About Barbara Harper

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Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

It has been a quiet week in many ways. Here are some of the best parts:

1. A friend’s very good news. She had waited many weeks to be able to have a biopsy. Finally had it last week, and the results came back this week: no cancer! Praise the Lord!

2. A peaceful transfer of power. Whichever administration you prefer, I appreciate that we have an orderly manner for a transfer of leadership in this country. We’re so used to it, we take it for granted. But it hasn’t happened this way for much of history and still doesn’t in some countries. (Please, no commentary on one administration over another. I try to avoid politics here.)

3. A rescheduled schedule. I noticed several weeks ago that I had four appointments bunched up together in January. On one hand, it would have been nice to get them all over with at once. But I just don’t operate well with that many outside appointments so close together. I made some phone calls and rescheduled them to about one a week and have enjoyed that pacing.

4. An impromptu visit. My son and daughter-in-law have been super-busy with projects on their new house. It needed a lot of cleaning, painting, and little fixes. Then she texted me to ask if they could come over Thursday night to escape paint fumes for a while. We always enjoy visiting with them, but had a fun time with dinner and seeing pictures of what they had accomplished so far.

5. Lindt Lindor milk chocolate truffles. This is my favorite candy, and I usually receive some on special occasions. But my husband has found some at a discount store he frequents, so I have had some on hand ever since Christmas. I try to ration them out to just one or sometimes two a day–it’s too easy to just pop them in one after another! I’ve been happy to have my occasional special treat a little while longer than usual.

It’s been a cold and overcast week. I’m hoping to see sunshine and blue skies sometime soon. I just saw a plump robin on the tree outside—a reminder that spring is coming.

Book Review: Daddy Long Legs

I’ve read a couple of books based on the 1912 Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster (Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay and Sincerely, Jem by Kate Willis in A Very Bookish Christmas). But I had never read the original story. I figured it was time to remedy that.

Jerusha Abbott,, who calls herself Judy, has grown up in the John Grier Home orphanage. She has just about aged out of the system. She’s finished high school and is working at the home.

Then she receives word that one of the trustees has offered to pay her way through college. One of Judy’s teachers had told him she could be an excellent writer. The trustee will pay all of Judy’s expenses and give her an allowance. The donor does not want Judy to know who he is. He’ll communicate through his secretary. His only requirement is that she write him a letter once a month about what she’s learning.

The rest of the book is made up of Judy’s letters. She was told to address her letters to Mr. John Smith. She had caught a glimpse of him from behind during one of the trustees’ monthly meetings to the orphanage. She could only make out that he was very tall, so she nicknames him Daddy Long Legs.

Although thoroughly excited by her opportunity, Judy faces challenges as well. An East Coast girl’s college is a different environment from an orphanage. Judy faces a social learning curve as well as an academic one.

But for the most part she faces life optimistically. Her letters are usually lively and cheerful. But sometimes she’s downhearted or angry—sometimes with Daddy Long Legs.

Since I’d read other books based on this story, I knew the surprise twist near the end of who “Daddy” was. But it was still satisfying to see how it came about and to see little clues appear.

The original books contained some drawings by the author (Judy refers to them in her letters). But, unfortunately, the free Kindle version didn’t have them.

One thing that irked me, though, was that Judy seemed to feel obligated to make several “digs” at religion. Yes, this is a secular book, and so I don’t expect it to portray Christian values. But I don’t expect it to poke at them, either. What religious instruction Judy had at the orphanage seemed institutional and cheerless (she says of one dinner with new friends, ““We don’t have to say grace beforehand. It’s a relief not having to thank Somebody for every mouthful you eat. [I dare say I’m blasphemous; but you’d be, too, if you’d offered as much obligatory thanks as I have.”]) Maybe that’s what she’s rebelling against. But I couldn’t help wonder if some of these thoughts were the author’s and this was her way to get them out into the world. One thing Judy shares from her vast amounts of reading in college was that “I didn’t know that people used to be monkeys and that the Garden of Eden was a beautiful myth.” Maybe that’s what starts her on a negative religious path; maybe it was there before and this new “learning” brought it to the forefront. Elsewhere she says, “Thank heaven I don’t inherit God from anybody! I am free to make mine up as I wish Him. He’s kind and sympathetic and imaginative and forgiving and understanding—and He has a sense of humour.”

