Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Troubles Come...

When troubles come...
  • I tend to travel a roller-coaster of emotions.  I either start with tears or anger (depends on what kind of trouble), then I go screaming down the hill to denial, screeching around the curve to fear, then slowly back around to tears or anger.  And sometimes I'll find a nice straight stretch of peace.
  • My husband grows a beard.  hehe.  But seriously, I can always tell when he is stressed or depressed, because he tends to not shave as much.  Troubles come and he will curl up into a ball of stress or sit on the couch in a heap of depression.  Occasionally, those troubles erupt like a volcano in a rush of red hot anger.
The point of this whole comparison is that everyone faces trouble a little bit differently.  We've all faced some sort of trouble, trial, or tribulation (however you want to phrase it), and we probably all handle it a little bit differently.  Today, we'll look into how God handles our troubles and what our responsibility is in the face of trouble.

Psalm 34:17-18

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

When troubles come...

Notice I said 'when' and not 'if.'  Troubles will come.  Unfortunately, "There is this junk theology floating around out there that point to difficulties as evidence that you must not be following Jesus.  The biblical reality is that when people say yes to following Jesus, they are agreeing to carry a cross, and that will be painful at times" (Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan).  Becoming a Christian does not mean, under any circumstances, that all of our problems are going to go away and we'll only have fields of daisies and blue skies from here on out.  In fact, if that were the case, Christianity wouldn't really be much of a choice would it?  If our lives were that perfect, wouldn't everyone want to 'sign-up'?  And well...taking away a choice means taking away free will.  And I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a robot...even if I did end up with an awesome accent like Arnold Schwartzeneger (insert laugh here).  Choosing Christ means that...

When troubles come....
 ...The Lord will hear (vs. 17a).  His word says so!  Multiple times.  If you don't believe me or need reassurance, go check it out for yourself.  There is so much comfort in the fact that "God never misses a single tear of the oppressed.  He sees our suffering and knows the depth of our need..." (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).

...The Lord will deliver (vs. 17b).  It even says out of all of their troubles!  I have to tell you, if I read that without really digging in, it bothers me!  On the surface it does sound like we won't have any troubles because God will deliver us from all of them.  In fact, the Hebrew word can also be translated as "rescue," "save," or "snatch away" (Strong's H5337).  All of those images bring to mind the idea that I won't have to deal with my troubles.  But deliverance doesn't always mean we will be 'snatched away.'  His deliverance means that He "intends to give us what we need, not what we think we want" (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain).  He can see the whole picture, while we are focused on the tiny space in the corner.  It important to "never forget that God is far more interested in our getting to know the Deliverer than simply being delivered" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).  Sometimes it takes a storm for us to learn who He really is.  Charles Spurgeon puts it this way: "I write this with all reverence: God Himself cannot deliver a person who is not in trouble.  Therefore, it is to some advantage to be in distress, because God can then deliver you.  Even Jesus Christ, the Healer of me, cannot heal a person who is not sick.  Therefore, sickness is not an adversity for us, but rather an advantageous opportunity for Christ to heal us.  The point is, my reader, your adversity may prove your advantage by offering occasion for the display of divine grace" (Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare).

...The Lord will be near (vs. 18a).  We never have to go it alone.  Yes, we may face troubles, but no matter what, He will be there with us!  We always, always, always have a hand to hold on to!  He will surely "save [us] from sinking under [our] burdens" (Henry).

When troubles come...

We have a responsibility as wellFirst and foremost, in order to be heard, we must cry out (vs. 17a).  But our crying out must be directed towards Him, "...He anguishes yet He waits...until the tears that have fallen on dry ground or upon the shoulders of others equally frail are poured instead before His throne.  He waits - not until the oppressed cry out - but until we cry out to Him.  Only then will we know the One and Only who redeems us" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word).

