Meaningful Work

Most people prefer to find work that is fulfilling, in a career field they are passionate about, and with pay that compensates them rewardingly. But what makes work truly meaningful? What if work was meant to be fulfilling because it served a greater purpose, a purpose outside of ourselves? 

Whether it’s an entry-level position, work at home, or a leadership role there are many times where we have to do the work that is set before us. This is also known as whatever our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This may or may not be something we’re excited about or paid a lot of money for, but there’s still a purpose behind it. 

Originally work was established with the purpose of worship and expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Then after the fall, a new layer was added while keeping the original intent. Work was going to be much harder, yet God provided a way for His people to be a part of the healing process in a broken world. God’s people were to be part of the solution and an Offspring was promised (Genesis 3:15). God’s people would have a new opportunity to glorify Him by having families, spreading out over the earth, and using their talents to serve His good purposes, while providing help to others (some product or service).

Work In The Beginning
In the beginning work was performed by God and then He gave instructions and assigned tasks to Adam and Eve. They were to be stewards of creation in perfect relationship with their Creator as they went about their assigned tasks.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

Work After The Fall
As revealed in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s rebellion had consequences that still impact our working lives:

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…
Genesis 3:17b-18a

Work is now more difficult, but work was not the curse even though the curse affects our work. 

And then in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we go from the pre-fall garden of grace, caring for God’s creation, and expanding it to spread God’s fame, to a fallen people coming up with a grand plan to disobey God by living in one place and trying to make a name for themselves.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Is work all about me, my self-worth, building a personal brand, accumulating wealth and retirement, while making a name for myself? Isn’t this a Tower of Babel mentality? 

There are two traps that we easily fall into. Our job, and the money and prestige it generates, can either feed our ego and selfish desires, or it can do the opposite where we tend to grumble and complain due to discontentment.

Consider these verses:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬7 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

The Work Of Redemption
As mentioned in the introduction, after the fall God had a plan to restore and redeem and work continued to be incorporated into His plan. Below is a helpful excerpt from a devotional by the team at Theology of Work regarding “God’s Good Idea: Work and Redemption.”

Despite the curse, the work commissioned in Genesis 1 and 2 continues. There is still ground to be tilled and phenomena of nature to be studied, described and named. Men and women must still be fruitful, must still multiply, must still govern.

But now, a second layer of work must also be accomplished—the work of healing and repairing things that go wrong and evils that are committed. In a world of sin and sadness, many jobs echo God’s redemption: Scientists and salespersons help people overcome various difficulties by providing products to make life easier and healthier. Law enforcement officers and parents provide safety in the midst of chaos. Accountants and repairmen fix broken ledgers, appliances and technology.

These and other roles project hope for the coming restoration (Revelation 21:1). One day, brokenness will be gone; pain will be no more. But until that day, even the most frustrating jobs can be means by which we carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We can reflect Jesus’ finished work in our own lives as we display God’s characteristics to the world and work to redeem areas of brokenness.

The Greater Purpose
While we can’t work to earn our salvation, we can show the world where our Hope lies as we’re working. As we’re going and doing we can show by our actions and how we conduct ourselves that there is a greater purpose to what we do. The purpose includes the greatest command to love the Lord our God and our neighbors.

Therefore, work has meaning and is a tangible way we can minister to a broken world, while honoring God, providing income to steward and to give away to expand His kingdom, while helping others in need. It’s also an opportunity to point others to the promised Offspring, Jesus Christ, to emulate Him as His disciples, and to tell others about His finished work on the cross.

Work, after all, is still a means of worship…so whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Navigating Offenses: Overlooking vs. Dealing With It

One of the hardest things we have to learn is how to deal with others who have offended us, while doing it with love and self-control. If you’re a parent, you know this quite well. And no one does this perfectly, so we all have some growth in this area. Can an offense be overlooked or does it need to be dealt with? The world calls this emotional intelligence, but leaves out the spiritual element and our need for the gospel.

