Thanking God For Difficult Circumstances? Part Two

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Part One

I have little patience for debates over inconsequential matters. Too many debates on the Internet come down to questions with all the relevance of, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

At first blush, the question of whether we need to thank God for everything or in everything seems to be nitpicking about a single word. As I wrote in the previous article, we are called to thank God in every circumstance but not necessarily to thank him for literally everything that happens to us. The difference between the two is far from trivial. There are four pastoral and/or theological consequences to be considered.

1) It May Cause Believers to Stumble

Hurting people come to church in need of comfort and healing. They need to bring their hurts, their pain, and sorrow and to be met with compassion and grace.

Yet, many in the Church who share the hurts of their heart find not love but judgment. I know hurting Christians who fellow believers have corrected for not rejoicing in and being thankful for what was causing them pain.

There are a number of possible negative outcomes from this. First, the person can conclude sharing their heart’s pain was a mistake and stop doing so. This closes them off from the body of Christ and leaves them suffering in silence. This leads to a hardening of spiritual arteries, a plastic Christianity that is “smiling on the outside, dying on the inside.” Everything is fine with them, as far as you can tell. They smile at church and may go through the motions of saying what they’ve been taught to say. But inside they feel like a filthy sinner because they’re not sincerely grateful they’ve lost a loved one or a business. Then, suddenly, they’ll be gone. Maybe you’ll hear later about their divorce and wonder what happened. They always seemed fine.

It can lead to people leaving the church or walking away from the faith. For example, when the Church has taught a young woman that Christ commands her to thank God FOR a husband who beats her. Or when the Church has taught a young man that he must thank God for killing his mother with cancer. To hurting souls who accept it, this teaching renders our God an abusive monstrosity insensitive to our hurts. Fortunately, some hurting souls taught this know the Bible well enough to realize an interpretation of scripture that renders God an abusive monster is incongruous with a Christ who was a “man of sorrows acquainted with grief.”

As I said in part one, no one in the pages of scriptures was ever shown to praise God for literally everything rather than in everything. But perhaps there are people today that God gives the grace to respond in that way in the midst of the pain. That would be quite extraordinary, the way it is when a person gives a reverse tithe (90% of their income.) It is unwise to hold either practice up as the standard that everyone should follow. That imposes an extra-biblical burden on God’s people that most can’t achieve. Christ said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30). This teaching is a yoke that is neither easy nor light.

The Holy Spirit gently guides us through our lives so we become more holy, more kind, more gracious, and more thankful. Commanding people struggling through a cloud of despair to give thanks for their suffering only brings them condemnation and discouragement.

2) It Ignores Scriptural Commands Precedents for Lament

You will never find in scripture, “Tell those who mourn to thank God for their loss and rejoice in it.” You will find scripture that says:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.-Romans 12:15,16

To tell a hurting person to thank God or otherwise rejoice violates these commands. You’re not walking in harmony with the grieving soul. You may also be haughty and wise in your own sight as you rebuke a person’s need for comfort. In fact, let’s return to the Jesus Calling devotional book in which Sarah Young writes for Jesus. She says for “Jesus” that those who don’t know Christ intimately don’t thank him for their hardships. That is a false accusation against lamenting Christians that preys upon the Church’s widespread ignorance of lament.

The Bible is full of lament. Biblical heroes from both testaments, including Christ, take their sorrows, their anger, and their frustrations to God. The psalter is packed full of lament as is the book of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Job. These people of God came to Him with their sorrows, hurts, and pains in a real raw way that makes most Christians uncomfortable.

Mind you, lament is never an end in itself. Lament is a journey of faith. It begins with us pouring out all of our pain and leaving it in God’s hands. It ends with us praising God as God turns our mourning into dancing. Some of the Bible’s most beautiful expressions of praise come at the close of laments. Take this verse from Lamentations:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.-Lamentations 3:22 and 23

The passage is the basis of that great hymn of the Church, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” Jeremiah only reached that point through a dark and desolate place of mourning. Just a few verses before, he wrote of God:

He drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”

How would you react if Jeremiah lived today and gave you that answer to how his life was going? Would you respect him as the highly spiritual man of God that he is? Would you honor him as a prophet on the verge of a mind-blowing insight into the goodness of God? Or would you quench the Spirit’s work in Jeremiah’s life by telling him to shut up and be thankful?

