Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Withhold Good Things?

Lately, I have been struggling with a verse of the Bible. Like Jacob wrestling the angel, I have prayed and studied and read and reread this verse, but to no avail. The verse is Psalm 84:11, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." 

Yet, to my eyes, He does. 

When I look at the emotional, financial, and spiritual costs that adoption takes for those who undertake what they believe God has called them to do (after all, we are reminded time and time again to take care of the fatherless) and yet find themselves without that child or children, I want to point my finger at God and say, "But that's not fair! They followed Your call, why?" Why are there children who are adopted but are stuck in another country? Why does a child who's been adopted but is stuck in a foreign country die? Why do children who have legally been adopted get caught in a political struggle, such as in areas of Ukraine, and their new families cannot return to come and get them to bring them home? Why do some families go to adopt and come home empty handed? How is that not withholding a good thing? 

Being a word nerd, I looked up the word "withhold" and it's definitions are, as follows:
refuse to give (something that is due or is desired by another)
suppress or hold back

How does that definition of withhold fit into a couple or a family desiring to adopt a fatherless child or children? Is that not a "good thing"? Is that not following His word? Then why would God refuse to let so many adoptions from happening? 

As you can see, I am good at questioning. It's one of the reasons I love and identify with the book of Psalms so much because the psalmists lay it all out there, though their questioning always ends in the realization that they just have to trust God.

I struggle with trust. 

Luke 17:6 says, "If you have the faith as small as a mustard seed . . ."

Mustard seeds are typically 1 or 2 millimeters in diameter. To give you an idea of how small that is, here is a visual:

Sometimes I feel that my own faith doesn't even muster up to that. Certainly when I struggle with a verse like Psalm 84:11 because, in my limited perspective, I cannot see or understand why such adoptions don't happen. 

Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." How does it work together for their good when their hearts are breaking for the child they cannot bring home? 

The great theologian Charles Spurgeon wrote this about Psalm 84:11:
Pilgrims need both as the weather may be, for the cold would smite them were it not for the sun, and foes are apt to waylay the sacred caravan, and would haply destroy it if it were without a shield. Heavenly pilgrims are not left uncomforted or unprotected. The pilgrim nation found both sun and shield in that fiery cloudy pillar which was the symbol of Jehovah's presence, and the Christian still finds both light and shelter in the Lord his God. A sun for happy days and a shield for dangerous ones. A sun above, a shield around. A light to show the way and a shield to ward off its perils. Blessed are they who journey with such a convoy; the sunny and shady side of life are alike happy to them. The Lord will give grace and glory. Both in due time, both as needed, both to the full, both with absolute certainty. The Lord has both grace and glory in infinite abundance; Jesus is the fullness of both, and, as his chosen people, we shall receive both as a free gift from the God of our salvation. What more can the Lord give, or we receive, or desire. No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Grace makes us walk uprightly and this secures every covenant blessing to us. What a wide promise! Some apparent good may be withheld, but no real good, no, not one. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." God has all good, there is no good apart from him, and there is no good which he either needs to keep back or will on any account refuse us, if we are but ready to receive it. We must be upright and neither lean to this or that form of evil: and this uprightness must be practical,—we must walk in truth and holiness, then shall we be heirs of all things, and as we come of age all things shall be in our actual possession; and meanwhile, according to our capacity for receiving shall be the measure of the divine bestowal. This is true, not of a favoured few, but of all the saints for evermore.

Still struggling and trying to comprehend this verse, I turned to Sir Richard Baker's commentary on this verse:

But how is this true, when God oftentimes withholds riches and honours, and health of body from men, though they walk ever so uprightly; we may therefore know that honours and riches and bodily strength, are none of God's good things; they are of the number of things indifferent which God bestows promiscuously upon the just and unjust, as the rain to fall and the sun to shine. The good things of God are chiefly peace of conscience and the joy in the Holy Spirit in this life; fruition of God's presence, and vision of his blessed face in the next, and these good things God never bestows upon the wicked, never withholds from the godly . . . 


What I'm coming to slowly (picture a snail and a sloth in a race - that's me in this spiritual race) understand is that I may not understand, but God does. He has His purpose and His reasons. It's not easy when we are in the midst of tearful prayers and heart-rending pleading to accept that such things are part of a holy and loving God's plan. The Bible clearly tells us in Romans 8:31 that God is for us. It also tells us that we will experience sorrow and pain and tribulation, but that, in the middle of that, He is still with us. 

So, I will struggle and I will struggle to trust, but I don't stop coming to God. And I will come alongside those who are hurting and struggling and I will be there for them: to listen, the comfort, and to pray with them. And we, together, will learn to trust that a God who loved us so much that He did not spare His own son, truly loves us more than we love Him, and He will always understand us more than we can understand Him, but that we just have to trust that, in the end, all things will work to His glory.

And I'll continue to turn to His word, especially the Psalms. As Psalm 39:7 reminds me, "And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You."

A song that I have been listening to repeatedly as I have been studying this Psalm was Sara Groves' "Open Hands" 

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