Farewell 2016!  Hello 2017!  Having experienced inconceivable loss of varying kinds, my bedraggled family is ready (in the words of my oldest daughter) “to robustly shake off any lingering dust from year 2016.”  And yet, as we look forward to a new day and a new year, how can we not look back and behold that in the midst of deep pain, sorrow, devastation, and trials our God is still God?


It is true.  When life is all rosy and sparkling, it’s easy to say, “We are blessed.  God is good.”  As a child, I somehow equated blessings and a good God to “a good life.”  A + B=C.  I sometimes further confused things by equating blessings to a good God to a good life: A=B=C.


For sure, life includes blessings and celebration.  And when it does?  Wow!  We ought to celebrate.  I mean REALLY celebrate with great praise and thanksgiving to God.  Enjoy.  This past year included welcoming a new son-in-law into our lives. Honestly, it was THE highlight of the year.  We celebrated.


In his book on The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis states, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”  In essence, we are not meant to live on mountaintops, at least not yet.


So what happens when the outcome of life includes pain and sorrow?  How does the A + B= C equation work when “C” looks like utter “L (loss) + D (devastation)?”  What do we do with suffering?  Why does God allow it?  How can Christians possibly call God good?


Addressing the topic of pain and suffering?  Frankly, I won’t pretend to have answers to difficult questions.  Using mathematical metaphors in the process? I am in dangerous territory!  Of one thing I am sure: my little girl equation is flat out wrong.  My little girl understanding of God was wrong.  For God is absolute.


God is God.  He was, He is and He ever shall be.  He does not fit into any human equation.  When I try to fit Him into my own formula or box Him into my three dimensional way of thinking, it is futile.  God is above all.


For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Is 55: 8-9


Would I really want a God I could completely understand?  Sometimes I think so.  And yet, isn’t this what makes God unique?  He and His ways are incomprehensible.  Within His incomprehensibility, we are required to live by faith.


Job thought he understood God.  With brash accusations and fist pumping (fist pumping is how I imagine him), he desired an audience with God:


But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God. Job 13:3

Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Job 13:18

Oh, that I had one to hear me!  (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Job 31:35


Yikes, Job!  Are you sure?


This reminds of the day I asked my little two-year-old daughter to pick up a toy lying in the middle of the kitchen.  Stopping suddenly, she took a wide stance, placed her little fists on her hips, tossed back her dark curls, and with chin jutting out exclaimed, “Make me!”  Literally, I had to spin away from her in order to suppress laughter at the humor of her response.  Then came my firm response.


Well, Job receives God’s response, his audience with the Almighty:


Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Job 38:1-3


In essence, God tells Job to put on his big boy pants because he has some explaining to do.  What happens?  Does Job stand up and make his case?


Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” Job 40:4


No!  Job shuts the heck up!  Why?  God reveals Himself to Job.  God opens a window to His own wisdom, majesty, might, power and glory.   Job obtains an exclusive opportunity to behold God.  When Job beholds God, he immediately recognizes and beholds what an insignificant schmuck he himself really is.  His mouth shuts immediately.


It’s interesting to note that at no time does God give Job a reason for Job’s great suffering.  And yes, Job suffered.  This was real, unfathomable suffering: loss of all his children, loss of wealth and loss of health.  Not only this, in the midst of suffering, Job’s “friends” show up to villainize him.  Misery to the maximus!


Yet, Job remains clueless about the little parlay between God and Satan.  Within the book of Job, God remains silent concerning the issue of suffering. Significantly, God simply reveals His own majesty.


Truth is, we are promised one thing in this world: “trouble.”  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  Rather than living on mountaintop experiences, most of us will endure significant chunks of time in wilderness conditions.


On a trip-of-a-lifetime to Israel, I beheld the actual Judean “wilderness.” The view cut me to the core.  Peaks and valleys of hard, treacherous, rocky terrain undulating for as far as the eye can see. It provides a powerful word picture of a hard, harsh, heartless, hopeless, inhumane world that sometimes seems to never end.   As I stood beholding the vast expanse, I wept.  I wept.


Jesus knew the wilderness well.  He spent significant time there.


What then is the antidote to the wilderness?  Same as Job: to behold God and His glory.  Something about gazing upon God, seeing Him and understanding who He is reminds us of our own “schmuck-iness.”  Throughout the generations, God has had His own way of revealing His absolute truth: God is God.  The message echoes and resonates back to God telling Moses: “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)


When Isaiah beheld God’s glory, he cried:


“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:5)


When Peter beheld Christ’s glory through a miraculous provision of fish, what happened?


[Peter] fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)


A clear view of God and His power provides Job, Isaiah and Peter with a reality check to their own humble condition.


