“Will you lay aside the rags of sinful sadness you are clutching to yourself and bow to Jesus?”
The words couldn’t have been more pointed. That very morning I had been convicted that my sad, anxious, doubting melancholy is out of keeping with my position as the sheep of a Good Shepherd. Yes, there will be losses, there are uncertainties looming, there will be good-byes. Transitions are like that. But my calling hasn’t changed, nor my God. Clinging to sadness as though all the good years were behind is…. well it denotes the sin of unbelief in a good God. Being by nature a bit melancholy and sentimental this is easy for me to fall into.
But I am called to serve the Lord with gladness. He is good, ALL THE TIME. Does my countenance and confidence reflect this goodness? He provides me everything I need to do what He’s calling me to do today. Is it hard to let go of security and comfort, of possessions and lands, of friends and familiar surroundings? Yes, but must it be a dreary dreadful process? So what! if from this vantage point I can only see an uncertain future devoid of the beauty and repose I’ve known in this place. The eyes of faith see beyond those dimmed with tears of loss.
So it was that spending some morning time in the Word, listening to the Spirit wield it well in my heart, I came away gladdened by the reality that God is my shepherd; I am His sheep. Where He chooses to lead me is His business. I can rest in His care. More than that I can be glad I am in His flock. It is a good place to be. Among the verses I copied down that morning (lest I forget them) were these:
Serve the Lord with gladness! Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His—the sheep of his pasture. Ps.100:2,3
Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Ps.99:5
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies… in hunger and thirst..lacking everything. Deut.28:47,48
When my thoughts are all wrapped up in me, my comforts, my well-being and what I want, I miss seeing what God is actually doing. If I measure His love and care by my own expectations of what that should look like I will miss the myriad of ways He shows His love for me. I will be an ungrateful (and gloomy) wretch!
Later that day I tuned in ‘randomly’ to a message by Alistair Begg on YouTube taken from the book of Esther. The take-away points were so apropos:
- We need to learn to trust God in the matters of timing and of delay. “God’s delays are maturings either of the time or of the man.” –Derek Kidner
- We don’t enjoy God as much as we might because we have unrealistic (and unBiblical) expectations of what God’s love for us should look like. Meanwhile we miss seeing God’s hand in the tiny things and in the life-sustaining things we take for granted. Instead we live an impoverished life looking for God to do our wishes, to step forward at the time that we’ve decided and to do what we believe is right for us and our situation.
- We must learn to bring all our doubts, fears and disappointments under this overarching truth—God has an ultimate purpose He is working toward unerringly, to bring all things together in Christ. “For from Him, for Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” Rom.11:36
To the extent that my agenda is God’s agenda I will find a steady refuge in His care, no matter what life throws at me. If I am bowing to Christ, wanting only His glory, then when all else is shaken, that’s ok. He changes never and His plans are uncompromised. He will complete the work He has begun in me and through me to conform me to His likeness and to prepare me for an eternity under His rule. He knows exactly what He is doing and He uses everything—man’s freedom, foolishness and even sin, to bring about this eternal plan. Alistair Begg went on to affirm:
“The righteous have every reason to look joyfully forward even through tears, pain, disappointment and regret. The expectations of the wicked have no such joy to look forward to.”
One day every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, some in joy, others in anguish. Will I bow today and trade in my sinful sadness for the joy of belonging to the Lord? Will I follow gladly in the strength that only that joy can give? Am I a glad servant, bowing gladly even now in light of His love and kindness, trusting where I cannot understand…
Only those who rest under the Sovereign hand of God can know peace and joy despite crazy world events, distressing personal circumstances, and the confusion of a shaking world. We can trust Him; He is entirely reliable. His Kingdom will come. His will will be done.
May He grant us soft hearts and seeing eyes to welcome His Sovereign rule in our lives, in everything.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Ps.116:7-9
“The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this that though the wicked sprout like grass and evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever. Ps.92:6,7
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:26
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. Ps.92:1,2,4
[You’re in for a treat if you’ve never listened to Alistair Begg. Find his encouraging message titled “The Unseen Hand of God”, drawn from Esther 6, here.]