A Hope That Overwhelms Grief

I have heard it said before that “when things are going well we talk about God, but when things are tough we talk to Him.” I would say this is abundantly accurate.

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain says “We can ignore pleasure, but pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In reflecting on my own season of trials, suffering, difficulty, and a slew of circumstances not working out the way I thought they would, I was brought to Genesis 50:20 where Joseph says “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” For me, I know that Satan would want nothing more than for me to functionally “curse God and die” (as it is said in the book of Job) but I know that God is working something greater out, and because of that I can count this present suffering as joy–knowing that I am growing more aware and secure in Christ because of it (see James 1:2-4).

Besides, our God is in the business of turning defeat into victory.

We see this almost entirely throughout the Bible, don’t we? We see this in Genesis with Abraham and Isaac and with the story of Joseph’s abandonment by his brothers; we see this with Moses and the Israelites in Egypt, being delivered from Pharaoh, across the Red Sea, in the wilderness, etc.; in countless battles and struggles in the Old Testament; and most significantly we see this with Jesus on the cross (and ultimately His resurrection, ascension, and promised return)!

It is Truth like this that causes David’s cup to overflow in Psalm 23 while still in the valley. His circumstance has not changed, yet his disposition has been eternally altered.

Tim Keller puts it extremely well when he says “The Christian faith has a hope that overwhelms grief. This hope doesn’t get rid of the grief or pain but sweetens and shifts it.”

Again we say, ‘what Satan intended for evil, God (rightly) redirects for good.’

This is why the author of Hebrews can say “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:39)

This truth grows in us a trust and a confidence otherwise unattainable. This truth is what propels Paul in Romans 8 to say “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (v.31)

This is why we can echo with 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “(we do not) grieve as others do who have no hope” and with numerous Psalms that proclaim “God is doing all of this so that He alone may be magnified! It is for HIS namesake and HIS glory that He does it!”

With all this in mind a particular quote yields a helpful context: “If we would talk less and pray more things would be better than they are in the world; at least we should be better enabled to bear them.” ~ John Owen.

You see, it is seasons like these that force our eyes off of ourselves and exclusively to Christ. He is the One we turn to; in Him (alone!) we trust, for He is trustworthy. His very self is declared “Faithful” and “True” (Revelation 19:11) and many verses echo the truth proclaimed in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 that says if God promises: “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”

This is a hope that overwhelms grief.

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Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #17

Resolved that I will live so, as I wish I had done when I come to die. (#17)

Resolved never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump. (#19)

[update: I’ve combined Resolutions 17 & 19 due to the consistent nature of their content and my reaction to them]

This reminds me of a quote I read recently. Dr. Samuel Johnson is reported to have said: “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” When we are near death–or made more aware of it–our minds tend to think clearer. When someone close to us dies, when we struggle with a grieving loss, what is truly (and ultimately) important to us becomes apparent.

I believe this is the emotional response Jonathan Edwards is hoping to trigger with this resolution.

Essentially he is saying that he wants to live in such a way that he has no regrets. Sure he (as we all) will mess up and wish things could’ve been done differently, but having an attitude of urgency and proactivity changes the way in which we live; the people in which we share the Gospel with; even HOW we share that Gospel. It changes the filter in which we perceive and act in our lives. Even the risks we do or do not take.

Another quote that comes to mind in regards to this topic is from C.S. Lewis who says: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

I think he hits it dead on in pointing out that as we think about Heaven and the eternal promises provided to us in the Gospel it changes us. It changes the way we think, act, pray, love, and serve. It changes our perspective from the temporal to the abiding/eternal; and when that happens, there are fundamental changes in us.

This resolution is about making these truths more readily on the front of our minds. We ought to be thinking through this lens much more than we presently do. Maybe then we won’t watch that extra episode of a TV show we’ve already seen. Maybe then we will have the courage to share the Gospel (and take the risk!) with the person God has put on our hearts. Maybe then we will begin actually responding to our own question of “will this (action) even matter in 5 years, or am I just wasting time?”