We all want to hear the praise that pours from Jeremiah. But too few of us patiently mourn with the weeping prophet as he works through his pain to get there.

Normally, “thanks for everything” means “thanks for all the good you do.” Why take the Bible’s use of it to mean to thank God literally for all things, even bad things? Perhaps it protects us from having to deal with hurting people. Perhaps it gives us an excuse to dismiss them.

3) Attributing to God what God Didn’t Send

God is sovereign, but not everything that happens in your life is God’s work. Yes, God does have a plan. Yes, God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. (Roman 8:28) No, that doesn’t mean all things that happen to us are good and thus a gift of God. Some things happen to us as the result of living in a fallen world, our sin, or the sins of others, and are thus works of the Devil who comes to “kill, steal, and destroy,” (John 10:10.)

The Devil is not all powerful and God can check the devil’s plans. Consider in the book of Job, where the Devil attacked Job. God allowed Satan to do it but limited the scope of his attack. It wouldn’t have been proper for Job to thank God for killing his children or destroying his herds, because it wasn’t God who did it, but it was the destroyer.

Sometimes our lives are messed up due to our owns sins. James is clear we should never blame God for temptation or for us falling into sin. (James 1:13-15). If overdosing on illegal drugs leaves us disabled or we end up in jail for armed robbery, we can’t thank God for the disability or for our imprisonment. They are not the result of God’s will. We can be thankful for how God will work through this, but we shouldn’t blame God in the backwards way of thanking him for it.

There are many views on this whole issue of free will and predestination within the body of Christ. You have to be a Calvinist with extreme views on predestination to conclude God is the literal ultimate cause of everything. And you need to support that conclusion before you can get to the idea that everyone needs to be thankful for everything that happens.

4) Trying to be thankful for your problems can keep you focused on your problems.

A sure way to remain focused on your problems is trying to be thankful FOR everything that happens to you. It requires you to actively work to focus on being thankful for it.

When you read Paul’s thanksgivings in his letters while he’s in prison, he’s not thanking God for imprisonment. He’s thanking God for those who are standing with them while he was there, and then he’s looking beyond his circumstances. He’s looking at how God is working through his Church and through the lives of faithful people.

However good our intentions are, forcing ourselves to thank God for our circumstances risks our becoming trapped in lies. Lament is the road that leads to sincerely casting our eyes above our troubles to see the glory of God at work in the world and praising the Lord.

We need to deal with the difficult parts of our lives, not to fixate on it all the time. Fixating can result from trying to force ourselves to be thankful for something that we need to lament.

Conclusion

Those who advocate giving thanks to God for all things have sincere, good intentions, but they are sincerely wrong. The overall effect of this false teaching is for us to stray into a shallow, inauthentic walk with Christ.

In “The Three Tools of Death,” G.K. Chesterton wrote a mystery about the death of a man who preached the need for constant happiness, a teaching that contributed to his death. Chesterton declared, “The Religion of Cheerfulness is a cruel religion. Why couldn’t they let him weep a little, like his fathers before him?”

Christianity is not meant to be a cruel religion that demands a plastic grin frozen on every face all the time.

The book of Ecclesiastes recognizes that there is time for mourning (Ecclesiastes 3:3) and that sorrow can make our heart better (Ecclesiastes 7:3) Our Lord declared that those who mourn are blessed and will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4) God knows our frame and that we are dust (Psalm 103). We have a high priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15.) God has shown in both Old and New Testament that he is big enough to handle our sorrows and laments.

At the same time, we do owe God our praise and thanksgiving even when we’re in pain. We can thank the Lord for the good things in our lives. We can thank God for salvation and for God’s unconditional love. We can thank him that he can handle our sorrow even when his people can’t. As we grieve honestly, in time, God will give us the grace to look beyond our sorrows and see the glorious picture of God at work in our lives, and others’ lives, and find a deeper gratitude.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Christianity isn’t meant to be a cruel religion demanding a plastic grin frozen on every face all the time. [/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]Thanking God For Difficult Circumstances #guestpost by @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

Thanking God For Difficult Circumstances, Part One

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By Adam Graham

Thankfulness is important.  We recently celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. We have much to be thankful for, particularly those of us living in the United States. We are clothed, housed, and well-fed, with luxuries that many kings would not dream of.

