Don’t be someone whom Satan overlooks

I’ve been reading Job. Something different struck me this time, as I read that first distressing chapter. Job lost everything: his children, his livestock, his wealth, his health and ultimately his hope. One person, however, remained: his wife.

I wondered about this. Why did Satan not afflict Job’s wife? When the children were killed, why did she survive? When Job was covered with oozing sores, why was she not?

There could not possibly be any grace on Satan’s part. He would not have decided to spare the one person about whom Job cared the most. Nor did God explicitly instruct that she be kept alive. He said at first that Job must remain unharmed, and later that his life must be spared, but it seems that Job’s wife was fair game.

Why did Satan leave her?

I don’t know for sure, but when I got to chapter 2, verse 10 I had a hunch. Job’s wife was likely the most precious and influential person in his life. Maybe Satan knew, that when push came to shove, she would say to him, as she did, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Imagine being that kind of wife. The kind whom Satan would leave untouched, with the knowledge that she was better use to him alive than dead. What a position of influence she had, and how devastating, that when a crisis came, she abandoned her faith and exhorted her husband to do the same.

Advertisements

The reason for the wind

20120315092504_sequoia-coast-redwoods-muir-woods-415114_621x320

One of my Facebook friends recently posted, “I really hate the wind. And what obvious purpose does it even serve?!”

I don’t hate the wind, but for those who do, I can see it is a legitimate question. The fact is though, that wind serves a very important purpose for trees. While it may appear that the wind mostly batters trees, they actually need it. Experiments have been done that show that trees grown in controlled, wind-free environments are weak and underdeveloped. The wind forces trees to spread their roots deep into the ground, strengthening them and enabling them to draw out water and nutrients.

It’s such a great metaphor for human life. How often have I lamented the things that I hate in my life; the things that hurt or make me feel weak or battered? How often do I miss the fact that it is these very things, subject in themselves to the hand of the Almighty, that are causing me to grow deep and strengthen and mature?

It is not wrong to grieve over pain, but we must not feel overcome by it. It can be viewed as a beautiful, strengthening device.

I love these lyrics from David Crowder: “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”

There is beauty and mercy and love, even in pain. You are stronger than you think, and it’s probably the wind that got you there.

18ab3109932b413eca8e82175e215ec4

We all want the power

powerful-entrepreneur_23-2147508153

There’s this great verse in Philippians 3 where Paul says “ I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” If you’re like me, your heart has a similar craving to Paul’s. Oh to truly know Christ in such a deep way that we daily experience the amazing power that flows through Him. A power that not only changes lives but that conquers death.

The idea of this kind of power is intoxicating, and, dare I say, very human.

See, Philippians 3:10 is a verse that, perhaps more than any other in Scripture, I like to leave incomplete. I like to pretend that that’s what it really says. Yes! I want to know Christ. Yes! I want to know the power of his resurrection. Stop.

But the verse doesn’t stop, and it is dangerous for us to pretend that it does. It continues: “…and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Wow. We all want the power, but let’s be honest, we don’t want it God’s way. God’s way says “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9). It is in sharing in the sufferings, yes, even in the death of Jesus that we can truly know the power that has been bought through His resurrection.

We must not despise the suffering that God allows in our lives, nor suppose that we can truly know Him or experience His power apart from it.

What if God hadn’t told us what happens after death?

corridor-sky--hallway_19-104567My Nanna died last week. She was old, and it was not unexpected, but still the quiet, grey cloud of grief has hung over me.

On the evening after her funeral I sat quietly at home, not sure what to do with myself. I read my Bible and just sat, feeling sad.

After a while I looked at my heater, glowing red and warm and I felt suddenly grateful. I knelt on the floor and thanked God. For the heater and for the many other blessings in my life, including my Nanna: who she was, and how long she was given to me. Not everyone gets their Nanna for 29 years.

I thanked God for looking after her, even now. For cherishing her soul and filling her with joy. I thanked God that I could trust Him with her.

Suddenly I realized something deeper to be thankful for: God’s revelation of the mystery of life after death. If He’d said nothing about life beyond the grave, he could still be trusted. Heaven would be real whether we knew of it or not. God would still be good, even in His silence. But He is not silent, and what comfort that brings us

I don’t blindly trust God with my Nanna, I trust him having been told exactly what will happen to her. Death will have no victory; she will be raised and given a new, imperishable body. This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The one thing that makes you most useless to God

I doubt there is any sin more prevalent in the hearts of fallen humanity, nor one so destructive than that of pride.
In fact, the other day, I began to wonder whether there was any person more useless to God than the one whose heart is consumed with pride.crumpled-up-paper_2540467

I doubt there is.

I know for myself that when I am focused on my own importance, on building my own kingdom in which I reign supremely as queen, I am about as useless to God and His Kingdom as I can be.