At the end of the day it’s about a level of intentionality. John Piper in Don’t Waste Your Life puts it well when he (continually) asserts that he doesn’t want to get to the end of his life and say “I’ve wasted it.”

Christmas Love

C. S. Lewis put it like this,

‘Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’

There is no way to have a real relationship without becoming vulnerable to hurt. And Christmas tells us that God became breakable and fragile. God became someone we could hurt. Why? To get us back. And if you believe this and take it into your life, you’re blessed. As you take in the truth of what he did for you—how loved and affirmed you are—you’ll be able to let down your defenses in your own relationships with other people. You won’t always need to guard your honor. You’ll be able to let down the barriers down. You’ll be able to move into intimate relationships with other people.

What is in the package of Christmas? His vulnerability for intimacy with us, which gives us the vulnerability to be intimate with the people around us. If you believe in Christmas—that God became a human being—you have an ability to face suffering, a resource for suffering that others don’t have.

~~ Tim Keller

An Anchor For Our Soul

As Christians we can subtly slip into trusting our accomplishments, success, health, bank account, respect that we have garnered, or the fact we have outpaced our competitors. We can feel better about life when things are going well. We can also despair when it’s not going so well.

Hebrews 6:19-20 says, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever.” In our lives it’s sometimes not a life-altering event that discourages and demoralizes us, but it’s adversity after little adversity, frustration after little frustration that can throw us to the ground.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us that the world is like water spiritually. It’s always moving, changing, and insecure, so we need an anchor for our soul. We can attempt to anchor our soul in the things of the world, such as human relationships, health, family, and career, but ultimately those are always changing, moving, and insecure. We need an anchor that goes through the water and provides the safety, security, and stability we need in the drifting and storms.

Thank God he sent Jesus to be the anchor we all need that provides what nothing else can. I don’t know what life will bring my way and I don’t know if the ringing in my ear will ever go away, but I do know I have an anchor for my soul, who is Jesus Christ, who is my trust, security, and hope.

(content adapted from a post found on The Resurgence blog here: http://ow.ly/bfV6f)

——

This has held very true in my life.

I find myself to naturally placing my worth, identity, and confidence in the shifting things of this world. Deep down I understand that these things will not, and were never meant to, satisfy, yet time and time again I put my hope in the fleeting things of this world that will ultimately pass away (1 John 2:17, 1 Corinthians 7:31).

In a world filled with variation, I soon felt the longing in my heart for consistency. A hope that will never fail me, and a desire that will never be extinguished. All the things on this earth have left me longing for more–nothing was ever truly satisfying.

Enter Jesus.

James 1:17 says that, in Christ, there is no “variation or shadow due to change.” He is unchanging.

Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is reliably the same.

Hebrews 12:18-29 paints the picture that God is removing the shakeable, inconsistent, and ungratifying things of this earth to establish His Kingdom, an unshakeable Kingdom, in which we can have eternal hope in.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not rejecting the things of this world. The Bible says, after all, that God created all things for the praise of His name and the glorifying of Himself (Colossians 1:16, Romans 11:33-36, 1 Corinthians 10:31). But our ultimate hope cannot lie in created things, where we worship created things over the Creator (Romans 1:21-25), but must be rightly positioned to God (Revelation 4:11).

May we not put our hope into things that will ultimately fail us, because they were never meant to truly satisfy us.

May we echo the longing written about in Psalm 42:1, “[a]s a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” and in Psalm 27:4, (“[o]ne thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.”

May we reflect, daily, on the account in Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says that “eternity is written into man’s heart” and heed the words of C.S. Lewis when he says, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

May we build our house on the Rock that is Jesus Christ, and not the sand that is worldly things (see Matthew 7:24-27), which cannot and will not satisfy your deepest longings for joy, peace, approval, and acceptance.

We were made to glorify God, and to find our hope in Him–and Him alone. May we trust in Christ as an immovable, unchanging, reliable, trustworthy, sovereign, reigning, powerful, loving, and gracious anchor for our soul as Hebrews 6:19-20 states.

Jesus: Son of God or Lunatic, but No Mere Moral Teacher

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
~ C.S. Lewis (from Mere Christianity)