Tag Archives: suffering

God Moves in Mysterious Ways – A Hymn by William Cooper

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I just heard this hymn read in a sermon this afternoon, and I was completely struck (to the point of tears) with the last two lines. For the sake of proper context, I’ve included the whole hymn; I want to remind myself in future seasons of suffering and hardship that my God is sovereign, He is wise and He is holy. I can trust Him.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall 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.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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maranatha, healed, Day 10

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“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Is 53.3-6

I praise God that he is “familiar with pain”. A man of suffering, my Great High Priest knows my heartache firsthand, not just because he created me, but because he experienced it himself. But Jesus is not only familiar with my trials and sufferings; he is deeply acquainted with the pain caused by my own hand. Like the people of Israel in the book of Judges, so often I live my life with no king, doing whatever seems right in my own eyes. He takes the pain that I can’t control and the pain I deserve for myself…. And by his wounds, I am healed.

Praise You, Jesus.

Empty hands. Surrendered heart. Redeemed lives.

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When I first heard this song, it brought me to tears. I was sitting in the common room in my dorm, just like I am now, and Kirsten (the performer in the video above, and the woman who has mentored me this past year) was giving us a mini-concert upon our request. And this song has been echoing inside me ever since…. Just like Kirsten explained in the video, the book of Ruth is really more about Naomi than Ruth. It’s a book about despair, pain, loss, bitterness and anger towards God. But above all, it’s a book about redemption; how God can redeem those “too-far-gone, call-me-Mara-because-my-life-is-a-bitter-blow-from-God” seasons of our lives and turn them into something beautiful. How God carefully crafts those moments on purpose, so we can see how far we have turned away from Him, with the desire that we will return to Him, completely broken and surrendered, open and trusting in His character to guide you.

This idea of redemption has been one of the key themes God has impressed upon me this year. Passages like Gen 29-30 and Hosea 2 have brought me to tears, dreaming of the day when God brings redemption into the most tender parts of my life. And today I’m back in this place again, asking that God would put transform this area of my life just like He did with Naomi; God brought her through the loss of her home, her husband, her sons, her “normal”… Everything she knew and loved, everything that gave her security and identity, everything she thought she couldn’t live without was stripped from her. God put her in the place to get her to surrender her life to Him, trusting that He is good and He does love her. When Naomi finally realized this, every relationship in her life was changed. So much so, that her family named their son “Obed… worshipper”. This young boy was a living, breathing testimony to God’s redeeming work; out of pain, confusion and bitterness, a heart surrendered to the Lord is one of worship. This worshipper is the grandfather of the “man after God’s own heart”, King David, who in turn is one of the forefathers of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

Jesus, Redeemer. Take this part of my life, with all of its confusion and pain, and do with it what You will. So many times I have thought it beyond change, but I trust that nothing is impossible for You. I know that You are the same God you were to Naomi, and I’m trusting, I’m clinging to Your promise to redeem the brokeness in my life, bring it to the place of surrender and transform it into something for Your glory. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Redemption is big enough. I pray that my children, and their children, and their children would be able to have a more solid, Biblical foundation to build upon through Your work in my life and my simple obedience. My biggest dream is that my lineage would reflect Ruth’s, redemption etched into every child’s face. For Your Glory, precious Redeemer….

“You took my hands, and You emptied them, so You could fill them up with Your presence, God. You took my heart and broke it in Your hands, so You could sew it up with Your cords of love… And there’s a song in my heart now that You are good…”

Chex Mix: John Piper

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During my freshman year of high school, my sunday school class went through John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life”. As you probably know, John Piper is a brilliant theologian, and therefore, sometimes a bit hard to follow if you’re a concrete, feet-on-the-ground, just-give-me-something-practical person like me. Summarized version of the book: God’s glory ↔ Our joy. Since we have been made in God’s image, and since we’ve been made new people (2 Cor 5:17), we find the deepest joy when we glorify God. And God, our Father, is honored and glorified when we find joy in Him. It’s a circle: We get joy by glorifying God, and God is glorified in the joy we find through it.

In class last week, we went studied 2 Thessalonians, and the first chapter gave this concept a whole new flavor to me. Paul’s addressing a seriously discouraged church, one suffering from persecution and wolves in sheeps’ clothing (aka, not trustworthy “experts” throwing their deceptive 2 cents in), so this whole book is filled with various encouragements.

” We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you  and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 1:3-12

Ok, so what does this passage have to do with God’s glory ↔ our joy? What exactly is joy? Based on the majority of the ways we see “joy” used in the Bible, we could give it this definition:

Joy = the resolute assurance that God has neither lost the interest nor the power to deal with my problem.

Through the Holy Spirit, Paul comforts the Thessalonian church by saying things like, “We constantly pray for you”, “God is just”, and “they [the persecutors] will be punished”, assuring them of God’s power and sovereignty over the situation. He is not ignorant of what’s happening them, nor is He powerless to stop it. Why, then are these people God loves suffering?

The answer is a long one, but, simplified it all comes down to God’s glory. God made us with free will, because He wants us to choose to glorify Him; He gets more glory that way. The trouble is, a choice always has at least two options; in this case, it’s glorifying God or doing our own thing. As you well know, we often pick the second choice. Adam and Eve made that choice thousands of years ago, and that changed things forever. Now, even if our sufferings aren’t the direct result of a “do your own thing” choice (ours or someone else’s), they might be a natural consequence of living in a broken world. Disease. Hurricanes. Food Allergies. God cares about us, so much so that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so we could have a relationship. But He cares about His own glory more, so He gives us the choice to choose Him or our way.

Back to 2 Thessalonians… Paul comforts the Thessalonian church by reminding them to be joyful, to remember that God is neither ignorant or powerless in their pain, even though it may seem like it. And if they stay true their calling, choosing joy over despair, God is glorified. Paul encourages them to stay strong till the end, so “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified”.

Not only does glorifying God bring us lasting fulfillment and the overflowing peace/love/energy/happiness we often associate with joy, but in those moments when we’re really struggling, in those times when life seems to be our enemy, those seasons where the hard just keeps getting harder… In those times, when we choose joy, God is glorified. God’s glory ↔ Our joy.