I have never subscribed to the theory that the Christian life is free of pain and suffering.
But there are some who do.
Christian bookstores are filled with titles touting the path to joy and happiness, the way to wealth and material success.
And some of the claims of these authors and preachers rest on Jesus’ own words in the Sermon on the Mount:
But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33 KJV
They interpret this verse to mean that if your heart is set on God and His Kingdom, then He will give you the things that will make you happy and healthy.
I would argue that they have it all wrong.
My own experience and that of many other faithful followers of Jesus makes plain that loving Christ does not protect you from the evil in this world. It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get cancer, that you won’t lose your job, or that you won’t suffer persecution from the enemies of God.
And it doesn’t spare you from burying your child.
Just a few chapters later, Jesus instructs His disciples as they go out to minister and encourages them with these words:
” Are not two little sparrows sold for a [a]copper coin? And yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered [for the Father is sovereign and has complete knowledge]. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29-31 AMP
More than one song has been written to include the phrase, “His eye is on the sparrow”–meant to bring comfort in moments of fear.
And it is true. His eye IS on the sparrow.
But read the whole verse: “not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.”
God knows when a sparrow falls, but He doesn’t always stop it from happening.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
Since Dominic died, I have found an unusual number of bird’s nests knocked down from trees by the wind.
Intact and beautiful, but empty.
I’ve wondered about whether God is trying to encourage me, or simply reinforce the truth that I now carry in my heart:
Even though He is watching, sparrows do fall.
9 thoughts on “Sparrows DO Fall”
In today’s world, it takes of of my strength just to keep a small flickering flame of faith alive in my heart. Sometimes I feel bad about it – but this is how God made me and the life that I’ve been given. So the small flame is the best that I can do.
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Oh I SO agree with you Melanie. I am sometimes made to feel like a “lesser” Christian when I don’t believe some of the “pray and claim” doctrines, but although I was very very tempted during my daughters last months fighting for her life, that has never been what I believe the Bible says. At times I certainly wish it was, but I have to trust that God knows better than me. Thank you for your honesty and authenticity.
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Goodness yes! It hurts my heart that anyone would add to our grief by saying/acting like we weren’t praying enough or praying the right way or had enough faith. What does that even mean? Only people who have had every prayer answered in accordance with their own desires can make those claims. God is God and I am not. That’s the end of it. I must accept His will even when I don’t understand it. May He give you every needful thing for each day and may He overwhelm your heart with His love, grace and mercy.
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I once heard Elizabeth Elliot speak on this very topic. The God Hagar met and described as “the God who sees” watches the sparrow fall . . . and doesn’t intervene. From a parental perspective, I can understand why He might not always step in to rescue His children, to protect them from harm, to provide for their every need, etc. But when the wounds are deep, when we are broken or terrified, when we hold the seat of child instead of parent, our view is obscured and we often lack the experience and maturity to share the ultimate parent’s perspective – and we find ourselves doubting God’s intentions are really in our best interests. Trust and faith are pitted against desperation. And the sparrow falls while God watches. That’s life in the crucible!
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I know that I have been challenged to re-read Bible stories I once read through like a novel and pay more attention to the people in them and their feelings and lives. When you read the story of Hagar as a “small sidenote” to the sweep of God’s plan in history, it’s kind of easy to dismiss her pain and suffering–after all, God promised to bless her son (and obviously did–see the Middle East oil fields). BUT, she was a slave. She bore her master his first son and by tradition the son should have been in the line of inheritance and given honor. Yet she and he were thrust into the desert with a flagon of water that obviously wouldn’t last long. That part I still don’t get–was Abraham hoping they would die? That someone would pick them up? What? And now, when Hagar names the place, Jehovah-Roi–the God Who Sees–it is much more meaningful to me. I know in my bones that God does see. I don’t know or understand what He’s doing, but I know He sees. It is both comforting and disturbing. Part of my ongoing wrestling.
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Yes, comforting and disturbing. And the blessing?
When God told Abraham to send Ishmael away:
“But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:12-13 RSV)
When God reveals to Hagar that she has conceived a son:
“Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because The Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Genesis 16:11-12 RSV).
