I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the circumstances that confront us; of the state we find ourselves in from time-to-time, and of those seasons in life when the issues of life seem to overwhelm and dishearten us. I suppose the frequent prayer requests as of late have served to renew my appreciation for all of this. I have been reminded that, of those insulated from affliction, the children of God are not numbered among them. Common and diverse are the trials that we encounter. Whether a suffering child or an estranged family hostile to the gospel… adversity and affliction seem to abound. And while the issues of life may not belong exclusively to the children of God, their divine and joyful purposes most certainly do.
“But if you are without chastisement, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” says the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews. Shortly thereafter, Hebrews records that God chastens “...for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Heb 12:10). The annals of Christianity reveal that the greatest models of the faith; those who shone brightest for Christ, were intimately acquainted with trials and suffering. Take a moment to catalogue them if you like: Job, Joseph, Elijah, the prophets, Paul and the entire company of Christ’s apostles. Each one groomed for eternity in the great furnace of adversity. Job himself, in the midst of incomprehensible affliction said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23) Again, God may intend any number of outcomes for the trials that confront us. As mentioned above, they may be directed in order to purify us. At other times they may be intended to develop perseverance/strength, as James affirms for us: “…knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1). Still, at other times, the Lord may see fit to leverage adversity in order to develop within us the spiritual discipline of resignation, submission and contentment. Of this lesson, even the great apostle Paul learned, uttering “I am well content with weaknesses…distresses… difficulties” (2 Cor 12).
While the Lord may have many reasons for our adversity, for each one the child of God has as many reasons to rejoice. Each one is sent compassionately. Each one accompanied by His limitless grace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Further, each one will end ultimately in….what? Good (Rom 8). What wonder! Listen, would our Father in heaven ordain that which does not benefit His blood-bought child? Scripture clearly tell us that if God has given the Lord Jesus for us….His own Son….He will not refuse us any real good (Rom 8:32). Is a loved one sick? Can’t God heal the sick? Surely then if He has not brought health, then He must see it best to appoint sickness. Apply this perspective to every one of your circumstances. If it is a season of great pain that you endure, then it is a season appointed by the Lord….and it must be a good one that He appoints because “Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from…..where? Above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1).
There is a story of a little girl standing at a street corner, seeking tentatively to cross the street. Looking at path before her, and realizing the danger, she trembled. A kind policeman happening by and seeing the fear on her face, casually approached her and took her hand into his….and together they began to cross the divide. Occasionally, a honking horn or passing car would cause her to flinch a bit and hesitate, but each time the policeman would strengthen his grip on her hand to reassure her, until finally they reached the other side, together.
The man who tells that story, makes this point: “It's not our grasp of the Lord that matters, it's His grasp of us. Let me draw my comfort no more from my frail grasp of Thee. Let me henceforth rejoice with awe in Thy strong grasp of me.”
photo credit: camil tulcan via photopin cc
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