about the story of Job from the Old Testament, and you'll hear more from her today and how you can find joy even in the midst of difficulties. This is Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I'm John Fuller. 

Jim Daly: John, at times, life can be really hard. But in God we have so much hope. That's the distinction, that's what makes the Christian life worth investigating and embracing. We're reminded in John 16:33 - it says, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation: but take heart; I have overcome the world." That verse is a powerful reminder that regardless of what we face that God is with us. And that is one of the biggest tests in life - when you're at the bottom - that's who you are, not when you're on the mountaintop.  

Lisa Harper has some great perspectives to share on this topic today. She has a great outlook with both humor and heart about what life has thrown toward her. She's been single her entire life - never married, but a few years ago, God prompted her to adopt a daughter from Haiti. And you're gonna hear more about that today. 

Here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you through whatever you may be facing. We have caring Christian counselors who are available for you. You just need to call us. You've gotta take that first step and if there is more attention that's needed to your issue, we can refer you to someone in your local area. So please, if you're struggling, don't hesitate to call.

John: Yeah, I think it's fair to say that all of us are on a journey. There's difficulties that we all experience, and we're a safe place. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can find out more about our counseling services and other resources at focusonthefamily.com/radio. 

And Lisa Harper is a very popular author and women's speaker and her daughter's name is Missy. And Lisa's latest book is called Job: A Story of Unlikely Joy. Let's go ahead and hear how that message to Focus on the Family team began.

Body:

Lisa: As Ken reminded you, I'm an old adoptive mama. I'm still single, um, still not married. My husband is lost and won't stop to ask for directions. And so it's just Missy and I. I'm 54. And I had gone all the way through menopause - sorry, boys, but this is an estrogen chapel - um, before I started the adoption process. And then when I started the adoption process, I kicked back into girl-time. And I was really troubled by this 'cause I felt like I had done penance, and that should be over. And my doctor's a believer - he said, "It's um, God preparing you to be a mama. So even though you're not gonna bring Missy into the world through your body - it's through the miracle of adoption - estrogen has picked back up in your body." And he said, "So it's like God's way of preparing you for motherhood." He said, "They've written a lot of articles on this and medical journals. It's actually a miracle." And I said, "It is in a horrible, horrible kind of way." 

(LAUGHTER) 

And so - so just as a former Focus staffer, I'm gonna be just real honest with y'all and tell y'all I'm at the tail end of my second menopause. And I'm telling you that for two reasons - one is spiritual, the other is compassion. Because during the second menopause, I've developed a new gift that I didn't have the first go around, and I call it projectile perspiration. And so, um, I sweat like a fat man in a sauna, and - and I can't help it. And so I just want to tell you that, but I also want to tell you how it has affected our little family. 

A few months ago, I woke up really early in the morning in a pool of my own making, and I thought this is just nasty. And so I'm gonna go ahead and get out of bed and go to the kitchen and fix some really hot coffee. Because that'll trick my body into cooling down, like a sauna. And so I go, and I make myself some really hot coffee. This is like 5:30 in the morning. I go to sit at the kitchen island. And when I went to sit down - I bought these new bar stools from Restoration Hardware outlet, and I figured out why they were at the outlet. They're too high. And they're leather. So they're high and slippery, and I was sweaty, which was not a good combination. And so when I went to try to get on the bar stool - because I was gonna have a quiet time and everything, I still have a little Focus left in me - I slipped, and I slammed my coffee cup down on the island. And when I slammed it down, most of the coffee spilled out on my kitchen island. And I thought, oh, goodness gracious. And then I realized I have totally ruined these papers that were on the kitchen island. And I have lost most of my short-term memory during this second menopause, too, but I thought, what in the world were those papers? I remembered leaving them there the night before. At first, I thought they were bills. And then I realized, oh, no, that's Missy's home-school assignment for the day. And my printer was down. I didn't have - we live out in the boonies, so I didn't have Internet. And I thought I don't know how to reprint this home-school assignment. Um, I decided it'd be a really good idea for an older single mom, who's in menopause and travels for a living, to home-school her child, who's learning English as a second language. Um, and then y'all, just like that, sin entered my mind because I thought, "But I'm the principal." And so I decided I was gonna change curriculum just for the day. And when Missy woke up a couple of hours later, I said, "Baby, we're not gonna do home-school in the playroom today. We're gonna go to the mall and have a little lesson on capitalism.  

