In His Face
by Bob Sorge
It all began one Friday in May of 1992. I was speaking at a worship conference in Michigan, instructing the class in the dynamics of using praise as a weapon in spiritual warfare. At the end of the workshop we moved from instruction to practical application, spending some minutes in praise and shouting to the Lord for His power and authority over those areas where we desired spiritual breakthrough. I shouted with the best of them.
As I returned home to the church I pastor, I felt soreness in my throat lower down than any sore throat I’d ever had. The following week the soreness went away. But after preaching in our multiple services the following weekend, the soreness surfaced again. It left that week once more, only to resurface again after a weekend of ministry.
The doctor diagnosed it as an “arytenoid granuloma” – a “contact ulcer” that had formed on the arytenoid cartilage adjacent to my vocal cords. In late August of 1992, I had surgery to remove the granuloma.
The doctor assured me that I would be “back in the pulpit” in three weeks, but to the date of this writing I have still not recovered from surgery. Although the granuloma itself is gone, the damage sustained to the arytenoid from the surgery continues to cripple my ability to talk. Although I am comparatively pain-free when silent, it hurts to talk, and more I talk the more it hurts, to the point that the left side of my neck at times will radiate with pain.
It’s bad enough not to be able to talk; but when talking is one’s livelihood, one’s ministry, one’s life – it’s devastating. As a pastor, worship leader, conference speaker, husband and father, my life has been traumatized and turned completely upside down by this vocal injury. I do not know how to convey to you in words the kind of emotional upheaval I have known in the past two years – the loss of control, the vacillating moods, the tormenting thoughts, the unending questions, the personality changes, the theological wrestlings, the search for God.
There are great things to be learned in the wilderness. God has taught me some things that I want to share with you.
Walking Through the Valley
Imagine that you’re Job. In one single day you lose all your cattle, sheep, camels, servants, and children. The cause? Enemy raiding bands, fire from heaven, and a sudden gust of wind that causes the house to collapse upon your children. Like Job, you too would think, “This kind of thing doesn’t just happen by chance. There’s more going on here than pure happenstance. Something spiritual is behind all this.”
What’s Going On?
When you go through a hard season, many well-intentioned people try to encourage you by delivering a “word” from God. I’ve received many “words,” and they’ve run the entire gamut. What has been confusing is that I have received what appeared to be conflicting insight from people whose ministry I honor and who have won the right to speak into my life. One minister said, “I don’t see the devil’s hand involved here, I see the hand of God in this.” Another said, “This is the design of the enemy to shut your mouth.”
Then I was reminded that Job’s calamity had its origin with both God and the devil. Satan crafted an attack against Job, and God allowed it. “Is this Satan, or is this God?” The answer just may be “Yes.”
And yet even though Job was under spiritual attack, let me point out that he never once entered into a militant kind of warfare against the enemy. The only one Job ever spoke to, the only one he ever dealt with was God.
There are aspects to my infirmity that certainly appear to have demonic incitement, and yet throughout this season I have had absolutely no militancy in my spirit. I have had only this ongoing sense that my dealings are with God alone.
Lots Of Opinions
When calamity hit Job, his three friends turned into counselors. (When troubles hit your life, you’ll never lack for people who are willing to share their wisdom and insight with you.) “God doesn’t do this kind of thing to His faithful ones,” they said to Job. “This isn’t how God treats His saints.” All of their arguments can be boiled down to this one accusation: “Job, there must be some kind of sin in your life.” Their counsel was simply, “Repent, and God will restore you.”
Far too often we are guilty of counseling in the same way. We look at a situation, evaluate it according to our past experiences, and then deliver what we think is good counsel based upon what we see. But Jesus, in contrast, said, “As I hear I judge” (John 5:30). Jesus was saying, ” I look at a situation, but then I stop to listen to the Father. What does He have to say about it? When He gives me His perspective on the situation, then I can speak to it and judge it correctly.” Job’s friends erred because they judged by what they saw rather than by what they heard.
God deliver us of common sense! Far too many Christian counselors rely on their wealth of training, education, and experience when evaluating someone’s circumstances. We are doomed to the myopic perspective of Job’s three friends unless we first stop, incline our ears to hear what the Father is saying, and then speak accordingly.
A Judgmental Spirit
God has delivered me of a judgmental spirit. Oh, I didn’t think I was judgmental. But I realize now that I used to approach some people’s problems with a question that had become almost reflexive – “I wonder what they’re doing wrong?” A believer whose unbelieving husband was not drawing closer toward the Lord at all… A devout couple who were heartbroken over their rebellious teenager… A sincere father who was constantly struggling to stay afloat financially…
God has removed this presumption from my heart, and brought me to a new realization that calamity and tragedy come alike to saints and sinners. Just because you’re having troubles doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong.
Ups And Downs
The next time you read the book of Job, look at his mood swings. One moment he’s in the depths of the valley, fighting extreme depression, venting caustic complaint; the next moment he’s on the mountain of spiritual revelation, declaring prophetically, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25).
I was unprepared for the extreme emotional swings that would take my soul in my times of trial. God has pulled out from under me so much of who I thought I was. “If there’s one thing I am, I’m stable.” “This much I’m not – I’m not moody.” Those proud ideas have been destroyed. Now, when I’m in a place of emotional stability I know it’s only because of the sustaining grace of God.
Blessed Be The Name
“Blessed be the name of the Lord.” His name represents His character – who He is. When I was in one of my emotional valleys, that phrase meant a lot to me. I wanted to worship the Lord, but just couldn’t find it within myself to bless Him for my present circumstances. Struggling to come to terms with that, I was reminded that Job didn’t extol the ways of God. He didn’t bless God’s works, because at that point in his life he couldn’t. But he could extol the name of the Lord. Then I realized that I could too. I know that life’s challenges can become so difficult at times that we don’t feel like blessing God’s ways or works. But I have discovered that no matter how difficult things get, I can always bless the name of the Lord.
In His Face
The Lord has shown me the key to Job’s salvation, the thing that brought him through to the other side. Despite all his wrestlings, his questions, his anger, his self-pity, his depression and his indignation, he kept his face toward God. You can get away with almost anything if you do it in the face of God. (Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying you can get away with moral failure or outright sin.) You can rant, you can rave, you can kick, you can yell, you can have a temper tantrum, you can have a pity-party, as long as you do it in God’s face. I’m not saying it’s okay to do those things; but I am saying that if you do them in the face of God, He will bring you through.
The Lord rebuked His people through the prophet Hosea because they were wailing and mourning, but they were not crying out to Him. “They did not cry out to Me with their heart when they wailed upon their beds” (Hosea 7:14). If you’re hurting, it is eternally important the direction you choose to aim your painful cries. It’s not enough to cry out – you must cry out to the Lord.
When you’re in the furnace of affliction, sometimes the only expression of faith you can muster is that of placing yourself in the face of God.
Job kept his face toward God, and in time God came to him. Beloved, in time He’ll meet you too.
Bob Sorge served for thirteen years as senior pastor of Zion Fellowship in Canadaigua, NY. Now he bases his writing and traveling ministry in Kansas City, MO, where he lives with his wife, Marci, and three children. Bob has written numerous books including, Exploring Worship, The Fire of Delayed Answers, and Secrets of the Secret Place.
(Taken from, In His Face, copyright 1994. Used by permission of Oasis House, an imprint of Bob Sorge Ministries.)