Trusting or Grasping?

We know God has promised to meet our needs, so we pray about them. Then, because the needs are legitimate, we’ve prayed about them, and we have every right (or so we think) to expect them to be met, we push, pull, grasp, or demand instead of trusting.

One example in the Bible is Rebekah. God told her that the twins in her womb would become two nations, one would be stronger, and the older would serve the younger. Rebekah favored the younger, Jacob, perhaps because of this prediction, perhaps because her husband favored Esau, perhaps because Jacob’s more domestic personality meshed better with Rebekah’s – perhaps all of the above. But instead of waiting to see how God would work out His will, Rebekah manipulated and deceived in order to edge Jacob ahead of the game. Not only did Jacob follow her poor example, becoming a manipulator himself, but he had to flee Esau’s wrath, and Rebekah never saw her son again.

Or consider Sarah. God had promised that Abraham would have a son who would bless the nations. But years passed, and Abraham and Sarah had no child. So Sarah decided to help God out and persuaded Abraham to sleep with her handmaid, Hagar. The negative results of that action continues on today in the conflicts between the descendants of Abraham’s sons with Sarah and Hagar.

It’s not wrong to “put feet to our prayers” within God’s will. We trust God to meet our financial needs, and sometimes He does that miraculously, like Peter’s tax money in the fish’s mouth and the widow’s cruse of oil that didn’t run out. But most often He provides for our needs by providing work. When we ask God to meet someone else’s needs, He might lay it on our hearts to be part of the answer by helping them.

But manipulation comes in when we think God isn’t answering in the time or the way we feel best. Instead of waiting to be led by Him, we jump ahead with our own great ideas. Or we’re so afraid our needs won’t be met, we grasp them to ourselves like a football and run over or knock down any obstacles in our way.

Here’s an example. I function best with some time alone. I love the people in my life, and I love the happy chaos of time together. But I get easily over-stimulated and tense without some degree of quiet solitude. So I used to stake out my quiet time and then resent anyone who intruded into it or prevented it. Then I’d get all the more tense.Or I would ignore promptings to minister to others because I needed my solitude instead of trusting God to provide it another time.

When I sought time to write amidst a busy and unpredictable schedule, I’d get frustrated when no time seemed open and either whine or lash out inwardly against the circumstances in my life.

When I needed peace in an anxious moment, I grew frustrated that it wasn’t coming.

None of those scenarios demonstrates trust.  God promises to meet my needs, but that doesn’t mean I can be demanding or resentful if the answer doesn’t come in the way I expected. Trusting that He is going to supply my need doesn’t mean I grasp it with both hands and hang on with all my might.

Trusting means just that. I release my stipulations, my demands, and my ideas of the best ways everything should work out. I trust that He will meet my need or enable me to get by without it, as Paul did when he learned to be full or to be hungry, to be content in any situation.

Instead of staking out my quiet time and fending off everything and everyone, I can trust that God knew my needs and will provide for them in ways I can’t yet see.

If someone interrupts my quiet time, I can remind myself that it happened to Jesus, too. I can remember His admonition to seek first His kingdom, and all these other things will be added unto me. I can see interruptions as allowed by His hand. Did you realize that the woman with the issue of blood was an interruption? Jesus was on His way to heal the daughter of Jairus when He felt this woman’s touch of faith and confronted her. The Bible doesn’t say how Jairus felt about it, but I can imagine how I would feel in his place – especially when he received word that his ill daughter died. But Jesus continued on to Jairus’ house and raised his daughter. If Jairus was stewing and fretting, he didn’t need to.

When I realized this, I wish I could say it changed my view of interruptions forever. I still have to battle resentment and remind myself that God is sovereign over those as well as the bigger trials of life.

When my children were young, I’d get to the end of the day and lament that I hadn’t found a quiet moment to read the Bible. I began asking God at the beginning of the day to help me recognize those opportune moments. And He did.

Recently, for whatever reason, I was revved up and on edge, but the rest of the day was full, and I didn’t foresee an opportunity to just chill and relax. I bought it up to the Lord, and somehow He relaxed me and helped me to enjoy the rest of the evening without stress.