I adore how God announced the arrival of His Son to the lowly shepherds. At the time of Christ’s birth in Israel, shepherds were looked upon as the schmucks of all schmucks.  Yet God sends His multitude of angels to such as these:


And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10


The poor, lowly shepherds receive the news of the angels, they listen, go, and behold Christ the Lord for themselves.  The result is trans-formative.  How then do they return to their rocky fields?


“…glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Luke 2:20


Glorifying and praising God.  In the wilderness.


Is this relevant to me?  If shepherds can journey in the wilderness glorifying and praising God, then I can, too.  First things first: behold Jesus.


Is that possible?  Does God still reveal Himself today?  Absolutely!  According to Romans 1:20, God reveals Himself is through creation:


For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)


Another predominate way God reveals Himself is through Scripture.  Within His Word, we are invited to BEHOLD Him, His ways, and His truths over 1100 times!  To behold: to gaze upon, to see, to look, to understand.


Heading into 2017, as hard as we try to shake off any lingering 2016 dust, chances are pretty good that we’ll find ourselves once again traveling a wilderness road.  A stroke of midnight does not necessarily wipe the troubles away.  Whether life, relationships, health, or wealth, losses persist.


Rather than focusing on the wilderness views this year, my goal is to more continually behold God and His glory.  Remembering the angel’s words to the shepherds, I want to: fear not, behold our Good News, and to know His abiding joy.


Why? Capturing a glimpse of God leads to glorifying and praising. Even in the wilderness.


Walking on your own wilderness journey? 

Please consider joining me this year as I seek to know, behold and authentically relate to God through His Word.  Praying through Scripture, I’ll offer simple prayers that praise and glorify His Name.  Together we’ll learn to fear not, to behold Him and to live with abiding joy.



  34 comments for “BEHOLD

  1. Ann
    January 1, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Thank you for the reminder- although our God’s ways are mysterious, He is good!

    • January 1, 2017 at 9:41 am

      “God’s ways are mysterious, He is good!” Yes! Love that, Ann.

  2. January 1, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Hi Carmen! How are you?

    This is so wonderfully written. I was not aware you were a writer- God has blessed you with a talent .

    In my humanness I do not like to think about Job and everything he endured, but yes we all experience inconceivable pain at times in our lives and are oftentimes left wondering why God?

    But God is good! I know from my own personal journey through the pain and heartbreak he can bring healing and peace and bring us right up along his side to find joy even in a difficult life.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • January 1, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Thank you for reading, Debbie! I appreciate you sharing: “…through the pain and heartbreak he can bring healing and peace and bring us right up along his side to find joy even in a difficult life.”

  3. Estee Hermesmann
    January 1, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I am so excited about this, Mommy! Can’t wait to read more.

    • January 1, 2017 at 9:46 am

      Thanks, sweet girl! Love you!

  4. alison dillemuth
    January 1, 2017 at 11:05 am

    Dearest sister, Carmen. Maranatha! Rev 22:20

    • January 1, 2017 at 11:20 am

      啊! 姐妹! Ah, sister! Many hugs, Alison!

  5. Andrew Pfeiffer
    January 1, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I really enjoyed this Carmen. Very well written. I hope you are well.

    • January 1, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks for reading and for the encouraging words, African son! Sharing thoughts online feels scarier and more intimidating than a mission to Moz. Hope YOU are well… praying for you!

  6. Gail Benn
    January 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you Carmen! What a beautiful way to encourage your fellow schmucks into the New Year! Keep writing…It’s a gift as we walk through the wilderness of life this side of heaven. Truly a glimpse of God’s goodness and glory in the desert places! Thank you!!!

    • January 1, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you, Gail! God has blessed me with such beautiful, encouraging friends. Another glimpse of His goodness.:)

  7. Michele Bonfert
    January 1, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you for a fresh word for 2017!! How I long to “Behold” Jesus more intimately this year. Thank you for the encouragement!

    • January 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      Great to hear from you, Michele! Thanks for joining the journey with me! Hope to see you soon at study.:)

  8. Linda Thompson
    January 2, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Carmen, as others have said you have a true gift of writing but you also have the gift of encouragement. Your love for the Lord is visible in your writing. Thank you sharing with us. Looking forward to more from your heart.

    • January 2, 2017 at 5:57 am

      Thank you, Linda! I appreciate your encouraging words very much. Looking forward to serving with you this coming year!

