Our grief – His grief

I like the following from today’s study (especially the last bit): “God not only looks down in love when we are caught up in tragedy, not only weeps with us as we are surrounded by the flames, but reaches down into the flames to soothe and support. And His own hands get scorched in the process.”

Jesus suffered on a cross, He suffered torture and insults before He was cruicified; and, as Selwyn says: ” … this great God of the universe knows what it is to experience pain. Our sufferings are His sufferings.” We have as our God, one who understands our suffering because He has suffered Himself; we can take our pain to Him knowing that He will comfort us. There are many who think God is far from us, and remote from all the tragedy that occurs each day on this lonely planet. Nothing can be further from the truth – we know from the Bible that He is aware of every little sparrow that may die today – He knows all about us – He feels all the anxiety or grief that we may experience today – expect Him to be involved in the ‘ups and downs’ of your life. I believe that if you have an expectant heart, one that wants a close relationship with God, then you will see or hear or feel, Jesus at work – every moment of your life. Do you agree?

Today’s prayer is also good; “O merciful Father, I see that Your heart too has experienced grief and pain, and indeed all our griefs are Yours. Help me to share my griefs with You. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”

 

Everything – for the best

Selwyn continues to look at what happened to Job and ‘the lack of clear answers given by God to the perplexities that had troubled Job.’

I think that the next statement made by Selwyn is one of the hardest for modern men and women to accept. ‘He (Job) came to realise that God was perfectly capable of running His world, and deserved to be taken on trust.’ Many would prefer to understand what God was doing and then, and only then, place their trust in Him.

I think the wisdom of the miner’s widow, with the five young children, is rarely seen today in the western world. Her words: “I don’t need to understand all that (why God let her husband die). What I do need is a God who is bigger than my understanding, a God who knows so much more than me.” It’s really worth the time to think about what she said – don’t you agree?

Selwyn’s conclusion represents one of the key points required for placing one’s trust in Jesus: ‘Sometimes I wonder if trying to interpret the ways of God to people becomes counter-productive. Perhaps there is more solace in simply recognising that God is (much) bigger than we are, and that we can trust Him to work out everything for the best.’

The prayer for today captures this point: “Gracious Father, I long for You to give me a clearer vision of Your greatness and power. And please help me trust You to bring all things to a good and perfect end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Job’s Bar exam

What happened to Job is hard to understand – and to a certain degree – similar things will happen in our own lives which will have us looking into the sky – asking ‘Why?’.

We know, from what’s written about Job that he ” … eventually got the point: there were some things he would never understand, and because God is who He is, He should be taken on trust. Job emerged from the experience, not with his mind enlightened, but with a fuller and richer awareness of God than he had ever known before. … ”

There are many people who will not accept ‘silence’ as an answer, when they ask the big ‘Why’ questions. I tend to feel that they think of God as a type of superior human being – a sort of infallible oracle – that if the right question is asked then an answer will always be given. If no answer is received then they would prefer to doubt the existence of God - the logic is along these lines: if there’s no acceptable and understandable answer then there is no God. Yet from the Bible we are told that God’s ways are different to our ways. And, from the Book of Job we also know that this side of the grave, some questions will not be answered. Accepting, that an answer will not be found, requires humility – this is too hard to accept by many living in this technical world. If you don’t get any search results when you use Google on the Internet what does it normally mean? Do you think this type of ‘search’ mentality is prevalent among young people today?

Voicing questions

I totally agree with Selwyn when he states: “No one believes in miracles more than I do, and I have witnessed enough of them to know that there is nothing God cannot do. I am also sure of this, however: sin has struck deep into the universe, and although God intervenes at times to produce astonishing miracles of deliverance, life is, … still ‘more tragic than orderly’. …

God would prefer us to bring our hard questions (e.g. why does He let tragedies occur) out into the open rather than pretend they are not there. God won’t always answer us, but we will find, … that He rewards His sincere but confused followers with a richer sense of His prescence.”

I believe Jesus uses all our difficult times to strengthen our relationship with Him – so that when the winds blow cold and hard, we will lean-in towards Him and depend more and more on Him, to lead us home. What do you think?

‘More tragic than orderly’

Selwyn returns to a theme which he explores in a recent issue.  This issue is that ‘life in this fallen world may be more tragic than orderly’.

He starts today’s study with: “Undoubtedly the words ‘surprised by God’ instinctively bring to mind such wonders as miracles and blessings and amazing last-minute rescues from difficult situations. But there is another side to this matter – one that is less attractive but one that has to be faced nevertheless. I refer to the fact that God also sends His surprises through pain. Until we are willing to look at this issue we will not grow as Christians.”

There are some churches who preach a ‘prosperity’ gospel – a message which, at its core, states that if you become a Christian then every (material) venture in your life will prosper. This ‘prosperity’ gospel is false – you only have to read a few of Paul’s letters to reach an understanding that the life of a Christian will be difficult – there will be tragic events during your life – but God will use all of life’s ‘events’ to mould you into a spirtually stronger and more useful person. Do you agree?

Shaving of gold

Selwyn continues to consider the surprising fact that ‘God reveals Himself not only in the spectacular but (also) in the simple.’ He concludes, by saying; “Life is filled with so many ordinary moments – moments when it might appear nothing significant is happening. Whatever you do, don’t treat the ordinary moments as worhless shavings (of wood) to be thrown away in annoyance because you have received nothing better. Look at them more closely for (they could be shavings of gold.)

Today’s prayer is a good summary: “O God my Father, help me be more alert and ready to look for You in the ordinary and the commonplace. Give me the discerning eye that sees the difference between wooden shavings and shavings of pure gold. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.”

I think that when we die, we will be suprised to learn of the number of times that God tried to break through the noise of everyday life, to encourage us in our walk along this narrow path. It’s not that God is silent but that we would prefer to focus on what we are doing for the busy moment, and don’t give ourselves time to stop and listen.

‘Sweep under the mats’

Today, Selwyn recounts the first words he heard from Jesus, our loving God, as follows; “the first words I ever heard Him say came to me as a shock. I was stunned by their simplicity and ordinariness. I had been a Christian for only a few months when one day, while kneeling in prayer at Holy Communion, I heard God say, ‘Dear Selwyn, you mean so much to Me.’ The words were very plain, … yet I have no language to describe the effect they had upon me. The fact that God had spoken to me in ordinary words reached deep into my heart and my mind – to the extent that they are ineffaceably imprinted on my memory.”

I think it is the unexpected, surprising nature of the fact that God does speak to us. To look out, at a night sky, and see all the stars that He has created and the sheer expanse of the universe and then think that such an Almighty God would spend some time looking intently at a single person, and say: ‘ … you mean so much to Me.‘ Is really something that’s hard to comprehend – don’t you agree? This study takes me back to last October 2005, when I heard God express His love and concern for a young woman, who I was working with – at that time.  It had the same effect, as in the account given by Selwyn – the words are ineffaceably imprinted on my memory.

God’s love for each one of us – is beyond our full understanding!