I realize I’m venturing into fuzzy theological territory here but I truly believe that somehow, some way the hard things, the traumatic trials, the heartbreaking tragedies of our lives will be represented in Heaven.
But just like Jesus’ glorified but still scarred hands, they will no longer be ugly, misshapen reminders of pain and defeat; they will be beautiful, glorious testimonies to God’s amazing grace and enduring love.
They will shout “Victory!” over every single thing the enemy thought would defeat us and destroy our faith.
Sometimes people ask, “How can you cling to Jesus when He could have saved your son, but didn’t?”
I give the same answer Peter gave, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
So here we are a year later and the headlines still proclaim, “Just wait! It’s going to get better!”
In some ways things ARE better-there are vaccines, treatments and protocols that can chip away at the virus. Toilet paper is back on the shelves. Working from home is working out for a number of folks who love the flexibility.
In many ways we are still in a holding pattern. Waiting for life as we once knew it to once more be available.
Young people have lost important opportunities and are anxious to not lose more. Old people have lost precious time with children and grandchildren and are oh, so aware that every passing day is one less to spend with them and build memories.
So we’re still practicing this whole waiting thing. And it’s hard.
It’s hard to wait.
It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .
That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.
It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.
When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.
Yesterday my youngest son, my husband and I unloaded a large rented box truck packed front to back with boxes, furniture and other random things.
We brought it all into the house or stashed it for safekeeping and future sorting in our storage building.
It was-literally-uphill both ways.
A long, long ramp (which I really hated!) up into the truck and steps and stairs into the house or building. Exhausted is too small a word for how I fell into bed last night.
But we did what we set out to do.
We didn’t quit, we didn’t give up, we didn’t stop until we emptied that truck and safely deposited its contents where they would be sheltered from the rain that started falling sometime early this morning.
It made me think: How often do I stop just short of pushing through something (physical, mental, spiritual or emotional) because it’s hard?
How many times have I looked at the work it would require to dig in, dig deep and finally face a fear or a failing or even a future that looks very different than the one I’d have chosen for myself when all I see is a steep uphill climb?
If I felt the same urgency about those things as I did with a rented truck and impending bad weather I might be more inclined to press on. But usually I console myself with the mantra, “I’ll worry about that tomorrow”.
Trouble is, tomorrow turns into tomorrow into tomorrow until there’s a whole string of days gone by and not one whit of progress toward my goal.
The hills will still be there.
Time won’t change the difficulty of the climb.
Beginning and continuing and refusing to stop is the only way.
This morning I feel beat up, worn down and probably won’t get much done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing yesterday was a victory.
There’s unique beauty in crafting an argument so it crescendos to an irrefutable conclusion.
For the the master orator, nothing is more satisfying than watching her audience lean in and anticipate the glorious finale.
Paul has been leading us to these verses since he began laying the foundation in chapter one of Romans.
So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.
Romans 8: 31-35 VOICE
In today’s vernacular (Melanie’s paraphrase):
“So here’s the deal, guys. What else is there to say? If God has provided for our salvation through His own Son-bought and paid for us-who else can make a claim? And if He was willing to pay that high a price for us, what is He going to withhold from us? No one can overrule God. No one can deny the evidence that the sin debt has been paid. The only thing that could separate us from God’s love is sin and that’s been handled. So, yeah, life can be really hard. We might even have to face death before we come into our full inheritance. But we don’t have to worry. It’s handled. It’s settled. It’s done.”
Paul’s closing argument is simple.
Remember, this is no contest of equals. There is no yin/yang dual universe where darkness has power enough to overcome the light. God has the devil on a chain. Sin mars creation and wreaks havoc but even all that awful is being woven together into a tapestry of beauty and usefulness that one day will display the glory of God and His love for us.
God is for us. REALLY for us.
So who can be against us? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)
What does it mean to you that “God is on your side”?
Are you ever afraid? Why or why not?
What do you do with that fear?
Consider writing these (and any other verses we’ve looked at) in your own words. When we make them personal, they are easier to remember.
Do you agree that Paul has made an iron-clad case for the supreme authority of God? Why or why not?
What makes it hard for you to believe that nothing separates us from the love of God? Can you bring that to the Throne of Grace and lay it down?
Too often I think the world is like a giant tug-of-war and I can only hope and pray You win. It’s hard to remember that You are still in control when so many things seem out of control.
Help my heart rest on the rock of Your sovereignty and goodness. Open my spiritual eyes to see how You are working all these things-the good, the bad and the heartbreaking-into Your plan of redemption and restoration. Give me strength to believe when my own is fading. Make Your Word my guide. Thwart the schemes of the enemy to tear down my faith and breach my wall of hope.