I am thankful Paul said he learned contentment whether in need or not. I haven’t aced the class yet, but I am learning. God knows my needs. I don’t have to grasp for His answer or manipulate circumstances or people in order to get it. I can rest in Him, trusting Him to meet them in the way and time He knows is best and will bring Him the most glory.

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7

Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall. Ruth 3:18a, KJV

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Refrain

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

~ Jean S. Pigott

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Grace and Truth)

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It’s okay to say it hurts

Several years ago someone stood up in a church prayer meeting and requested prayer for a young couple. The husband had just been diagnosed with cancer, and the wife reportedly “wasn’t taking it very well.”

I wondered what was meant by this comment on the wife’s reaction, and I wondered how in the world one does take such news well. If she threw over her faith because she didn’t want to believe in a God who would do such a thing, yes, that would constitute reacting poorly. But I doubt this mutual friend was conveying such a severe response.

Perhaps she got upset, cried, even got angry. But are those responses wrong? Is the Christian life one of perfect serenity and beatific smiles no matter the circumstances?

It doesn’t appear that way in Scripture. The psalms show a range of emotions: grief, confusion, anger, despair. Paul speaks of being with the Corinthians “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3) and being “hard pressed on every side . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down” (2 Corinthians 4:8). He reports being “in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger . . . through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). Even the Lord Jesus wept (Luke 19:41; John 11:33-35) and sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). We don’t “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but we do grieve.

I was once subscribed to an email group of transverse myelitis patients, back in the days before forums, message boards, or Facebook groups. I was conscious of wanting to glorify God and be a good testimony there, both of which were good goals. But I felt that in order to be a good testimony, I had to present myself as always victorious and overcoming and positive. At some point another Christian lady joined the group, and I was blessed as she did not gloss over the hardship and pain and frustration, yet she glorified God in the midst of all of that. Not only did her testimony ring true, but it also made her more relatable. We might admire the people who seem like they’ve always got it all together, but we’re not likely to go to them for help. We’re more drawn to those we can identify with, who’ve been in the trenches we’ve been in and yet survived them with grace.

On the other hand, it’s not good to wallow where the Lord extends grace to overcome. I’ve read people who readily admit to weakness, fear, pain, and grief, yet never exhibit God’s grace in dealing with those things. They seem to glory in their perpetual “mess.” Paul admits being “hard pressed on every side . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . struck down,” but he doesn’t stop there. He says he is “not crushed . . . not driven to despair . . . not forsaken . . . not destroyed” ((2 Corinthians 4:8). He is “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). He doesn’t “lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Why? Because “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) And later on in chapter 12:7-10, Paul shares that God did not remove something grievous in response to Paul’s prayers, but instead  promised “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We do need to distinguish between lament and complaint. We see lament all through the psalms and in some of the prophets, a crying out to God in the midst of painful circumstances. But 1 Corinthians 10:9-10 says of Israel during their trek from Egypt to Canaan: “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” One of those incidents of complaint occurred in Numbers 11:1-3. The people had previously grumbled about lack of water and food (Exodus 15:22-25; 16; 17;1-7), and God just met their need miraculously. He was longsuffering with them, perhaps because they had not been out of Egypt long and had not been taught His ways. But by Numbers 11, God responded to their complaints with fire and a plague. Did God just run out of patience with them? No, but by that time they had seen His miraculous deliverance from Egypt and provision of water and food. They should have gotten to know Him better and exhibited trust in Him at that point, plus grasped the larger picture of what He was delivering them to. What are the differences between lament and complaint? I don’t know all of them: that’s something I would like to study out more. Tim Challies points out the difference in one’s posture of either pride or humility. Complaint in these cases seemed to include a lack of faith, as I mentioned, and even an attack on God’s leadership, and by way of implication, on God. The laments in the psalms honestly admit the dire circumstances and hardships, but there is an element of faith running through them.

