A Time Is Coming

The earth is groaning with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and forest fires.  People are groaning with poverty, physical sickness, mental illness, and broken relationships. In it all we ask ourselves — why?  I’m sure you’ve heard people ask the question, “if there is a God and if He cares, then why doesn’t He stop the suffering?”

Many of you will know that God created the earth and its people in perfection.  The first man had an opportunity to stay in this paradise by following the ways of God or to suffer consequences of imperfection, destroying a once flawless life, by his own choice.  Man chose the latter; therefore today, we all suffer the consequences. The earth suffers, mankind suffers, but what does God do?  He goes on loving.  He goes on comforting us in our suffering, and most wonderfully, He provides a way out.

You see, God could have washed His hands of all of us because of mankind’s original choice, but His perfect love would not let Him turn His back on us.  Instead, He gave a wonderful promise.  He has promised that there is coming a time when the earth will once again be made new and mankind will never again live in poverty or sickness.  A time is coming when there will be no more sorrow or tears.  A time is coming when joy and peace will fill the earth and all its inhabitants for eternity.

The above is great news, but it also comes to each one of us as a result of a choice.  Like the first man, we too, must choose either God’s way or our own.  The Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 4:8 & 18, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed but we don’t give up and quit. We don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”

We do not have to be consumed by today’s troubles; we can walk through them in the very strength of God.  We don’t have to wallow in despair of our current situations; we can live in the hope that a time is coming when tears and sorrow will be no more.

God Himself urges us on like a fan in the stands calling out for his team  to go, go, go!  Cross the finish line!  Be a winner!  A time is coming when a glorious eternal prize will be ours.

Why Me?

Recently I met with an elderly man.  He is 93 years old, frail in body; in fact, wracked with pain, but sharp and alert in his mind.  His parents were believers and passed on to him a deep love for God.  He told me the following story which touched me deeply.  I thought you might like it too.

He told me that he was captured in WWII and was held a prisoner in dire conditions.  His guards would taunt him, feeding him spoiled food, and even then, only every several days.  His water was dirty but he had no choice but to drink it.  He had dysentery but was not allowed to use a toilet.  He wasn’t even given a pot or bowl, not that having one would have really made much difference.  He lay in his own waste for days, not knowing what the end would be like for him.  The stench gagged him.  He vomited often and had to lay in that, too.  His cell was so small that he could not get away from the filth.

I listened and watched his expressions as he told me the story.  Then, after pausing, perhaps reflecting more on the severity of what he lived through, I saw a glimmer of a twinkle appear in his eyes.  I waited, intrigued at what I might hear next.  How could these memories provide a smile for him?

“There are people,” he began, “who know God, but when something uncomfortable happens to them, they cry and ask, ‘why me?'”  He paused again and I waited, not wanting to interfere with this moment.

“Once,” he continued with his story, “when I was so hungry and feeling myself grow weaker, I remembered a song.”  He stared at the ceiling as if trying to recall the words.  He hummed a bit but I didn’t recognize it.  “It was a favorite of my parents.  I learned it as a boy.  It tells of God’s unfailing love and of His faithfulness.  So, I started to hum and even to sing the song in my prison cell.”

I leaned forward, straining to make certain I didn’t miss a word.  I sensed something of great value coming.  I was not to be disappointed.

“I could have cried like many and asked God,” why have you let this happen to me?  Why am I sleeping in my own waste?  Why am I hungry and drinking dirty water?”  He paused again, letting a great smile form on his lips, reaching his already twinkling eyes. “But as I sang and hummed the song, its truth took hold of me.  I could feel God’s presence in my prison cell.  His love was greater than the filth around me.  His light shone peace into my weary soul.  Yes, His peace can reach anywhere, but we have to take hold of it.”

Once more he rested before continuing his narrative.  I wanted to say something, but I could feel this was a precious, and yes, a holy moment, so I just smiled with him, enjoying God’s presence that filled the room.  Suddenly, as if someone had pushed a button, he sat up straighter, looked at me and said with the most tender smile, “when I think of all God has done for me, saving me from myself and from my enemies, promising me life eternal no matter what I have done that has been wrong and sinful; well, it is then that I, too, have to ask the question, “Why me?”  He chuckled before adding, “and I know the answer; it is because He is my Father and a good father will always tend to the needs of his children.”

I left this man with a feeling that I was walking on air.  The poignancy of his story and the wisdom of his words has stayed with me.  No matter outward circumstances, no matter how hard Satan tries to make us fall, the truth still stands; God is greater than anything and will be our everything.

“But the Lord is good; He has cut the cords used by the ungodly to bind me.”  Psalm 129:4

When Escape Seems Impossible

In last week’s blog I wrote about Daniel in the lion’s den.  His treatment was unjust.  Daniel was an old man at the time and armed only with the unseen weapon of prayer.  You know the story; Daniel was miraculously kept safe from the lion’s paws.

There are many followers of God throughout the ages who have experienced miracles of deliverance.  However, what about those who have been thrown to the lions and were indeed torn to shreds?  What about Christians who have been burned alive because of their faith?  What about Christians around the world, even today, who are beaten to death, falsely imprisoned, stoned, and beheaded?  There were seemingly no miracles for them.

What about you and me? Perhaps we are not threatened with death, but troubles of this world can make daily living a painful existence.  Why doesn’t God give everyone a miracle of escape, just like He did for Daniel?

I want to encourage you, fellow travelers, when it seems that God is not providing an escape, it only appears that way because of what we see with our eyes rather than what we see with our hearts.  It is a common mistake of Christians to remain focused upon difficulties they are dealing with in their physical worlds.  One can become so fixed on the troubles seen with human eyes and felt with broken hearts, that they fail to see beyond into the unseen world of the spiritual.  You see, while miracles sometimes take place in our physical world to deliver us, they always take place in our spiritual world, where our cries of the heart communes in earnest with Almighty God, thus summoning His assistance.

Daniel looked beyond the physical trial of the lions; he cried for help into the spiritual realm, and there he found all he needed.  You see, even if the lions had devoured him, Daniel would still have been delivered. God Himself would have given him everything he needed to endure with peace.  In his heart, Daniel had already escaped his trial.  He abandoned the fear of his physical world the moment he entered into the spiritual dwelling place of God.  Where God resides there is no more pain, fear fades into peace, and troubles of this world cannot enter.

In times of personal trouble, I often remind myself of the old hymn writers.  Their lives encourage me to press on just as they did.  They knew how to focus upon God in the spiritual realm, leaving the troubles of this world in proper perspective. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thomas Dorsey wrote, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” after his wife and son died during the son’s birth.

William Cowper wrote, “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” in the midst of frequent bouts with deep depression.  He attempted suicide more than once.

Major Daniel Whittle wrote, “Showers of Blessings,” after losing his leg in a Civil War battle.

Catherine Hankey wrote, “I Love To Tell The Story,” while bedridden from serious illness.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote, “He Giveth More Grace,” while suffering crippling arthritis.

George Matheson wrote “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” while remaining blind for all of his life.

None of the above were defeated in their physical circumstances because they were able to look beyond into the spiritual realm.  There they found their help and deliverance.

The Psalmist, David, said it best in Psalm 61: 2-3, “From the ends of the earth,  I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.”

Remember, for the Christian, there is no such thing as — no means of escape.  In the inner places of your heart, He always delivers us.