Monday, September 27, 2010

Anna the Prophetess

“Do Good, Feel Good” is a terrific motto for happiness. And new research shows that choosing to help others activates the brain’s subgenual area, the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin. The Bible has always taught us this eternal truth and the story of Anna is a wonderful example. If you are ever feeling lonely, discouraged or afraid, try Anna’s remedy—serve the Lord. You will experience great joy instead.

Luke 2:36-38. Anna the prophetess was a woman of faithful service. Anna likely became a bride at a young age and was only married seven years until her husband passed away. I imagine that this began a long string of lonely days and nights. Perhaps no kinsman were willing to take her hand as was customary in those ancient days in Jerusalem; or they thought Anna was barren, for there is no record of children in her brief years of marriage. And a woman without a husband or children would have no status in that society. So Anna went on alone, waiting for the companion that never claimed her hand, yearning for the child that was never laid in her arms. 
As time passed, her hair likely turned gray, her eyes wrinkled, and her step became much slower and yet she did not just sit and wait for life to come to her. Life had dealt her empty arms, and she chose to turn empty arms into open arms through service. Luke records that Anna “departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” Anna forsook her sorrow to assist those who needed her help. And in so doing she came alive, and became great in the eyes of those she served.
When Mary and Joseph brought the newborn Jesus to the temple to make their offerings, Anna was there and when she saw the child, she came in an instant and gave thanks to the Lord. She was among the first to recognize Him as the Messiah and from that time forward, she bore a fervent testimony of Him “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” I envision Anna, at her great age, holding the new infant, the Lord that she had served so faithfully for so many years. Imagine her joy as she cuddled the child in her arms. 

The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it”.  Perhaps the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.

Anna teaches us this great lesson too. Her story invites us and challenges us to forget ourselves and serve others. Let us follow her example and seek ways to help others. Show a little extra kindness today. Ask the Lord to be his hands and his servant. Put a smile on someone’s face and I promise that you will be smiling too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Job's Wife "Curse God and Die!"

What was it like to have been Job’s wife? And do we give her a harder time than is necessary? Consider this. Every single one of Job's trials was also born by his wife. And yet we hardly stop to offer her compassion.

She is introduced after Job, one of the richest and most faithful men of his time, has had all of his cattle, flocks, camels and children taken from him. Moreover, he is suffering from a horrible disease. As he sat on an ash heap outside the city walls, Job still did not blame God. His wife, out of bitterness, discouragement or perhaps empathy for his sufferings tells Job” Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die! (Job 2:9-10). Whatever her reasons or motivations for saying this, we are unsure. However, we do know the following facts.

She experienced the death of every single one of her children. One day her seven sons and three daughters were all gathered together for a feast in the house of her firstborn. A mighty storm came and the house collapsed, killing all of her children at once. I wonder were there grandchildren in that house too? This must have been the worst day of her life. Everything that she had hoped for and drew joy from was now ripped from her life forever.

 She experienced dramatic financial loss. Job was an incredibly rich man who went from living a privileged life to an impoverished one. He must have had many servants and been well respected in his community. I cannot imagine how hard it was for his wife to see her husband so defeated and to suffer the loss of her children all at the same time. 

She became the caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband. 
Job was stricken with boils from the soles of his foot to the crown of his head. This means that Job likely could not walk, sit or even sleep without being in pain. His appearance became so distorted that even his closest friends didn’t recognize him. When they approached, they fell down in anguish and pity. Job’s wife had to endure that every day and she was the one who cared for him. They had little or no money for a physician. She had no children to relieve her from nursing him.

When everyone else had deserted Job, her love was constant. When Job was finally restored to health and wealth, she was still there. God Blessed Job with twice as much as he had before but he also blessed Job’s wife, as she became mother again to seven sons and three daughters. She was also reinstated as a great lady in the household of Job.

    I once went through a sixth month period in my life where I could somewhat relate to Job’s wife. In the Month of June, My Father-in-Law died from unexpected complications after a surgery. Soon after, my husband got very ill with phenomena. My car was stolen on Thanksgiving Day and on December 5th my own father had a heart attack and passed away. During all that time, I was pregnant with my second child and was trying to “keep it together” at my job. One day an associate called me up on the phone and told me how horrible my performance had recently been. I just sobbed on the phone and said nothing. That night I commented to my husband “I don’t understand why God is allowing this to happen to us. I just don’t think I can take it anymore!” I remember him looking at me and saying, “Don’t ever say that.”
    This reminds me of Job’s reaction when his wife was at her wits end and told him to” Curse God and die.” Job then said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). In a sense, this was the same loving counsel my own husband gave me. He reminded me of who I was and what I believed. That “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”(Job 1:21)

     Job's and his wife’s experiences can explain why good people may go through discouraging and traumatic times and be tempted to resent God for not obviously and quickly intervening on their behalf. Like Job's wife, we can fail to understand that God sees far more than we see.
     Looking back on my own trials, I understand how much I grew spiritually. I know that God was still there and that he loved me deeply. Like Job’s wife I had my moments of weakness, but also like her, I did persevere.
    We need always to remember some excellent advice from King David: "Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" (Psalm 27:14). We should learn from Job and his wife’s experience to maintain patient respect and trust in God even in the midst of our sufferings (James 5:10-11).