In George H. Guthrie’s book Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word, Michael Card says:

Lament teaches us that we have to go through the process of dealing with our suffering before God. You don’t just stuff your feelings down and put a good face on it, like a lot of us tend to do. You need to go through the process of pouring your heart out to God. And if you don’t have the language for it, the Bible will give you the language.

Almost all of the psalms of lament involve the psalmist reminding himself of the truth he knows. God is good and righteous. He loves us. He sees and knows what’s going on. He will bring about justice in His own time. He has the power to deliver us, and at some point He will. But in the meantime we can rest in Him. Through prayer and praise, the psalmist exhibits faith that God hears him and will do what’s best.

So when our friends are going through a hard time, we don’t need to add to their burden by judging their tears and lamentations. We can lend a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and gently remind them of God’s truth.

Enduring hardship as a Christian is not just a matter of a stiff upper lip or a smile that glosses over painful circumstances. When we’re in the midst of pain and sorrow ourselves, we can “take it to the Lord in prayer,” as the old hymn says. Sometimes we can cry out to Him in ways that we could not before others. We remind ourselves of the truth we have gleaned from His Word, that He knows all about it, He cares, He has the bigger picture in view, and He has promised His grace for our every need. And He’ll be glorified as others see His grace in us through the hard times.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Psalm 3:3-4, ESV

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth.
Linking does not imply full endorsement.)

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Laudable Linkage

Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:

Downstream. Love this analogy: “A river reaches places which its source never knows.”

If Kids Don’t Understand Why Miracles Don’t Discredit the Bible, Their Faith Will Be Easily Crushed, HT to Challies. “Miracle accounts simply don’t automatically discredit the Bible. Anyone who thinks they do hasn’t thought critically about the subject. Please help your kids understand this so they’re prepared the next time someone tries to make them feel like a fool by making simplistic appeals to ‘common sense.’”

Musical Choices–Objective Subjectivity. What music is appropriate for Christians has been the subject of multiple debates for years. But I think we can agree that music (not just words) which appeals to the flesh would fall on the wrong side for us. And we have to be honest about that appeal: as is shown here, if even secular musicians apply words like “raunchy” and “angry” to their music, how can we deny those elements are there?

Praying for Your Missionary’s Emotional and Mental Health. We pray for physical safety, but missionaries need help in other areas, too.

Josh Harris releases a statement on his book I Kissed Dating Good-bye. HT to Challies. I’m glad to see this. We gleaned some good principles from the book but formed our own philosophy which disagreed in parts with his.

The Literary Christmas Reading Challenge runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

If you like Christian Fiction and/or scavenger hunts, the annual Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt starts here, with an opportunity to win “25 books as well as Amazon gift cards, an iPad and more!” Plus most of the individual authors are hosting giveaways on their own sites as well.

And, finally, a couple of thoughts found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Bedrock Truth

Society today is trending away from absolute truth – truth that always has been and always will be real for everyone. Instead everyone has his or her own truth. This mindset is one of the tenets of postmodernism; another is valuing questions more than answers.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking has filtered into the church.

Sure, it’s irritating when someone gives a trite, pat response to a complicated question, especially without even hearing out the question first. Or when someone expresses obnoxious assurance about an area where there’s room for nuance and speculation. There are mysteries about life and even Christianity that we’ll never understand completely this side of heaven.

But Jesus said we can know the truth, and it will set us free. He said we can discern His teaching if we’re willing to do God’s will.

Here are a few solid, bedrock, foundational truths we can rest on:

God’s Word is reliable (2 Peter 1:16-21). Peter was one of only three people to experience one of the most awe-inspiring experiences ever. He, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes talking with Moses and Elijah, though the two prophets had been in heaven for centuries. Yet Peter called Scripture a “more sure word of prophecy” than even this experience. (See also Romans 16:25-26).

Jesus is the Son of God. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20, ESV). “ So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69, ESV). He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him.

We’re not good in ourselves. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18, ESV).

We can know God: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV).

We can know His love.

Jesus has authority to forgive sins.

Jesus redeemed us to himself by His blood.

We can be justified by faith in Christ. “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16, ESV).

