Dear Friends,                                                             

Some years ago my friend Dr. Ken Boa did a presentation on trusting God in turbulent times from writings he compiled from many different authors and added his own comments which he has gleaned from Scripture. (See Tim Hansel – You Gotta Keep Dancing;   C. S. Lewis –  The Problem Of Pain) I have included  just a few of these quotes below that I find particularly insightful and helpful as we all struggle with reconciling the mystery of evil and suffering with our all-powerful and all-loving God.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Ashlyn is one of only 50 people in the world with a genetic condition that leaves her unable to feel pain. When she was a toddler, her parents had to wrap her with athletic tape because of all the damage she was causing to limbs that knew no fear. She’s knocked eight teeth out and dug a hole in her eye without shedding a tear. She once came in from outside proclaiming she couldn’t get the dirt off her skin. But it wasn’t dirt; Ashlyn was covered with hundreds of biting fire ants. Imagine your child reaching out for the flickering light of a candle and not having the pain of burned fingers to reinforce your scolding plea not to play with fire. “I would give anything, absolutely anything, for Ashlyn to feel pain.” (From People Magazine Jan. 24, 2005.)          

                                                                                                                                        People may be angry with God or, at least, confused that a loving God would allow pain in the first place. And yet from Ashlyn’s story we can clearly see the value of pain. And as we will see from the following writings, God uses physical, relational, emotional, financial, and spiritual pain as a way of correcting and redirecting us off the broad road of destruction onto the narrow road that leads to life. “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C. S. Lewis) Sometimes we only listen to God in pain. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” (Psalm 119:67)            

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and create an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” (Lewis)

“Missing the miracle of being alive – like flies crawling across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we’re unable to see the beauty and grandeur at our feet; The sacredness of each unrepeatable moment.  Each day has its own distinctness and its own inexhaustibility, yet few realize it.  In Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Emily, who died in childbirth, asks for the privilege of going back to see life one last time.  Although the other ghosts discourage her, she insists and ends up going back to her twelfth birthday.  There she views her own life through the thin veil that separates life and death.  She is painfully startled to realize that people don’t recognize how short and sacred life is. (See Psalm 90:12) She pleads her case but no one can hear her except us.  What Emily notices most are the simple things–the smell of coffee, the feel of a starched dress, the simple delicate taste of a morning meal, a touch, a look, an ever swift passing moment of tenderness.” (Hansel)  “There are fathers waiting until other obligations are less demanding to become acquainted with their sons.  There are mothers who sincerely intend to be more attentive to their daughters.  There are husbands and wives who are going to be more understanding.  But time does not draw people closer.  When in the world are we going to begin to live as if we understood that this is life?  This is our time, our day, and it is passing.  What are we waiting for?” (Richard L. Evans) “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Guidance is often given in the midst of difficulties but trouble will come if we rush for help away from God. Note the contrast between the first and second verse in Isaiah 50:10-11: Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. 11 But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires (worldly wisdom and self-righteousness). This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.”                         

“We must be careful in the midst of affliction not to be fooled by false guidance and false comfort. The terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear.  When God takes away my toys, I am at first overwhelmed.  Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times.  I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. (See Psalm 73:25)  And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. (Note: This means I am dependent on God to obey Him, to submit to His will, not just to get Him to bless my plans.)  But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys.  Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear.  God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me.  Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over–I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed.  And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” (Lewis)

“Most of my life my energy and strength has been based on talent, effort, pushing and striving.  I spent much if not most of my Christian life thinking about what I could do for Jesus, rather than what He could do in me (i.e., transform us into Christ’s likeness and often only through trials).” (Hansel)

“There is a fantastic diversity of overcomers throughout history, and each of us plays a unique and critical role.  Our actions and attitudes matter to God.  Our perspective of what is important and unimportant is all out of balance, as will be seen on the day when believers’ rewards are given out.  We cannot know what will turn out to be the most important opportunity we are ever going to have to honestly love God and truly trust Him in a way which will bring Him joy and defeat Satan.  It is not a question of doing the biggest or most humble thing we can think of doing.  No one is shut out of having an outstanding moment in his or her life which can be recorded as a victory in the “museum of heaven.” Each of us gets a second chance every day, if we would just open our eyes to the possibilities.  Each of us is a unique story.  Our stories turn out differently than our original scripts. Every day we are building with some kind of material, and it is going to matter to us as well as mattering to God. (See the believer’s judgment in 1 Corinthians 3; the building materials of the things we have done inwardly and outwardly.) Today is the day, not tomorrow but always today, to discover what it means to find a practical area in which to ask that the “melting heat” will not be wasted.  Don’t miss the moments when the Master Silversmith bends over us to skim something off that is hindering us before it becomes past history.  Thus we need times of privacy and stillness in the Word and prayer to learn God’s ways and to experience His love even when we don’t understand His ways.”  (Boa)              

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Until He comes again,                                

Len and Kristen

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