Monday, May 22, 2017

We can Trust God's Faithfulness

On August 22nd, I sat in a hospital bed wondering what was happening to me.  I woke up at 3:30 AM with chest pains, panicked that I might be suffering a heart attack, and drove myself to the hospital (in hind sight... if I were actually suffering a heart attack, this was probably a bad idea.).  The ten days prior I couldn't sleep, flashbacks continued to invade my mind as we moved back in to our home.  While our house, and our once-torched kitchen, looked like new, it couldn't erase the memories.     Details continued to pile up, between getting the house organized, starting a new semester, connecting with our team, I felt trapped.  And as I sat in that hospital bed, even though the doctors reassured me that I was ok, I knew something was wrong.  I felt like I was in real danger.

When we think of God's faithfulness, we tend to think of how He has helped us.  He brings resolution.  For three months, I saw God's faithfulness.  I saw it in four families offering their homes to our family.  I saw it in my mom and dad, grandparents, friends, and even the Red Cross offering us financial gifts.  I saw it in our premium insurance coverage which, when first purchased, I had to be talked into buying.  We were brought meals, we got all new furniture and our kitchen looks better than ever.  We traded in amateur paint jobs for professional ones, new carpeting and appliances that we didn't have to pay for to upgrade. 

It was clear through all the blessing, God was faithful to us. 

But what about when things don't resolve?  What do you do when everything seems covered, but your soul is downcast?  What about when it's fractured? 

Before our first large group meeting (when we lead students in a time of worship and preaching of God's Word) I was printing outlines for the students, and the printer wouldn't work, and something in me snapped, and I wept for nearly 15 minutes straight.  This was after my episode in the ER.

"What is wrong with me?" I thought.  "God... where are you?" 

Was God unfaithful by leaving me in a spiritual desert?  Or was He faithful to bring me there?

"And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'  The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan..."  (Mark 1:11-13a)

This passage is about Jesus.  Jesus, who was confirmed to be God's beloved Son, is propelled into the wilderness one verse later.  He's there for forty days, tempted by Satan.  Now, in other gospel accounts, we know that part of the reason He's there is to be the better Israel.   

But there's still a reaction to how these verses go.  On one hand, he's called beloved and Son.  The other, He's propelled out.  What?  If God is faithful, how could He do that to His own Son?  How is that faithfulness?  Isn't faithfulness about protection and safety?

Later in Mark we see that's not the case, as Jesus is unjustly tried, and then crucified.  How was God faithful there?

The obvious answer is the resurrection.  The salvation of humanity from sin and eternal damnation by grace through faith in Christ.  And God is glorified through it. 

How is God faithful in bringing us in the desert?  By making us see Him as more beautiful.  More precious than gold, greater than any treasure we think we have. 

Consider Job.  He lost his wealth, health, possessions, and children.  His wife told him to abandon God, his friends falsely told him that his calamity was his fault.  And as Job demands an answer from God, God responds not by answering his plea, but reminding him who He is.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,

when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
(Job 38:4-7)

Now, before we forget, God loved Job.  Job was a righteous man in God's sight.  And He let Satan take everything from him to prove he wouldn't renounce God!  In other words, Job was a faithful, righteous man.  And God knew that!  That's why he was selected for torment.  And as Job cries out for 37 chapters, God comes and responds, and He doesn't say, "wow, Satan put you through a lot.  Maybe that was harsh."  No!  He challenges Job.  He asks him, "where were you...?"  The point obviously being "Job, you weren't there when I created the world, when I created its very foundation, when I put the stars in the sky, but I most assuredly was, because I was the one who did it."

The miracle of Job is not that Job's fortunes are restored.  It's that Job's sight is elevated to see the grace and mercy of God in that He would take away everything so that He might hold fast to the greatest treasure, God Himself.

"Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 
 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 
 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you; 
 therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.” 
(Job 42:1-6)

Look at Job's response.  It's one of awe, awe of God's character, His wisdom, and His holiness.  And in v. 6, we see the beauty of what God does.  If you have a bible, there's a footnote over the word repent.  And the word could be also translated as "am comforted."  While he despises himself, he is comforted.  Why?  It's because he has seen God, convicted of his narrow-sighted view, and now sees God more appropriately.  He's no longer concerned with what he's lost, but with his view of the God of the universe.  

This is why God was so faithful to put me through this journey.

"God, what about my home?"  

"God, what about my reputation?"

"God, what about my ministry?"  

"God, what about my friends that I seem to be losing?"

"God, what about my family, are they disappointed?"

"God, what about my emotions, my sleep, my comfort?"  

"God, why won't you answer me and deliver me?!"  

"Because I am the Lord, and I don't answer to anyone.  Your hope is in earthly things, I'll strip them away.  Your hope is in how great your ministry is, I'll make you see the crushing weight of it.  Your hope is in sleep, I won't let you.  Your hope is in what people think, I'll show you how futile it is.  Why?  Because I am the Lord, and I am what you need."  

Obviously, that isn't from the bible.  It's not a prophetic word that I received from God.  It's my application from the hard season.  God has been deeply faithful to me.  Why?  Because my joy has become far more rooted in knowing Him.  Knowing His wisdom, His glory, His beauty.  
It's why we can trust God's Faithfulness.  Even when our circumstances are in the tank.  Because God is always moving us to see Him as our greatest need.  Our greatest desire.  Our greatest hope.   And He's willing to do whatever it takes to get us there, even if it means putting us in the desert.