Finger pointing and the blame game started right after the fall and taking up an offense ensued. Enmity and jealousy were introduced and you know the rest of the story…

Let Scripture Guides Us

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21–22).

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7).

Is It Really Something To Be Offended About?
Is it a potato? A what? Yes, a potato. In our family, believe it or not, there was once an argument over a baked potato among two of our children. Heels dug in, neither side would let it go, and tempers flared. After all calmed down it was rather silly and they knew it, but in the heat of the moment sinful hearts were revealed. We now have a saying when a minor offense comes up. Are you making this a potato?

Sometimes we like to argue and fight over insignificant things because it’s in our sin nature to take up an offense, point fingers, and insist on a satisfactory outcome in the courtroom of our own justice.

Consider these verses:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:18-19).

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The next time there’s a potato in your family, point it out, talk about how it needs to be overlooked, and explain that love covers a multitude of sins. Explain how we should be gracious and merciful, and how it relates to the gospel…”but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Let’s help train one another to overlook the offense because we live in a broken world where offenses come frequently. Age and spiritual maturity help, but some situations are much more difficult than others. Sometimes it requires dealing with it.

How Would You Handle These Two Examples?
A family member isn’t coming home for Christmas this year, they’re going on vacation instead. This breaks a longstanding family tradition and now other family members aren’t coming either. You can sense the tension.

A friend at work applied for the same managerial position you did after you told them about it. You feel you’re more qualified and taken advantage of. They received and accepted the offer and now you work for them.

When It Can’t Be Overlooked
The rule of thumb is what love can’t cover, it has to be dealt with. Overlooking an offense in a loving self-controlled way is healthy, but conflict avoidance, with the appearance of overlooking, isn’t healthy.

Avoiding conflict often means sweeping the dust under the rug, letting it accumulate, and then all the mess comes out later. I’m not talking about taking time to calm down, or needing some space. I’m also not talking about separation because of safety from an abusive situation. Sometimes temporary separation is necessary. I’m talking about avoiding someone because you don’t want to deal with an offense that’s eating at you.

If love can’t cover it, meaning you can’t forgive and let it go because it’s bothering you so badly, or because the offense was so sinful, that’s when you have to deal with it. The rules are clear, we’re to go directly to the person and have the conversation about the offense to try and resolve the matter.

Matthew 18
Verses 15-20 provide the guidelines for dealing with someone who has sinned against us and the aim is to confront gently and attempt to restore the relationship. One practical way to work through an offense is to explain how the offense makes us feel versus attacking someone for what they did or didn’t do. Meaning, telling the person when you did X, I felt Y and it really bothered me is a better approach than letting them have it with a verbal barrage for what they did to you and making sure they know how wrong it was. Explaining to them that you want to work through things because you care about the relationship also goes a long way toward mending it.

This may take a lot of work and self-control, but it’s a loving step towards forgiveness and reconciliation versus attacking or simply retreating into an entrenched position of “you’re the worst.” Telling someone how you feel shows vulnerability and opens the door of communication, attacking someone slams the door and often creates more conflict, and entrenching into our position creates a stalemate. Remember, if possible, try to live peaceably with others…it takes the willingness of the other person to work through things fully. Sadly, it may not be possible.  

Therefore, serious offenses and stubbornness of heart may require others to be engaged. This is where seeking wise counsel and bringing one or more into the mix helps. Each step of the way the circle is enlarged, but the aim is to keep it as small as possible. 

Outside the church, this may have to be dealt with within the family circle, HR department, or governing authorities. Within the church, this process is known as church discipline. The last step is few and far between, but the first step is practiced all the time in one on one conversations and no one else is even aware. The entire church is rarely involved. Yet God knows our stubborn hearts and He provides this process to help confront serious offenses in a Biblical, God honoring and loving way.

Growth And Hope
Whether it’s a potato or a more serious issue, we find forgiveness, hope, peace, and comfort in the gospel. Relationship difficulties sprout opportunities to trust God more, to grow in our love for God and others, and to grow in our understanding of how we should forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

Be encouraged, Revelation 21 tells us all will be made right. One day the brokenness we experience will end, the relationships between God and His people will be fully restored, we won’t offend or be offended, justice will prevail, and there will be joy and peace forevermore.