We can know we have eternal life. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, ESV).

We can live a godly life: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3, ESV).

Jesus was raised from the dead, and we will be raised, too.

His sheep hear His voice.

Suffering has a purpose. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV). (See also James 1:2-4).

We can learn something about God from His 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” (Romans 1:20, ESV).

It’s worth everything to know Him.

We don’t know everything. Someday we’ll know more clearly. But what we do know, we can have full confidence in.

“I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 2:12, ESV).

True, some people will deny and undermine these truths. But I’d rather stake my soul on the truth that God made us and communicated His will to us than try to build a foundation on forever shifting sands of self-invented realities.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Active Faith

The verbs in the first few verses of Psalm 37 (one of my favorites) stand out to me:

Fret not

Trust in the Lord

Do good

Delight yourself in the Lord

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him

Be still before the Lord

Wait patiently for him

Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

The repetition of “fret not” indicates the Israelites were in a situation that could cause them to fret, namely, the encroachments and threats of the wicked. Later in the chapter God assures them that He will take care of them, provide for them, protect them. Their faith was not passivity nor naiveté, not sticking their heads in the sand: rather, it was characterized by active trust, patient waiting (v. 7), and focusing on doing good to others (v. 3).

Peace is a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), but we’re also to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v. 25). We can work against peace of heart by fretting, magnifying the problems, spending too much time with swirling, fearful thoughts. Or we can work with God to promote peace of heart by focusing on Him, committing our way to Him, delighting in Him, trusting Him to take care of the issues, and getting out of our own heads to see what we can do for others.

It’s counterintuitive to pray for or expect peace of heart without taking the means God provided to take our thoughts captive. When we find ourselves fretting, fearful, downcast, we seek God and remind ourselves of His truth in His Word.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

 

Dark Valleys and Fiery Furnaces

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My ESV Study Bible noted that “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4 could also be translated “valley of deep darkness.” The notes explained that when people traveled through valleys, the hills or mountains on either side blocked the light, and bandits, wild animals, or who knows what could be lurking in the shadows.

I had always associated this verse just with death before. Within the larger context of Psalm 23 describing how our Shepherd cares for and accompanies us, this promised that even when death looms on the path ahead, our Shepherd remains with us and comforts us. While this verse certainly does assure of us that wonderful truth, it goes even further: He will accompany us and protect us through any scary possibility.

That doesn’t mean He will always prevent the scary possibility from happening. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced being thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, they told the king:

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV).

The same day I read the above notes concerning Psalm 23, the selection for the day in  Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada discussed this incident in Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tied up and tossed into the fiery furnace. But shortly thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar saw “four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25, ESV). Nebuchadnezzar called the men out, and they were unharmed. They weren’t even singed or smelling of smoke. Joni comments:

Who was the fourth man? An Old Testament appearance of Christ. But notice this. These men were walking in the midst of the fire. We tend to think heartbreaks and tragedies will stop us dead in our tracks–and keep us from moving forward in life. But the truth is, a trial is one of the streets through which we move to reach our destiny. a road leading us deeper into the heart of Christ.

Lord, I have so often seen suffering as something to escape–a puzzle needing to be swiftly solved so I can “get back to normal.” But maybe You are inviting me to walk in the fire rather than cower in self-protection. It’s so good to know You’ll be walking with me (p. 171).

Isaiah 43:1-3a says:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

I’ve always thought it interesting that the verse says when, not if. There are going to be scary moments in life that God takes us through, not around. But He promises to be with us. And that makes all the difference.

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
 Isaiah 50:10, ESV

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Trusting a Good, Kind, Wise Father Even When We Don’t Understand

For months during and after an election cycle, we see people in social media constantly framing their responses and opinions according to their like or dislike of a candidate.  If a rumor or negative news report is going around about my guy, then, of course, it’s false. People are just trying to smear him because they don’t like him. In fact, some nefarious enemy started or twisted this to cast aspersions on my guy. And if something negative is reported about the other guy,  well, then, of course it’s true and his supporters are blind/stupid/dishonest/just as bad as he is, etc. What’s especially frustrating to me about these keyboard commentators on both sides is that they are so far removed from the situation and the candidates, they can’t possibly know for sure what’s going on behind the scenes. They’re either acting out of blind loyalty or the needs of their party or agenda.

