Through All The Seasons. . . God Is Loving and Powerful

Today I’m sharing an article by Dr. David Jeremiah that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Through All the Seasons…
God is Loving and Powerful

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — Why has this passage endured the ages as one of the oldest philosophical poems in our literary canon? It’s certainly among the most pensive passages of God’s Word, a beautiful meditation that casts a near-hypnotic spell over readers of any generation.

The author was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, and this book is a chronicle of his lifelong quest for true happiness and joy. Solomon tried wealth, wisdom, work, and wild living. At the end of his wide-ranging experiments, he concluded that everything was an empty exercise in vanity. It was like trying to capture the wind in his hands.

As we come to the third chapter, we find Solomon facing an even bigger challenge, a “problem with God.”

I know all about the “problem with God.”

I would not have chosen cancer as a path to spiritual growth, nor would I wish such fear and pain on anyone. On the other hand, I do not see my illness as a random event, some miscellaneous accident of health. And I do not believe there was a moment when God was absent from the physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis I endured.

In fact, I found Him everywhere during that time. I found Him as never before. I glimpsed His face among the doctors and nurses who cared for me so skillfully. I saw Him there in shining power among the family of my church, and intimately among the family circle of my wife and children. He met me in the private chapel of my soul, where with each passing day I felt deeper in His grace and comfort. I found my Lord more present and more powerful.

Knowing there must be pain and suffering for us all, I dearly wish everyone could travel the road I did. I wish every human soul could see the face of God in the fear and turmoil. 

So many walk a very different path; they experience only His absence.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, when his own three-year-old son contracted a rare disease that took his life at a young age, penned his conclusions about God and suffering in order to provide answers to others in similar circumstances.

Kushner’s conclusion was a popularization of an ancient theological conundrum:

How can God be both perfectly good and perfectly powerful? The suffering in the world suggests that if He is God, He is not good; or that if He is good, He is not God. In other words, there must be something lacking in either His love or His strength, or He would cure every little pain.

Rabbi Kushner worked through the old enigma. He concluded that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. He cares deeply about the people He created, but after creating the world He backed away and allowed it to run without His interference.

Solomon had a different view entirely. He concludes that God is sovereign and in control, regardless of the imponderables that remain. Solomon sees God as being present with us but not helpful enough. The king wants to know why God does not improve the standard of life, do something about the aging process, show more favoritism to His children, and perhaps discontinue the program of human pain.

In his poem, there are fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones, and they fall into three separate categories. The first describes the influence of time on our bodies, the second focuses on our souls, and the last deals with our spirits.

And Solomon’s main thought? Well, it doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to notice that the word time occurs twenty-nine times in these verses.

Time and Your Physical Life

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up.

Solomon begins his contemplation with a sobering observation: birth and death both have their appointed times.

When my grandson, Ryland, was born, I flew to Baltimore for the event. As I peered through the nursery window at this beautiful new citizen of the world, it struck me that only a corridor away, some other citizen was being dispatched. Some family had gathered for the agony of farewell. It is not a lengthy walk between the nursery and the intensive care unit. We spend our own time making that trek between entrance and exit, womb and tomb.

Meanwhile, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. Solomon refers to the food supply because he knows that God sets the boundaries of the seasons. God has built certain rhythms into His world. The steady repetition of the seasons provides comfort and a workable cadence to life.

We are a bit discomforted to read that there is a time to kill as well as a time to heal. Yet our bodies are in the process of dying every moment. Scientists tell us that every seven years we replenish all the cells within our bodies. There is an ongoing maintenance department in the human machine that is constantly changing out the old for the new. And it is governed by time.

Cancer cells, infection cells, or simply worn-out cells must be killed — so even killing has its time, and we are grateful. There must be a time to kill so we might also have a time to heal.

And what of “a time to break down, and a time to build up”? We build up in our early years, and we start breaking down as we get older — painful but true. How old is old? I was enjoying a birthday when David Todd, my six-year-old grandson, crunched the numbers on my age. He said, “If Poppy was a dog’s age, he’d be dead!” He was right.

There is a time for breaking down, but God is there. He is as powerful as He is loving, and you have the opportunity to experience His power all the more effectively and vividly when you turn to Him in the breakdowns of life.

Read the rest here.

How God Changes Our “Why Me?” Questions in Suffering to “Why Not Me?”

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

How God Changes Our
“Why Me?” Questions
in Suffering to
“Why Not Me?”

By Randy Alcorn 

There was a time when I could not fully accept any explanation for evil and suffering that didn’t make sense to me, start to finish. However, over the years, and through the process of writing my book If God Is Good, I’ve come to trust my own understanding less, and God’s Word more.

I find a strange delight in being swallowed up by the immensity of God’s greatness and by the divine mysteries that once disturbed me. Know­ing that I’ll sit before God’s judgment seat—not He before mine—I choose to trust Him. And the more I do, the more sense the story makes to me.