Yet, there’s a trendy teaching that we need to be thankful for all things, including bad things. Yes, if we accept this, if our mothers have passed away, we must thank God that our mothers have died.

One source of this teaching is Sarah Young’s popular devotional Jesus Calling. She writes her devotional as if Jesus himself is talking to you.  She makes it sound like thanking God for our losses is a command from God. She writes for Jesus, “…I have instructed you to give thanks for everything….To people who don’t know me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties may remain.” She hangs the commandment she put in Christ’s mouth on Ephesians 5:20, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This advice is well-intended. Christ can bring us to a place of thanksgiving for many difficult life circumstances. We see in the rearview mirror how God was there. How, if we hadn’t gone through that difficulty, we never would have found God, we never would have grown as a person.

The full council of scripture does teach us to be thankful in every circumstance. The difference between that hard truth the trendy error is one word. Replacing “in” with  “for.” This one small change can have a huge impact on God’s people. The Biblical truth lovingly calls us to keep pressing on towards a sincere gratitude that rises above circumstances.  In contrast, the trendy error is a law that requires instant, rote obedience from hurting souls and promotes a life of plastic phoniness that kills true faith.

Let’s look at the scripture itself, in context.  Ephesians 5 is not addressing the challenging and hard things of life. It is part of a general series of commands for living the life of faith:

 

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is problematic to hang a doctrine of thanking God for bad things on a verse from a passage not written to address this. We need to examine the full council of scripture and that gives us a different picture.  Scripture teaches us to be thankful in all circumstances, not for them. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Consider the book of James 1:2,3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” When going through trials, we can have joy and therefore give thanks because we know God will use it for our spiritual development. We can be thankful for how God is at work. , “In difficult times, we can even say “thank you for everything” to God the way we’d say it to a human who patiently had our back

We also have to look at the evidence of how Christ, the apostles, and Old Testament saints responded to difficult circumstances. I checked my concordance and found no examples of Biblical hero engaging in this super-spiritual practice of giving thanks for the bad in life. Especially not while it was going on. In Paul the Apostle’s prison letters, I never found the line, “I thank my God that I am chained to two guards and under house arrest in Rome.”  Second Timothy doesn’t begin, “I thank God for the rats in this cell.”

Paul didn’t wake up and give thanks for his imprisonment, but he gave thanks nonetheless. Paul’s typical thanksgiving from his days in prison might be paraphrased, “I thank you, Lord, for those faithful people in Ephesus. They have such love for all the saints, it fills my heart with joy. And thank you for the Church at Philippi, they have been partnering with me from the beginning, and they are still there for me even while I’m in prison. I can hardly wait to get out of prison and go see them. And I’ve heard great things about what you’re doing in  Colossae. Thank you for Epaphras, who faithfully taught them the Gospel. Oh and thank you for Philemon! I can really see how much he loves You and Your church.”

Paul waxes thankful in the midst of imprisonment, but not for being imprisoned. Rather he focuses on the majesty of God, the people who stood beside him during his imprisonment,  and on God’s work in the World. These are all principles we can apply to our life in how we can give thanks.

What about Jesus? While we may sing a chorus, “Thank you for the cross,” Jesus wasn’t singing it on the day of his crucifixion. If it is a sin not to give thanks for all things while you are going through them, then Christ sinned. He didn’t give thanks while he was being crucified. What he did cry out to God from the cross wasn’t a song of thanksgiving. It was a lament. “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?”

Christ did express thanks on the road to his crucifixion. In John 11: 42, he thanked God for hearing him when he prayed before Lazarus was raised. Each of the three gospels that record the last Supper mention that Christ gave thanks before the meal, knowing that it would be his last meal before he was executed. In difficult times, it can be hard enough to simply be grateful for the blessings we do have, but God calls us to do so.

Finally, let us look at Job. He learned his wealth was gone and all his children died. Only to perform one of the most profound acts of faith ever recorded:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job didn’t praise God for the death of his children or loss of his property. It recognized God’s sovereignty and praised him because he was God and worthy to be praised. Singer/Songwriter Michael Card calls this “worthship.”  He’s worshiping and praising God because God is worthy of it because of Who God is.