Vs. 18 notes that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted.  Our hearts are involved.  In order for the Lord to be near, for Him to hear us and deliver us, our hearts must be broken.  But they may not imply what first comes to mind.  Within the word 'broken', "the hammer is necessarily implied; in breaking to pieces the ore first and the plating out the metal when it has been separated from the ore" (Clarke).  Our hearts must go through a process so that they are "subdued and made obedient to God's will and submissive to His providence" (Wesley).  The Lord cannot help us if we have not submitted to His will, He cannot be near if we have not made our hearts available and open to His presence!

Our spirits are much the same (vs. 18b). 'Crushed' holds the same idea of the hammer.  Our spirits must be "truly humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins" (Wesley).  We must realize that we cannot help ourselves, in any sense of the word.  We must grab onto the fullness of the Holy Spirit!  God alone is our refuge, our help, our deliverance!  So, "Why does God allow us to spend so much of life in the heat of battle?  Because He never meant for us to sip His Spirit like a proper cup of tea.  He meant for us to hold our sweating heads over the fountain and lap up His life with unquenchable thirst" (Beth Moore, Praying God's Word). 

When troubles come...

And they will.  Hold onto the promises of God, cry out to Him, and be aware of the condition of your heart and Spirit.  Time, after time, His word guides us in the way that we should go.  It is so hard to remember when life knocks us down, to turn to His Word.  But His Word is the first place we should run.  This is just one instance of so many that will lead us on the right path.  It may be straight and narrow, but it is there...and His word is our map!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Through the Storm

I hate cancer.  I hate that some women can't have biological children.  I hate that some parents have to live life without ever knowing what their children would have grown up to be.  I hate that some parents abuse their children.  I hate poverty.  I hate terrorism.  I hate war.  I hate that we live in an imperfect world.

Sometimes it is so very hard to see God and His goodness.  Sometimes the imperfections of this world leave me in tears and asking, "Why?"  And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Job questioned God, so did David, and many others.  I don't think the things of this world are supposed to make sense - or else we wouldn't long for another world, a better world, a heavenly world...

But you know what, even when I can't see God through the mess of imperfections, He is there, watching!  He sees me.  And He sees you.  He sees all of us.

Psalm 33:13-15
13 The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men;
14 From His dwelling place He looks out
On all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 He who fashions the hearts of them all,
He who understands all their works.

In the middle of summer, I always do my best to wear sunscreen (I read an article about sun damage that scared me enough to pay attention).  But have you ever gone outside without sunscreen when it was super overcast, completely grey, no blue sky to be seen, because you shouldn't need it right?  But then at the end of the day, you come home looking like a sun-dried tomato.  Even when we can't see it, even when the sky is so black and stormy that we barely believe it exists, the sun is still there.

I struggle sometimes when bad things happen.  Not because they happen but because sometimes I just can't see the good that comes from the situation.  Romans 8:28 tells us that God causes all things to work together for the good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.  So when I can't see the good, I get really frustrated.  But even though I can't see it, even when I don't believe it is there, the Good is still there.  God is still there.  He is working behind the scenes to bring good, I just might not be able to see it. 

He sees it all.  And I truly believe that He loves us so much that when bad things inevitable happen in our lives, He wants and longs to bring good out of it.  So He does.  I don't believe for a second He could sit back and watch all the bad happen and not do a thing about it.  That isn't my God.  My God is active and loving, caring and strong.  And He is always there.  Even when I can't see Him through the storm. 

Bri Sherman

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sorrows and Joy

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Psalm 32:10-11
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

This doesn't say that those who trust in the Lord won't have sorrows, it simply says that lovingkindness shall surround them - meaning that we will still...have...sorrows.  As Christians, we do come across suffering and sorrow, it is inevitable in a world infested with sin.  'Lovingkindness' is translated from the Hebrew word checed meaning "goodness, kindness, faithfulness" (Strong's H2617).  When we face sorrows, we will be surrounded by everything that God is.  If that isn't reason enough to rejoice I don't know what is!  We never, ever have to go it alone.  In our darkest moments and deepest valleys, He is there every step of the way!  

