Tuesday, September 21

Our Great Expectations

As the heart longs for flowing streams,
So longs my soul for You, O God.
My soul does thirst for the living God.
When shall I come to see Your face?

My tears have fed me day and night,
While men have said, "Where is your God?"
But I recall as my soul pours dry
The days of praise within Your house.

Why do I mourn and toil within,
When it is mine to hope in God?
I shall again sing praise to Him,
He is my help, He is my God.

Psalm 42 has always been a favorite of mine, but for whatever reason, I never paid much attention to the last verse. Yesterday, the Lord brought it to my attention. It never fails... whenever I am going through something difficult, the Lord always drops into my soul that morsel of wisdom and comfort specific to my problem. Many times, it is a Scripture, and oftentimes, it is a song. Sitting down at my piano at home, I closed my eyes, and waited for His prompt as I often do... and once more He was faithful to speak to me and calm my spirit. Isn't He good?

The answer is YES!

He is good. He is good ALL THE TIME. Why is it easier to say that when things are going well for us? When we are not grieving for the tragic loss of a dear friend? Is it because we are momentarily disappointed with God? Is it because we cannot help but ask, "Why?"

"Why do bad things happen to good people?" That seems to be the question of the ages. It is also a question that causes many to doubt God and turn their back on Him. We sing about how God will "never let us down"... but, why is it that we sometimes feel He has done exactly that?

When someone "lets you down", it is because they failed to meet the expectations you established for your relationship. For example: I would not be a bit upset if our mail man does not come sweep off our porch tomorrow morning. I have absolutely no expectation for him to do so. My expectations for him are very minimal: I want him to deliver our mail, or find someone else to do so in his place. That's it. Nothing more.

On the other hand, if my mother ceased to tell me "I love you" every once in awhile, I would be deeply hurt and surprised! Why? Because I've come to expect that from her. That is the nature of our relationship.

 But, what are my expectations of God? Are they justified in Scripture? I have been asking myself this very important question over the past couple of days. You see, when I close my eyes, imagining my future and the plans God has for me, I picture all of my family being healthy, always having a nice place to live and plenty to eat, everyone living to a ripe old age, my children growing up to start families of their own.... my vision of my future is pristine. There is no suffering. There is no loss. I only imagine good things.

If I am honest, I will admit that these ideas have become EXPECTATIONS that I have for the Lord to perform in my life. If my husband Nick died tomorrow, not only would I be devastated, but I would be more than a little offended with God and confused as to why He would "allow something so dreadful to happen to me". I might even wonder what I did wrong to deserve such treatment.

Sometimes, my own foolishness just amazes me! I actually look at God and say, "I don't deserve this treatment!!", not even considering that He allowed His own PERFECT Son to be brutally tortured and murdered. If ever there were someone who did not deserve to suffer: it was Jesus. 

Well, here it comes... perhaps the most unpopular message of all time:
According to Scripture,
we as Christians are "called to suffer".
(see 1 Peter 2:20-21 & Acts 9:15-16)
Though we will not all experience it in the exact same way, suffering is necessary in obtaining the character of Christ in our lives.

"But it just doesn't seem right that someone like an innocent little baby would die! I thought God was loving... I thought He would protect His children from evil!"

I hear statements like this on a regular basis. There are so many misconceptions in our logic when we say things like this. So, let's just take them one at a time:

#1 We ourselves do not establish the standards of what is right. Only the Creator of all reality can do that. We need to settle it, in our minds and hearts, whether we understand it or not, that whatever God does is, by definition, right. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25)

#2 I hope this does not sound too harsh... but in truth, there is really no such thing as “innocent” suffering. Since “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), there is no one who has the right to freedom from God's wrath on the basis of his own innocence.

#3 Life is a GIFT, not a DEBT that God owes us. It's difficult for us to comprehend anything beyond this life- but God thinks much more long term than we do! He knows that compared to eternity, our time here on earth (no matter how lengthy) is only a blink of an eye.
#4 Psalm 121:7 says, "The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul." While God is surely capable of protecting us from physical harm when He so chooses, the verses in Scripture speaking of protection from evil can not possibly be taken in a literal sense all the time. Consider the countless martyrs God allowed to be burned at the stake, boiled in hot oil, and stoned? Why were faithful Christians thrown into concentration camps during WWII, enduring all kinds of brutality, even death? Why did God let evil men drive nails through the hands and feet of his precious Son? No, it is clear that these promises take on a much deeper meaning!
He has promised to protect our soul. Whenever we put our faith and trust in Him, our soul is in safe keeping. The power we have through Christ Jesus ensures that while men may kill our physical bodies, they are powerless to separate us from God. It is an assurance given us in Scripture. God has made certain promises to us in His Word, and on THOSE promises we may depend.

Let THOSE be our expectations-

Because God CAN NOT fail,
He DOES NOT lie,
and He WILL NOT forsake you.

God wants us to have expectations- the right ones. It's called FAITH. Do we REALLY trust Him to work all things together for good in our lives? Do we REALLY trust that He is in control and has a master plan?? Trust and fear battle against each other in our minds. They cannot co-exist. Which will you give in to?

Mourning over loss is natural and necessary... and He will be your comforter. But don't ever allow grief to let you lose sight of the hope we have.

Keep your eyes fixed upon it.
Dwell on it night and day.
Sing about it.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

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