I have to admit that when I read the book of Job NOW, it’s no longer an intellectual exercise or detached theological foray into suffering and the sovereignty of God.
I was always appalled at what Job and his wife (remember her!) suffered. I was always a bit confused by God’s question to Satan, “Have you considered My servant, Job?” I was both comforted and confounded that God set boundaries but set them at the bare minimum to spare Job’s life.
Just being honest here.
Pastors and teachers love to talk about the sweeping arc of the story. They love to pull out lessons about how to comfort others in suffering, how to endure suffering ourselves and how, in the end, God restored to Job the things that had been robbed from him.
But my heart walks slowly through those pages. My soul weeps with every new blow struck against a man who, by God’s own account, was a righteous servant of the Most High.
I wonder if David knew the story of Job. It’s believed to have been one of the oldest books in the Old Testament.
If he did, I wonder if he took comfort in the knowledge that God eventually restored Job to a place of blessing, honor and safety.
David certainly knew what it was like to ride high on the wave of God’s favor and then to be dashed to bits on the rocks of adversity. He slew Goliath and then he was anointed king. He was Saul’s musician, ultimately his son-in-law and then his enemy. He knew that God declared his glorious future but he lived for years hiding in caves, eating what he could find and serving random wealthy patrons in hopes of a little peace between Saul’s attempts on his life.
So when he survived yet again, he wrote this Psalm as praise and prophecy.
He rode upon a heavenly creature,[a] flying; He was carried quickly on the wings of the wind. 11 He took darkness as His hiding place— both the dark waters of the seas and the dark clouds of the sky. 12 Out from His brilliance hailstones and burning coals broke through the clouds. 13 The Eternal thundered in the heavens; the Highest spoke; His voice rumbled [in the midst of hail and lightning].[b] 14 He shot forth His arrows and scattered the wicked; He flung forth His lightning and struck them. 15 Then the deepest channels of the seas were visible, and the very foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O Eternal One, at the blast of wind from Your nostrils. 16 He reached down His hand from above me; He held me. He lifted me from the raging waters. 17 He rescued me from my strongest enemy, from all those who sought my death, for they were too strong. 18 They came for me in the day of my destruction, but the Eternal was the support of my life. 19 He set me down in a safe place; He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me.
Psalm 18: 10-19 VOICE
Again, David paints a vivid picture of God as Mighty Warrior.
But not just any warrior, raging through battle, unaware of who may be on His left or right. God is the One who protects His anointed. He is the One who reaches down and rescues.
God set David in a safe place. When He declared, “Enough!” no enemy could come further.
David had the sure promises of God to lean on. He knew that God is in control even when things feel out of control.
In the same way, the Lord established a hedge of protection around Job. He set the limits for Satan. He had him on a chain.
Of course there’s no indication from Scripture that Job knew his suffering had any limits. And while he didn’t sin by accusing God of wrongdoing, he certainly voiced his pain, indignation and desire to end his suffering through death.
I feel like I’m living in a space between the personal, rock-solid promises God gave David through Samuel and others and the blind faith of Job where God’s hand and purpose were concealed.
I know that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.
I know that the end has been written and everything that has been stolen, broken or touched by death will be redeemed, restored and resurrected.
But some days I wonder how long I’ll have to wait until I see those promises fulfilled. I wonder how much more I might have to endure, give up or lay down before I reach my heavenly Home.
That’s when I call my heart back to this picture of God as a Warrior who will always rescue me-both here and in the hereafter.
God has put my foot on a solid Rock.
When sorrow threatens to drag me deeper than my heart can bear, He reaches down and pulls me up.
When fear finds me in the dark and whispers lies in my ear, He makes His Presence real and speaks comfort to my soul.
Like Job and David and millions before me, I can trust the One who promises.
I can rest in His unfailing love and absolute sovereignty.
He never lets go.
If you are like me, sometimes we read Scripture like a story book-we already know the ending and often ignore the very real human drama people were living through. Does it help your heart hold onto hope to know that even after God rescued David from the hand of Saul, he (David) was still not in full possession of the promise that he’d be king? Why or why not?
Child loss is absolutely the most devastating blow I’ve suffered in my life and it was a long, long time before I was able to look up in my brokenness and look for blessings. When I did, I found that while there was no cosmic scale that could balance my loss with whatever I might still have or gain, my heart was strengthened when I noticed blessings again. Are you able to look for blessings yet? If so, does it encourage you? If not, would you be willing to try to find one little smile-inducing good thing a day for a week?
I love, love, love David’s words: “He reached down His hand from above me; He held me. He lifted me from the raging waters.” Our God is a personal God who does not despise us because we are weak and unable to save ourselves. He delights in reaching down and lifting us up. How do those words make you feel? When have you felt God reach down and lift you up?
