We survived. Whether the pandemic, a cancer battle, or grief after significant loss, eventually seasons of despair and lament come to an end. As Christians, looking back at difficult seasons often reminds us of the faithfulness of our God. Gratitude may well up within us. By His grace, we survived.
But what’s next? When we’ve come to the end of ourselves in a difficult season, how do we begin to live again? How do we move from surviving to thriving?
The stories of three men in Scripture — Job, Daniel and Lazarus — and one recent example may help.
First, Job. You know the story. Job loses everything — his wealth, his family, his health — through no fault of his own. Through 35 of 42 chapters in the book named for him, Job sits in ashes, bemoaning his fate and seeking answers from “friends” who are no help at all.
Finally, at the end of the book, God reveals Himself to Job, and He doesn’t provide Job one inkling of understanding for the “why” behind Job’s suffering. Instead, God simply reveals himself as God — creator and sustainer of all things.
Amazingly, Job accepts this revelation without question. An encounter with the Most High God will do that to you. Job repents and acknowledges God as God. God then justifies Job to his friends and restores everything he lost, including additional sons and daughters.
Here’s the intriguing part: “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. … Job lived 140 years after that. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life” (Job 42:12a, 16-17, NLT). After surviving the loss of everything, including his children, Job found a way to thrive.
Then there’s Daniel. You probably know that story, too. As a young man, Daniel was exiled to Babylon. He served three kings and faced various trials and tests with each one. At the end of his life, the Lord “blessed” Daniel with visions that scholars throughout history have struggled to interpret.
Here’s how the book concludes: “How will all this finally end, my lord?” Daniel asked (Daniel 12:8, NLT). The angel said “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the end of time. … As for you, go your way to the end. You will rest and then at the end of days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you” (Daniel 12:9, 13, NLT).
The Bible doesn’t specify how long Daniel lived beyond these closing words of the book named for him. His work recording the visions from heaven was complete. He had survived the exile, the politics of government work, and the visions from heaven. What was next for Daniel? We don’t know. The angel told him simply “to go his way.”
And then there’s Lazarus. Friend of Jesus who died and was resurrected. My favorite reference to Lazarus is in John 12.
After the drama of Lazarus’ death and resurrection in John 10, Jesus returned at some point to Bethany. He stayed again at the home of his friends: Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
John 12:2 reads, “Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with them.” At that meal, Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. John 12:9 says the people “flocked to see Jesus and also Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead.”
In this story, Lazarus did nothing but show up. He didn’t speak about his experience in the grave. He didn’t offer three strategies for resurrection. He just showed up at dinner and ate with Jesus. And the people flocked in.
With the story of Lazarus fresh in your mind, think about the recent story of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who collapsed on the field from cardiac arrest in a Jan. 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Many of us watched as both teams knelt in prayer. People in the stands prayed. Two days later, ESPN sportscaster Dan Orlovsky prayed out loud for Hamlin with eyes closed and head bowed on national television.
The day before that tragic event, I suspect few people knew Hamlin’s name. Now his story is known because his suffering caused a nation to cry out to God on his behalf.
Just as Lazarus’s story was not about Lazarus, Hamlin’s story is not about Hamlin. It’s about all of us recognizing our personal and collective dependence on God when bad things happen.
In these stories — Job, Daniel, Lazarus and Damar — the men who survived their respective difficult seasons didn’t do much of anything beyond that. Job and Daniel went on to live their lives without fanfare.
Lazarus showed up for dinner. We were thrilled to see Hamlin recovered and sharing status updates, but Hamlin himself acknowledged he is only “a vessel” used by God. People remember these stories not because of the way these men bounced back from seasons of difficulty but because of the work God did in their lives.
Thriving through dependence
So, how do we move from surviving to thriving? The same way we lived when we were going through seasons of difficulty. Depend on God. Trust Him. Rest in Him, not in your own strength or accomplishments. Live each day with gratitude. He is the One doing the work in our lives.
As I seek daily to practice dependence, trust, rest and gratitude, my prayer is that those around me will see the glory of God through what He has done in my life and will be drawn to Him as a result. He is the One who causes us to live again. May the nations flock to Him as a result. B&R — Lovell served 15 years as an IMB missionary in the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand and has written about Baptist work for more than 20 years. She currently lives in Spring Hill, where she and her husband, Joe, are members of the Church at Station Hill.