I have to chuckle sheepishly to myself this week as I chew on some good words:
.“So much of our praise to the Lord is limited to the moments when we have determined that what He has done is good…in these situations we praise God for His faithfulness.” (Paul Tripp, War of Words, 74)
When things have turned out as we wished, when a prayer has been answered promptly with a ‘Yes, I’d be glad to do that’, when the sun shines and life feels good, it’s pretty easy to exclaim, “God is so good!” or “Isn’t God so faithful!”
Is He not good the rest of the time? Does His faithfulness lapse? And when that trying situation is not resolved and there’s no end in sight—am I quick to believe that God is good and faithfully at work despite what I can see and feel?
These are thoughts that challenge me. My heart’s been a little sad this last few weeks. My faithful hiking companion and ‘bear-dog’ injured his leg in a rush of bravado shooing a bear from the yard. That was nearly three weeks ago. It happened all in a moment but he has not been up to going on walks since, let alone climbing Scout or rambling off in search of new trails and making me feel ‘bear-safe’. I’m on my own and the sense of his absence is acute, especially when I consider the likelihood that his injury may not heal itself. There’s this great sense of loss—loss of a good thing, loss of freedom to hike with a carefree aloneness--the sense of loss that always comes with sudden change. But I tell you this because I am so encouraged by what I sense God doing in the backdrop of my sadness.
That first tear-filled walk alone I was bursting with tension between grief and gratefulness and could really not say much but “Lord, you know…” But there was deep gratitude welling up for all the good years He’s given. Eight years of carefree rambling and idyllic retreats with the Lord in His Creation. It was all so custom-made for my very own soul that I can’t really explain it. Can I complain if that season is drawing to a close? Are there new possibilities ahead that I would fail to see unless weaned from this delight? I don’t know, but I am so encouraged that God has planted in me this sense that it is all under His control and He is indeed working all things for my good.
Ha! There is a potential pitfall in expecting always what’s ‘good’. So quickly I can lapse into self-pity and doubt and begin to think I’ve been neglected, mistreated, etc… Our ‘good’ sensors are terribly out of whack, magnetized to self-centeredness. If it doesn’t please me at the moment, if it doesn’t ‘seem’ good, if it’s painful in any way… how can it possibly be good?! But God says He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom.8:28). Of course, one big adjustment we could give our ‘good’ sensors would be to orient them to what God’s purposes for us in fact are: to make us just like Jesus being the main thing! And the prescribed process is likely to include discomfort. (See: Heb. 12, James 1:2-4, I Pet.1:6,7) Funny how we get to thinking the discomfort is evidence that we’ve been forgotten, when in fact it’s quite the contrary. God is giving evidence that we’re His very own sons, being shaped for glory!!
So my trails have been abruptly halted, except for those I’ve taken with real people companions. These are increasing –a new thing growing? Am I being weaned from my solitary habits? Hmm… Can I trust that God is faithfully accomplishing all the good work He has promised to do in and through my life?
Absolutely, by His grace I can.
Do I yet have to fight anxiety some times when I don’t know what to do next with this faithful hound?
Yep. That too is part of the process. But ya’ know, the one bad night when the dog was acting agitated and senile, and I was very consciously busy ‘not being anxious’ but still not knowing what I should do, this solution came (thanks to my wise bedfellow): “Count your blessings”. You’ve heard of counting sheep, well that has never worked for me; but I can tell you that counting blessings does. My mind wandered back to the delight of getting to keep Louie when he was just an energetic two-year old…and I was asleep before the count of eight.
I’ve been giving myself doses of doctrine lately regarding God’s sovereignty, and find I just want to lap up more! For instance consider Nebuchadnezzar’s conclusions about God after his bout with insanity:
“I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan.4:34-35)
If this God is in control of my life, need I ever panic (or despair)? Life is never really out of control and though I may be confused or not know what’s going on, God does. And I’m His. And He cares about every little detail. Isn’t that enough?
Or consider this inheritance we’ve been freely given:
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Eph. 1:5,6
For that matter, look at the whole of Ephesians 1 and it’s pretty clear that God is the one pouring on the blessings, guaranteeing our inheritance, assuring us of a blameless stance before Him, sealing our adoption ‘papers’ with His Spirit… in short, doing a host of things we are helpless to do for ourselves, a host of things that beg the question: “If God be for us, who can be against us?!” Can any circumstance obstruct His purposes for us?
Ahhhh… to get to the point where I remember at every moment that He is active in my life, working in all things for my redemptive good. That would sure change the way I react to ‘problems’ wouldn’t it? If indeed, “God has us just were we need to be so that His purposes for us and His promises to us may come to pass,” (Tripp, 74) then what more could I wish for?
And the more I think about God’s sovereignty, the more I’m drawn away from worry and toward worship. God is so good and so faithful—all the time--and that’s good enough for me!
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Ps.62:8)
“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come--For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord from my youth—I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more—So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Ps.71)
I leave you with a snatch of a favorite poem by George Herbert (a pastor and poet, 1593-1633) entitled:
Thou hast giv’n so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart….
Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
If you enjoy poetry, you’ll enjoy the rest of this poem found here: http://www.janice-campbell.com/2007/11/20/gratefulnesse-by-george-herbert/
P.S. I am indebted to author Paul David Tripp for encouraging my thinking along these lines in his thought-provoking book: War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles in which he explores the implications of God’s sovereignty on the way we communicate. Good stuff!