We end our study of this Psalm with verse 19: “He set me down in a safe place; He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me. ” We are ultimately set safely in the redemption of Christ (if we have received that gift by faith). But I also believe we can live our lives in a safe space even in the midst of suffering when we choose to focus on Who God is and refuse to let circumstances blind us to His love, His goodness, His promises and His strength. What concrete steps can you take to help your heart focus on truth when your feelings threaten to drag you into falsehood?
You are the lover of my soul, my Mighty Warrior, my Savior and my Good Shepherd. Help me hold onto those truths when life threatens to undo me.
Give me the courage to face pain and suffering in the sure knowledge that You see me, You are with me and You will rescue me. I may not get a miracle or even a medical cure, but I will have the final victory in Christ.
When death and the awful darkness of grief roll over me like a flood, push it back with Your light, love and life.
Let me hear You singing joy over my soul.
***I combined today and tomorrow’s writing assignments***
I hope it rains. I hope I get the job. I hope it’s a boy!
Most of the time we could exchange “wish” for “hope” because we have no power to make the things we hope for come true.
So when we read “hope” in this passage, it doesn’t necessarily evoke the sure promise Peter is trying to convey in his letter to suffering Christians of the first century.
It would be cold comfort to families as they were forced at sword point to walk off cliffs or thrust into the arena with lions if Peter’s hope was just a wish.
But it’s not.
Peter opens his letter with a bold declaration based on his eye-witness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And His living Presence means that THIS hope is a promise.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 NIV
These are some of my favorite verses in the epistles.
Peter packs so much in so few words: I have an inheritance, I have a future and I have joy.
My inheritance in Christ is safe, secure and eternal.
There is no law of diminishing returns in Heaven. Unlike that dress I bought that seemed so wonderful a week ago, I won’t ever get tired of reciting and reviewing all Jesus purchased for me with His blood.
Do you ever fear you might lose your faith?
Peter reminds us we are shielded by God in Christ until the full glory of our salvation is revealed at the Last Day. Jesus Himself said that those the Father gives Him cannot be snatched from His hand.
Doubt is not denial.
If you have put your trust in the finished work of Jesus then you are saved.
Trials will come. But they are not the last word.
When we lean on Christ and trust Him to walk with us through them, take the heat and refuse to melt, then we are refined and His glory is purer, clearer and more easily seen in our lives.
And in the midst of trials I have joy because my hope in the living hope of our resurrected Savior sustains me.
Consider Paul’s words: ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Corinthians 6:10). In the ugliness of intensified grief, the Christian is supernaturally enabled to rejoice.
The hallelujahs of joy reverberate on broken heartstrings. My sorrow touches every part of my life, yet I sorrow not as those who have no hope.
My rejoicing is not that of happy feelings; it is triumph in trial and confidence in a supreme God. The true joy of the Lord is divine enablement, not effervescent emotions
James Means, A Tearful Celebration
Sometimes it seems like it’s hardly worth it. Our circle is small and our testimony just a whisper. But we won’t know the full story of how our struggle glorifies Him until all things are revealed.
Our hope is a Living Hope.
It’s no pie-in-the-sky fairy tale.
Your story matters.
It’s being written to be shared as a testimony to God’s goodness, His faithful love and His enabling grace.
You’ll be glad you did.
Have you ever thought about the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the promise that we will also be raised? How do Peter’s words about our “living hope” impact your faith?
Peter denied Christ and most certainly didn’t ever expect to have a second chance to make that right. Do you feel like you’ve done or said or thought something that puts you outside the love and grace of God?
In the midst of a trial are you aware that it’s a refining experience? Do you care?
Does the promise that our steadfast endurance will be revealed in the last day as a testimony to God’s glory and grace encourage you? Why or why not?
What practical steps do you take to hold onto hope?
Lord, sometimes I feel hopeless. I forget that the resurrection proves You have conquered death and the grave. I forget I have a Living Hope and that hope is the person of Jesus Christ.
Trials come and the heat is so intense. I want to shrink away, to hide, to find some safe corner where pain and sorrow won’t find me. But that’s not the world we live in. Whether I’m persecuted for my faith or just the target of someone else’s sinful actions or words, it hurts!
Give me the strength to endure regardless of how intense the struggle.
I want to finish strong. I want to be a testimony for Your glory and to Your grace. Thank You for providing every needful thing.
Speak courage to my spirit, breathe life into my faith.
Thank You that I can rest assured that the hope I place in You is not just a fanciful wish but a sure thing.
Today’s verses are ones often read at funerals and memorial services to remind those left behind that for believers in Christ, death does not have the last word.
What a comfort!
But it’s also a reminder that the world as it is right now, is NOT the world God intended. He made everything perfect and perfectly alive.
Sin brought death.