(LAUGHTER) 

And so I decided we were gonna go buy Starbucks on the way to the mall, uh, 'cause I still needed my coffee. And so when I pulled into Starbucks that morning - it had already been a rough morning - I make my little order in the squawk-box. And I order the same thing all year. I'm not that exciting. In the summer, I order an iced non-fat mocha with whipped cream. In the winter, I get an extra hot non-fat mocha with whipped cream. I feel like the nonfat and the whipped cream balance each other out and becomes... 

(LAUGHTER) 

...Kind of like a paleo drink. And so... 

(LAUGHTER) 

...I made that order. And the guy was just rude. He was just so, so abrupt. And I thought, goodness, this isn't a diva order. Like, this isn't that hard. He was still really rude. And I thought, okay, when I pull around to actually get the drink and give him the obvious tip, I'm gonna be Christian. I'm gonna be, like, real nice and real perky and see if I can cheer him up. Well, I pull around to the window. And the guy sees me and he just looks at me with a sneer, and he just jams my coffee through the window. I'm still trying to be a Christian. I take the coffee. But when I took the coffee from his hands and went to put it in my cup holder, the lid, that I now know he purposely did not affix correctly - top of my coffee cup - it popped off. About half of that extra hot coffee spilt in my lap. And when it did, I said a word that's not in the Bible. Um, and I will tell you the moment I said that word, my precious adopted Haitian little girl began to sing it... 

(LAUGHTER) 

Because that's how Missy has learned English. Um, Missy, from the first week I brought her home from Haiti, whenever she'd hear new English words, she weaves them into a song melody. She's very, very musical. And her favorite song for the last year and a half is Chris Tomlin's "Good Good Father." And so just like that, my precious baby begins singing that horrible word in that praise chorus. And um, and just like that, I dug my pit of sin much deeper because I added deception to the list. Um, I whirled around, and I went "No, baby, no, no, that's not the word mama just said. No, the word mama just said - um, I said, 'you’re a good, good coffee cup, so sit right here, sit right here.'" And, y'all, by the time we pulled into Dillard's, I thought I am the worst Christian mother in the history of time because it's not even lunch, and my baby has already skipped school, she heard a bad word, and she has unwittingly participated in song piracy right here in the music city. 

I don't know how many hard days you've had in a row. But, y'all, they're - they're unescapable. Life is hard. Jesus in John 14 says "In this world, you will have trouble." Some hard days are kind of silly hard days. Some hard days are much sadder than that. And I want to talk about how pain and hardship, it is unavoidable. We are gonna walk through it. Some of y'all are smack dab in the middle of it right now. But God's faithfulness and the joy we have in his faithfulness, that doesn't wax and wane depending on our days being happy days or hard days. If you brought your Bible - I notice most of y'all have it memorized and didn't feel the need to bring it. 

(LAUGHTER) 

But, um, if you did bring it or you have your phone with the Bible app, turn to Job. If you know Job's story - you'll at least know the beginning of Job's story. He was a good guy. He was a really, really good guy. God himself calls Job righteous. And Job was living a good life. If you study the beginning of his life, he was extremely wealthy. And through no fault, no mistake, no sin on Job's part, calamity befalls him. 

You probably remember he lost everything he owned. He lost his entire workforce, which if you read between the lines, amounted to 11,000 people, and he lost all 10 of his children. I mean, he lost everything except for his wife who said you should curse God and die. And a lot of people vilify Mrs. Job. But I'm like, don't forget, she's just lost her 10 children. I can't imagine what I would say if I lost Missy, so I don't fault Mrs. Job for being in a bad mood when she said that to Job.  

But he's lost everything, and he's having a no-good, terrible, horrible kind of season. And yet, God says, in the midst of it, he didn't sin. He was honest. He said this is difficult, but he didn't sin. Job 19 is really the nadir, the low point of his experience. And it reads like this: "He" - and he's talking about God there - "He has put my brothers far from me" - this is Job, chapter 19, verse 13 from the English Standard Version - "He has put my brothers far from me. And those who knew me are wholly estranged from me. My relatives have failed me. My close friends have forgotten me. The guests in my house and my maid servants count me as a stranger. I've become a foreigner in their eyes. I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer. I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy. My breath is strange to my wife." And that's not a great translation from the Hebrew. A better translation is my breath is offensive to my wife. In other words, his wife is not sleeping with him anymore. "And I'm a stench to the children of my own mother" - that means his siblings are no longer coming by to visit. "Even young children despise me. When I rise, they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me. And those whom I loved have turned against me." 