  9. Pat Benner
    January 2, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Carmen, I see that your spiritual journey continues as you delve even more deeply into God’s word and his plans for you. Thanks for sharing.
    God bless you on your journey,
    Pat Benner

    • January 2, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Good to hear from you, Pat! Blessings to you, too! Hope all is well in sunny Florida.:)

  10. Sandy Bradbury
    January 2, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Carmen,
    I have missed your blogs. You are truly an inspiration through your gift of sharing God’s word. Your focus and enthusiasm is contagious and creates an eagerness to come closer to “behold” God…. as the schmuck I am.

    • January 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Aw! Sandy, you made me smile! Thank you!:)

  11. Cindy Buerling
    January 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Happy New Year to you and your family! Loved the inspiration!

    • January 3, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you, Cindy! Happy New Year! Hope to see you at Bible study.:)

  12. Helen
    January 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Carmen, how beautiful it makes my heart dance with joy in your walk with our lord and saviour. Much love and many prayers as you start a new walk. Love helen

    • January 4, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      Helen, there are no words! I love you.

  13. Julie
    January 7, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I wanted to thank you for following the spirits leading and serving God this way. Also, want to encourage you by sharing His perfect timing of your words in my journey with Him. I am sure you don’t remember me or know me by name but I first met you as you lead a study. It was “Finding the Hero in your Husband.” I admired your humble sprit then. This past several months I have found myself diagnosed with breast cancer… Mom of four.. three under ten. Intense beauty, hope, favor, wrestling, depth, and anguish are just a few words that come to mind to describe. Gods words through you resonated deeply with me on my journey forward. ” How then do they return to their rocky fields.”, everyday life(wife and a mama) , glorifying and praising ,BEHOLDING! In such pain HE has graced me with great beauty, for I am lost.. a woman of unclean lips…how do you go back to the trivial?..You BEHOlD. Bless you Carmen….

    • Michele
      January 7, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Julie … Thank you for sharing & in your sharing for encouraging me to be reminded whatever the circumstances to take great joy in the Lord. I will be praying for you and your journey !!

      • Julie
        January 8, 2017 at 7:17 am

        Priceless gift.. Thank you!

    • January 7, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Dear Julie,
      I am deeply touched. Yes, I, too, am a woman of “unclean lips.” To be God’s vessel in encouraging a fellow sister, sojourner and sufferer is deeply humbling. Please know that you in turn, have greatly encouraged me to continue to follow God’s leading. Thank you. Julie.

      I am so very sorry for your unimaginable suffering. There really are no words.

      Oswald Chambers says: “When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit.” I hear the Holy Spirit in your words. Intense beauty, indeed, Julie!

      Please know that I have added you to my prayer list. I would be honored and privileged to pray for you and with you and support you however possible. I wonder if I might see you at church? Let’s journey together beholding our Savior.

      Lord God, You alone are worthy. You alone are worthy of all praise, honor and glory. When Isaiah beheld Your glory and the heavenly realm crying, “Holy, holy, holy!” his own cry was: “Woe is me! A man of unclean lips!” Lord, You made his lips clean again that he might be Your vessel. Lord God, thank You for the ways You reveal Yourself to us and help us to continually behold You through the power of Your Word and through the power of Your Spirit.

      I pray that You would strengthen Julie and her family for this battle against cancer. Strengthen body, souls and minds. Lord, please pour out Your healing balm. Heal her from this cancer. As she continues treatment, may Julie be nestled next to You that she can behold Your countenance at all times knowing that You love her, value her and have Your plan. Please give her hope and peace that comes from You alone. Lord, You go before and behind us. You hem us in. You uphold us with Your mighty righteous right hand.

      I pray that You would also go before and behind all of Julie’s thoughts. Help her to take them captive and think on only those things that are true. Again, help her, help us, to continually behold You that we might be vessels of Your glory, glorifying and praising Your Name. You promise that Your grace is sufficient. That Your power is made perfect in weakness. Thank You, Jesus… we love You.

      • Julie
        January 8, 2017 at 7:15 am

        Beautiful. I will look for you at church over the next couple of weeks:)

    • Michele
      January 12, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Julie — God has placed you on my heart! I’m blessed to have the burden to carry you in prayer thru your journey! I was on my morning run and I kept thinking of you and the fact the Jesus will carry you thru this valley and I can’t help but pray for the opportunity for you teach your children thru this circumstance. I wanted to share this song by Sara Groves….When the Saints

      Praying diligently!! Your sister in Christ.

      • Julie
        January 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        Michelle…. I am deeply humbled honored and encouraged knowing you are bringing me before the throne. I am looking forwArd to listening to every word of that song in worship the next quiet moment I get. Can’t wait…..

  14. Pat Benner
    January 7, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I will also be praying for Julie and her children and husband as they journey together on this difficult path.

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