Death brought heartache.
And for those of us who have too soon been separated from the child of our heart, we know how very much a heart can ache.
I absolutely rest on God’s promise that there will be a Day when everything is redeemed and restored. Christ’s resurrection is proof that His sacrifice is sufficient.
But even Jesus does not yet (in time) possess the full reward for that sacrifice.
So it’s no wonder we often struggle walking in the here and now while waiting patiently for the perfect hereafter.
We are not the first to wonder just how long we might have to wait! Paul was writing to comfort the church at Corinth. He reminded them of truth. He encouraged them to take hold of it and hide it in their hearts as ammunition against the lies of the enemy of our souls.
Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery—something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! 53 We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.54 And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:
Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death.[a]
56 Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law.57 Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, who brought us victory over the grave.
I Corinthians 15: 51-59 VOICE
Look at that first verse, “I’m going to tell you a mystery…”
Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us!) that what he’s about to say doesn’t necessarily “make sense” in the way a math equation does. In order to lean into the truth to follow, I have to become comfortable with the space between what I can see, taste, touch and feel and what may very well be true but not accessible by my limited physical senses.
That can be hard and uncomfortable.
So often I want tangible proof.
But that’s not how God works.
He asks me to step out in faith and trust His heart even when I can’t trace His hand.
The good news is that the world is not being tossed about in a battle between equals.
There’s no doubt that the final victory belongs to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of my faith.
So how can I arm my spirit against the wiles of the evil one? By studying the Word, hiding it in my heart and choosing-as an act of willful obedience-to believe.
Questions to ponder:
Do you believe that Death is defeated? Why or why not?
Obviously people still experience physical death. How does that fact impact your understanding of how God works in the world today?
What about the mystery Paul reveals is hardest for you to accept or understand?
How does the promise that these bodies we inhabit aren’t the last word encourage your heart?
What does it look like to live confidently in the hope of redemption, restoration and resurrection?
It’s not always easy to choose life, Lord
Because then we have to struggle with who we are
and why we are, and who you are,
And what to do with who we are,
and why we are, and who you are.
We have to let you make us new,
and being made anything always hurts.
Let the morning come in our hearts,
So morning can come in our lives,
And the world that needs a word of hope can hear
‘Death has lost, and life has won.’
Verdell Davis, Riches Stored in Secret Places
Please join the conversation as we encourage one another, discuss Scripture and ask questions.
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Only members can see your comments there.
I don’t want anyone to accidentally post something publicly they would rather remain private. ❤
Like most of us I am enjoying the change from cold and wet to warm and sunny.
Spring breezes and spring sunshine usher in fresh beauty and speak hope to a heart. It reminds me that the earth will not always be locked in darkness nor be a frozen wasteland.
But spring isn’t all sunshine and flowers for me.
It’s death and dying and tears and heart wrenching reminders that no matter how hard we try to hold onto life in THIS life, we can’t.
Right now I’m holding my dying cat. He’s been a faithful companion for thirteen years.
I’ve had many, many wonderful animals in my life but none have come close to being the constant shadow and empathetic friend that Roosevelt is. His warm body snuggled into my arms like an infant every morning has been a touchstone that kept me from floating away in grief’s inviting fog.
I will miss him.
Death is awful.
I do not equate Roosevelt’s death with Dominic’s. There isn’t a scale conceivable that would measure the distance between the two.
But one of the things I’m learning in this Valley is that every death taps the same wound. Every death hurts my heart.Every deathreminds me that this life is not as it ought to be, not as God intended it to be when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden.
And every death reminds me that Christ came, Christ suffered,Christ conquered precisely BECAUSE death. is. awful.
Resurrection is coming.
But it is not yet.
So I wait.
Clinging to the promises.
**My faithful companion died in my arms- peacefully and without pain. ***
It’s even harder to carry it like a precious burden in the bosom of your heart.
Because while it is oh, so true, it does not take away the pain when circumstances just don’t change no matter how hard you pray, how long you endure or how much you wish they would.
God’s ways are not my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. He is not required to fit into whatever box I wish to place Him.
I came to child loss with what I thought was a pretty good understanding of Scripture, of theology and of Who God is.
What I realized was that no matter how much HEAD knowledge I had, it was only HEART knowledge that could sustain me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.
•Julian of Norwich•
Some people live lives that make sense. They connect the dots-even of the hard and tragic things-into a picture that looks like something. They emerge from the ashes like a phoenix, wings outspread in victory and rising to new heights.
I can’t figure out what God is doing with my life.
I don’t feel victorious.
Mostly I feel tired.
But I am absolutely convinced that God loves me and that He is doing SOMETHING. What that is and how He is doing it are hidden from me.
I don’t understand.
I can’t trace His hand.
But I trust His heart.
If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.