He is in the deepest pit that most of us could imagine as humans - lost everything, completely bereft of comfort. So this is the nadir, the deepest part of his pit. And yet, it's in this Prozac chapter that he says the most glorious thing from the whole book of Job. And most of us know that verse. We've heard Nicole Mullen sing it. Right after he says, "I don't know if I can make it. I don't know if I can keep hiking up this hill. It is too steep for me. This pain is about to just take me out" - right after he confesses how hard it is, this is what he confesses next - verse 25: "But I know my redeemer lives. I know my redeemer lives and at the last, He will stand upon the earth after my skin has been thus destroyed. Yet, in my flesh, I shall see. God, I know my redeemer lives." The word he uses there in Hebrew for redeemer is Goel. And Goel is most often translated in the Old Testament: a kinsman redeemer.

Now, y'all remember a kinsman redeemer could do multiple things for people that they were helping. A kinsman redeemer was usually in your family circle, and they could rescue you from a minor calamity. Let's say you'd gotten all excited about a shoe sale at Nordstrom Rack, and you've run your Visa up too high. They could come in, and they could pay off your debt. And they could say, "Baby, you need to lay off the shoes, but I'm gonna pay your debt down for you." Or you could have a major calamity, like you've gotten in trouble with the law, and your kinsman redeemer could come and stand between you and your punishment, between you and the judge, and plead for leniency. 

So Job calls God Goel, my kinsman redeemer. The wrinkle here is in Chapter 16, he is called God, the Father, Goel, his accuser. So if you read between the lines, he's saying a goel is coming who will stand between me and Goel - God - and I'll be redeemed. How can God be both his accuser and his redeemer? Y'all, here's the deal: Job was written at least 1,000, if not 1,500 years before Jesus. But God makes the veil thin for him in his pain. And Job uses a word that's not even in Jewish vernacular yet when he talks about one is coming for me.

A goel is coming for me, who will stand between me and Goel - God - and he will rescue me. He knew Jesus was coming. Before Jesus was even on the human consciousness, Job knew a goel is coming who's gonna rescue me. That's so beautiful to me. God, the father, wears the black robe of judge, but Jesus, our Goel, our redeemer, knowing everything we've done, everything that's been done to us, he shrugs into the orange jumpsuit meant just for us. And that's what Job is saying here.  

So before his whole life is redeemed and restored at the end of his story, Job says, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes see you, and that's enough." He says, "God, you can take everything - just don't take your presence from me." Y'all, that's how we can retain our joy during difficult seasons, hard days, steep hills. That's how we can keep on keeping on, as we know my Goel, he's already come for me. His name is Jesus.  

The most difficult thing I've had to do recently is God told me to take Missy back to Haiti. And I was like, "No, Sir. I'd rather not." Uh, she almost died in Haiti. Her entire village, uh, voted to basically keep her out of the village once they found out she not only had HIV but she also had tuberculosis, which is highly contagious. Uh, the nannies at the orphanage beat her. I barely got her out of Haiti alive. So I was like, "No, Sir, I'll write big checks to Haiti. I'll go to Haiti on mission trips, but I don't want to take my baby back to Haiti because she almost died there." 

And after I finished fussing for about six months, I heard the Lord speak so clearly in my spirit. And he said, "Lisa, that's the point. I want you to take life, that only I could redeem and restore, back to a place where all too often death wins." Because in Missy's village - the village she was born in - voodoo reigns in that village. And he said, "I want you to go back and bring the miracle of redeemed life to this place where death wins." 

And so kind of kicking and screaming, this time last year, I took her back to Haiti for the first time. And when we stepped off the bus, women begin to scream, "It's a miracle! It's a miracle!" And so they'd begin to scream, "It's a miracle." And then they'd begin pointing at me. And they thought I was a white voodoo priestess because they thought only big magic could save this little girl. And I began saying, "No, no, no, Jezi, Jezi, Jezi - Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." Then I said, "Baby, I want you to run all over this village, and I want you to invite every single woman you see to a Bible study we're gonna have tomorrow." We're gonna have the first ever women's conference, in Neply, Haiti. And I said, "I want you to go invite everybody you can find to the conference." Because they all thought she was a walking miracle. Now, if y'all try to exploit my kid, I will cut you. But I can exploit her for the sake of the gospel. So I sent her all over the village. And 90 women showed up the next day for this women's conference in Neply, Haiti.

