I’ve been singing along to this song for most of the day. I began un-comfortable with the idea that God would slay, but I sang anyway. I sang on like I’ve done many times. I sang on thinking of friends finding Christ in all the mess of everyday life where everyday miracles settle the matter over and above the surface meaning of simple words.
I would struggle to do justice theologically to the words of Job in the lines, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13.15) All around us is a measure and a quality of human pain that is difficult to respond to in written words or in a simple song. Nothing makes atheists faster than Christian theology that is too quick in giving neat answers to difficult question. Nothing makes discouraged Christians faster than answers that do not direct them to Jesus. All that I know of Jesus persuades me that there is a measure and a quality of God, found in Christ, that is more than equal to the pain and suffering we know and see in the world.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4.16-18,
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
So, I am in no doubt that there is an ever increasing measure of the love of God available for each of us. What is more, I am convinced that our best God-treasure will be found when we seek Him in our trouble and distress. I am convinced that no suffering, however desperate or severe, is without meaning and purpose in the beautiful plan that God has for our lives. I am certain that in every circumstance we can know this love of God as, “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.
It was cold and glum on Tuesday morning and the sky was grey and dead. Dry brown leaves were blowing round the yard and the wind was moaning it’s way through the tall poplars at the back of our house.
I had, open on the kitchen table, the gospels and a notebook. A little morning reading and a good strong cup of tea. I leant forwards over the words, searching for something to carry me into the day ahead. Lost in the smaller world of my kitchen, the book and the gloom of the day.
And then I looked up …
I looked up from the from the page and the whole vast sky beyond the kitchen was lighted up with colour fit for a day in glory.
One moment the sky was still and cold. The next moment it was alive with light, hues of vivd pink and velvety purple, a great trail across the expanse of the sky, just a quick distance from where I sat. In the short moment when I bowed my head the darkness of the morning had been changed. Without announcement. Without ceremony. Without any expectation or effort on my part, it came as a gift.
All week I’m reading and memorising the beautiful and trustworthy words of John about Jesus,
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I work and I pray. A friend is unwell, another has been let down. I am perplexed that things do not always work out the way I planned. I struggle with something that should come easily and at night I fall into bed very, very, tired. But in the mornings when I bow my head over the words … every time I bow my head over the words and read I look up to find, without any effort on my part, the whole world alight with the glory of God. I can see it so close I can nearly touch it in every unrelenting, impossible situation and every exhausted and bedraggled face. Because, however hard the darkness tries to extinguish the light, however many times it reached to stuff her out, the darkness has none of that power. And light will always win.
I came home from work too swiftly tonight. Raging headache. I left my phone somewhere in the piles of files and papers on my desk. Living without a phone will probably be the riskiest thing I do this weekend.
If you were wondering if I had finished what I want to say about pain, suffering and the hard things of life, I certainly have not. There is more to come: much, much more. As if the internet did not already have enough words.
In the meantime here is something lovely for the weekend which I found via Ann Voskamp’s wonderful blog, A Holy Experience.
You’ve had your fill of all the cliches,
Like “life is hard but God is good”,
Even though it’s true,
It won’t stop what you’re going through,
I wish that I could say it would …
Hold on my brother things are going to get better,
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.
This song opens up like the pages of a book. A glorious symmetry, two sides of a coin.
On the left page are words of need for times of dryness or overwhelming trials and challenge.
On the right page are the word of hope for when the heavens are flung wide open and the blessings of God are easily felt and enjoyed.
And all the time the soul sings ‘I am yours’.
Whether you feel you are reading from the right hand page, or if you are still stuck like a slow reader on the left hand page, I pray that you can know more of God’s loving presence and more of the truth of who He is to you and who you are to HIm.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.