Monday, September 7, 2015

His Ways

I don't tend to be one of those people who ask God to give them a verse, flip open their Bible, and there one is. Typically, I end up getting some whacked-out verse about dashing babies heads against the rocks. Yet last week, while going through some struggles about what was going on in the lives of very dear friends of mine, I was in the school car line and began praying. I did ask God to give me something, anything. I opened the small Bible I keep in my car and found that it was Isaiah 55. There were those words:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," 
declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Talk about your understatements.

But that was hardly a comfort - at first. At first it felt like a parent replying, "Because I said so."  I'm sure Job did not feel much comfort in God's response of, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" His reminder that He alone was God might strike many who read this answer as cold and far from comforting to a man who had everything taken from him. It silenced Job but I doubt it comforted him.  What God was telling him, and us, is that we don't need to know everything and we cannot understand everything because we are not thinking eternally but focus on our limited scope of the here and now. God does not fit in the limitations of our expectations. And too often we are more grounded in our emotions and our expectations than in Him. That's where we feel the rub of the matter because we want God's way to be our way; for things to go our way and to have things turn out the way we want them to. It's painful and difficult to have walked in obedience to God's call and watch as everything appears to be falling apart. We look around amidst the rubble that is left and think, "This was not how it was supposed to be." But how many of us pick up that rubble and make an altar out of it to praise God?

Yet, when we are in the midst of our pain, these words can often strike as pious and hollow instead of healing and compassionate. Yet we know from Jesus and how He intereacted with people while He was here in earth, that God is healing and compassionate. That He grieves, that He weeps just as we do and He does with us.

Sitting in church yesterday morning, feeling the sorrow felt by two families who are among our best and dearest friends, I was struck by the line in the hymn "I Stand Amazed in The Presence" that goes: He took my sins and my sorrows . . . We so often focus on Christ taking our sins, that we forget that He also took on our sorrows. He took on the daily sadness, the heartbreak, the grief, and the hurt of loss on Himself. No tear shed is insignifcant to Him (Psalm 56:8). Isaiah 53:4 tells us, "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . ."  He has borne our griefs means that He "carried, sustained and endured" them just as one bears a physical load. That's why He tells us, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). He is asking us to give Him the burdens of our hurts, our doubts, our fears, our unsettledness, and our grief and, in return, He will give us rest.  He does not want us to be heavy laden, which means burdened with grief, distress, and fear.

This reveals to us, through Christ, that God is not distant and unfeeling, but that He cares so much about our sorrows, griefs, and afflictions that He takes them on Himself on the cross. His love is an incomprehensible love that has no height or depth or breadth or length. As Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "He has a strange way of loving; it is not man's way, but I find evidence in my own experience that it is better than man's way, and that it leads to a fuller life, and to extraordinary joy. Nails were not enough to hold God-and-man nailed to the cross had not love kept him there."

That is a love that is beyond our comprehension.

That same Jesus who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows on the cross is also our intecessor before God. The One who took on all of our hurts and sadness can now take that pain that we pour out in our prayers to Him before the Father. As Hebrews 7:25 tells us, "Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf."  That is powerful. Christ now "lives forever" to intercede on our behalf. The word intercesision means, "the action of intervening on behalf of another."   While we cannot go before a holy God, Christ can and does as our Shepherd who is still powerfully pleading and petitioning when we are facing difficulties or troubles. John even describes Jesus as our "advocate with the Father" and He understands our hurts, our weaknesses, but comes to His Father in grace.

Going back to God's answer to Job, He was also reminding him that he, being finite man, could not see the infinite plan that God sees. Unlike man, who is stuck in the narrow confines of chronological time, God isn't. God is in Kairos, which is the Greek word for the right moment.  He is not limited by sequential time but also sees all of time. Because of this His way is perfect. Second Samuel 22:31 tells us, "As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."

God is compassionate. He is our redeemer. He is our protector. He is there in our times of troubles. He never leaves us, never forgets us, never forsake us. His is all wisdom. He offers us peace instead of anxiety. He offers us comfort and grace and unfailing love. As the Psalms tell us, "His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1). And, ultimately, He is in control. We have to remember that our sorrows are momentary and that God is not. In the end, as Revelation 21:4 says, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

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