Looking at the full council of scripture, it’s clear there are two types of thanksgiving that are practiced. The first is thanksgiving for the clear blessings of our lives. If we would make a habit of looking at our lives and merely thanking God for the good he brings to it, then most of us would be far ahead spiritually.

There is a second type of thanksgiving that comes in times of trouble. Rather than thanking God for the trouble, it focuses on gratitude for what God is doing. The relief God is providing. The Lord’s redemptive work. How God uses trials to make us more loving, kind, patient, and Christlike people. Or it thanks God for the work God is doing in the world or even just to thank Him for being Him, for his very nature. In the Psalms, this type of thanksgiving typically follows an honest expression to God of the Psalmist’s grief. I’ll discuss this more in the next article.

I remember when my mother-in-law died in 2014. I didn’t thank God that she died.  I wasn’t thankful for the sorrow my wife’s family began enduring. Yet, I was thankful for her life and the positive things she contributed to my life and that of my wife.

I had made a commitment to do four half marathons in five weeks as part of a fundraiser for AIDS Orphans in India. I missed the final race due to my mother-in-law’s funeral out-of-state. I could still fulfill my commitment by running a race where we were staying. After obtaining leave from my wife to do so, I registered for the race. The problem was the race on Sunday morning. We wanted to go to church, so we had to find a church that offered a Saturday night service. So we attended a local evangelical church. My mother-in-law had died shortly before All Saints Day. At the end of the service, the church honored the day and the pastor invited anyone who had lost a relative in the last year to light a candle in their honor.

It was a true moment of grace and a blessing to my wife and me in the midst of this sorrow. All Saints Day is not something most evangelical churches celebrate. Without seeking it or planning it, we found an evangelical church with a Saturday night service that ministered to us in a way Andrea needed. Probably no other church Andrea would go to would offer this service. In that, I saw God’s loving guidance, care, and provision in the midst of our sorrow and grief. For that, I give thanks.

To be concluded in part two.

[tweetthis]Thanking God For Difficult Circumstances, Part One #guestpost by @idahoguy [/tweetthis]

Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy?

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“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Christianity is more than a mere list of dos and don’ts. God does have boundaries, and we do reap the consequences of our actions here on earth. But when we become wrathful, angry, bitter, and slanderous in how we respond to the mote in our brother’s eye, we need to get the beam out of our own, because those are the works of the flesh and as poisonous to us as what we are attempting to correct in others–in some cases, more so even.

Let our kindness and tenderness be truthful, directed towards encouraging one another to godliness. But kind and tender we must be if we want to be like Jesus–and we have to forgive like Jesus, too. God forgives when we repent and turn from our sin in sorrow, so we must not hold past sins God has forgiven against our brothers and sisters, either–and bitterness and anger against all offenses must be put off (into Christ’s hands in prayer.) So we must forgive everyone in the sense of the word where we are simply letting go of bitterness and anger and leaving vengeance/payback to God. But you can forgive someone in that sense but still protect yourself and not reconcile with someone who is still a threat to you. Only when the person has repented in the sense of turning from their sin and thus ceasing to be a threat does the Bible requires us to forgive in the sense of reconciling with the person and continuing on as if they had never sinned against us.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Sign of spring . . . via photopin (license)

Being on fire for God is a good thing, but lets remember what was so amazing about the burning bush. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation as fire in the bush was not burning the bush or anyone around it. When we’re full of the fire of the Lord, we should have more in common with a bubbly cold spring that consistently gushes forth sweet and refreshing than a hot, steamy geyser that scalds anyone who happens to be standing too close when it erupts.

Lord, search our hearts. If there be any hidden anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude in our way today, reveal it to us, and strengthen us and grant us the will to share that pain honestly with you and release the offense into your just hands. Show us the path in which you would have us walk and grant us the courage to take those steps with you. Pour into our hearts today grace, love, and kindness that overflows and gushes onto others so we might build up one another and not tear down your work. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

[tweetthis]Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy? #devotional #forgiveness #kindness[/tweetthis]

Revised version of a devotion originally posted on May 11, 2011

In Search of Deep Modern Christian Music

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mccartyv / Pixabay

Modern Christian music sometimes gets criticized as mostly shallow, “Jesus is my boyfriend” love songs. And some are. Yet I turn on Pandora and set it to shuffle through my Christian stations and I easily find music that feeds the soul, lifts me up out of funks, calms fear and anxiety, and reminds me of eternal truth. For example:

While “Dreaming Jacob’s Dream” with Michael Card, he encourages me, “We all need dreams to seek Him.”