When I attend funerals of friends and family members, though I am sad, a part of me is rejoicing because I know where they are now.  My grandpa passed about 6 months ago and I remember sitting in his room the night before, holding his hand - I could just picture him easily walking next to Christ, remembering every good thing - two things he struggled with at the end.  I don't know how people handle death or tragedy without the hope of Christ, without that surrounding of lovingkindness.  I may not always understand what is going on, but I will always have the comfort and joy of God's goodness, kindness, and faithfulness holding me close to Him.

Most of the commentaries referred to our gladness and rejoicing as happiness.  I don't know that 'happy' is a word I would use when discussing sorrow.  It is too easily affiliated with being the opposite of sadness or sorrow.  'Happy' doesn't resonate well with me.  I keep returning to 'joyful,' though part of me still doesn't think that it satisfies, I think joy comes from a different place than happiness.  Joy comes from somewhere deep inside while 'happy' is just a surface emotion.  I think it is entirely possible to be sad and joyful at the same time, as noted with my grandpa's passing above.

Now that I have thoroughly discussed the fact that we do still have sorrows and struggles but that it is still more than possible to have joy, there are three more things I would like to discuss: how sorrows can lead to joy, the foundation of joy, and infectious joy. 

Let's look back on those that don't have the hope of Christ.  Their sorrows can be devastatingly overwhelming.  Sorrows can do one of two things: drive people further away from God or drive them closer to Him.  It is up to the individual which path they take.  My grandpa was one who was driven towards God in the midst of tragedy and I only learned of this after his passing.  Him and my grandmother lost a baby sometime after my mom was born.  It was then that my grandma noticed a change in him, his faith started to become real.  And then later, when my mom was nine years old, my uncle and my grandma were severely electrocuted.  Mom shared with us while discussing funeral arrangements with the pastor, that she remembers him crying out to God in the middle of the night while they were still in the hospital that he needed Him and couldn't do this alone.  Tragedy drove him towards God instead of away, like it does with many people.  And once your are driven towards God, you will receive His comfort and joy in the face of impossible situations.  You see, "They who are at first driven are afterwards drawn, and taught to know no delight so great as that of coming and keeping near God" (Expositor's).

But that is the key, we must keep near God!  You see, "man was made for [joy], but his [joy] must be founded on holiness: and holiness, as it comes from God, must be retained by continual union with Him" (Clarke).  In order to be joyful in the midst of sorrow we must be in communion with God.  It is the foundation of our joy and peace!  That doesn't mean just attending church every Sunday, that means we need to be in a living, breathing relationship with God.  We have to spend more than one day a week with Him, we have to study His word so we know what He has to say, we have to talk with Him (pray).  It's simple give and take; if we want to take from God, we have to give as well!  And by 'give' I mean our lives, we have to give Him our lives.  I believe that this is why David noted just exactly who should be glad and rejoice - those who trust in the Lord, are righteous, and upright in heart.

When we give Him our lives and we face tragedy, we are guaranteed His lovingkindness, His goodness, His love.  The arms that hold the universe will hold us in the midst of our troubles - isn't that amazing!?!  It makes me want to shout for joy as David noted in vs. 11.  And that joy should overflow like rivers in a rainy season.  Matthew Henry notes that when David says to shout for joy he is saying, "Let them be so transported with this holy joy as not to be able to contain themselves; and let them affect others with it, that they also may see that a life of communion with God is the most pleasant and comfortable life we can live in this world."  If you are joyful in the midst of sorrow, people will notice.  Just tell them where that joy comes from!  Let it overflow!

I stand back sometimes and just revel in all God does for us.  Even the little things.  I swear one time He helped me open a salsa jar (don't laugh...I mean it).  ;)  He is something else isn't He?  I just want to shout for joy and let the whole world know!