For the Christian who is genuinely focused ahead on the glory of heaven, one thing that should be most frightening is that we may get there, only to look back and discover that we spent our lives being largely useless to God.

As I reflected on this, I began to see, with joy, that God is in the business of destroying pride. In fact, as I look back on the greatest trials I have faced, I can see that God was using them to slowly chip away at this barrier that stands in the way of me being used for noble purposes.

It has made me realize that I should rejoice in any situation that causes my pride to be crucified. For it is in those moments of humility before the Lord, that He can use me for greater glories than I would ever be able to achieve on my own.

Will you speak out for people entirely unlike you?

locked-green-door_434-19316046I’m half way through reading ‘I am Malala,’ the famous book by the Nobel Prize winning girl who spoke out for education and was shot by the Taliban.

It gives a lot of insight into the lives of Pakistani peasants in the decades following the September 11, 2001 attack.

Malala’s father was a man who courageously spoke out against the Taliban, holding truth above cowardice. Malala records that he used to carry the following poem with him in his pocket. It is by Martin Niemöller, who had lived in Nazi Germany. It has really challenged me.

First they came for the communists,

And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,

And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,

And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.

Then they came for me,

And there was no one left to speak for me.

The Gift of Death

The gift of death is, paradoxically, the gift of life.

One of my beautiful students asked me the other day, why God would create such beautiful people, only to let them die.

garden_of_edenIt’s a fair question, but it’s one limited by lack of information, because if we understand the fullness of the Bible, we can understand the gift of death.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were free to eat from the Tree of Life. They were going to live forever in the bliss and beauty of what God had created.

The right to eat from the Tree of Life was only taken from them after they sinned. Because living forever under the curse of sin was never God’s plan for anyone.

Adam and Eve both died a physical death, but it was not a tragic one. Physical death was one of the gifts that God gave them, along with the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son, in order for them to enter into eternal life.

Death can be a great tragedy, but only when it takes a person who refuses to accept God’s gift of life. For those who have life, it is the beautiful gateway out of an existence marred by sin.

When God Takes Away

138261Some time ago, I posted one of my favourite segments from the book Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss. This has been a hugely influential book in my life, and I’d like to share another section that I copied out into my diary several years ago.

‘God does nothing arbitrary. If He takes away your health, for example, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason. If you find, in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect – that is, that your will revolts at His will – do not be discouraged, but fly to your saviour and stay in His presence until you obtain the spirit in which He cried “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: Nevertheless not my will but Yours be done.”(Luke 22:42)

Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace, such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside condition.’

I hope this inspires convicts and fills you with hope in the way in which it did for me. I can attest to the truth of these words. Our God is faithful. He does nothing arbitrary.

How can I trust God when He gives no guarantee things will get easier?

cliff-drop-warning-sign--information_19-133742Anyone who has come face to face with the call to trust God in the midst of suffering will understand these feelings of trepidation.

The Christian, never having been promised an easy life, is still supposed to trust God, knowing that He may lead us into hardships. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the top of a cliff, fearfully putting your trust in someone who may well push you off, against your wishes and with no warning.

I remember wrestling with this during one of my most unwell times. ‘How can I trust someone who may allow me to go even deeper into this pit of suffering?’ It’s a very real question. If I can’t trust a God who loves me to protect me from what I fear most, then what can I trust Him for?

Sometimes I think we forget what it means to be a Christian. It means that we’ve been crucified with Christ. Crucified! We have given up all of our earthly rights in the hope that we can be restored to relationship with God; that we have a home in heaven; and that all things will, ultimately, work together for our good.

We do not chiefly trust in God to make our lives easier. We surrender our lives, to share in His sufferings, because we believe it is the greatest possible trade we could make. Our trust is in God, not for earthly pleasures, but for the glory that will one day be revealed.

You might be sick, but you’re not useless.

938287_57810091

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to the Wikipedia page of Laura Hillenbrand. The name, at first, meant nothing to me, and I wasn’t sure why she’d sent it, but as I read, something jumped out at me, and I knew it was what she wanted me to see:

“Hillenbrand’s first book was the acclaimed Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001), a nonfiction account of the career of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, for which she won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001…Hillenbrand suffers from severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and remains largely confined to her home.”

I am not confined to my home, but I do know the debilitating weight of this illness; the way in which it seems to strangle your talents and potential. And yet, I find in Hillenbrand’s life the inspiration that sick people don’t have to feel useless.

To recount all the blessings I have encountered not despite, but because of my illness would take thousands of words, but I too have discovered that even sick people have a purpose and calling from God. We may not all be great writers, but God does not leave his Children without gifts to use for the building up of the church.

So if you’re sick, or tired or you find yourself in circumstances that you never would have chosen, do not, on top of all that, despair that you have no earthly use or purpose.