We adore the eternal holy one who sits on Heaven’s Mercy seat in “Revelation Song” with Philips, Craig and Dean.

“In Christ Alone” reminds me “Up from the grave he rose again” and that Christ’s victory has caused the curse to lose its grip on me, so I can stand in the power of Christ. The same track mingles in the classic, faith-affirming, “On Christ the solid rock I stand.”

Big Daddy Weave and I pray for peace as we sing Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Hold Me Jesus,” and we invite our king of Glory to once again be our Prince of Peace.

Brandon Heath’s “Your Love” at first blush sounds like it’s going to be everything “wrong” with Christian rock, boiling the mysteries of the faith down to “Your love is enough.” However, the core statement of his song is true and an important affirmation for many Christians struggling with that. The problem isn’t the song, it’s the Church increasingly falling prey to the surrounding culture’s poor grasp of what love truly is. And Heath asserts the power the world’s love denies. God’s love ‘lights up the darkness,’ gives us hope, sight to blind eyes, makes lame feet walk. Metaphorically, God’s love gives spiritual sight to spiritual blind eyes. And it’s our spiritually lame feet that stumble into the flesh’s sin that God strengthens to walk in the Spirit by faith.

“Lord I need you,” confesses Matt Maher, “every hour, I need you.” He affirms Christ as our “one defense” and our “righteousness.” He reminds us, in effect, that grace frees us from sin, that Christ is at work in us, making us holy, He advises us to sing in the face of temptation—I have done it, with another song, and it really does help.

Since this is my Pandora Christian stations on shuffle, “Old Rugged Cross” came up next, but it is a prime example of the meaty, deep, timeless classics. I’d encourage you to give them a chance, if you’re strictly into modern worship.

“Forever Reign” (by One Sonic Society) has a repetition rhythm that can make it sound shallow at first blush. It isn’t at all. The repetition isn’t just musical, it aids memorization of its core theological concepts, which are too many to list, however down-to-earth rather than “high minded” they are compared to most of the hymns. Yes, there’s “running to your arms” going on, but prodigals have been running to their father’s arms for 2,000 years. Excellent message, good sound, and it definitely lifts you up from wherever you are into worshipful mood.

“Just to Know You,” pleads Mark Schultz, as he affirms the core gospel story in depth and finishes off with his longing to respond to Christ’s giving all for us by giving all for Christ, not out of a legalistic works righteousness, but out of a passionate love and a grateful heart.

“Hosanna” shouts Hillsong United with the people as the King of Glory comes, the earth shakes, and mercy washes away sin and raises up a generation with selfless faith, and stirs rival as we pray and seek on our knees. “Hosanna” also features the “dangerous prayer” that at least six other bloggers have commented on at length, “Break my heart for what breaks yours /Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause.” And my longer excerpt doesn’t cover half of the full prayer. If we pray it with them and mean it, it’s potentially life-changing, beloved.

Mind you, this is only scratching the surface, only the first ten or so songs that came up at random. Well, unless you believe God controls Pandora’s “shuffle” feature. Don’t know about that, myself, I needed to feed the stations it’s shuffling through with good seed songs. However, just the song or songs I needed at that moment do come up frequently.

If you haven’t read any of the commentaries on “Break my heart for what breaks yours” and are curious, here is my (likely partial) list of those bloggers’ articles:

theyoungfamilyfarm.com

mariahall.theworldrace.org/

Marilynn Chadwick

In Other Words . . .

Go Beyond (Omar Garcia)

Sam at Recklessly Alive

For the record, I recommend the “most dangerous prayer,” along with praying for patience. However, they do require a courage faith, a bravery derived from a complete trust in our Lord. He knows what we need to grow, and he’s the source of our strength to endure the heartbreak and trials of life. They’re gonna come regardless of whether we’re praying to have a right heart in the face of them. God is a good father who gives us fish and bread, not snakes and stones. Nothing God directly sends us directly as a result of prayer will ever be to our harm.