Distant

Dark becomes darker
When we walk away from Light
Further from the Truth

Behind the lines

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
~John 8:12

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
~John 8:31-32

The Root Of Worry

What we desire most in life often causes us the most stress. The sin of worry stems from focusing on the cares of this world more than trusting God. This is likely a symptom of a greater sin, an underlying sin, one that may be deeply rooted within. This is known in the Bible as idolatry or covetousness. 

Brad Bigney defines it well so I’ll use his definition. “Idolatry is anything or anyone that captures our hearts and minds and affections more than God.” When we elevate anything or anyone above God, our worship and affections and desires are placed on something or someone that will never be able to fulfill us like He can.

One way to identify an idol in our life is to look at what causes us the most emotion, angst, and worry when something or someone happens to disturb our affections for it or threatens our expectations around it. What is it that frustrates and makes us anxious? Perhaps our idol is the American Dream and what frustrates us is anything that threatens our comfort. You know…the life with a successful career, safety and security, family, health, retirement, and a hobby or two, because, hey, I’ve worked hard and I deserve it.

Whenever we identify an idol in our lives we soon discover how it rules us in an unhealthy way. It causes us to live anxiously, to do things selfishly, and to treat others poorly. Yet, we may not recognize it in ourselves for a long time because idols are often hidden beneath seemingly good things (work, family, ministry, exercise, etc.) that have become ruling things.

Matthew 6:25-34 specifically addresses worrying about money. However, there are principles that we can apply to being anxious about anything. Just like looking to make more money, but quickly learning money doesn’t solve all our problems, it actually tends to create more problems for us. So it goes with any idol we hold and refuse to lay down.

The Greek word found in Matthew 6:25 for anxious is merimnaó (phonetically mer-im-nah’-o). It means over-anxious, troubled, distracted, pulled apart, to go to pieces, torn. Worry is destructive and tears us apart. We know in the proceeding verses of Chapter 6 we can’t serve both God and money. And the same applies to the other idols that have mastery over us.

Warren Weirsbe writes, “Worrying about tomorrow does not help either today or tomorrow. If anything, it robs us of our effectiveness today – which means we’ll be even less effective tomorrow.”

He also states, “It’s not wrong for us to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.” And here’s where we need God’s Word to help us and to remind us to seek God and His Kingdom first and all these things will be added. This doesn’t mean we’ll get everything we want. There’s no guarantee of the good life, no promise we won’t have cancer or never go hungry, or never die. No, the promise is everything we need to do His will in the building of His Kingdom.

So let’s examine ourselves and take note when we’re anxious to see if we can discover the root of our worry, confess it, repent, and seek to trust Him as we put His Kingdom first: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34

We need this reminder, don’t we? 

And everytime we notice the beauty of a bird or flower, let’s remember that Jehovah Jireh provides all that we need as we seek first the Kingdom. The most important being a Savior Who is All-Sufficient, Awe-Inspiring, and All-Satisfying!

Hard Is Not Hopeless

When life is hard, the mind is perplexed, persecution persists, sickness strikes, grief is heavy, the body is tired, emotions are high, spirits are low, and the flesh is weak – may we meditate on these Bible verses to help us abide in Christ with hope, patience, and endurance.

Genesis 18:14
Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you–in about a year–and Sarah will have a son.

Job 42:2
I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be thwarted.

Psalms 34:18-19
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalms 147:3‭-‬5
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Isaiah 26:3-4
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 43:13
Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it? 

Jeremiah 32:17
Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!

Lamentations 3:21-23
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Luke 1:37
For nothing will be impossible with God.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Romans 5:3-6
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 8:35-39
And who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:12
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

1 Corinthians 1:8-9
He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 1:2-5
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

The Poetry Of Suffering

I recently completed two books on the gift of suffering: Suffering Is Never For Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) and Though I Walk Through The Valley by Vance Havner (1901-1986).