A couple of quotes I enjoyed:

It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anybody can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh—I really think that requires SPIRIT.

Most people don’t live; they just race. They are trying to reach some goal far away on the horizon, and in the heat of the going they get so breathless and panting that they lose all sight of the beautiful, tranquil country they are passing through; and then the first thing they know, they are old and worn out, and it doesn’t make any difference whether they’ve reached the goal or not.

Normally epistolary novels aren’t my favorite, but this was a pleasant read. The author has a nice style. Someday soon I hope to get to the sequel, Dear Enemy, focusing on one of Judy’s roommates.

I am counting this book as my classic by a new-to-me author for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Whatever happened to these sayings?

I don’t want to be guilty of that bane of older people: considering everything “back in my day” to be superior. No era or society has been perfect since Eden.

Many societal perspectives have improved from what I grew up with. And I love the conveniences, technology, and multiple ways to communicate that we have today. 

But in my youth, I heard certain sayings repeated enough to become truisms. I don’t hear them any more, but I think we need them more than ever.

  • I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (Evelyn Beatrice Hall). Freedom of speech used to be one of highest values in this country. Now, if you don’t fit within the prevailing narratives, you’re publicly shamed or “canceled.” We’ve gone from absolute truth to the postmodern lack of absolute truth to “My truth is the only truth.”
  •  
  • “It takes all kinds to make a world.” That seemed to sum up how people reconciled the fact that others could think so differently from themselves. Along with this one was:
  • “Live and let live.” Most didn’t advocate “anything goes.” There are times to speak out against wrongdoing. But we’re also not made with cookie cutters. We won’t all do and act the exact same way in everything.
  • “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” This encouraged people to consider the background, personality, and perspective of others. Now, people make all sorts of judgments based on a 140-character tweet instead of trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint.
  • “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”This one went around fairly recently, but it’s been quickly forgotten. Now people can’t seem to just disagree on matters large or small without vilifying each other.
  • “Don’t believe everything you read.” A corollary to this was “Just because you see it on TV (or in the newspaper) doesn’t mean it’s true.” Now we tend to believe articles and posts that support our views and disbelieve whatever doesn’t.

Of course, these are limited. They are not Scripture. Some may have exceptions. But they are pretty good common sense, and some are based on Scriptural truth.

What do think? Is it possible to bring these back? Can you think of any others?

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth)

The Dreaded Proverbs 31 Woman

The Dreaded Proverbs 31 Woman

“Oh, her.” Eye-roll.

That might be the reaction you get if you mention the Proverbs 31 woman these days.

I had not grown up with a lot of Biblical teaching. So when I read Proverbs 31 some time after becoming a Christian, I aspired to be like the woman described there. I never felt I’d “made it.” But I thought she was a worthy role model

I hear a lot of women expressing dismay or discouragement over this ideal woman. They feel they can never live up to her, and every reading or sermon on this passage only shows up their shortcomings all the more.

Well, she is an ideal woman. In context, a mother is advising her son about a virtuous woman (according to the KJV and NKJV. Many translations describe her as “excellent”; the NIV and CSB call her “a wife of noble character.”)

But this passage is more than just a mother’s high ideals for her son. Since “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), this passage is God speaking through this mother to us through the ages. And I don’t think He meant the passage as a discouragement or a stick to beat over our heads.

If you think about it, there is someone even higher that we’re supposed to be like.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Now, that can be discouraging! But this passage and others like it point out how far we fall short in order to alert us to our need for Christ’s righteousness and grace. We know we’re not perfect on our own and never can be. As the hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Jesus lived a perfect life, keeping all God’s law, and then died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and then rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When we believe on Jesus as Savior and Lord, His righteousness is attributed to us (imputed is the theological term). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So when we stand before God some day, He is not going to check off all the boxes of Proverbs 31. He’s going to look for the righteousness of Christ, which can only be received by faith.