And I am certain about this: the best answer to the problem of evil is a person—Jesus Christ. I’m convinced He is the only answer. The drama of evil and suffering in Christ’s sac­rifice addresses the very heart of the problem of evil and suffering. And one day it will prove to have been the final answer.

So whenever you feel tempted in your suffering to ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” look at the Cross and ask, “Why did you do that for me?”

In this excerpt from his 2018 book God’s Grace in Your Suffering, David Powlison writes about how God changes our “Why me?” questions in suffering. (My thanks to Justin Taylor for sharing this ohis excellent blog.)

So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is

Why me?

Why this?

Why now?

Why?

You’ve now heard God speaking with you. The real God says all these wonderful things, and does everything he says.

Read the rest here.

To Those Hurting Christmas 2018

You’ve probably seen this one here a couple of times before during the Christmas season. It is such a good piece that I have decided to share this as a Christmas post each year.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

by John Knight

I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.

You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.

Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.

Jesus knows.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)

More than that, he endured and is victorious!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)

And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!

From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first.

Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)

Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)


John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.

I Trust in You, O LORD

But I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” 

My times are in Your hands.
—Psalm 31:14-15

Once again, I struggled to unscrew the top from a jar but the stubborn cap refused to budge. Just as I was getting ready to call on Rick for help, it came loose.

I hated having to ask Rick for help so often, but the arthritis in my fingers and carpal tunnel problems with my wrists cause difficulties with the simplest tasks. Daily my frustration grows as I witness different parts of my body getting weaker and sometimes even breaking down. These days I can’t even get down onto the floor or up again without great pain and difficulty because of my bad knees.

Why do things have to be this way? I silently ask God, but I already know the answer: “Trust Me, child, I’m always here to take care of you.”

What would we do without the promises of such a loving God who faithfully guides us through the trials of life? He knows everything about us, which means He understands our limitations. He has intimate knowledge about how much we hurt and He is always with us to comfort our painful and grieving body and spirit. He holds us close to His heart in His ever-powerful hands.

I know my God takes care of me—I believe this without a shadow of doubt. I guess my real problems start when I focus on my problems instead of on God. He realizes my pain and frustration and provides the best comfort possible through His Word. How often I have been in despair and found in Scripture the very words I needed to calm my heart.

Imagine the strength in God’s hands. Now picture those same hands pulling you close in a calm and comforting embrace. His strength is our strength and can get us through those frustrating times when nothing seems to go right.

Beloved, our times are in God’s hands because everything in our lives is under His control.

Songs from God

Today I’m sharing from Truth for Life. Every night when I start to fall asleep, the song “I Love You Lord” starts running through my mind. The Lord reminded me of this song a few years ago when I really needed it. And since then every time I awaken during the night, that same song is still with me. I love that because it means my heart and mind are praising Him all night long. 

Songs from God

God, my Maker, who gives songs in the night. 
Job 35:10

Any man can sing during the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When money is in plentiful supply, any man can praise the God who provides an abundant harvest or sends home a loaded ship. It is easy enough for a tuneful harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to carry when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but it takes a skillful singer whose song springs forth when there is not a ray of light to read by. No man can make a song in the night by himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.

Let everything go well, then I can weave songs, fashioning them from the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and with what shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? 

Read the rest here.

Job’s Trials

Job’s Trials

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“Then the Lord said to Satan,
‘Have you considered my servant Job?'”
–Job 1:8

The Bible infers that God always eventually gets His way. But what does that say about Him? God’s favorite planet has experienced a lot of evil over the years. Why hasn’t He stopped it or, at least curbed it? If God’s the boss, is Satan His employee? Let’s look at Job.

Job had it all — money, land, status, family. One day in God’s throne room, Satan broached his disgust over Job’s pious reputation. “The man loves you because you bribe him,” the devil argued. “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” God answered, “Job is yours, only don’t lay a finger on his person.” The words were scarcely out of God’s mouth when lightning killed Job’s sheep and shepherds, a Chaldean raiding party plundered the cattle and herdsmen, then a mighty wind collapsed a roof on Job’s children. So we ask, who caused Job’s trials?

At the most basic level, natural forces did — desert winds blew and lightning struck. On the same level, evil people caused Job’s trials — greedy men killed and plundered. On another level, Satan caused Job’s problems — he leaves God’s presence, we scarcely blink, and carnage is everywhere; Satan engineered it all: the fire, the wind, and the sword. But on the deepest level, nothing happened that God did not decree. God permitted what He hated, to accomplish something He loved: the worship of a wiser Job.

Satan’s motive was to wreck Job’s life and mock God. God’s reaction to the devil was merely to lengthen his leash. God’s decree made room for evil to occur, but God didn’t do it. He simply exploited the deliberate evil of wicked people, as well as the impersonal evil of some bad storms without forcing anyone’s hands. How does God pull it off? Welcome to the world of finite human beings trying to comprehend an infinite God!