Elisabeth Elliot is well known for her missionary work and has written many books. Her first husband, Jim, was killed on the mission field. (Her second husband died of cancer). Havner was a beloved Southern Baptist preacher and author, and his book chronicles his experience during the loss of his wife of 33 years (Sara) to Cushing’s Disease. 

What I found interesting is that they both turned to poetry and hymns to help their audience relate. Poetry seems to be the preferred language of suffering. It is God’s gift of grace written by kindred sufferers to point us to the sacrifice of the Man of Sorrows. Poetry helps us to process suffering without directly comparing levels or degrees of it. 

Is it any wonder that God gave us the Psalms to comfort our weary souls? There are times in our lives where we find ourselves like David: 

I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes – it also has gone from me.
Psalm 38:8-10

Havner wrote: “One thing I have learned in my journey through the Valley – I am not the only one who has traveled this trail. Every day I meet some fellow pilgrim. Almost every other person I talk with has been scarred by tragedy, bereavement, suffering.” 

Elliot wrote: “I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lesson.”  And, “Suffering is a mystery that none of us is really capable of plumbing. And it’s a mystery about which I’m sure everyone at some time of other has asked why” 

She defines suffering this way: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have. She explains, “I think that covers everything.” 

She goes on to say:

“The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God.” 

“And let’s never forget that if we don’t ever want to suffer, we must be careful never to love anything or anybody. The gifts of love have been the gifts of suffering. Those two things are inseparable.” 

Later Elliot puts it all in perspective: “It’s only in the cross that we can begin to harmonize this seeming contradiction between suffering and love. And we will never understand suffering unless we understand the love of God.” She describes the cross of Christ this way: “It is the best thing that ever happened in human history as well as the worst thing.” 

Likewise, Havner writes: “Nobody ever walked through so dark a Valley and He walked it by Himself. We can never suffer as He suffered, die as He died. He has been through the Valley and we need fear no evil for He walks it with us.” He continues, “So…my fellow traveler, wending your way through dangers, toils, and snares you will meet a host of kindred souls. You have joined the brotherhood at the price of heartache and tears.” 

Elliot goes on to quote several poets and hymn writers:

Measure your life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And he that suffereth most hath most to give.
~Ugo Bassi

She references a line from a hymn by Richard Baxter, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than He went through before.”

She then provides a short poem from the perspective of a young girl who at six-weeks old had an inflammation of the eyes and the doctor tried a procedure which burned both her corneas so that she was blind for life. Here’s the 9 year old words of Fanny Crosby: 

O what a happy soul am I although I cannot see.
I’m resolved that in this world contented I shall be.
So many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t.
To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot nor I won’t.

Elliot closes her thoughts with a poem by Grant Colfax Tuller:

My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me;
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily,
Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper, and I the under side.
Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern he has planned.

As Havener travels through his own valley after his wife died, he states: “I have not lost her for I know where she is!” Then he shares the following anonymous poem: 

Death can hide but not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side;
Thou are with Christ and Christ with me,
United still in Christ are we. 

He goes on to quote lines from John Greenleaf Whitier’s poem “The Eternal Goodness.”

I know not what the future hath
Of marvel or surprise,
Assured alone that life and death,
His mercy underlies,
And if my heart and flesh are weak
To bear an untried pain,
The bruised reed He will not break,
But strengthen and sustain.

And in another chapter he writes of the joyous expectation of Christ’s return and the longing to go home, but if Christ delays, then:

One sweet solemn thought
Comes to me o’er and o’er;
I’m nearer home today
Than I’ve ever been before.
~ Phoebe Cary

A few days after Sara’s passing Havner wrote: “There is not much that I dread from here on out. When one has drained the bitterest cup he is better prepared for any other potion that life may serve. Indeed he can sing:”

Let sorrow do its work,
Send grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers,
Sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee! More love to Thee!
~ Elizabeth P. Prentiss

He ends his book referencing Paul’s suffering and how he “had to find it is far better to learn that God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Then he quotes Fanny Crosby:

All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who thro’ life has been my Guide?

