This post is originally from September of 2018, but is so pertinent today...
It was just over one year ago that all of us in this part of Texas were sitting under that unwelcome visitor, Hurricane Harvey. Even as I write this, the poor east coast is sitting underneath a storm that just keeps raining. We are in the thick of hurricane season, so let’s take a moment to think about storms in life.
Here are two thought-provoking questions - what should life be like? What makes life, or even one day in life, good?
Most of us live under the tremendous misconception that things are always supposed to be easy, pleasant, and “right”. We are continually and completely surprised and distressed when things don’t go our way. This is probably some shadowy memory in our cellular structure from the Garden of Eden, and of the way things were supposed to be before the fall of mankind. But the world is fallen, and unfortunately, awful things do happen all the time. One great struggle that many people face is the question of why terrible things happen to good people. If God is so good, then why does He let such bad things happen, especially to people who live for Him?
The Book of Job is an attention-grabbing book in the Bible, and I encourage you to read it again or for the first time. It tells the story of a man named Job, who was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” It actually says he was the greatest man among all the peoples of the East. He was wealthy and blessed and had a beautiful, large family. In verses 6-12, however, we read that Satan comes into God's presence and accuses that Job would never worship God if all of the good things were taken from his life. That passage catches my interest! It goes on to say that God responds to the Enemy in verse 12. “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Satan then proceeded to destroy everything Job had and loved - his family, his possessions - everything.
There are so many things to notice in this account. First, I want to remind us that the starting place for understanding anything in life is to realize that the character of God is eternally and entirely without fault. The Bible teaches that we are created in His image - not the other way around. He is not just a magnified version of us. God is always good and always chooses for the highest good. Second, notice that the terrible things that happen to Job were not God’s idea, they were Satan’s idea. Third, remember that we do not have the perspective that God does - He can see everything without constraint of time or location. The things we do not understand and which seem devastating from our perspective are not unclear to God - and we truly can trust Him.
Like Job, some of us have been through some awful things. People suffer and endure hardships like abuse, betrayal, or horrible traumas at the hands of wicked people. Other troubles take us by surprise - illness in our own body or in that of a loved one, the death of someone close, addictions, marital problems, and rebellious children - the list of life’s storms is long. I am in no way belittling those things.
I do want to challenge our thinking. Storms have a few interesting qualities:
We know storms are going to happen, we know life is not always going to be easy. What if we stopped letting life’s storms render us unable to help anyone, and started seeing them as a great opportunity to minister to others who are hurting? What if we started treasuring hard times as a way to become more like Jesus? The Bible says in James chapter 1: 2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Listen to this powerful thought from Samuel Chadwick, who lived and ministered over 100 years ago :
“Sometime in the country I have stood and watched the village blacksmith at work, and for a long time could not make out the use of the little trip hammer. The big hammer I could understand, but why should the smith strike in turns the anvil and the iron puzzled me. One day I ventured to ask an explanation, and found that the little hammer regulates the stroke of the big one. The smith holds the glowing metal, turning it lest the stroke fall too often upon the same spot, directing the blows that they may descend at the right moment; turning, tempering, regulating till the metal is fashioned to the desired shape. So God holds the soul and regulates the stroke. Sometimes He makes the Devil His hammer-man . . . Satan strikes to smash. God regulates the stroke, and turns his malice to our perfecting, and the Devil sweats at the task of fashioning saints into the likeness of Christ.”
That horrible thing that happened in your life - the very thing that the Enemy meant to use to destroy you - God can take it and use it to make you better and stronger than you could have been before. We can become more empathetic, more caring, more aware of others, more mature, more wise, and full of steadiness and help for the hurting all around us. Read the end of Job’s story. God was right - Job was not just serving Him because of the good things in his life. Job trusted God and refused to curse or turn away from Him, even though that is what many advised Him to do, and God “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
The storms of life are going to come on this side of Heaven. Let the devil sweat, and let God make you stronger than ever.
A blessed Holy Week to you and yours! I pray that the Lord’s presence is very real and near to you as the Lenten season of reflection and deep contemplation of the cross of Christ turns to the celebration of His triumph over sin and death.
This morning, Eli and I were praying through our daily reading out of a book we have been utilizing lately called The Valley of Vision. This is a compilation of Puritan-era prayers, written in a beautiful older English, poetic style. We came across these words, which struck me so deeply:
Thou dost not play in convincing me of sin,
Satan did not play in tempting me to it,
I do not play when I sink in deep mire,
for no sin is a game, no toy, no bauble;
Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies
not so much in the nature of the sin committed,
as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.
What an opportunity the season leading to Resurrection Sunday is to reflect on our deep need for salvation. Thank God for the hopefulness of new birth and new life that we see reflected in the colorful decorations in homes and stores everywhere. But the magnitude of what Easter means can be fully understood only when we come face to face with our own depravity. So many of us who follow Christ have grown used to His life flowing in ours; we are tempted to forget that every good thing in us comes from Him, is made better by Him. We live in constant danger of being sucked in by the spirit of the age which hints we aren’t so bad, after all. More accurately, the spirit of our age says, “Look at that person - they are terrible! Thank my own goodness that I’m not as terrible as them!” We are shocked and dismayed when people sin, as though every last one of us is not also a sinner needing a savior. The Bible clearly teaches...
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
Dr. Jim Bradford mentioned on his podcast recently that it is striking how quickly humanity gave into total wickedness after the fall. In Genesis 4, the first murder occurs, and by chapter 6 the entire world is so sinful and wicked that the Bible tells us, "The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled." We are not good; inherently, we are terribly selfish. We must not think that we couldn't be like the generation that broke God's heart. We can't think that we aren't also capable of the deepest depravity.
We can realize our own sinful nature most clearly the closer we get to God. Looking upon His goodness and holiness reveals just how far short we all fall. Throughout history, so many people have loved God and desired nearness to Him. Think of even just the Biblical record of those spiritual giants who knew God, and desired deep intimacy with Him, and then what a face-to-face encounter with God caused them to do:
Job, who God Himself called perfect...
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
Moses, who was a mighty deliverer of his people...
At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Elijah, who was so filled with God’s power that he could shut the heavens...
1 Kings 19:12-13
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Daniel, so godly that several despots in a row trusted him to be prime minister...
I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.
Every one of them saw a glimpse of God’s glory, and fell flat on his face with a realization of their own wicked, sinful nature. When we compare ourselves to the goodness, holiness, and righteousness of God, we remember how far from Him we are. We must realize that our sinful and selfish actions and thoughts not only hurt ourselves and other people, but that they are aimed at the most beautiful, innocent, Being of all. As the prayer stated earlier: Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.
Realizing God's goodness, and not comparing ourselves with others yields real freedom. Remembering that any goodness and righteousness in our own lives is not actually our own, but God's gives us a right perspective. When we remember God's goodness, and our great need for Him, then we are ready to go out and share His love with others. We know what Jesus' death and resurrection has meant in our own hearts and lives, and we can hope for the same for everyone we meet. This weekend, take some time to reflect on our Savior. May your faith be strengthened with a fresh revelation of the Father's great love for us, demonstrated in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. May your life spill over with the goodness of God.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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