Almighty God, how unsearchable are Your judgments and Your ways past finding out! I simply praise You that Your decrees are perfect.

www.joniandfriends.org


Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Patience

Patience

By Pat Knight

The Bible book of Job opens with a snapshot of its namesake: In the land of Uz, there lived a man named Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3), a respected elder in his community, admired for his civic leadership and justice.

God granted Satan permission to test His servant Job, to prove Job’s righteousness and faithfulness. Within a day Job lost his enormous wealth in livestock, his house, and his servants. Worst of all, his ten children were killed in an accident. Soon Job contracted a disease, with “sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).

Job’s entire body was wracked with gnawing pain day and night (Job 30:17). The infection caused festering sores (v. 7:5), scabs that peeled and turned black (vv. 30:28, 30), disfigurement with a repulsive appearance (vv. 2:12; 19:19), nightmares (v. 7:14), bad breath with loss of teeth (vv. 19:17, 20), physical emaciation (vv. 17:7; 19:20), and fever (v. 30:30), which may have caused delirium and hallucinations   (v. 7:14).

Job’s wife helplessly observed her husband deteriorating before her eyes, scraping his sores with broken pottery glass. Job struggled with thoughts of shame, insignificance, and injustice. He cried out to God, but heard only silence. Suspecting Job would soon die, and aware of the law stipulating death for blaspheming the Name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:15), Mrs. Job suggested a way to hasten her husband’s death: “‘Curse God and die’” (Job 2:9b). Job refused, saying, “‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all of this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).Though stretched to the limits of human endurance, Job refused to give up. He clung to God with all his might.

Three friends traveled to comfort Job. Ideally, they should have provided Job with encouragement, an oasis in the desert of his suffering. But they offered only a mirage, another disappointment for Job to reconcile. He received callous arguments from his friends, who branded him a hypocrite. Job desired friendship, dependable counsel, and spiritual guidance, costing his friends nothing, but which would have proved most valuable to a wretched man. Job responded, “‘One should be kind to a fainting friend but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty’” (Job 6:14, NLT).

“The patience of Job” is a phrase commonly but inaccurately used. The book of Job omits such a characterization. Job claimed the right to bellow and complain that he was wounded and forgotten by God. He rued the day he was born (v. 3:11). He accused God of excessive criticism (v. 7:20). Job was adamant that he had done nothing wrong to invoke God’s discipline or punishment. The more he argued, the more arrogance he acquired. He came perilously close to implicating God of wrongdoing. Job complained of God’s apparent injustice and insensitivity, accusing God of abusing His power, attacking him, and disregarding his pleas for mercy. “‘You have become cruel toward me. You use your power to persecute me’” (Job 30:21, NLT).

The believer’s spiritual gift of patience (Galatians 5:22) includes more than just waiting. It implies the calm bearing of trials without complaining. Inherent in patience is submissive relaxation in the comforting, assuring arms of Jesus. Serenity and praise are implicit factors, trusting the plans of God without necessarily knowing His purposes. At its core, patience requires humility and submission to the will of God. “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“When we let circumstances come between us and God, God is shut out, and as a result of that we lose the sense of His presence. We get to the place where there is worry and distress instead of peace in our souls, and we do not feel His fatherly hand upon us. We become fretful and impatient and irritable and fault-finding. We get far away from God and out of communication with Him. We do not see the hand of God in all circumstances. All the while He wants to bring us back to Himself in brokenness of heart and humbleness of mind” (J. Vernon McGee).

If we intend to exhibit the fine art of patience during adversity, Job is not the model to emulate. Jesus Christ is our divine example. During His thirty-three years on earth, Christ encountered the gamut of human experiences. Both in His purpose and in His performance, Jesus patiently carried out the plan established for Him in the heavenly realms. He showed patience toward the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders whose design it was to taunt and entrap Him. Jesus never sinned. He never lost His temper unjustly. He never dishonored His Father in heaven or people on earth. Jesus was humble and patient with men and submissive to His heavenly Father. “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15, NLT).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tempter offered Jesus the crown without the cross. Jesus patiently and obediently committed Himself to God, praying, “‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ And in anguish, He prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).

Jesus is the perfect, patient Son of God, the only Person qualified to suffer in our place. The ideal model of patience in weakness is the cross of Christ! Now He strengthens us by the power of His resurrection.

Though there is no mention of Job’s patience in the Old Testament, later Job is remembered. “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord faithfully brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). Job was not patient, but he exhibited steadfast trust. Job persevered because he had already established a devout personal relationship with God prior to his losses. Satan was sure Job would capitulate in defeat under the heavy weight of loss and suffering, but he didn’t count on his victim’s enduring faith. Job’s belief of a future reward in heaven sustained him during the long months of tribulations. “‘Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One’” (Job 6:10).

Our responsibility is to “Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12b). It pleases Jesus’ to know that His followers inherit His divine attributes. Like Job, we must learn patience, the ability to respond with quiet, uncompromising endurance under stress.

Let us implement the gift of patience that characterizes Christ,
leaning hard on the Rock, resting in His divine help and power.
Then God will be glorified by your patient, adoring acts of faith.