Fanny’s words of hope remind me of my dad who often quoted her hymns. He passed away from cancer in October of 2018. With tumors growing out of his body through weakened scars of surgeon incisions, no longer able to walk, our conversation turned to heaven’s joy and no more suffering, and he profoundly and joyfully said in his last days, whisper-voice, “Praise God!”

There is Hope in the midst of suffering…

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Prison, Providence, And The Lesson Of John The Baptist

Our understanding of God’s Providence, His divine guidance and care to fulfill His purposes, often comes into question when we find ourselves in a dilemma where we can’t understand our circumstances. Said another way, there may be times where we find ourselves in senseless situations that are completely out of our control. Our need is dire, and we have no choice, but to throw ourselves at the mercy of a Sovereign God. (Which is where we all must get to eventually, some get there sooner than others.)

We often think of providence in a lighthearted, purely positive sense, where God’s supernatural care gets us out of jams. For instance, we’re late for work, but every redlight turns green, or in terms of near misses, such as the lightning strike was eight feet from my house, or that out of control car missed my bumper by inches. 

Looking at scripture, one recurring theme where we see God’s providence, turns out to be far from lighthearted. It’s found repeatedly in prison stories where His people are unjustly thrown, facing death, enduring awful conditions, and their faith is stretched in ways we can’t imagine. It’s exactly where God wants them, they’re in His hands. The outcome uncertain, but God… It’s through the furnace of affliction where we must learn to trust Him, and where He receives the most glory. 

By the way, prison can take many forms. We don’t have to be behind bars or facing execution to be trapped in a desperate place. Whatever form prison may take in our lives, it’s precisely where God’s people must learn to trust, wait, and depend on Him. It’s where we cast our burdens upon Him for He cares for us. And we have an Advocate interceding, the Man of Sorrows, who has been there. 

When we think of the many prison situations in the Bible, we often remember the positive outcomes. For example, Joseph (falsely accused and jailed, but God…), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (framed to a fiery furnace, but God…), Daniel (in the lion’s den, but God…), Paul in chains…

But what about the negative outcomes? What about all those martyred for their faith, like Stephen? What about John the Baptist – losing his head? 

God’s plans and purposes are not always positive from the standpoint of our desired outcome. God ultimately provides deliverance for His people through Christ and the cross, where the ultimate injustice, the ultimate mishandling of a trial, the ultimate wrongful death, brings total forgiveness and healing to prisoners of sin. Through his death and resurrection, Christ our Substitute, saves us from the eternal punishment and death we all deserve (mercy), while at the same time providing eternal life that we don’t deserve (grace). 

We may live through difficult and senseless times, we may be rescued from whatever prison we’re in, or we may die like John the Baptist, but God…through Christ, has provided eternal life to those who put their faith and trust in Him. Though we may die, yet shall we live in eternal joy. Life in the presence of the One we can worship and enjoy forever. That, my friends, is the ultimate providential care and guidance that He uses to accomplish His purpose. Christ is worth dying for. And on our journey to the Celestial City, we too must learn, to live is Christ, but all praise be to God, to die is gain. 

Pain

Please take it away
Lord, give me Your novocaine
Let me not be numb

Behind the lines

I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes – it also has gone from me.
Psalm 38:8-10

Another Day Strong

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Some days are harder than others
Without your curves under the covers
Waking up knowing I’ll never hold another…like you
But then there’s days when I think everything’s gonna be alright
And nights when my heart tells me I’m gonna survive
Without you snuggling by my side

Another day gone, another day strong
I’ve gotta long way to go, down this lonely road
I don’t feel like I’m getting far, when I’m missing you so hard
But I’m praying one day at a time, since you’ve been gone
I’m another day strong

Some days I’m haunted by your face
Driving by spots where we used to date
Sometimes you appear in crazy ways…out of the blue
Like hearing that song you always sang the wrong words to
When a caller on the radio sounded just like you
Catching the scent of your perfume

I’m moving on, never the same
Changed by love, changed by pain
But your memory will never fade

Another day gone, another day strong
I’m another day strong

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