When we believe on Christ, we’re changed. As we read His Word and grow in Him, we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). We might think of Proverbs 31 as what the righteousness of Christ would look like lived out in the home. Many of these traits are repeated for both men and women in the New Testament.

The Proverbs 31 woman didn’t do everything in this passage in a day. The picture is of her lifetime. Just like we’ll never be completely like Christ until we get to heaven, but we should be growing more like Him day by day, so we can grow more like this woman.

We have to remember, too, the context of the times in which this was written. A 21st-century virtuous woman’s activities will look different from a woman of King Solomon’s time.

There are scores (maybe hundreds) of books, messages, studies, etc. on this passage. So we won’t exhaust it here. But here are a few principles drawn from the life of this lady:

She loves and reverences God. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (verse 30). Though this aspect is mentioned last, it permeates the rest of the passage.

She is trustworthy. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (verses 11-12). She doesn’t hide things from him or present a false front.

She’s industrious. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (verse 27). She “works with willing hands” (verse 13b). She’s active about the household and diligent in providing food and clothing for the family (verses 13-15, 18-19, 21-22, 24).

She’s kind. “The teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (verse 26b).

She ministers to those in need. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (verse 20).

She’s wise. “She opens her mouth with wisdom” (verse 26a).

She’s savvy. She can buy a field, she knows how to discern if merchandise is good (verses 16, 18, 24). In David Copperfield, his first wife is a sweet, pretty thing named Dora. But she couldn’t manage a household. She called herself a “child-wife.” I don’t know if I could buy a field—it’s a bit more complicated than it was in Old Testament times. We’ve bought and sold property—or rather, my husband has, and I have cosigned. I’ve been so thankful he understood all the paperwork. But whether I could buy a field or not, I don’t have to be a child-wife.

She plans ahead. “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet” (verse 21). The ESV note says “scarlet” could be translated as “in double thickness.”

She’s strong. “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. . . . Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (verses 17, 25). I wrote more on being a strong woman here.

She cares about her appearance. “Her clothing is fine linen and purple” (verse 22b). Purple was not a common clothing color in those days. In my younger years, I wondered if it was wrong to want to look attractive. This verse helped my thinking, as did the fact that God made the world beauitful when He could have made it just functional. Of course, we can go too far in this area. Peter reminds us that it’s “the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious,” rather than “external adorning” (1 Peter 3:3-4). We have to be balanced. But at least the Proverbs 31 women isn’t slovenly in her home or clothing.

She’s respected. Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her (verses 28-29). OK, maybe not every day. Remember this is a summation of her whole life. Moms and children have their bad days. But over the course of life, her behavior and attitudes are such that her family should be able to see her value and respect her. Her husband sitting in the gates with the elders (verse 23) indicates a position of respect and leadership for that time as well. Her activities and demeanor help him rather than detract from his position.

Remember, this woman is a personification of the ideal. No real woman has everything together all the time. We can give ourselves grace even as we seek God’s help and strength to grow in these traits. Elisabeth Elliot said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” I hope that, instead of dreading or disliking or fearing the Proverbs 31 woman, you’ll look on her as a friend, a picture of what a “different kind of woman” looks like.

Proverbs 31:30

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are the latest thought-provoking reads I’ve seen:

Would It Be Okay for Me to Be Angry With God? “And who am I to be angry at what God has done? Who am I to disapprove of what he has permitted? Who am I to conclude God has done something he should not have, or to even suggest the notion?”

Start Here: How to Begin Reading the Bible this Year. “If you’ve been feeling like reading Scripture will be too hard for you, as though there’s no way you’ll be able to do it on your own—stop now and thank God. Knowing that we need Jesus is a gift. We can’t do this without Him, and He’s ready and able to help.

The Prayer Group, HT to Joanne. “These women have prayed so hard their knees have gone bad. They’ve prayed for rowdy husbands who are bad to drink. For children who are ill. For couples who fall upon the rocks. They have even prayed Carol through her cancer. Twice.”