[tweetthis]In Search of Deep Modern Christian Music: lists 10 songs & 1includes #mostdangerousprayer[/tweetthis]

The Forgotten Post

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Forgot to tell you, Christ Glory Books released a $0.99 digital short last week, my short story clear back from my college days, “The Forgotten.” It was my one attempt at Historical Fiction (that turned into Romantic Historical in the process). It was also an experiment in writing from the viewpoint of a blind person. It is set in first-century Jerusalem in late winter, during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry.

Check it out. And please write a review. Thanks!

Change - High Resolution (1)Blurb: Blinded while defending his flock from a lion, Yoshiyah Bar-Natan has lost everything but his shepherd’s staff. Only his wealthy great uncle’s mercy spares him from a life of begging on the streets of Jerusalem. Unable to accept his fate, Yoshiyah means to fast until either God heals him or he starves to death. Uncle Binyamin has secret plans for Yoshiyah and commands his maidservant, Rachel, to help Yoshiyah adjust to a life of wealth but without his sight, his honor, and meaningful work. Meanwhile, his uncle’s two sons will stop at nothing to get Yoshiyah and Rachel cast out.

Sample:
Trapped in an eternal night, Yoshiyah bar-Natan sulked as his father lifted him from the cart. He ought to be out leading his helpless flock. Instead, he was now himself a helpless sheep being led up the steps of Uncle Binyamin’s home in Jerusalem.

That accursed lion. When would he stop seeing the visions of it killing two lambs, himself slaying it, and the dying beast stealing his sight in one final swipe? A bitter taste in his mouth, he tightened his grip around his staff. Once he had used this stick to protect his sheep. Now, Uncle Binyamin was all that stood in between him and a life of begging in the streets.

The city’s open sewers stank. The balmy winter air was slightly crisp, but Passover was only six or seven more Sabbaths away.

“One more step. We’re almost there,” his father whispered before calling, “Hail, Uncle.”

His uncle’s voice called back, “Hail, Natan. Shalom, Yoshiyah.”

Yoshiyah stumbled over the last invisible step. Soft, wrinkled hands clasped his rough ones, hardened in his nineteen years by many nights spent with his sheep in the hills of Galilee.

His uncle released his hands, seized him by the shoulders, and pecked his cheek right below the blindfold. “My, how handsome you’ve grown. I don’t believe I’ve seen you since the Passover the year of your bar mitzvah, Yoshiyah.”

Had his uncle somehow missed the blindfold? Who treated a blind man so?
His father started, “Well, as you can see . . .”

“Yes, yes, your messenger told me. Don’t worry, he’s safe here.”

“Thank you, Binyamin. Shalom.” His father’s footsteps echoed down the stone staircase.

His uncle called, “Boys, come greet your cousin!”

A youthful man’s voice sneered, “Surely you jest, Father. He’s unclean.”

A second, shrill voice said, “Really, Father, a blind beggar? This is too much.”

His uncle barked, “Enough! He’s family, and I have given Natan my word. He stays.”

Last time Yoshiyah had been forced to stay here, temporarily then, the snobs said, “Ew, Father, that shepherd boy belongs in the stable!” His face smoldered. “I’m tired, may I rest?”

“Yes.” His uncle’s hand grabbed his again. “Here, I’ll show you to your room.”

As his uncle led him, his cousins muttered with contempt in their voices.

Blind beggar indeed. Snarling, he shook his head in the constant darkness. He may be a blinded shepherd, but a blind beggar? Never. He’d pray and fast until HaShem returned his sight. If the miracle never came, then may HaShem hold him innocent of his blood.

His uncle left him on the luxurious wooden bed. Surely this private room was for a guest of honor. Who treated a blind man so? At home, he’d had a mattress on the upper room’s floor, and he’d shared it with his parents, his brother, his sister-in-law, his nephews, and his unmarried sisters.

Well, it was time to begin his fast and his prayers. Standing didn’t seem fitting today. He flung himself down on the bed prostrate.

Visions intruded of the lion’s fierce swipe and his terrified, scattering sheep.

Buy “The Forgotten” on Amazon for $0.99 to finish reading it on your kindle or on any device with the free kindle app.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Check out: “The Forgotten” #digitalshort #biblical Blinded shepherd vows to fast until he’s healed or dead.[/tweetthis]