Did you know some people accuse Christians of this same blind loyalty or agenda-pushing? I’ve seen people say something like this: “You prayed for this outcome, and you didn’t get it. So then you changed your mind to say that this must be God’s will.” Or they accuse us of blindness or dishonesty if we maintain God’s goodness in the face of disaster.

It’s natural that people frame their interpretation of circumstances according to their point of view, personal philosophies, etc. But there is a major difference between defending a candidate because we’re on the same side and defending someone we know personally. If someone starts a rumor or twists the truth about someone famous, most of us hope it’s wrong and believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, though we have been disappointed at times. But if someone tries to smear my friend or family member, that’s a different story. I might be proved wrong even there, because people have sin natures and fail sometimes. But I have a better basis for my defense.  I know that person. I know their character, I’ve spent time with them, I’ve seen how they react in various situations. I know that this rumor about them is uncharacteristic of them and unlikely to be true.

The same can be said of true Christians. Sure, there are some who’ve grown up in the culture and are just defending an ideology. But those who have truly believed on Christ as Savior are not acting in blind faith. We’re acting on a faith based on knowledge of God through His Word and through personal experience of walking with Him over the course of years. We may not understand everything He does. He’s God, after all, and we are not. He may not answer every request positively, but what good father does?  Every parent and every authority has to say “no” sometimes. There may be some reason on our end why He can’t say “yes.” So, if we pray for something and God doesn’t answer the way we wanted, we’re not putting a spin on the situation by saying our request was not His will. A young child in its immaturity might fuss, complain, cry, wheedle, or get angry when a request is denied. But as children grow, both in maturity and in experience with their father, they’ll realize that, though they may not understand why their father said no, they know he loves them and has their best interest at heart. So it is with God’s children. We’re continually growing spiritually, continually adjusting our thinking to His, continually evaluating our circumstances in light of His truth.

Also, catastrophes don’t disprove God’s existence or reflect negatively on His character. Awful things happen in this world that we don’t understand. Sometimes they’re just a result of fallen human nature. People sin. Sin affects the innocent. One day God will right all those wrongs, but that may not happen in our lifetime. (But before we get excited about the wrongs to us being dealt with, we need to remember that we’re answerable for our wrongs as well.) Sometimes disasters are a result of human error. Sometimes they’re caused by Satan (see Job 1 and 2, Luke 22:31). Sometimes in the Bible God sent disaster to judge or punish people or to try to bring them to repentance, but those who try to attribute every catastrophe to God’s judgment are wrong. There may be any number of reasons why God allows suffering. Though we don’t understand, we trust His character, His wisdom, goodness, and love. That’s not a blind, baseless, deluded faith: that’s faith based on the One we know and on His Word to us.

Thousands of years ago, three men were threatened with death in a fiery furnace if they didn’t bow down to the king’s idol. But they were believers in the one true God, and they couldn’t do that. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). They were trusting in an ideology. They were trusting in their God, even if the circumstances didn’t turn out they way they hoped. And God blessed them with His presence and deliverance.

We can’t possibly understand why God does everything He does. But like Job, even though we don’t understand what’s going on, we know His character and we trust Him (Job 13:15; 19:25). And, like Job, even if we don’t get “answers” to explain our situation, God will bless us with His presence. That’s not “spin.” That’s truth.

See also:

Scriptural Reasons for Suffering
But If Not…
Our Trials Are Not Just For Us
Though Everything Go Wrong

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Book Review: Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment

TrustTrust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback is one of a series of “on the go” devotionals for women: small, relatively short books focusing on one main topic.

After an introduction titled “Why Women Fear,” Lydia deals with various aspects of battling fear and anxiety. Each chapter is just two, sometimes three pages long, making it very easy to grab a “nugget” to carry with you through the day.

