Afflictions Are Limited

alone-boy-child-256658 (1)A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Nahum 1:12

The entire human family, including God’s elect, will at times suffer various afflictions; however, our great and wise God, “according to the multitude of his mercies,” assures us that they are limited (see Lamentations 3:31-33). The rod does not last forever. Just as the prophet Nahum (“comfort”) gave a message of comfort to the nation of Judah in the seventh century B. C., revealing that Jehovah would eventually remove the Assyrian rod from their land, so too we are assured that the trials and sorrows of God’s people will one day come to an end: “Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Thus we have this comforting promise to us in the New Testament:”Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Note, “receiving!” 

It was C. H. Spurgeon who once said, “Our Father in heaven takes away the rod when his design in using it is fully served.” Yes, whatever that “design” is, our merciful God will some day take it away. So, let us “be of good cheer,” looking to our Lord Jesus Christ alone, who knew all about afflictions of soul and body when hanging on the tree of Calvary as our Substitute. Dying for his people, “the just for the unjust,” he was identifying himself with us in all of our afflictions, according to 1 Peter 2:23-24; 3:18. What wondrous love, mercy, and condescension this was from our precious Savior!

Whatever trials we are facing today, let us learn anew that “in the faith” we must look beyond our present circumstances to a brighter day. Satan, our enemy and adversary, will not win in the end, so we are admonished: “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:9-11).

“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”
John Newton (Gadsby’s #295)

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Depression

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I’m living inside a book return
The door opens and in they come
But I can’t read them fast enough
Light appears and the door slams shut

A thousand books weigh on my brain
A million words calling me insane
Not one can help my soul explain
The depths of my numbness to pain

I suffer beneath a familiar face
Gagged by volumes about my case
Each page numbered with more disgrace
Bound in a box of no escape

No one will ever find me here
No words of hope can bring me cheer
I’m lost in a prank of polished steel
Trapped in the depths of vaulted fear

Behind the lines

“The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.”
~C.H. Spurgeon

This poem was inspired by reading Zack Eswine’s book Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression.

 

In Silence

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Lord, will you never answer
Has my sin kept you away
What have I done, or not done
How long do I have to wait

All I hear is silence, not the peaceful kind
It’s screaming at me, your will, not mine
But I want answers now, I need your help
Where is your presence, in silence
In silence

Lord, I’m pleading for mercy
Is there not another road
Is this my fate, is it too late
To change the path I must go

He opened not his mouth
As they led him out
Like a sheep before slaughter
In silence

Behind the lines

For the times when there seems to be no answer and we have to trust Him and wait.

Psalm 28

To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.

Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.

Highlighting Harps Unhung

Harps Unhung: Praising God in the Midst of Captivity is a recently released poetry project by Eileen and Vicki Anderson. The mother/daughter team authored 150 poems based on the 150 Psalms using 150 unique poetry forms. The result is an artful and powerful journey into the beauty of the Psalms through the lens of their own laments and praise.

The vision for the project came from Eileen who completed 75 of the Psalm poems before she died of ovarian cancer in March 2013.  That’s when Vicki picked up the project, pursued the world of poetry, and persevered to honor her mom, while dealing with her own scars and surgeries.

The title comes from Psalm 137:1-3 (NIV):

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

In the preface Vicki explains their work in more detail:

Our vision for this book of poetry is that hurting, hopeless saints, in the very midst of the furnace of affliction, would, despite all perceived silence from God and feelings of abandonment, believe that just above their heads, seen only by the eyes of faith, is an unfurled banner, flapping wildly in the storms of heartache and suffering, it’s embroidered letters spelling out, “Love! My banner over you is LOVE!”.

I’m highlighting their book because I know many who are hurting and struggling with their own life circumstances, and I hope this will be a resource that ministers healing and encouragement. I also like how the authors urge readers to read the poems and the Biblical Psalms side by side to gain a deeper perspective.

Another reason I purchased Harps Unhung is because it’s a good reference for those who write poetry as they give a helpful index of the 150 poetical forms used. One of my personal goals is to write a song or hymn for all 150 Psalms, so this work is near my heart as well.

Have you considered authoring your own creative writing project based on the Psalms?

Closer to You

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It’s a new day, what comes my way,
What do You have in store for me?
Blue skies or rain, great joy or pain,
What do You have in store?

Every morning mercies are new,
Living one day closer to You.

Lord, draw me nearer every day,
Draw me closer to You,
Show me the way,
Show me the way,
Draw me closer to You.

When all seems wrong, I’m not alone,
You are there in mercy and love,
Though my heart aches, Your grace shapes me,
For I am in Your love.

Take me, change me, teach me,
Guide me, and correct me,
Draw me closer to You.

Behind the lines

(Lamentations 3:21-41 ESV)

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.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!  Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.

Suffering

stations-of-the-cross-712001_1920Where is God in suffering?
Should I have joy through this pain?
Will my heart fail in Your hand?
In Your hand…

If I pray for healing now,
And death still comes, will I doubt?
Will I turn and fall away?
Fall away…

Reveal the cross and what it cost,
The Suffering Son,
Your only Son,
Remind me of the greatest love,
The Suffering Son,
Your only Son.

Am I forsaken like Christ?
Can I demand a painless life?
Father, where are You?
Where are You…

Does this anguish have an end?
Will the Son come back again?
Does joy spring from suffering?
Suffering…

Remedy for sin,
The only Hope for man,
Broken by Your hand,
By Your hand…

Behind the Lines

Does joy spring from suffering?

Repentant believers find great joy in the cross and resurrection (where Christ suffered and atoned for undeserving sinners and then conquered death and sin). So, yes, our joy comes through His suffering by the grace of God.

But what about our own sufferings? Are we to rejoice through our struggles and trials? What does scripture say?

Let’s look at three passages (as pointed out in Tim Chester’s book You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions):

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. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

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. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

Chester writes: “What is striking about these passages is the way they all begin with a call to rejoice. We can rejoice in suffering when (when) we make the connection between suffering and growth.”

He makes two points about our struggles (and suffering):

1. “God uses our struggles” (for our good and to conform us to Christ).

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)

2. “God not only uses our struggles, he promises to bring them to an end.”

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)

If we are angry at God for our suffering where shall we go?

Shall we abandon Him for something less, something artificial, something we think we can control? Shall we curse God and die? Or, do we find answers through the lens of the cross, the lens of scripture, and the lens of our future hope in the resurrection?

Joy in the midst of suffering is only possible through Christ and the Holy Spirit within us.  For our Joy is not dependent on our circumstances. If we are in Christ, we can rejoice and say with Paul:

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21 ESV)”

Is this true of your life?

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