Believe that the night is as useful as the day

From Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning devotional book, for June 1.

“It is one of the arrangements of Divine providence that day and night shall not cease either in the spiritual or natural creation till we reach the land of which it is written, ‘there is no night there.’ What our heavenly Father ordains is wise and good.

What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do? Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good. Study next, to make the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset, sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours. Believe that the night is as useful as the day.”

You can read the whole (short) devotional here. The current print of the book is in more modern English.

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In which it turns out I’m Rachel

“Give me children, or I shall die!”

This was Rachel’s (albeit irrational) plea to her husband Jacob after waiting nearly a decade to marry her love, and watching her sister bear him four sons while she stood by barren. Obviously, Jacob was helpless to fulfill his desperate wife’s demands. In frustration he replied, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of your womb?”

Like Sarah, who you may recall I have long-considered my kindred-spirit among the barren women of the Bible, Rachel takes matters into her own hands and has Jacob bear her children through her servant.

It doesn’t say the amount of time, but judging from what looks like a fairly smooth succession of Rachel’s sister Leah’s birthing several children (herself and through her own servant), I would estimate it was at least ten years of fruitlessness for Rachel before this magical verse just pops up out of no where:

“Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”

Rachel became pregnant and birthed Joseph. Not long after, she had Benjamin as well. What a beautiful story of waiting and hope.

But also, what’s up with that? In one verse, with no special explanation or plan like we can see more clearly for women Sarah or Elizabeth, God just decides to open Rachel’s womb. And now, apparently, she can have kids no problem. So long, infertility.

rachelThis is a verse I read right before I learned that I was pregnant with my son after years of infertility that couldn’t be explained. The lesson is unmistakeable, and one we often mention to people when we share our story — God is the One who opens and closes the womb. We trust Him with this decision. We’ve learned to stop asking “Why?” We gained so much peace and closure through this truth. I don’t know why we went through that. Everyone always tries to figure out it — to diagnose the undiagnosed and explain what is veiled. I assume this is because they want to find a way to be sure it won’t happen to them — I’m a special case, and they are probably in the clear. But I’m not a special case. Rachel wasn’t a special case. God is the God of all things — even the womb. He chooses the time when he opens it, when he closes it, and the reasons. Some of us may know these reasons now, some of us may know someday, and some never will.

It was with this peace and trust, learned after months of agony, that my husband and I read, with great astonishment, a second positive pregnancy test, just five months after our son was born. —Wait, what?!— we asked again, like we did with Rachel’s story. How can that happen? Years of toil for the first, and zero toil with the second. Could it be that I’m not just Sarah, I’m Rachel? God opened my womb in His time and for His reasons?

Yes, believe it or not (I cannot!), I am writing this post five months pregnant with our second child. This time we barely had time to pray for a child. Never in a million years did we think we would feel “surprised” by a pregnancy. We worked so hard to be content with no children, and were so overwhelmed with gratitude to just have one — we had hardly prepared our hearts for the possibility that we would have more, and with ease.

And I hope this encourages you today. I know there’s a chance it can break your heart. But I hope you can take peace in the reality that God is ultimately sovereign over your womb, and He can open it when He wants. He may not open it… but He really may. And you may never know why, but you can trust His decision, before and after.

Sovereign, Wise, and Good

A long time ago I took a small group leader’s class at my church. One of the sessions focused on leading people through difficult times in life. There was a “takeaway” from that night that has always stuck with me, especially through trials in my life. It is simple, but perfect for those times when things happen that are out of your control and you don’t know how to respond. It is this truth:

God is sovereign, wise, and good, so I can trust Him.

God is sovereign: He is in control of everything.

God is wise: He knows what is best and doesn’t make mistakes.

God is good: He will not do evil things.

These three truths together give us peace and trust in God when He makes choices for our life that are hard to understand or agree with. I encourage you to repeat that truth to yourself as much as needed so that you can remind yourself to trust Him when it’s the hardest.

I thought this would be a fitting song to go with this thought today…

The bud may have a bitter taste but sweet will be the flower

We sang this song in small group this morning, and I’ve been thinking of it all day. My husband and I have always liked it, but it wasn’t until we sang it today that I really focused on the weight of the words. It’s another perfect trial song. I invite you to read the words and listen to the sweet hymn.

Also, my husband was leading worship and shared about how the original writer of the words had a hard life and went insane, and what saved him was finding Christ. What an amazing testimony, and it only adds to the richness of the words. The man’s name is William Cowper, and he was alive in the 1700s. You might want to read more about him.

Here are the lyrics, followed by the song… I bolded the words that really touched my heart.

God Moves

VERSE 1
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in His dark and hidden mines
With never-failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

CHORUS 1
So God we trust in You 
O God we trust in You 

VERSE 2
O fearful saints new courage take 
The clouds that you now dread 
Are big with mercy and will break 
In blessings on your head. 
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace,
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

CHORUS 2
So God we trust in You 
O God we trust in You 
When tears are great 
And comforts few 
We hope in mercies ever new;
We trust in You. 