Ministry With, Not Merely To those with developmental disabilities, HT to Challies. “My friend and mentor, Rich, heads up the Friendship Bible Study, and he constantly reminds us that we will minister with and not merely to those who come. It’s my observation that such a mentality fuels ministry that has the capacity to endure. Consequently, this demographic that is among the most unreached in these United States is a demographic which has most reached the congregation I serve.”

The Wide Gate, HT to Challies. “Since Time magazine announced God was dead in 1966, people have done their best to manage without Him, notably in relationships. God’s narrow way of one man and one woman monogamously raising offspring has been paved over with multilane beltways, bypasses, and loops that must look sort of messy from angel altitude.”

Visiting the Sick, HT to Challies. “The topic . . . comes at a tragically unique time in history: when visiting the sick and our ability to go to hospital to care for the infirmed, weak, or dying is greatly diminished. And yet, care for those in the church who are ill or afflicted among us, is some of the most foundational stuff of our true religion.”

No Strings Attached, HT to Challies. “There is simple kindness, among few, in the art of gift giving. An offering presented with joy and weightlessness; a smile of anticipation in the knowing of the goodness to be shared.”

A friend with a young baby posted this on FaceBook. A young mom wants to know how to keep strangers from touching and kissing her baby in public. The answer is hilarious.

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19, NKJV). Daily! Here are a few He loaded into my week.

1. A quick offer on a house. We own the rental my son and daughter-in-law were in. When they bought their first home, we decided to sell the rental instead of trying to keep up with it. We had a good offer within a day and a half of listing it! We have to see if it all works out, but we were encouraged.

2. An online meeting. The online writer’s conference I attended in November included a fifteen-minute Zoom meeting with one of the faculty. The lady I signed up to talk to wanted to put the meetings off til January, since otherwise we’d be meeting just before Thanksgiving. That was fine with me. We met this week and had a good conversation. She gave me one key thought for my book project that I had not considered. It seems like every industry professional I have talked to through writer’s conferences has done that. Slowly the pieces are coming together!

3. Not as much snow as forecast. 🙂 Sometimes the blessing is in what we don’t receive. Snow is fun to play in but can wreak havoc or just shut down movement here in the South where we are not as equipped to deal with it. So when we got just a little snow, it was pretty but didn’t cause any trouble.

4. Short-lived knee pain. I have trouble with one knee occasionally. When it caused me significant pain on Tuesday, my mind immediately jumped to the worst-case scenario and assumed I was going to need knee replacement. 🙂 Thankfully, the pain abated over the next two days and I am back to normal now. I must have wrenched it in some forgotten way.

5. Old, meaningful hymns. I was puttering in the kitchen when The Haven of Rest came on. I used to hear that on the radio and in church a lot right after I became a Christian, and it meant a lot to me. I haven’t heard it in a long time. I was almost in tears singing along with it.

What are some of the benefits God loaded into your week?

Book Review: Be Delivered

The book of Exodus contains some of the most dramatic passages in the Bible: baby Moses being placed in a basket in a river after Pharaoh’s command to kill Israelite male babies and being found and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, God speaking from a burning bush, the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the golden calf.

But Exodus also contains chapters that seem a little tedious at first, like the instructions for the tabernacle and all its furnishings and the priests’ wardrobe.

A good study Bible like the ESV Study Bible and a short commentary like Warren Wiersbe’s Be Delivered (Exodus): Finding Freedom by Following God help fill out understanding of these passages.

At the end of Genesis, Joseph had brought his family to Egypt to provide for them during the prophesied famine. He knew this people would be returning to their homeland, but evidently he didn’t expect that to happen in his lifetime. He made his family promise to take his bones with them when they went back.

Wiersbe notes that “the Hebrew text of Exodus begins with the word and, for God is continuing the story He started in Genesis” (p. 17). We’re not sure how much time passed before “there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), but by that time all Joseph’s generation had died off (1:6) and the children of Israel had multiplied so much that Pharaoh was afraid they could turn on Egypt. So the Egyptians “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (1:13-14). Pharaoh went so far as to call for the killing of Israel’s male babies.

