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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 23:4’

… walking through the valley … (1)

 

Whenever the road we are walking gets hard, so steep that it steals our breath or so low that it  compresses our spirits, we long for flat land.

 

When life becomes a challenge, we reach for the EASY BUTTON.

 

While we may head to the mountains on vacation, seeking their soaring vistas or the coolness of the fertile valley floor which separates them, we secretly pray for flat land for our daily journey.

 

Many Christians have the unreal expectation that our spiritual life will always be level. (2) 

 

When we are tested by God, forced to wade through the valley and to make the steep climb from their depths, we frequently complain to Him that he is not doing His job, that He is unjust and unfair.

 

How often have you visited a loved-one in ICU at the hospital and been mesmerized by the monitor above their head?  I have frequently stared at these monitors watching lines rise and fall either with consistency or with jagged irregularity.  

 

Regardless of which line I am watching, I find myself wondering, “Is that good or is it bad?”  

 

While I cannot judge whether the line’s slope, peaks, and valleys are a good sign, I do know one thing, a line with peaks and valleys is better than a flat-line!

 

If a patient flatlines, a Code Blue is sent through out the hospital.  Doctors and nurses come running with carts, machines, and meds.  They have one goal: restore the line to one with peaks and valleys!  

 

Without the peaks and valleys, the patient remains dead.

 

Christians who pray that God make their lives a smooth plain are, unknowingly, praying for their death.

 

When you are walking through the valley do not fear because the Lord your God is looking for the perfect moment to mount you up on eagle’s wings. (3) 

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  1. Psalm 23:4
  2. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  3. Isaiah 40:31 (Read also Psalm 91).
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We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (1)

 

Christiaan Beker, the Dutch theologian and one of the most respected Pauline scholars of the 20th century, advised his students to never quote this passage when ministering to the suffering unless you want the sufferer to spit in your face.

 

Dr. Beker suffered through the Nazi destruction of Europe during the reign of Hitler.  He had zero tolerance for anyone who thought we should welcome suffering into our lives as a gift from God.

 

As a passionate believer who clung to God through his own difficulties in life, Dr. Beker was never able to justify human suffering with a loving God.

 

If nothing else, Dr. Beker taught me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with others with tender compassion and with my lips sealed.  He was an advocate of silent compassion as opposed to know-it-all comfort.  Your presence is more helpful than pitter-patter.

 

Why does a loving God permit suffering?  

 

My stock answer is, “I do not know, but I do know that God loves you! I know that God is hurting with you!”

 

Today I read a quote of Frederick William Robertson, which looks at suffering, not from it’s cause or purpose, but from what it does for us.  He speaks about how suffering makes us a better and more compassionate person.  He writes:

 

If you aspire to be a person of consolation, if you want to share the priestly gift of sympathy, if you desire to go beyond giving commonplace comfort to a heart that is tempted, and if you long to go through the daily exchanges of life with the kind of tact that never inflicts pain, then you must be prepared to pay the price for a costly education, for like Christ, you must suffer. (2)

 

While Robertson avoids answering our why questions about suffering, like Paul, he points us to one of the hidden blessings of suffering.  

 

The most compassionate people I know are those who have personally experienced the horror of unexplained and undeserved suffering.

 

Perhaps we will never find comfort in suffering, until it allows us to compassionately comfort those who suffer.

 

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:3–4.
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 313). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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“Isn’t it glorious to know that no matter how unjust something may be, even when it seems to have come from Satan himself, by the time it reaches us it is God’s will for us and will ultimately work to our good?” (1)

 

How would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was God’s will for you?

 

Everything?  

 

Yes, everything!

 

It’s a question that gives me long pause and few words.

 

Anytime someone glibly says, “It is God’s will” in the face of tragedy or disaster, I cringe.  

 

When bad things happen, questions flood my heart: 

Would God? 

Could God? 

Did God? 

Why God?

 

If it was God’s will and He would, could, and did, how would your life change?

 

I’d turn to God.

 

I’d cry out to Him?  

 

I’d stand with Habakkuk and wait for God to answer me. (See Habakkuk 1:1-2:4)

 

I’d cling to these scriptures:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” 

 

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” 

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)

 

On the other hand, how would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was NOT God’s will for you?

 

In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand: 

There can come no second causes, all must come from His dear hand.

God is Love, and God is faithful, so in perfect Peace I rest. (1)

 

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 311). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 23:4, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and Romans 8:38-39.

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Oh, how slow grief is to come to understanding! 

Grief is ignorant and does not even care to learn. (1)

.

Grief is 100% pure emotion!

There is nothing in grief which is rational.

Grief can only be felt!

There are no words which can soothe and comfort the heart aching in grief.

Grief will not be denied!

.

Parents ask me, “How do I explain this to the kids?”

My answer is, “You can’t, so don’t!  Just love them.  Be with them in their grieving!”

They then ask, “Isn’t there something in the Bible I can tell them?”

.

In Psalm 23, David says,

“God was with me when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death … His presence comforted me!” (2)

In Matthew, Jesus says,

“Come to me all you who are overburdened …you will find rest for your souls … I am with you always!” (3)

.

God and Jesus are short on words, but long on presence and compassion.

They do not offer an explanation.

Instead they offer their hearts.

They know what they are doing.

Thanks be to God!

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Psalm 23:4
  3. Matthew 11:28 and 29 and 20:28

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