Christian life, Guest Post, poems, poetry, suffering, trials
Here’s a guest post from my friend Tabitha Alloway who writes at Pursuing Logos. Tabitha is a fellow homemaking, homeschooling wife, mother, and electrician–well, we don’t have that LAST part in common! She’s also a long-time family friend. Enjoy!
Have you ever started into a set of books by a particular author and found that before long you could predict the entire plot before you’d even cracked the next book open?
I remember a set like this from my teen years. I fell in love with the G. A. Henty historical fiction series, and for a while I devoured every book I could get.
But slowly I realized my interest was fading. Every book seemed to have the same plot; only the names, faces and times changed: Boy goes on adventures. Boy goes to war. Boy is captured. Boy escapes. Boy becomes hero. Boy meets girl. Boy settles down and lives happily ever after.
Sigh. Very idyllic.
And so predictably formulaic.
Now I’m not knocking the series—I still like the books and I’m looking forward to the day my kids can enjoy them. But it’s sometimes amusing (or annoying) to see an author embrace a seemingly one-track plot. A good writer is able to spin each story in such a way that, while it will always reflect their own unique style and voice, the story itself is fresh and new.
I think of God as a Master Writer, scripting the days and circumstances of our lives, inscribing our stories page by page. He’s the Master Composer, ordering the “rhythm and rhyme” of our lives as an ode of praise. He is the Potter who shapes our lives for our good and His glory.
While certain themes shine through every story He writes—goodness, mercy, grace, redemption or justice—each one is uniquely different.
Have you ever been tempted to question or wonder what God is doing in your life when you find yourself in difficult circumstances and trying times? Or even perhaps to envy the way God is working in the lives and circumstances of those around you, rather than humbly accepting what the Potter is doing in and with your life (see Jeremiah 18:1-6)?
I have. I’ve been tempted many times, when finding myself in less-than-ideal circumstances, to compare my lot with that of others and to envy God’s plan for and ordering of the lives of those around me.
One morning a couple of months back, feeling burdened and discouraged by the weight of recent trials, I poured my heart out to the Lord about it all. I opened the Word and my attention was drawn to the passages that spoke of giving thanksgiving, honor, worship, and praise to God; of investing our trust in Him because He is good. Not exactly the typical comforting passages you might expect. These precious words comforted by lifting my eyes.
I began to think of the stories of the saints of the Bible as well as the experiences of modern-day saints. No two are exactly the same! God works in such a wide variety of circumstances and ways to accomplish His will in each of His children’s lives.
Look at Hannah. She prayed for a child, and God blessed her with one. Yet many Christian wives through the ages have prayed with the same desperate desire for children and have been told “No.”
Jabez prayed that God would bless him and keep him from harm and pain. God granted His wish. Yet Job was permitted to experience unimaginable grief and pain in his lifetime.
Daniel was saved from the lions’ mouths. But many believers in the early centuries of the church were torn apart and eaten by wild beasts.
Under the reigns of David and Solomon, the saints and prophets rejoiced with gladness and singing. Under the reigns of Ahab and Manasseh, the saints and prophets suffered, and served their God in hard times and discouraging circumstances.
The apostle John lived a long life in service to Christ while Abel’s life was cut off prematurely.
Paul could have been tempted to envy the many believers around him who experienced miraculous, physical healings, while he himself was given a thorn in the flesh and denied its removal.
So many people. So many stories. All of them different.
Had God denied Hannah her wish, or Jabez his, would He still have been good? Would His people have continued to trust in Him? Was God’s work in the lives of Hannah, Daniel, and Jabez better, more kind, or wiser than in the lives of Job, or Jeremiah, or Paul?
According to Hebrews 11 we see that trust in God is not (and cannot be) rooted in our personal circumstances, but rather in the character of a faithful God Who is working in His children that which pleases Him, as He orders our lives for our good and His glory (see Romans 8).
The Word tells us elsewhere: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity: just and right is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Psalmist reminds us that “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works” (Psalm 145:17).
In declaring his trust in the Lord, the prophet Habakkuk indicated it was not contingent on any circumstances: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength…” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
We often see both Old and New Testament saints giving thanks to God even in the middle of painful circumstances. While the personal testimonies and experiences are different, I imagine they would share one common sentiment: God is good.
One of my favorite hymns is Day by Day. The first verse goes:
Day by day, and with each passing moment
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Some of the most precious portions of Scripture to me are those in which God reveals His own heart of compassion toward His people. It’s the theme that brightens even the darkest story. We’re all familiar with the passage in Lamentations that speaks of the faithfulness, mercy, and compassion of the Lord. Then Jeremiah goes on to say, “But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men”.
God does not cause pain or withhold desire for no good purpose.
Isaiah breaks out in thanksgiving: “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us…For He said, surely they are my people…In all their affliction He was afflicted…in His love and in His pity He redeemed them…” (Isaiah 63:7-9).
God sorrows in our sorrow; He is afflicted in our affliction. We do not have a High Priest who is insulated from our pain; He experiences it with us and has compassion on our weaknesses.
It is this God of love, kindness, and wisdom who composes my story and your story. Do we trust Him to do what He deems best? Are we content in His provision for and ordering of our life?
The Master Writer is weaving the days and circumstances of our lives into one story for His glory. Every daily page whispers His goodness, and even the darkest chapters are traced with hope, pointing to the beauty of His eternal purpose.
And that eternal purpose hints at the fact that the Author’s story doesn’t end with us, with this life. There is a “happily ever after” that’s already written, just awaiting publication. If you know Jesus, aren’t you looking forward to reading that story?
Had You not granted Hannah’s wish
And given her a child…
Had You let Jabez feel anguish,
Not blessed with life so mild…
Had You not shut the lions’ mouths
When Daniel prayed to You…
Did You not save his friends, when, roused,
A despot gave death cue…
Had solitude been David’s lot
Instead of throne and crown…
Had Jacob not grasped riches sought,
Nor prosperity had found…
Had Hannah lifted empty arms
In worship to Your Name…
Had Jabez met some earthly harm
In showing forth Your fame…
Had Daniel died a martyr’s death
In service to his Lord…
Had fire snatched the faithful’s breath,
And death been their reward…
Had David sung in open fields
Instead of regal courts…
Had flocks and fields returned no yields
While Jacob sought the Source…
Your faithfulness would be the same,
Your goodness ever new,
Your mercy rich exalt Your Name,
And saints would hide in You.
You are the God of grieving Job,
Of joyful, dancing David.
Your ways and works across the globe
Will always be redemptive.
The God of weeping prophets and
The God of singing saints;
All things lie open in Your hand—
From You derive their fate.
You are the source of grace for Paul
When thorn afflicts him sore.
You save the cripple from a fall
And his weak legs restore.
You’re the God of brave queen Esther,
The God of humble Ruth;
To each his lot, Dispenser,
The One Source of all Truth.
In pain and gain, our love and loss
You are the Sovereign One;
You knew real sorrow at the cross
Now-risen, conquering Son.
You walked on earth in mankind’s shoes
You know heart’s deepest throb;
Appointing things as You so choose,
You hear the smallest sob.
You’ve cried and wept with broken heart,
Felt agony of pain;
When on the earth You shared our part,
Your loss became our gain.
To come to You a man must trust
You are the great I AM;
Your works are true and right and just,
And You reward the man.
Your ways are far past finding out,
No finite mind can see
Exactly what you are about—
Your great Eternity.
You are our life, our love, our light,
Our hope, our help, our haven,
Our Rock, Redeemer and our Right—
Praise God of highest heaven!