Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

Read the rest here.

When I’m dealing with disappointment…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared one of my devotionals that was published in Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional is included in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.”

When I’m dealing with disappointment . . .

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, 
but a sudden good break can turn life around. 
—Proverbs 13:12 MSG

 

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:
but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. 

—Proverbs 15:22 KJV

 

You heard their cries for help and saved them; 
they were never disappointed when they sought your aid. 
—Psalm 22:5 TLB

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who 
love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
—Romans 8:28 NRSV

 

Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad?
Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again 

praise him for his help. 
—Psalm 42:5 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

My Loving Father,

If only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, but I did—and now I feel so disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes I wonder if anything will ever work out for me. Everybody keeps telling me it’s just a little bump in the road, but it doesn’t feel like a bump to me. It feels as I’ve gone off the road completely.

I know I’m probably overreacting, and I also know that I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way right now if I had taken time to talk to You about this situation in the beginning. Would You have steered me in another direction? Or allowed me to move ahead for some higher purpose in my life? I’ll probably never have an answer to that. The point is that I didn’t give You a chance to help me see things from Your perspective.

Lord, take this disappointment I’m feeling and transform it into something positive—a reminder to seek Your guidance; a renewed sense of Your presence with me when things work out and when they don’t; and compassion for others when they feel hopeless and disappointed.

Thank You for being the God of second chances.

Amen.

There is no disappointment to those whose wills are 
buried in the will of God. 
—Frederick Faber


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

Shared from Unlocking the Bible.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

by Eden Parker

Yep, we’re gonna talk about worry. You’ve heard the command:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… (v. 25)

But a good friend of mine told me to always ask, “What’s the therefore there for?” What was said before this to birth Matthew’s imperative? Earlier in the chapter, we read, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21) and, “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). God in his Word has reminded us that he is our Father and Master, and out of this reality we find the command to live free of anxiety.

When we labor for the Lord, it’s not a part-time employment—he’s the Master. When we fight for the Lord, it’s not a temporary deployment (2 Timothy 2:4)—he’s the King. But one of the ways Christians side-step service to the King and dishonor his Lordship is by worrying.

We know this deadly enemy by our fret and sweat, the jitters, the “oh-no!”s about tomorrow, the thoughts surrounding events that make our palms sweat and elevate our heart rates. But really, worry is our heart’s response to a deeply rooted belief that we are our own master; a deeply felt responsibility that we are our own king; and a deep craving to meet our own needs.

I read Matthew 6, and I write now to admonish my own failure. There are four things, among many more, we can learn about the root of worry—what’s really going on in our heart—from this passage. As we consider God’s Word, I pray he works in us both to put to death this sin in our heart.

Four Things That Happen When You Worry

1. You have disordered priorities.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v. 25, emphasis added)

Life is more than the sum of solutions to the things we worry about. What things does God warn us not to worry over? Food, drink, clothes, our body. These are real needs, but they’re not worth one minute of faithless fretting.

Read the rest here.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

Sharing today from Desiring God.

Oh the Deep, Deep Joy of Jesus

What sustained the man of sorrows

By David Mathis

Man of Sorrows. What a name.

Isaiah penned some of the most memorable lines in all the Bible when he prophesied about God’s coming “suffering servant”:

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)

We know from the New Testament, and the realizing of Isaiah’s words 700 years later, that this suffering servant would be not only the promised Messiah, but God himself — God’s own Son, come to rescue his people, by receiving in himself the justice they deserved. How can God himself, the happiest being in the universe, not only become man, but “a man of sorrows”?

Isaiah’s next words give the answer: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He bore our griefs. He carried our sorrows. In his mission to save us, he entered not only into our flesh and blood but into our sorrows. And yet, even as prescient and memorable as Isaiah’s prophecy is, nowhere does the New Testament refer to Jesus as “man of sorrows.” Yes, he carried our sorrows, and he even had his own, but he was so much more than a man of sorrows. Fundamentally, he was a man of something much stronger.

Sustained in Sorrow

Jesus could not have borne our griefs and carried our sorrows had he not been buoyed by something deeper and more enduring. Imagine what emotional strength it must have taken to fulfill the words of Isaiah 50:6:

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.

Did he ever taste sorrow. He entered into our sin-haunted environment and felt our infirmities, making himself able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He spoke a blessing to those who mourn and weep (Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:21). At the tomb of his friend, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33). He wept (John 11:35). Then he was “deeply moved again” (John 11:38).

How was he sustained in the sorrows he encountered, not just in the course of normal human life, but in the unique steps he took as the suffering servant?

