Obstacles

A month ago we had a significant windstorm in the Grand Rapids area. Lightning, thunder, heavy rains and an isolated tornado were accompanied by high winds that leveled trees and knocked out power for two days or so.  I commuted to work that Friday morning alright, but when I went use the trails they were blocked with large trees that had fallen during the storm. I was unable to maneuver my bike around them. I tried one direction and couldn’t get through. I went the opposite way and faced the same problem. Finally I biked through Grandville and it ended up taking me longer to get home than I had anticipated.

This little experience is not that much different from our everyday lives. Sometimes God sends us trials and temptations that we find difficult to see our way through and get around. We often wonder why He sends us these things and if there is any escape from them. The answer to these questions is that God sends these things for our spiritual profit even if we don’t understand fully how they are going to work out for our good. God sends us trials, and gives us the grace to bear them. God provides an escape in the midst of the temptations of this life. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13).

In other words, no temptation is outside of God’s control. God will not allow us to fall into any unplanned temptation or trial because He has planned and continues to plan all things. Sometimes the way through our trials and temptations may take longer than we would like, just like my commute home did. We all have obstacles in life. For some it’s a disease such as diabetes or cancer. For others the obstacle is being confined to a wheelchair either from birth or due to an accident. For still others it’s depression, eating disorders or family issues. Others experience unemployment.  Whatever the problem, we may bring our prayers to God and trust in His protecting care. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God in him will I trust” (Ps. 91:1, 2). When we place our trust and reliance on Him, we will never be disappointed in Him no matter how bleak our circumstances seem to be. May God grant us this grace!

Kevin Rau

Knowing God as Lord

How can we know that God is Lord?  Do we know Him as Lord through the creation around us?  Through His revelation to us in His Word?  Through the earthly blessings we receive from Him?  These are all legitimate answers to the original question.  However, while they are probably the most obvious, they are not the only options.  One answer that particularly stands out to me is one that may at first seem paradoxical, especially in our current church world: we know God as Lord through His seemingly unfair actions in the world around and through His chastising of us.

For some time now, I have been working through the book of Ezekiel in my personal devotions.  One thing that I have come to notice is the frequent use of the phrase, “and ye shall know that I am the Lord,” or similar such phrases.  This line often concludes a verse in which God proclaims that he will send judgement on the people of the earth.  One example is Ezekiel 12:20: “And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” Another example is Ezekiel 30:26 “And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.” And there are many others.

This is an idea that is very unpopular in the nominal Christian world.  Saying that God causes the hardships in our lives and the seemingly evil events in the world around is seen as unfairly doing harm to the reputation of God as good and loving.  Many Christians refuse to acknowledge that God is the cause of our trials or of natural disasters, seeking instead to attribute these things to the devil.  I recently read a book entitled Against Calvinism in which this was a frequent point of discussion for the author.  His main point was that making God the cause of what seemingly to us is evil detracts from His loving nature – after all, God is love, is He not (I John 4:8)?

What this author and others like Him forget is that our human understanding is very limited – even the least of God’s wisdom far transcends that of man (I Cor. 1:25).  We are often unable to understand why He causes certain events to take place.  However, this does not make Him automatically unloving and unjust; on the contrary, it makes Him exactly what He claims Himself to be in I John 4:8.  Proof of this can be seen in James 1:2-4.  In verse 2, the word “temptations” can be understood as trials.  The idea is that God sends seemingly evil events (whether a natural disaster or a simple trial in one person’s life) to strengthen the faith of His people through patience. By these trials we are taught to rely on Him and trust more fully in Him.  In so doing, God manifests His love for us.  Meanwhile, for the wicked, God sends such events in just judgement for sinfulness.  Many would object to this, but our response ought to be God’s response throughout Ezekiel: “And they shall know that I am the Lord.”

Throughout this week, then, think of how you know God to be Lord.  See Him as Lord in His Word, certainly, as well as in creation and in your blessings from Him.  But, fellow Christian, forget not to see Him as Lord in the difficult events as well.  Remember that your trials work patience and that patience leads to us being made “perfect and entire” (James 1:4), and thus know that God is Lord.

Matt Koerner

My Tears in God’s Bottle

I recently read an article which reminded me crying is not something to be ashamed of. Crying shows sorrow, and we definitely have many things we need to sorrow over. In Psalm 38:17-18, the psalmist says: “My sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” We sorrow over sin, and we also sorrow in the trials God handpicks for us. Crying over these sorrows results in many, many tears. Tears running and running and running. Tears that are silent. Tears that we try to hide from others. Tears angry, bitter, burning. Tears that only show themselves once in a while. Tears appearing day after day. Tears that convey our sorrow.

Shedding these tears often takes a physical toll on us, and sometimes we wish we didn’t have to cry about things. But this is our plea to God: “Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle!”

This was the plea of David in Psalm 56. He was being oppressed by the Philistines in Gath, and it must have brought him to tears because he says in verses 8 and 9: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.” The Psalter puts it this way in the fourth stanza of number 15: “Thou knowest all my woes, O treasure Thou my tears; are they not in Thy book, where all my life appears?” We ask God to collect our tears, to keep track of how many times we cry. And He does! Our Lord hears and sees every single tear that slides down our cheeks. He even sees the silent tears that never come out of our eyes, the ones that we try to keep in. God knows our sorrow.

How deep that is! God knows my sorrow. He collects my tears. My heavenly Father cares for me so much that He saves my tears in His bottle. He knows what I go through—the loss of loved ones, the everyday stress, the heartbreaks, the moments where it seems nothing goes right, the days when I know I can’t do it on my own, the sins I keep going back to—He knows it all. Because I am His creature, God knows every part of me that He has made. He put all of my tears in me in the first place, and so He knows when each tear escapes from my eyes.

Because God is so powerful and sovereign in everything He does, He designed our tears for a very special purpose: to allow us to show our sorrow. Our Father requires of us that we confess our sins, repent of them, and show our sorrow for them. Therefore, when our tears spill over in sorrow, God knows we are truly sorry for those sins. He treasures those tears because they show Him that we are His weak children who need Him every moment of every day. He keeps our tears in His bottle to remember that we have repented and been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Psalm 9:12 says this plainly— “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” God does not forget our tears…He treasures them forever.

The next time you find yourself shedding tears, remember God collects every one of those tears and finds them precious in His eyes. What a comfort!

Grace Medema