To give you just a taste, some of the chapter titles are:

The What-If Woman
A Phobic’s Only Reemedy
False Security
Resting on Self-Righteousness
Afraid of the Pain
Whose Fault Is Our Fear?
Control Freaks
The Path to Healing
A Fence Against Fear

And some of the quotes that stood out to me:

The only thing big enough to conquer this kind of fear is God, who rules every detail of every day of your life. Rest assured that nothing can touch you apart from your heavenly Father’s permission. Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory (p. 26).

God wants more than our symptom relief. He desires to get at the core of what underlies our fears, which, at the deepest level, have to do with our relationship to him (p. 27).

God allows us to experience fear at times to help us recognize our false foundations, things on which we are resting our security that have no more strength to support us than a mound of whipped cream (p. 28).

God often acts contrary to how we think a good God should act. The answer we think we need seems so logical and clear to our way of thinking, yet God does not provide it. That is where faith comes in. Real faith isn’t the belief that God will do a particular thing; real faith is the conviction that God is good, no matter what he does and however he chooses to answer our prayers (p. 30).

We care much less about long-term results and the glory of God than we do about simply feeling better (p. 48).

“I’d never put my child through what God is doing to me.” But God is a wiser parent than we could ever be. He places us in situations that provoke us, not to cause us to doubt but to strengthen us against our doubts” (p. 72).

God let [Jonah] go his own way, as he does with us when we insist on running our own show; but because God is merciful, he will make sure that any way we take away from him doesn’t work out so well (p. 79).

That very thing you want God to fix may be his instrument to teach you first to depend on him rather than on yourself or on peaceful circumstances (p. 90).

Rather than take God at his word, they just looked at the difficulties. Rather than doubt their own viewpoint, they doubted God’s (p. 97).

The devil is stronger and smarter than we are; so arguing with him won’t help us very much and can actually enhance our difficulty. Jesus has provided us with the way to resist…there are Scripture passages to refute every one of [the devil’s] lies. Immersing ourselves in the Bible is one of the primary ways we keep, or guard, our hearts (p. 130).

This book is a treasure that I am pretty sure I will revisit often. In addition, this experience with Lydia’s book makes me want to check out her others as well.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

The blessing of certainty

Some years ago I caught part of a TV program involving a group of people from several different denominations discussing tolerance. How the conversation progressed was quite interesting. In the part that I saw, they were at first discussing how intolerance can lead to persecution of those who believe differently. Then someone remarked that even the term “tolerance” smacked of arrogance — that one group is right but they are going to tolerate, or allow for other groups. Someone else remarked that in order to tolerate others you must have a seed of doubt that your beliefs are right, that there is a possibility that you could be wrong and other belief systems could be right. The last sentence I heard before turning the TV off was, “There is no room for certainty.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

I do believe in tolerance. The first Dictionary.com definition is “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” I don’t believe “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude” smacks of arrogance: just the opposite. Nor does it indicate doubt of one’s own beliefs.

And I do agree that intolerance has led to persecution and should not have. New Testament Christians, especially, are not told anywhere to persecute in any way those whose beliefs differ from ours.We believe that those of other beliefs have every right to exist and practice their beliefs. We’re to love, both our neighbors and our enemies. We’re instructed to share God’s truth, but if people don’t believe, we leave them to the Lord and hope and pray they have a change of heart. We don’t persecute them.

But what I disagreed with most was that last line about there being no room for certainty. I don’t believe that faith is a nebulous thing, that as long as you have faith in something you’re fine, that all religions are basically the same and lead to the same place. You don’t have to examine them very long to realize they don’t have all the same values and ends.

Our postmodern world wants to move away from absolute truth. “The questions are more important than the answers,” we’re told. Even people who call themselves Christians chip away at doctrinal truth.

It’s true there are mysteries to life and faith. We spend way too much time arguing over things that are unclear rather than living out what is clear.I often hear people say, “We’ll never understand until we get to heaven.” Surely we’ll understand much more than we do now, but I don’t see any guarantees in the Bible that even then we’ll understand everything. God’s mind and ways and thoughts will still be much greater than ours. But our trust will be perfect then.