After Moses’ miraculous deliverance, he got off to a rocky start trying to help his brethren: in trying to save one from a fight, he killed an Egyptian. When he realized his deed was known, he fled, married, and tended sheep for 40 years, until God called to him from a burning bush. After a lot of convincing, Moses answered God’s call to go back to Egypt to deliver Israel from 400 years of slavery.

That process did not go as Moses had thought it would, but God was in control. The plagues sent on Egypt were not random. Each plague countered a god the Egyptians worshiped. God was not just rescuing His people: He was making Himself known as the one true God. There’s evidence that at least some Egyptians came to believe on Him.

After Pharaoh finally let Israel go in defeat, they started a new chapter. Not only did God miraculously deliver them: He wanted to actually dwell among them. He taught them His ways and gave them instructions for building a meeting place.

But, though they had been delivered from Egypt, they still carried Egypt in their hearts. They complained over every little thing and blamed Moses. God was patient with them at first: they had been in Egypt for a long time and needed to become better acquainted with Him and trust Him. Eventually the people made a golden calf to worship while Moses was away receiving God’s law. And God had to deal with that. Moses’ intercession in 32:30-34 and chapter 33 are some of the most touching places in the Bible.

When the people repented, they responded to God’s command and made the tabernacle just as God had instructed. And God’s glory filled the tabernacle.

There’s a lot of symbolism in the different parts of the tabernacle, and that’s one area where study Bibles and commentaries help a lot. Wiersbe’s book had a diagram and the ESV Study Bible had several drawings about what the tabernacle and its parts looked like. Wiersbe went into a lot of detail about what each part represented.

Wiersbe’s overarching theme was freedom: the Israelites needed to be freed from Egypt physically but also in their hearts.

Fools use freedom as a toy to play with; wise people use freedom as a tool to build with (p. 13).

Exodus teaches us that freedom is not license and discipline is not bondage. God tells us how to enjoy mature freedom in His will, a quality that is desperately needed in our churches and in our world today (p. 13).

I have multitudes of places marked, but here are a few other quotes that stood out to me:

God used Israel’s experiences in Egypt to prepare them for the special tasks He gave them to accomplish on earth: bearing witness to the true and living God, writing the Holy Scriptures, and bringing the Savior into the world (p. 18).

The phrase as weak as a baby doesn’t apply in the kingdom of God, for when the Lord wants to accomplish a mighty work, He often starts by sending a baby. This was true when He sent Isaac, Joseph, Samuel, John the Baptist, and especially Jesus. God can use the weakest things to defeat the mightiest enemies (1 Cor. 1: 25–29). A baby’s tears were God’s first weapons in His war against Egypt (p. 21).

What does it mean to harden your heart? It means to see clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. It means to resist Him by showing ingratitude and disobedience and not having any fear of the Lord or of His judgments. Hardhearted people say with Pharaoh, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice?” (5: 2) (p. 41).

The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. It all depends on the nature of the material (p. 41).

There was one place where I disagreed with Wiersbe. He says of Moses’ famous argument about why he couldn’t do what God commanded in Exodus 3-4 , “Moses was clothing his pride and unbelief in a hollow confession of weakness” (p. 26). I don’t think his claims of weakness were hollow. When Moses left Egypt, he was a wanted man. His misguided attempts to help his brethren had backfired. God didn’t say Moses was wrong when Moses listed his weaknesses. But God promised to be with him and give him everything he needed. I can identify with Moses a lot in these passages and have to lean on the same truth: that it’s through God’s presence and ability that I can accomplish anything for Him.

One aspect I noticed in this trek through Exodus was how Moses grew as a leader from quaking in his boots to confident in God’s working.

Overall I found this commentary very helpful and informative.

Two Dickensian Christmas Stories

In A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep, Mina Scott is an innkeeper’s daughter in 1853 London. She enjoys Dickens novels when she can borrow them and dreams of a better life. She wouldn’t mind if William Barlow, a regular customer in her father’s tap room, was part of those dreams.