God’s description of the son she will raise didn’t sound so great to me! Check out Wayne Blank of Daily Bible Study – http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/20020120.htm – says about the blessings of Abraham’s sons:
“The promise did not however go through Ishmael because the covenant had already been made with Abraham, with a yet-unborn Isaac the designated heir, before Ishmael was conceived or born (Genesis 15:2-6). While God does not play favorites, He was also not bound to any other arrangements for children that Abraham and Sarah had taken upon themselves to bring about after the matter had been firmly decided by God.”
The Christian Leadership center – http://christianleadershipcenter.org/me2.htm – add:
“In Genesis 21 when Isaac was born there was a conflict between Ishmael and the new child, so that again Hagar was to be sent away. Here again Hagar was in difficulty, and God rescued her again and repeated the promise of a great nation.
The care for Hagar by God, and the love for Ishmael by Abraham, should make us cautious about discarding this people. So the promises to Ishmael were four:
(1) promise of descendants;
(2) promise of divine attention [God hears and rescues the outcast and the afflicted and will not let them perish],
(3) promise of a unique character [a wild donkey of a man, a complement–tough, reliable, valued, and suited to the terrain], and
(4) the promise of a divine destiny–antagonism and conflict with everyone, and his brothers will fear him. When the descendants act like the ancestor, they will fulfill this destiny of animosity.
The departure of Hagar from the land was not divine displeasure, but divine wisdom and love. They will not possess the land, but they will make it difficult for unbelieving Israel to have it either. The Arabs are not here and numerous just because of Abram’s sin with Hagar; they are here because God has blessed and multiplied them through a son of Abraham. God’s choice of Israel was not favoritism, but the choice solely by grace of one line to be the channel of blessing so that all might be blessed. This includes great blessings for the Arabs, now, and even greater if they come to faith in the only one who can bless people with an eternal identity and inheritance based on the promises to Abraham. Christians must keep a balanced biblical perspective on the people in the land and the grace of God. “Grace” does not mean one group is better than the other–it means in spite of their sin God chose them to be the instrument of his revelation and salvation in the world. Choosing to work through Israel does not mean that all Israelites are automatically saved, and all Arabs are not. Salvation is another matter for the grace of God.
Today we have to have a better theological understanding of God’s workings so that we do not follow the shallow minded and popular approach of simply being pro-Israeli because God chose them. It is far more complicated than that; and all we have to do is look at how God dealt with unbelieving and unrighteous Israel to see the point. All people, both Jews and Arabs too, must turn to Christ by faith to have any share in the promises, i.e., salvation, eternal life, a share in the world to come.”
I didn’t think God’s description of Ishmael’s character sounded so great, but the Christian Leadership Council described it as a compliment and gave sound reasoning for why it would be received that way by Hagar. I also have to wonder if she was less disturbed than I by the destiny of antagonism and conflict simply because she grew up in a culture that would expect conflict and that pesky detail was maybe overlooked because God promised to make Ishmael a great nation.
It’s an interesting take on a Bible story I’ve often pondered.
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Hello Melanie. I have recently found your blog as a “new” loss Momma. I am so sorry for the loss of your precious Dominic. I appreciate how you find meaning in the words of the Bible, in just the way that you need them. I have been met with the words of the modern Christian, as you describe them here and in the “everything happens for a reason” post, filled with their glib and positive words. While I am not well-versed in the Bible in the very least and have not always had a relationship with God even before my loss, I find those messages seem so very shallow to me. I couldn’t ever put my finger to it, and since I wasn’t religious, how could I possibly feel outraged by something I had little knowledge. I felt unenlightened, religiously/spiritually un-evolved. Essentially, more alone than ever in the presence of those types of Christians. So I appreciate the passages that you do include that speak to this journey. I am so sorry that this is the way that we must meet. But please know how your faith, your heart and your courage has impacted me in just the few posts I have had the privilege to read so far. Thank you.
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Kim, I am so very sorry for your loss and your pain. Although I have walked with Jesus for decades, I find that grieving my son has forced me to think through some ideas I have carried with me all these years…some I have re-embraced as truth and some I have jettisoned as cultural baggage. I’m thankful my honesty speaks to your heart. When I read the gospels, that’s what is most striking to me–Jesus was much more honest and upfront than we usually are. I pray that you will find comfort in the scriptures-they are much more accessible than people might think–and that your heart will be able to rest in God’s promise that He will hold our children for us until we can hold them again.
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