Yet there is plenty in the Bible that is clear. God communicates specific truth to us. And sure, there are things we don’t understand, things we gain insight on from talking with and reading others, things we wrestle with, things that are hard to come to terms with. Most of us wrestle with a measure of doubt at times and carry around a list of unanswered questions. There are things we wish were more clear.

But reading and hearing the Bible taught shouldn’t lead us into more and more of a morass of uncertainty. There are plenty of bedrock truths to hold onto.

There is a God.

He made everything, including us.

He gave us His Word.

He is righteous, holy, and just, and we have sinned against Him.

He is merciful, kind, gracious, and loving and has provided salvation for those who will believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose bodily from the dead.

There is a literal heaven and a literal hell.

There are clear and definite sins.

Faith is too important an issue to leave up to uncertainty. God doesn’t leave us in a philosophical fog on the most important issues.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31, ESV

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:13, ESV

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:16-21, KJV

 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 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 after the order of Melchizedek.Hebrew 6:17-20, ESV

That doesn’t mean I feel I have all the answers to every little philosophical question or that I know how everything always works together. But I have a firm foundation, a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

See also:

Why Study Doctrine?
What Do You Know?
The Foundation of Our Faith.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Faith on Fire, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Wise Woman)

Laudable Linkage

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I found a lot of good reads the last week or so:

On Blind Faith and God.

Why You Desperately Need the Holy Spirit , HT to Challies.

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible, HT to Challies.

Who Is the God of Mormonism?, HT to Challies.“One thing you’ll discover as you’re talking with your Mormon (LDS) friends is that though we use the same terms, we often mean very different things. Mormons have different definitions of Gospel, repentance, salvation, grace, Hell, and nearly every term you’ll be using in your conversation.”

5 Things That People Who Are Dying Want You to Know, by Kerry Egan, HT to Lisa.

How to Choose Worship Songs. Yes, to all the points mentioned here.

My Son, Withhold Judgment, HT to Challies.There are some times we need to act quickly; there are other times to realize we don’t know all the facts and need to wait.

How Do I Fight Pride When Competing in School, Business, and Sports? HT to True Woman.  “If we are better in some subject than someone else, God made us better. And his reasons for doing so are not pride and boasting and elitism. His reason for doing so is that we might use our competencies for the good of others.”

If God Doesn’t Heal You, HT to True Woman. “Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must.”

The Why of Encouragement.

Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism, HT to Challies.

Why Young Christians Need Old Books, HT to True Woman.

In Defense of Evangelicals Who Support Trump, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Interesting, whichever side you’re on. Not written by an evangelical but by a Jew who acknowledges that “It is usually easier for an outsider to defend a person or a group that is attacked than for the person or group.” As he also says, “Character is a complex issue.” I’m not willing to say it’s not a factor at all – far from it, and I don’t think he’s saying that, either – but it’s true that some people with awful personal lives can be good leaders. But if we acknowledge that on one side of the ballot, we need to concede it for the other as well.

Growing Old Graciously, HT to Challies.”I don’t know everything, but what I do know, I can share.”

The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly, HT to Challies. “Why might the Lord, in his grace, cause the aged to repeat themselves as they do? What is the Lord showing us through it? Rather than rolling our eyes or thinking ‘Here goes Grandma again,’ what can be gained from these times?”

When I Give a Book.

On Writing Books and Getting Published, HT to Challies.

The Incredible “Mehness” Of Social Media, HT to Challies. An aspect we don’t often think of. Even if much of what we do there is harmless or even interesting, how does that impact our everyday lives and responsibilities? Do those things impact those with whom we have to do or take our attention away from them?

Ideas For Things to Do On a Snow Day, HT to Story Warren.

And in the “Seriously?” category: There’s a Reason using a Period In a Text Makes You Sound Angry, HT to Lisa. I never knew this was an issue – and it shouldn’t be. A period is just the end of a sentence, not the end of a conversation or an indicator of anger, disinterest, or insincerity.

Hope you have a fine Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)