Holding Space

Scripture: Job 5:27
We have studied life and found all this to be true.
Listen to my counsel, and apply it to yourself.

Reflection: Holding Space
By Jada Swanson

Eliphaz continues to share his thoughts, encouraging Job to simply turn to God and everything would be alright. When the fact remains, Job never turned away from God to begin with. To his credit, this is what Eliphaz’s tradition has led him to believe. Sadly, he is a misinformed theologian. Which, no doubt, many of us have encountered or, perhaps, we have been at one time or another.

As Christ-followers, we are called to carry one another’s burdens. However, when someone is navigating grief, a traumatic situation, or a horrific loss (relationship, job, etc.), we must resist the need to try and fix the problem, heal the hurt, or repair the damage, and, instead, embrace the tension that exists. Although it can be awkward, during these sacred times, silence is our ally. Instead of expressing empty platitudes or well-meaning, but unhelpful Christianeze expressions, choosing to simply be present with another is the most loving alternative, even if the silence is deafening.

What is most needed in these times is a willingness to simply “hold space” for another. What does it mean to hold space for someone else? Author Heather Plett describes it in this way,

“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control … To truly support people in their own growth, transformation, grief, etc., we can’t do it by taking their power away (ie. trying to fix their problems), shaming them (ie. implying that they should know more than they do), or overwhelming them (ie. giving them more information than they’re ready for). We have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes.”

God, help us all to become comfortable with the necessary response of holding space for another. May we sincerely seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance during those times.

The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 5 (Listen – 2:29)
Romans 9 (Listen – 5:15)

When Help Isn’t Help

Scripture: Job 4.7-9
Think! What innocent person has ever perished?
When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?
As I’ve observed, those who plow sin
and sow trouble will harvest it.
When God breathes deeply, they perish;
by a breath of his nostril they are annihilated.

I’ve been looking forward to this series on suffering in Job from Jada for a few weeks now. I’m thrilled it’s finally time for you to read it! — John

Reflection: When Help Isn’t Help
By Jada Swanson

After seven days of silence, Eliphaz speaks to Job. Eliphaz is somewhat gentle and appears to sincerely attempt to bring comfort to his friend, Job. Yet, it doesn’t take long for one to see that his belief about his friend’s plight is that it is due to sin in Job’s life. In verse seven, he states, “Think! What innocent person has ever perished? When have those who do the right thing been destroyed?”

For we all reap what we sow, don’t we?

Unfortunately, this is a common view of pain and suffering, even in the Church today. No doubt, statements have been made such as, “I wonder what she did to bring this upon herself?” or “If you’re living right, you will surely have a blessed life.”

Yet, if this is an accurate assessment, it begs the question, “What had Job done to bring such pain and suffering into his life?” and “Wasn’t he ‘living right’?”

The reality is that God never promises that his children will have a life free of trial, hardship, pain, or suffering. In fact, James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy whenever we face such situations and circumstances, because the hardships one endures brings about perseverance, which is needed to become mature and complete.

Most certainly, “Considering it all joy” does not mean one rejoices in the cruelty, suffering, shame, injustice, or destruction. It does not mean there will be no tears or sense of loss. Rather, amidst these constraining circumstances, one can embrace a sense of confidence and peace.

Although Eliphaz meant well, his response was insensitive to his friend’s plight. It bears considering if Job’s circumstance brought to the surface some of his own concerns and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, he thought he had matters of faith and God figured out. Yet, God does not fit into a neatly packed box of predictability. In fact, we are told his ways are mysterious (Isaiah 55:9).

Everything is not always what it appears on the surface. Most often, there is more to the story, necessary details and nuances that hover just below the surface to which the public is not privy. As such, one needs to be careful in expressing personal opinions about the circumstances another is facing, regardless if this person is a family member, friend, or acquaintance.

May we understand that times of trial and hardship will come into our lives. May we embrace peace amidst suffering. May we listen to understand, not merely to respond. And when we do respond, may it be with sincerity and sensitivity.

The Morning Psalm
O Lord, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast; my soul is quieted within me. — Psalm 131.1-3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Job 4 (Listen – 2:06)
Romans 8 (Listen – 6:22)

For Such a Time

Scripture: Esther 4:12-14
When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (The Message)

Reflection: For Such a Time
By Jada Swanson

There are times in one’s life when following God’s plan for our lives does not really make sense to those closest to us and, perhaps, not even to us. Even still, God calls us to obedience during the dark and the daring moments of our lives. In his word, he has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

In this passage, Esther finds herself facing a most important crossroads, which necessitates a response of faith, even at great personal risk. In each of our lives, there are times when God Almighty calls us to boldly speak out for and act on behalf of those who are marginalized and disenfranchised, the voiceless, and the invisible. Embracing his promptings as an act of obedience, even when it comes at great personal cost. This is leadership.

John Wesley states, “We should every one of us consider, for what end God has put in the place where we are? And when an opportunity offers of serving God and our generation, we must take care not to let it slip” (Notes, 4:14).