Deep, Habitual Joy

The surprising testimony of the Gospels is that Jesus was a man of unparalleled and unshakeable joy. “A joyless life would have been a sinful life,” writes Donald Macleod, “Jesus experienced deep, habitual joy” (Person of Christ, 171). While the Gospels focus on the objective, external aspects of his ministry, we do get a few precious peeks.

Read the rest here.

Thought Patrol

Thought Patrol

 

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom
and does not understand it,
the evil one comes and snatches away
what was sown in his heart… 
Matthew 13:19

The devil can invade our mental privacy?! The very thought sends shivers. And it should. Satan tries to tap into our brains all the time. He’s a regular soul-hacker — like the techno-geeks on their computers at home, breaking security codes and logging onto sensitive government systems. Scripture calls him “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” and today’s verse describes his access to the human soul.  

People joke about this and say, “The devil made me do it.” They laugh because they don’t think he exists. And if there is a devil, he’s their ex-spouse. Meanwhile their minds are as soaked with his suggestions as a pickle in vinegar. They don’t see him — he’s a spirit. They don’t hear him — he has tiptoed in sock-footed. If they do catch some small noise at their mind’s door, they assume it’s just opportunity knocking.  

But Christians know better; they understand the power of their invisible tempter. We are aware, as well as wary. The wonderful thing for the Christian is, 1 John 4:4-5 says, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” His Spirit helps you stand guard over your mind with the power of God’s Word.  

Put a barbed wire fence around your thinking. Make your will “stand guard” over your mind with the ammunition of God’s Word. Learn to recognize the devil’s tactics so that you can shoot down every suggestion — every temptation — of the enemy today. And take courage knowing that if Satan can be stealthful for evil’s sake, God is much more at work for goodness’ sake.  

Spirit of Christ, please help me stand guard over my thoughts today. Help me to resist any suggestion from the devil that I offend You, hurt my brother, or tarnish my own testimony through sin or selfishness.


Taken from Pearls of Great Price. Copyright © 2006 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

The Secret of Being #Content

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

—Philippians 4:12-13

Are we really content or do we pine away for what we don’t have but think we need? How can we find true contentment? I believe the answer lies in our perspective, our priorities, and our source of power.

Perspective

We are a tiny speck in God’s grand design, but He can see the bigger picture and knows everything that is going to happen to us before we ever do!

I know of a writer who suddenly became quite ill. It took some time for the doctors to diagnose her illness and then she suffered through a long recovery period. During all of this, she never gave up. She firmly believed God would carry her through. In fact, she found contentment in her situation and praised God for granting her that period of rest and recuperation. She could have bemoaned her circumstances and blamed God for it, but instead she chose to use the time to get closer to Him.

Afterward she said she could not wait to get back to her writing because she really had some great things to put down on paper based on what God had revealed to her while she was ill. What a good example of how we can turn something bad into something positive! She exhibited a peace and contentment that transcends all earthly understanding.

Priorities

Is God at the very top of our list of priorities? If we believe that God created all things, why can’t we remember that He can also guide us in all things?

God wants only the best for His children and He reveals this to us in many ways. His love and care for us are evident as He works in us through the people in our lives, and through the Bible, prayer, the church, and the circumstances of our lives.

How many times have we heard (and perhaps even said ourselves), “Why is God letting this happen? Why didn’t He do anything to stop it?” Suppose your child is fighting the ravaging effects of leukemia, or you go into work one day only to find you’ve been laid off. Where is God and how can we find contentment in situations such as these?

As so often happens, the Lord wants to see where our priorities lie. Have we just been giving lip service to our faith and trust in God to provide for our needs, or do we really believe this? It is sometimes difficult, but that trust is another kind of contentment—knowing God will take care of us and resting in that knowledge without worrying about the outcome.

Power

What is the source of our power? Do we turn first to God for help or do we try to solve the problem ourselves? We can do nothing on our own. It is only through the strength of Jesus Christ that we can find any kind of strength at all!

If you’re anything like me, you have struggled with an unruly shopping cart more times than you can remember The first inclination is to fight the rebellious cart, trying to “bend” it to your will—in other words, trying to make it move straight ahead instead of sideways. Usually we finally give up and exchange the stubborn cart for another one, hoping the second one will be easier to steer.

Isn’t this similar to how we oftentimes react to God’s power in our lives? When He tries to show us the error of our ways in a particular situation, we dig in our heels and pretend there’s no problem. We might even turn away from God’s guidance. But when we finally allow God to do His work in our lives, there is a contented and peaceful heart after that struggle with what we know is right.

The more we seek the Lord, the more faithful He is to grant us the emotional means to deal with our lives. True contentment is when we are in stressful situation but remain calm and at peace because we know He is with us no matter what.