VERSE 3
God’s purposes will ripen fast 
Unfolding every hour; 
The bud may have a bitter taste 
But sweet will be the flower. 
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.

*You can buy this song and album here: Sovereign Grace Music

Psalm 71 – I will always have hope

My husband and I recently hit a tough patch in our infertility trial. We were not sure of our next steps, and we felt so discouraged. One verse kept popping into my mind, so I thought perhaps someone else reading this may need it to “pop” into hers as well. It’s Psalm 71:14

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.

What a rich truth to be reminded of over and over. There is always hope. We always have hope. 

Here is that beautiful Psalm in its entirety….

Psalm 71

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
    I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
    you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
    declaring your splendor all day long.

9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
    those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue him and seize him,
    for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
    come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
    may those who want to harm me
    be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
    of your saving acts all day long—
    though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.

ps71

Psalm 113 – Who is like the Lord? He makes the barren woman a joyful mother…

Guys, I’m floored by the Psalm I stumbled upon this morning! It reflects like every theme that is dear to my heart — praising God in all times, His sovereignty, His glory among the nations — then ends with a peaceful promise that, of course, brought me to tears. Here is Psalm 113 (emphasis added by me):

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!

2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!

4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?

7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Sovereignty + Love = Hope

“Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”
-Charles Spurgeon

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few days. At first it sounds like just a nice thought, but the longer I think about it, the more truth springs from it. I believe this quote hits on probably the biggest difference between the Christian view of God and basically every other view of God.

love
Click the picture to read some verses about God’s love for you.

To fatalistic religions, God is an all-powerful, impersonal being in the sky who makes arbitrary decisions about your life like a game of chess. When things happen, you know He did them, but you don’t know why, and you don’t ask. While it’s true that Christians also believe God is all-powerful and makes the decisions for our life, we have one added factor that I think changes everything: love.

The fact that this all-powerful Maker of the universe genuinely loves you — He cares about you — means that there is a reason behind the shots He calls for your life. And not only that, but they are personally made for you, and will never be too hard for you.hope2

How does this affect your outlook? Let me give an example. Think of the last time you thought, “I could never do that” or, “If that happened, it would be the worst.” Let’s use cancer as a real-life example. “If I were told I had cancer, it would just kill me. I couldn’t do that.” Now let’s say a few years down the line, your fears come true and you are diagnosed with cancer. One of two things are true: 1.) God doesn’t care if you’re afraid of cancer and can’t handle it. You get cancer and that’s the end of the conversation. Or 2.) You were wrong, and God knows you can handle cancer. Christianity teaches #2 would be true. If you know God loves you, it changes everything about those heart-stopping, stomach-dropping moments in your life, as Spurgeon reminds us in the quote above.

hopeNow many people believe this and use this truth to convince themselves of an extreme interpretation of this belief: God loves them more than Himself,  they are the center of everything, they deserve certain things in life, and/or they can only expect to prosper. If you believe that lie, you will be disappointed. But if you stick to the truth, hope will not disappoint.

And that’s what this all comes down to: hope. If you subscribe to the truth that God is sovereign over your life and He loves you, you will always have hope in every situation. Why would you choose to face any situation with any other thinking?

Half an answer to “Why?”

I am currently l.o.v.i.n.g. Tim Keller’s new bookWalking with God through Pain and Suffering. I will be recommending it in an upcoming post featuring some books on suffering. I’m only in the middle of it, and I already have tons of quotes I’m just dying to share. Here’s one I read last night that really touched my heart. It addresses the question of “why” in trial.

“Yes, we do not know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason is not. It cannot be that He does not love us. It cannot be that He does not care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that He was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering Himself. He understands us, He has been there, and He assures us that He has a plan to eventually wipe away every tear. Someone might say, ‘But that’s only half an answer to the question, ‘Why?” Yes, but it is the half we need.”

Amen and amen!

Sermon – “Pain and Providence”

Here is an encouraging sermon by Pastor David Platt, based on the story of Joseph. If you go to the site, you can read a transcript. It’s about an hour long, so grab a cup of tea or turn it on while you’re doing housework. You can also download the audio to listen on your mp3 player or in your car.

For some reason I can’t get the preview to work, so I’m posting the link. If you encounter a pop-up that asks you to join, you can just close it if you don’t want to join, and you can continue to the video. Enjoy!

http://www.radical.net/media/series/view/337/chapter-2-pain-and-providence?topic=Suffering&filter=topics

Wise Words from Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon is a famous godly preacher from the 1800’s. Here are some biblical and encouraging quotes by him. Click any of them to see it closer. You can read more about him and find more quotes and devotionals at http://www.spurgeon.us/ or http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm

spurg1 spur8 spur7 spur6 spur5 spur3 spur2 spurg4