Leadership comes in many ways and takes on many forms. At its very core, leadership is influence. Although we may not hold positional roles of leadership, we all have very specific influential roles of leadership in our everyday lives. Have you taken notice of where they are? And with whom? Pray for God to reveal these opportunities to you. Pray for boldness and courage to step forward and speak out, to be of service to the Lord and His people.

God has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. And in God’s view of time, there are no coincidences. As such, it was no coincidence that Esther, a Jew, was selected as queen. Neither is it a coincidence where we find ourselves at this very moment and on this very day. Be observant of those around you, of situations and circumstances. Take notice of how you may be the one appointed to take action, in seemingly small or significant ways. As God’s children, we know that he will accomplish his purposes and plans for this world. The beauty is that he invites us to take part…for such a time as this!

Song: Born for This by Mandisa

The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statues. — Psalm 119.145

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Esther 3 (Listen – 3:12)
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

This Weekend’s Readings
Esther 4 (Listen – 2:53) Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)
Esther 5 (Listen – 2:42) Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)

Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Reflection: Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
By Jada Swanson

What is peace? Peace is not the absence of turmoil or conflict. Rather, it’s a sense of awareness and understanding, knowing that God is in control of all. It is maintaining a quiet confidence in the midst of the daily struggles of life, as well as breathing in and embracing tranquility in the middle sheer and utter chaos.

The Bible states that Christians should live peaceful lives, making every effort to live at peace with everyone. Unfortunately, throughout the centuries many who identify as Christ-followers have not followed biblical teachings in regards to peaceful living, misinterpreting peacekeeping for peacemaking.

Peacekeeping comes about through misguided, but well-intended personal efforts. To be honest, it requires a lot of work. Peacekeepers tend to smooth things over, avoiding conflict at all costs in order to keep everyone content and the relationship intact. However, this is nothing more than pseudo-peace, and instead of healing a relationship, it fractures it even more.

The Bible says nothing about peacekeeping, but instead calls us to be peacemakers. Peacemaking approaches conflict redemptively—working through real issues in order to discover a solution or a compromise. It requires having the necessary conversations, no matter how difficult. Sometimes, the best way to build peace is to embrace confrontation as uncomfortable as this may be.

Are you a peace-keeper or a peacemaker?

As Christ-Followers, we should not waste our time or energy with peacekeeping. Instead, we should strive with all that we are to be peacemakers, someone who continuously yields to God’s Spirit in them as a result of their relationship with Jesus. Let’s stop keeping peace and start making peace, not settling for pseudo-peace, but actively pursuing real peace –– God’s peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. — (Matthew 5:9)

The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105:4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 1 (Listen – 7:52)
Galatians 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 2 (Listen – 7:45) Galatians 6 (Listen – 2:18)
1 Kings 3 (Listen – 4:29) Ephesians 1 (Listen – 3:10)

Regaining Love’s Highest Meaning

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Reflection: Regaining Love’s Highest Meaning
By Jada Swanson

Love is one of the most overused words in the English language, and for many it is hard to define. Perhaps this is because of its overuse. In the literature, music, and advertising of pop culture, the word is used to mean just about everything except what the Bible intends for it to mean. Sadly, even Christians are easily misled into thinking love is primarily a feeling. Yet, it is so much more.

Love is not only an essential attribute for Christ-Followers to cultivate in one’s life, but it is an action for us to generously express to all. It should govern all of our relationships, especially those with whom we strongly disagree. In this current season, the need for genuine, Christ-like love is critical.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is using the Greek word Agape. Although it was rarely used in ancient manuscripts, Agape was used by the early Christians to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity. They were committed to reciprocating and practicing this love towards God and among one another, not only inside of the church, but in every aspect of their lives.

Agape is the best because it is the kind [of love] God has for us and is good in all circumstances. C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis

In the Corinthian church of Paul’s day, and our churches today, strong polarization exists between people of different denominations and tribes, as well as Christians of varying political persuasions and beliefs. Still, we are called to live and love as Jesus did.

Jesus expressed this type of love to humanity when He sacrificially gave his life, so that we might have the gift of eternal life. As God’s children, this Jesus-kind of love should season all that we do. In its absence, all people hear is an irritating sound, instead of the heart of our message.

Today, my prayer is that we may we express this love everywhere we find ourselves and to all with whom we come in contact. No strings attached. No conditions. No preconceived notions. Rather, generously lavishing Agape upon each person within our unique spheres of influence, so all might catch a glimpse of this Jesus for whom we live, love, and serve.

*We are thankful to have Jada as a new board member and a contributing author. Follow her on Twitter: @jadabswanson. John

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in my heart the love of your Name; increase in me true religion; nourish me with all goodness; and bring forth in me the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 2 (Listen – 5:07)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 3 (Listen – 6:35) 1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)
2 Samuel 4-5 (Listen – 6:10) 1 Corinthians 15 (Listen – 8:06)