And then the unthinkable happens: William asks her to pose as his wife for a dinner with his uncle. The uncle is trying to determine which nephew will be his heir, and William thinks that appearing married will give him a better chance, especially considering his unstable earlier years.

Mina reluctantly agrees. She enjoys the visit to the restaurant and then the uncle’s townhouse, where she feels like a real lady. But she finds she really likes William’s uncle and feels bad for deceiving him. William does as well. Then they discover a scheme by the other nephew in line for the inheritance, and their focus turns to protecting the uncle. But how will they be believed without sounding like they are just angling for a better position themselves?

In The Old Lace Shop, also by Griep, Bella White is recently widowed, but not in mourning. Her husband was abusive, and she had only married him due to her father’s machinations. While selling off her husband’s property, she decides to keep one industry: a small lace manufacturer. She doesn’t need the income, but she needs to prove she can function on her own.

The shop has a partner, though Bella is the majority owner. When she moves to Nottingham to visit the shop, she’s stunned to find that the partner is the man she loved who left without a word to her several years before. After their awkward getting to know each other again and overcoming his resistance to her partnership, they try to find a good working relationship. But they clash on several points. And then they discover a plot that endangers both of them and the people they love.

These books were the second and third of Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series. The first was 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, which I read a couple of years ago (linked to my review). The first two books were released separately in two subsequent years, but now they are combined in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas with the third.

As far as I could tell, the stories didn’t seem to be a retelling of a particular Dickens book. But they were from the same era and in similar style. Dickens himself shows up in the last two (I can’t remember if he did in the first).

Another common thread was a “second chance” coin—not a token of luck, but just a wish or acknowledgement for the recipient.

A few quotes:

Real joy is not found in the best moments of life, but in trusting that God is making the best of every moment.

My mother–God rest her– always told me to think of eternity, then live backward from that. Such a view has a way o’ whittlin’ down our current troubles to a size we can crumple up into a ball and toss aside.

His face was a road map of years.

Maybe, perhaps, true meaning in life had nothing to do with outward trappings but with inward genuineness.

Funny, is it not, that one doesn’t know how bad one really is until trying hard to be good.

One quote was overstated a bit. . . . “The heat of a thousand suns burned along every nerve, and settled low in his belly.”

I got a little frustrated with the characters and their choices sometimes. But these books weren’t bad companions for the last weeks of the year.

When It Looks Like Evil Is Winning

Sometimes when I am dismayed over the state of the world or a personal problem, I am tempted to think, “God, why aren’t you winning? You’re stronger than evil. You’re bigger than this problem. Why isn’t all of this taken care of? It would be nothing to You to right these things.”

The psalmists wrestled with this question in a slightly different way. In Psalm 73, Asaph struggled with not only the presence of the wicked, but the fact that they prospered. He even came to the point of thinking that his efforts to live purely had been in vain. Job’s friends’ asserted that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked, and therefore Job must have done something wrong to be experiencing so much trouble. One of Job’s arguments against their theory was that the wicked often prosper in this life.

But nothing in Job’s circumstances indicated that God wasn’t “winning,” that He was absent, didn’t care, or had lost control of the situation. God was with Job all along, even though Job couldn’t sense His presence. God displayed mercy and compassion to Job, even though it looked different from what we might expect. All of the physical, material blessings that God restored to Job at the end of the book are items that he once again lost at the end of his life. But through the first loss of them, God taught him eternal truths and drew Job closer to Himself. Job’s relationship with God and the spiritual truths he learned would affect the rest of his life. Though it might have looked like Satan was winning, God was working out His purposes.

I love the Psalms for their honest emotion. Whether the psalmists faced personal danger or lamented the seeming triumph of evil in the world, they brought their own thoughts and those of their listeners back to the truth they knew about God. Psalm 10 (ESV) starts out, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” But the psalmist reminded himself, “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.” He concludes back on solid ground:

 The Lord is king forever and ever;
    the nations perish from his land.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

When God seems far away, we remind ourselves of the truth we know about Him from His Word. He sees what is going on. He loves us. He will deal justly. He might be waiting to answer for a number of reasons. We ask Him to search us and show us anything that might be hindering His answer to our prayers. And we rest in His wisdom, love, righteousness, and strength.