And so I told my interpreter, "I'm gonna keep my message pretty short" - which is a miracle because I'm a wind bag, but I said, "I'm gonna keep it pretty short, and I'm just gonna focus on the fact of the great exchange - if you give your heart to Jesus, what you will get back is a miracle. If you're hungry, he's the bread of life. If you're hopeless, he's living hope. So I'm gonna keep it real basic." 

So I'm about 15-20 minutes into the message. It's over 90 degrees, even though it was January, in this little community center. I'm just about to come in for a close and this woman on my far right - older Haitian woman - she stands up, and she says, out loud, in Creole, "I need a miracle." And I said, "Okay, um, I'm not done yet. You know, I have a really good closing story." And he was like, "She said she needs a miracle." And I said, "Okay. Okay, um, ask her what kind of miracle she needs. Tell them to chat amongst themselves. Ask her what kind of miracle she needs." So he asks her, and she unwraps - hikes up her dress - unwraps this filthy scarf from around her left knee and exposes - her knee was like the size of a cantaloupe and horrifically infected. And I was like, "Yup, yup, she needs a miracle. She needs a big, huge miracle." And I said, "Okay. Okay. Okay, um, tell her I'm gonna pray for her but hang on for just a second." 'Cause I remembered I had peppermint oil back over where I had been sitting.  

Because Haiti - if you've ever been to Haiti, the stench is overwhelming if you're from a first-world country because they do not have sanitation - federal sanitation. So I've learned, on my trips to Haiti, to dab peppermint oil under my nose so that's all I smell. Plus, peppermint oil stings a little bit for those of you girls who are into essential oils. You know how it stings a little? And I thought, if I rub that on her knee, it'll be like, you know, something's going on.

And so I grab the peppermint oil. I come back over to this woman. I squat down. And y'all, I'm praying with faith, and I'm praying with everything I know. You know, we walk in light of the revelation we have. So I'm praying that verse most of us know - that by the stripes Jesus endured on the cross, we can be healed. We don't know why he heals physically, and sometimes he doesn't. He always heals, but sometimes he heals physically, sometimes he heals spiritually - well, he always heals spiritually. So I'm praying that. I'm praying in the name of Jesus. I slather this horrifically infected knee with peppermint oil. And I'm just praying in the name of Jesus that she would be healed. What I'm thinking is her healing is gonna come from the mission team behind me or the one behind that because usually mission teams include a doctor or nurse with antibiotics. And I'm just a layman. But I thought, I have never seen a body part this horribly infected. I don't know much, but I betcha she's close to amputation, so she desperately needs medication. That's what I'm thinking, as I'm praying for her healing.  

About two minutes into this prayer, I thought, oh, goodness gracious, because I had been praying with a lot of enthusiasm, and I had been squeezing her knee kind of inadvertently. And so I could feel the infection going north and south. And I thought, oh, goodness gracious, I've probably exacerbated this woman's injury. And so I opened my eyes just to see the damage I had done. And forgive me if this sounds unkind, especially, um, those of you that I know and love - I don't mean this as disrespectful - but I don't care if you believe what I say next. I would not have believed me if I hadn't been there. I grew up Baptist, so I'm not a real signs and wonders kind of girl. As a matter of fact, I'm a recovering Pharisee. So usually when people tell stories like I'm about to tell you, I would think they're just about to ask me for a check. 

Under my hands, when I open my eyes, that woman's knee had gone from the size of a cantaloupe all the way back down to normal and there was no infection. I've never, in all my years of vocational ministry, seen anything like it.  

(APPLAUSE) 

And she said, just as clear as a bell, very calmly, "I have no more pain." And let me tell you what I said - woman who's been in vocational ministry for 30-plus years, been to seminary, have a wall of commentaries in my room at home - you know what I said when God healed her?

(SCREAMS) 

I mean, I was like, "No way! This cantaloupe is an orange! I can't believe it!" I mean, I just had a nervous breakdown...

