Sometimes life throws people for a loop. Even Christians. And I think maybe for Christians the hardest part is that we thought we had figured out how God was going to handle it. We pray, sure that we know what would best glorify the Lord in a certain situation — and then nothing happens like we planned. And, worse, not only is the prayer seemingly unanswered, but disaster strikes, resulting in confusion, pain, and loss.
A couple I once knew were on deputation for the mission field when their young son was stricken with leukemia. Not only did they have to deal with the heartbreak of a seriously ill child, but when there was no miraculous healing, no improvement from the treatments, and trial upon trial rolled in on them, they had to rethink their whole life’s work, wondering if they had been mistaken to think God wanted them on the mission field in the first place. One of the things they said that stayed with me was, “God isn’t who we thought He was.” They were shaken, not just in their circumstances, but to the core of their faith.
These folks hung on in faith, though shaken. But I have known people who, when wounded or dismayed by the events of life, turn on the Lord like a wounded animal might snap at the hand of one trying to help.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the little book of Habakkuk, only 3 chapters long tucked in the minor prophets. He starts out his prayer by saying, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” Then he registers his complaint with the Lord about how things are going. The answer he gets certainly wasn’t what he was expecting: not only is the Lord not going to relieve Habakkuk’s (and Israel’s) problems just yet, but He reveals something worse is about to happen. The Chaldeans are coming as a judgment upon Israel. Habakkuk argues back to the Lord, that, no, this can’t be! One of the things God says in response to Habakkuk is, “the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4b). All of chapter 3 is a prayer of Habakkuk in response to what God has told him, and he ends it this way:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Though everything is going wrong, I will take joy in the God of my salvation, He is my strength.
Now, those who know me, don’t worry — I am not facing any disasters or faith-shaking situations at the moment. I have in the past, and I am sure I likely will again in the future. Anyone who lives for any length of time will. It would take too long and be too tedious to trace the train of thought that led to this post, but I’ll just say that I know several people going through various degrees of trials right now, and I have seen various responses. The last thing anyone needs is one of the miserable comforters like Job had. There have been whole books written on the subject of the trials of life that I’m sure I can’t add to or condense down to a single blog post. Grief, confusion, pain — those are all normal responses. In many of the Psalms David pour out all of those things to the Lord. But it is just on my heart to encourage anyone reading this who is going through one of life’s trying times in this way: cling to the Lord. Cling to what you know of Him. Encourage yourself in His Word. Hang on for dear life. Charles Spurgeon in the June 22 entry of Morning and Evening puts it like this:
“That those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain “things which cannot be shaken,” and I invite you this evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of his cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, “He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.” You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of his affectionate nature—nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose. Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.