Hebrews tells us, Jesus “offered up … loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.” But of course he was not saved from death. Is it too much to say that Jesus himself asked the question that haunts me, that haunts most of us at one time or another: Does God care? What else can be the meaning of his quotation from that dark psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Again, I find it strangely comforting that when Jesus faced pain he responded much as I do. He did not pray in the garden, “O Lord, I am so grateful that you have chosen me to suffer on your behalf. I rejoice in the privilege!” No, he experienced sorrow, fear, abandonment, and something approaching even desperation.
Still, he endured because he knew that at the center of the universe lived his Father, a God of love he could trust regardless of how things appeared at the time. Jesus’ response to suffering people and to “nobodies” provides a glimpse into the heart of God. God is not the unmoved Absolute, but rather the Loving One who draws near. God looks on me in all my weakness, I believe, as Jesus looked on the widow standing by her son’s bier, and on Simon the Leper, and on another Simon, Peter, who cursed him yet even so was commissioned to found and lead his church, a community that need always find a place for rejects.
A feast in the midst of the fight
Most of us know the word “gospel” means “good news.” We can, however, mistake the meaning of “good” in that we always associate it with something nice, pleasant and agreeable.
Baby boomers, for instance, may recall when they did not have flavored medicine. There was no choice between banana, strawberry or chocolate; just the brass-tack original, which tasted like something between boot polish and gasoline. The medicine had nothing to do with being nice and pleasant, but everything to do with what was good for them.
God works in this way. When He gives a rainbow, which is a picture of His promise to us, the rainbow is against a backdrop of clouds and storm. Psalm 23, one of the most familiar and loved passages in Scripture, says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”(Psalm 23:2–3) As comforting as this is, we cannot take it as a defining statement of Christian life. In the same Psalm, verse 5, David says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” There is a feast and a fight. They co-exist; the feast representing God’s provision in our struggles. Chris Thomas, son of Major Ian Thomas, made a very profound statement when he said, “Material loss and spiritual gain so often are served to us on the same plate.”
God’s ultimate purpose for us is that we come to know Him and Jesus Christ and that we are being molded into the image of Christ. This is not handed to us on a silver platter. It is God’s intention to build us, and without the struggles, much of the learning would be lost along the way. But it is in these times of trial and testing that the nature of our trust in God is revealed. In our love for God and dependence on Him, He will clean up the bad in order for the good to come through. As a result, we are deeply enriched by personal experience of God Himself.
Charles Spurgeon, a great 19th century preacher, said, “I have always looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I felt it then, to feel the power of faith as I felt it then, to hang on to God’s powerful arm as I hung on to it then, and to see God at work as I saw Him then.”
Resting in His care
If you know that God loves you and cares for you and is going to take care of you no matter what happens, you can have peace of mind and you can rest in the Lord, knowing He’s going to take care of everything. But if you’re in a big stew, confused and worrying and fretting and fuming, you’re not at that place of trust yet.
The secret of that calm and peace and rest and patience and faith and love is resting in the Lord. Getting calm before the Lord and praising Him and seeking His face first. Trusting is a picture of peace and quiet of mind, heart, and spirit. The mind and body may have to continue working, but your attitude and spirit are calm. Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28)
Help us, Lord, not to be so pressured that we put off our time with You. Help us to put You first each day, spiritually to bask in Your sunshine, rest in Your arms, drink deeply of Your Word, and inhale of Your Spirit.
—David Brandt Berg
There is a place of quiet rest,
Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest,
Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee,
Near to the heart of God.
—C. E. McAfee, 1903
Access to the heart of God
The first and chief need of our Christian life is fellowship with God. The divine life within us comes from God, and is entirely dependent upon Him. As I need every moment afresh the air to breathe, as the sun every moment afresh sends down its light, so it is only in direct living communication with God that my soul can be strong. The manna of one day was corrupt when the next day came. I must every day have fresh grace from heaven, and I obtain it only in direct waiting upon God Himself. Begin each day by tarrying before God, and letting Him touch you. Take time to meet God.
To this end, let your first act in your devotion be a setting yourself still before God. In prayer, or worship, everything depends upon God taking the chief place. I must bow quietly before Him in humble faith and adoration, speaking thus within my heart: “God is. God is near. God is love, longing to communicate Himself to me. God the Almighty One, Who worketh all in all, is even now waiting to work in me, and make Himself known.” Take time, till you know God is very near.
When you have given God His place of honor, glory, and power, take your place of deepest lowliness, and seek to be filled with the Spirit of humility. … As a saint, let God’s love overwhelm you. … Enter deep into God’s holy presence in the boldness which the blood gives, and in the assurance that in Christ you are most well pleasing. In Christ you are within the veil. You have access into the very heart and love of the Father. This is the great object of fellowship with God, that I may have more of God in my life, and that God may see Christ formed in me. Be silent before God and let Him bless you.
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