(LAUGHTER) 

...Over what God did. And when I finally finished hissy-fitting, the Lord said, through his spirit, "Lisa, she is calm because she expected me to heal her. You're having a cow because you need to raise the bar. You need to raise the bar. You need to believe bigger. No matter how difficult life is, I am in control. I still part red seas. Nothing in your life is hidden from me." 

Let me ask you to bow your heads and close your eyes as we conclude chapel. But I'm gonna end kind of bossily. If you need a miracle - and it's probably not a physical miracle, some of y'all need relational miracles, you need miracles in your marriage, you need miracles with your precious children because you've got one or two who are prodigals, you may need a financial miracle - if you need a miracle, and maybe your faith has just gotten thin because it has been a long, hard slog, would you just real quickly raise your right or your left hand? Nobody's looking around - just me. I want y'all to be encouraged that you are not Elijah. You are not alone. About half the room has raised their hands. 

Jesus, we come before you as your sons and daughters, and Lord, we confess that our faith is fickle. And Lord, I'll speak for myself - and you already know this - that there have been seasons of my life where I despaired of my very life and seasons of my life when I did not look to you as my redeemer. Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you that you are slow to anger and rich in compassion. Thank you that we - when we are in difficult seasons, you make the veil thin for us. If we would just look to you, you would give us peace even in the most painful circumstances. So we're confessing right now, Jesus, that we need you to put your hands on the side of our face and be the lifter of our heads. Recalibrate our hearts, King Jesus. Remind us that none of this is too difficult for you, and nothing in our lives is a surprise to you. Lord, give us the grace to lean into you when we aren't sure what tomorrow holds. Thank you. Thank you, thank you that you love us. Thank you that you are good, that you do good and that ultimately, ultimately everything in our lives will work out for our good and your glory. We pray that for each other. Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you that you're a good God. Thank you that you love us. Give us the grace today to lean into your affection. We love you, and we praise you, and we pray all these things for your honor and for your glory. Amen.  

(APPLAUSE)

Closing:

John: A powerful message today from Lisa Harper on Focus on the Family. 

Jim: What an incredible reminder from Lisa that we serve a big and mighty God - that He can work through even the hardest of circumstances and even in the midst of suffering, we can find joy. And maybe you're suffering today. Maybe you're in that spot that's really tough, and your life hasn't gone the way you thought it would or the way you planned it. As I mentioned at the top of the program, if you need someone to talk to, we have caring Christian counselors available on our staff to give you an initial consultation and talk with you about where you're at. And then we have a terrific referral database, and we can point you to somebody in your area that you can go seek further help with. It's a wonderful tool.

John: It is. And um, to speak with one of our counselors, we're just a phone call away. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY - 800-232-6459. And we may have to take your name and number and give you a call back just because we have so many calls after a program like this.

Jim: And let me turn to those of you who regularly support the ministry here: because of you, our counseling team is able to take over 4,000 calls a month from hurting individuals. It's kind of a silent ministry that I'm so very proud of. And I wanna say thank you for making that happen. We can only do that because you provide the resources to make that happen along with creating the broadcast and the airtime that we buy and the magazine and all the other things that occur here at Focus on the Family to help people in the name of Christ. And if you haven't made a donation lately, may I ask you to consider doing so today? When you make a donation of any amount, I want to send you a copy of Lisa's new devotional book, Job: A Story of Unlikely Joy, as our way of saying thanks for your partnership. And remember, it's because of you that we can help people in the name of Christ.

John: And please know that when you donate today, thanks to some generous friends of this ministry, your contribution will be doubled and that's a great incentive to make your gift go twice as far for you to donate today. So please do when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or donate online at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Well I hope you'll join us next time when we can help you be more intentional in your parenting.

Bill Farrel: The first thing we wanted for our kids is we wanted them to be learners. Like in this highly informational age, if our kids don’t learn, they’re gonna fall behind really quickly. So, they had to have this aggressive sense that I’m gonna learn something new every week of my life.
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Guest

Lisa Harper

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Lisa Harper is a respected Bible teacher and popular public speaker who addresses audiences at events and churches all over the world. She formerly served as the director of Focus on the Family's Women's Ministries and created the Renewing the Heart women's conference. Lisa holds a Masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. She has authored a dozen books including A Perfect Mess and Believing Jesus. Learn more about Lisa by visiting her website.