Laudable Linkage

Blog reading was hit-or-miss over the holidays while family was here. I’ve been catching up this week and almost have my Feedly account worked down. But this week’s list of noteworthy links might be a little longer than usual. Perhaps you’ll find an item of two of interest to you.

A Real Christmas, HT to Challies. I don’t think we’re too far from Christmas to contemplate this. “We gloss over the harsh, cruel parts of the story because they don’t fit the narrative we want. But aren’t those parts the point of it all? Jesus came because we needed him – need him still, as evil rages around the globe and even in our own backyards.”

End of the Year Journaling Prompts. There are some for the new year as well. Some would work as blog post ideas.

You Don’t Have to Read the Whole Bible This Year. “Reading the Bible is a glorious privilege; it is entirely worthwhile; it is revealing and convicting and strengthening and encouraging in ways we can barely imagine beforehand. But in the Bible itself we do not find any prescription for the amount we must read each day or year.”

We Should Trust God—But for What? HT to Challies. “I cannot trust God to answer every prayer exactly how I want them answered. I cannot trust him to orchestrate my life so there is no suffering, toil, or disappointment. I cannot trust him to give me everything I want. I cannot trust him to stick to the timeline I had planned for my life.”

How Are We to Live in What Feels Like Unprecedented Times? “Yet all these likely end-of-the-world scenarios have come and gone. G. K. Chesterton wrote, ‘With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand.’ Our perspective is limited. We’re not God, we don’t hold the universe in the palm of our hands, and we just don’t know what lies ahead of us.”

Did the Pandemic Wreck the Church? Good news here.

Father In Every Way but One, HT to Challies. Beautiful writing here.

Let Us Rediscover the Power of Forgiveness, HT to Challies. “Is this Jesus so dangerous that a young woman finds in Him the power to want good for her father’s killer? Even that she might one day be able to tell him about Jesus?”

In the Darkest Night: Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider Others, HT to Challies. “In the darkest season of my life, I was lifted decisively out of the pit by a passage in the book of Hebrews. The three simple commands embedded in it made all the difference.”

A Tale of Two Dogs, HT to Challies. This illustrates an excellent point.

Old Spiritual Journals—Keep or Destroy? HT to Linda. This article also shares another side of the issue: Why I Burned 90 Journals . . . And Still Journal Daily. The short answer: it partly depends on why you’re writing in the first place.

This is courtesy of Denny Burk’s Top Ten You Tube video list for 2021, HT to Challies. What a testimony—to play that song in the aftermath of such a storm.

Happy Saturday!

From “What if” to “Even If”

What if this odd symptom turns out to be something serious?

What if I don’t get the job?

What if this investment fails?

What if I bomb this presentation?

What if the scan shows cancer?

We have so many things to be concerned about, both large and small. And some of us are “gifted” with the ability to imagine all the ways something could go wrong.

Ed Welch says in Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, “Worriers are visionaries without the optimism” (p.50, Kindle version).

So we cycle through our worries, scaring ourselves to death, feeling trapped like a hamster in a continuous wheel.

Someone once said that if the thing we worry about doesn’t happen, we’ve wasted all that angst and energy and head space. And if it does happen, we’ve doubled the toll it would have taken by worrying about it beforehand. That helps me put aside worried questions and supposing.

But something else helps me even more: facing those worries full on. What if the worst possibility happens?

If the medical news is not good, some hard roads may be ahead. But God promised His grace and help. And if “the worst” happens, it will be the best—we’ll be with Him without pain and sin. We don’t want to leave our loved ones. But God will give grace for that if and when the time comes. He won’t give grace for illness and parting in this moment because it’s not needed yet.

If this job or investment falls through, God will provide for us in some other way.

We’ll do everything we can to be ready for the presentation and will pray about every aspect of it. God will give grace when the time comes. But if we still fall on our faces—maybe we needed the humbling. Maybe others needed to see our humanity. Elisabeth Elliot once wrote in Keep a Quiet Heart that her daughter, Valerie, got lost in her notes during a talk and got flustered. She finished as best she could and sat down, discouraged. But ladies thanked her for what she shared. She later told her mother that she had prayed beforehand that the ladies would see she was just an ordinary woman who needed His help, and she felt this stumbling was His answer.

When we face our “what ifs” full on instead of running from them, we deplete them of their strength. In every case, no matter what “the worst” is, God’s grace will be there. He may take us down paths we wouldn’t have chosen. But He has things to teach us there that we couldn’t have learned elsewhere.

In Daniel 3, three young men could not in good conscience bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, even when threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (verses 17-18). God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we’ll keep obeying and trusting Him.

One concern for many Christians these days is the increasing possibility of persecution. But Peter gives us encouragement:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:14-17).

God is sufficient for all our “What ifs.” I still pray and hope against certain things happening. But even if the “worst” happens, God will give grace and peace and enabling. Even if the outcome is not what we wanted, the better we know our God, the more we can trust Him.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

(Update: I was asked to do a radio interview about this post. My son recorded it for me and linked to it here, if you’d like to listen.)