Today’s thought is from Vivien Goodbrand.
But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me
I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
As a young Christian, cut off from fellowship, I was fed spiritually by the writings of people like Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor and ECW Bolton, lent to me by Mary Black, my ‘mother in Christ’. The Bolton book ‘Jewels of the King ‘ (now I believe out of print) stands out in my memory. It described the process by which precious gems are created under the immense pressure of the deep earth, how they are mined and then cut, honed and polished until they become the beautiful items we know and love.
The picture drawn in that book contains a wonderful and glorious truth, that suffering is ordained by God. It is at the heart of the gospel – Christ is our suffering Saviour. In the pain and distress of pressures which can be crushing, and blows which follow one after the other - and even in the little frustrations and abrasions of life - God is, and God is in control.
This last strange year has been a time of opportunity but also a time of challenge, and in many and various ways. As some will know, in November I was in a car accident with my father who suffered serious injuries. God intervened and continues to intervene in amazing ways and His speaking, time and again, has underlined the truth contained in Job 23 - God knows the way we take. He is the One whose strength and purpose covers and underpins what at a human level is often a physically and emotionally draining journey. He lights the way and His light shines brighter in darkness.
We all know that being a Christian does not bring with it the promise of an easy life on earth. But it does bring the promise of a rich, full and blessed life when we simply look up to Christ and trust Him no matter what. The goodness of God to His children knows no bounds; He loves us ‘beyond thought or telling’, He calls us the ‘apple of His eye’ and ‘precious in His sight’ . He wants only good for us *. So ought we not to trust Him even when, as the hymn says, ‘we cannot see’?
The morning my father died, only days after coming home from hospital with the hope of recovery before him, and before I knew what had happened, I read ‘Streams in the Desert’. The verse was:
This thing is from me. (1 Kings 12:24)
And through the text God whispered the message to me, that He ‘would gild with glory any storm clouds that would arise and smooth the rough places’ I was to tread. And, as Amy Carmichael wrote, God always keeps His promises. He is the Heavenly Father and He knows and feels our sorrow or pain and gives a place of peace and rest. And more, He gives us songs in the night and joy in place of sorrow.**
Suffering is hard, but it is also how God changes us into His likeness and fits us for service with Him. It is necessary for the child of God and is for a purpose, that we might ‘come forth as gold’.
To return to the allegory in the book ‘Jewels of the King’. The ground holds many different types of precious gems, created in a multitude of different ways, brought from the ground by different means and cut, polished and set in the way which suits that particular gem and shows it to best effect. Some become jewels fit for the crown of a King, others may adorn a working hand or become a useful tool; all are things of beauty and wonder. To God every one of us is precious beyond our understanding. We are all different in character and attitude, and the road God lays out for each of us is different, with experiences and trials designed to meet our specific need, and with the purpose of making us into all He knows we can be, and wants us to be. But - we choose if we wish to follow that road or not. If we do, He will ‘bring us forth as gold’.
I do not know what life is throwing your way as you read this reflection. Whatever you face, look up to Christ and know that nothing can touch you, the ‘apple of His eye’, except it go through Christ, who knows the way you take and wants only good for you.
‘This is from me’ the Saviour said
As bending low He kissed my brow,
‘For one who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Tho, why perchance you cannot see –
Grieve not for things you’ve seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee’.
Then, looking through my tears, I plead,
‘Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
‘Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test,
So still I sing, ‘Whatever be
God’s way for me is always best’
* Ephesians 3:9; Zechariah 2:8; Isaiah 43:4; Psalm 23
** Job 35:10; Jeremiah 31:13
I will praise the Lord at all times, I will constantly speak his praises,
I will boast only in the Lord, let all who are helpless take heart.
Come let us tell of the Lord’s greatness, let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)
We all know that there are times - many times - when it is easy to praise the Lord. When life is full of blessing, when everything is going the way we want it to go, when He feels very near to us... then it is easy to praise!
But this psalm speaks of praising Him at all times. It is a psalm of David, and David had his share of turmoil and trouble throughout life. But he learned something of this secret - he was not a ‘fair weather’ follower of God. He declares that he will praise him at all times.
There are lessons to be learned in this. Have you ever felt that as you turned to seek God you have been aware of how crushed and troubled you feel, but you decided that you would still come into His presence with thanksgiving? And you begin to give thanks ... without ‘feeling’ a great deal ..... but you focus on every good thing that God has done for you and in you. And then the change begins to happen....... and you are not only speaking words of praise, but you are feeling that praise bubble up within you. It reminds me of a chorus:
Praise is the power of heaven
Praise is the power of heaven
Praise is the power that opens the door
To the King, to the King of kings.
Praise can lift you out of your troubled feelings and into His presence. The psalm says ‘let all who are helpless take heart’. It’s when we look away from ourselves and look at Him - His goodness, His greatness and His unfailing love - then our helpless spirits begin to soar into His presence and are made whole again. What a faithful God we have - turn your eyes to Him!
Take now... thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest... and offer him. (Genesis 22:2)
On my calendar on Sunday there were some thoughts on the subject of joy and one of the verses in the heading was the one I have quoted above. The name Isaac means laughter - and Abraham’s son was given that name because he brought unexpected laughter... and joy.... to an old man and woman who never expected they would have a son.
But the story of Abraham and Isaac is a picture, we know, of God the Father and God the Son. And the writer was pointing out that the coming of Christ brought joy and laughter to the heart of God the Father and, yes, to God the Son.
...who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross...
There is joy in the Godhead because the way has been opened for man to return into the presence of God. There is joy over every sinner who finds that way.
Surely, in you and me, there should be a joy that rises in our spirits again and again as we think of the fact that we have been redeemed. It is a joy that can and should thrill us time after time in spite of some of the hardships and difficulties that can cross our paths. There is a road that opens at Calvary and it is flooded with light and life for us because there Christ broke the power of darkness and death. Walk on that road... and let the light and life that is there surge through your soul.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
Why not try, this week, to live in that joy. Don’t let any circumstance rob you of it..... and if we do that we will find strength for whatever faces us.
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