Trusting that God has control of the situation doesn’t mean inaction on our part. Only God can take care of all the needs of the world, but He often works through people. A needy world is a call to pray and then to look for ways to help those in need. William Wilberforce and Hannah More not only prayed against the evil of slavery but fought against it. We may not be able to solve world pproblem, but we can help those within our sphere of influence.

In the May 19 selection of Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada, she wrote:

On the whole, the good that we are able to tally in this life doesn’t seem to outweigh the bad that we observe. We keep praying, but we don’t see some of the answers closest to our hearts. Only heaven will reveal a clear picture of how the sweet fragrance of our faith in Jesus, even in times of grief and loss, influenced the lives of those around us. Only eternity will show how our fainthearted prayers changed the destinies of people on our prayer list. Great faith believes in God even when He plays His hand close to the vest, not showing all His cards. God wants to increase your “measure of faith.” He does this whenever He conceals a matter and you trust Him nevertheless (p. 156).

The Bible tells us the world will get worse before the end. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3: 14-15).

God not only wins in the end. He is winning now. He’s working out His purposes even now.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

(From “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper, 1773)

Revised from the archives. I had another post in mind for today, but then was inclined to this one.

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, Legacy Link-Up, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are several good reads recently discovered:

Don’t Overthink It Book Club. Linda is hosting a three-week book club on Sunday evenings to discuss Anne Bogel’s book Don’t Overthink It. I just finished chapter four this morning, and the book is proving very helpful so far. At the moment, it’s on sale for the Kindle for $1.59—don’t know how long it will be at that price.

Be a Truth-Lover. “Your love for truth must be greater than your party, your political pre-commitments, and your agenda.”

He Is a Jealous God. “If the United States of America ceased to exist tomorrow, would that be the end of our belief in the God that we claim to hold so dear? Or do we have a faith that extends beyond the bounds of country, of comfort, of confidence in the systems of this world?

A Call for Content Creators to Cultivate Discernment, HT to Challies. “But beautiful language, by itself, does not encompass all that it means to write well as a Christian. Christian writers must labor not only to write what is true but also to write in a manner that adorns the truth.”

Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the Face of a Detour, HT to Challies. “How about you? Do you trust God’s faithfulness to deliver again in the midst of your daily detours?”

Five Key Questions for Setting Gospel-Shaped Goals, HT to The Story Warren. “It was an apt senior quote for the young perfectionist, who keenly felt her failure to ‘obtain all this,’ who knew how short she fell in every area where she longed to succeed. Sadly, that seventeen-year-old senior, who had only been a Christian for two years when she chose Philippians 3:12 to mark her life, didn’t fully understand the dynamic of grace and goals.”

Stupid and Wise People. “There will always be those with whom we cannot agree or come to a compromise. We cannot control their actions but we can control our own reactions and choices.”

Your Work Matters More Than You Think, HT to Challies. “God puts his people in some surprising places. The testimony of Obadiah can encourage Christians who have been called to serve God in dark places for His purposes.” I enjoyed this contrast between Obadiah and Elijah.

A Blog about Blogging, HT to Challies. Good overview for Christian bloggers in particular.

Tookish Bagginses. Lessons from hobbits. “Because nowness and not-yet-ness overlap and intermingle. God made us out of dust, but he also breathed eternity down our lungs. We’re a walking marriage of the sacred and the profane— the eternal and the ordinary. We’re Bagginses with the blood of Tooks who’ve been to Mordor and back again.”

This is as good a time as any for my occasional reminder that links here do not mean 100% endorsement of the blog or blogger they come from. Some of these are from blogs I read regularly, but others are from posts I happened upon or saw on other’s blogs.

Finally, to end with a smile: a cat interrupts a UK parliamentary live call: