Devotional Week 35 Friday
Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day.”
Genesis 50: 20
“There is a beautiful figure in one of Wordsworth’s poems, of a bird that is swept from Norway by storm. And it battles against the storm with desperate effort, eager to wing back again to Norway. But all is vain, and so at last it yields, thinking that the gale will carry it to death – and the gale carries it to sunny England, with its green meadows and its forest glades. Ah, how many of us have been like that little voyager, fretting and fighting against the will of God! And we thought that life could never be the same again when we were carried seaward by the storm. Until at last, finding all was useless, perhaps, yielding to the wind that bloweth where it listeth, we have been carried to a land that was far richer, where there were green pastures and still waters.”
Mrs. Charles Cowman
Today’s Study Text:
“And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, ‘My head, my head.’ And he said to a lad, ‘Carry him to his mother.’ And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.”
II Kings 4: 18-20
“The Shunammite” -- Unexplained Affliction
“No affliction would trouble a child of God, if they knew God’s reasons for sending it.”
G. Campbell Morgan
Am I suffering an “unexplained affliction” in my life that is challenging my trust in God?
Has there been a severe trial in my life which years later, viewing from a different point, I was able to see that all along, God was still at work, taking charge of every element in my life?
“He knows our sorrows, not merely as He knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation, and who, though without sin Himself, endured when upon earth inexpressibly more for us than He will ever lay upon us.”
“Many men (and women) owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.”
C. H. Spurgeon
The quotation above was penned by one of my favorite old-time pastors, Charles Haddon Spurgeon whose ministry for 38 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London is legendary. While a prolific author and preacher, it is the personal lives of both Pastor
Spurgeon and his wife Susannah, that I find so very compelling. Both of these stalwarts for God suffered poor health which brought about times of separation as Pastor Spurgeon sought medical attention for the physical challenges which plagued him.
Mrs. Spurgeon, likewise, faced nearly 25 years when she was house-bound, and was what was referred to at the time as an invalid. But this didn’t keep this godly lady from pursuing her work for God. Susannah Spurgeon is not only remembered as the wife of the famous London pastor, but she also started a “Book Fund” which supplied theological reference materials and books to many pastors in England, who at the time, were paid so poorly, they could hardly feed their families let alone get books needed in their ministry. Susannah also struck the match, so to speak, by taking extra household money she saved, to get her husband’s many sermons into print. We have a lot to be thankful for that this pioneer woman minster for God had the vision to carry on “her work” despite the afflictions that invaded her life.
In writing about her life, Susannah Spurgeon penned these words: “At the close of a dark and gloomy day, I lay resting on my couch as the deeper night drew on, and though all was bright within my cozy room, some of the external darkness seemed to have entered into my soul and obscured its spiritual vision. Vainly I tried to see the hand which I knew held mine, and guided my fog-enveloped feet along a steep and slippery path of suffering. In sorrow of heart, I asked, ‘Why does my Lord thus deal with His child? Why does He so often send sharp and bitter pain to visit me? Why does He permit lingering weakness to hinder the sweet service I long to render to His poor servants?’”
It was Susannah Spurgeon herself who answered her own questions for as she lay disabled on a couch, by the crackling logs in her fireplace, she heard a song, like the song of a bird and suddenly realized that the “singing” she was listening to came, “from the old log on the fire! The fire was letting loose the imprisoned music from the old oak’s inmost heart!”
In some of the most beautiful prose, Susannah Spurgeon continued by comparing the old burning log to the affliction faced in the life of a Christian.
“Perchance (the old log) had garnered up this song in the days when all was well…when birds twittered merrily in (the tree) which had grown old since then, and hardened; ring after ring of knotty growth had sealed up the long-for-gotten melody, until the fierce tongues of the flames came to consume the callousness, and the vehement heart of the fire wrung from the log at once a song and sacrifice. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘when the fire of affliction draws songs of praise from us, then indeed we are purified, and our God is glorified.’”
The fires of affliction. They come in many forms. This is for certain. Just imagine for a moment that you were in the place of a barren mother who had finally had a long-awaited baby laid in your empty arms. Think of the joy that would have bubbled over in your life as year-by-year you watched your precious child grow. What delight and pleasure would have filled your days.
Then one morning, without warning, your child is brought in from the field complaining about a headache. And before you had eaten lunch that day, your precious one, the child who you tenderly cared for, lay dead in your arms. Talk about sorrow and grief, talk about affliction! “Where,” might I ask, “is the God of yesterday who we studied about? Where is the God who longs to make a woman’s and man’s heart happy? Does this God really exist or is He just a figment of our imagination?”
Oh, may I testify, that the God of great joy is right by our sides when affliction comes down upon us. As Pastor Spurgeon so knowingly wrote: “As sure as God puts His children in the furnace of affliction, He will be with them in it.”
This past week, on August 29 in the evening, I made a new friend. This happens many times a day when someone comes to the Garden for the very first time. This particular Thursday night, one of those new individuals was Denise. I was so touched by her letter that I asked her if she would be so kind as to let me share what she wrote with you, and she responded, “Of course, Dorothy, you can use any of my story that you’d like if you think it would help someone. Hearing your story sure helped me!” Whew! I can tell you something for certain, Denise and I have an eternal friendship now! Here’s what she told me about what’s been going on in her life:
“I’ll try to be brief. You know all of our stories are much, much, much longer than anyone has time to hear so we abbreviate, but I bet we understand each other in many ways. You see, in six years I’ve had 6 major surgeries: hip replacement, mastectomy, TRAM flap reconstruction, complete hysterectomy, multiple hernias, and most recently on August 22, 2013 a 3-level spinal fusion. I’ve had breast cancer twice, ovarian cancer once, and I have severe osteoarthritis throughout my body from a life of very hard physical labor. There have been a lot of minor procedures, therapies and a lot of medications. This along with severe money problems, unexpected painful trips to the Emergency Room and so on. The first 5 of these recent surgeries came with many complications, isolation, advanced therapy, huge wounds, a near brush with death, lots and lots of pain, even agony and panic and the loss of almost all things material.”
I want to stop here for a moment to let you know that when I had read this far into Denise’s note, I had to take a big breath for I was overwhelmed by everything she said had happened to her. Frankly, I felt like my multiple injuries seemed like an easy walk in the park in comparison and I told this to Denise.
But let me share what’s been transpiring “inside” Denise as she has been traversing these “fires of affliction.” As she shared with me, “Right before I started the recent journey to reclaim my physical health, I had been thinking about returning to church…I’ve always loved Jesus even though I have a very imperfect understanding of Him. I do want to learn more…God has always, always taken care of me, for some reason. It’s so clear to me, that no matter how tough life (very!) has been for me in so many ways, He has always helped me survive and flourish…I decided while I was recovering to turn off the TV more and read more…I just found you today…I felt that there was much I could relate to you about…thank you. You’ve helped me.”
I’m going to tell you, my eyes weren’t dry when I finished Denise’s note. Talk about going through the fire! And yet, through all the pain…the suffering…the struggle, God was there. Denise felt it. She knew it. I have felt it. I have known it. And I am certain that thousands of you could testify to this fact, too. Even when the gift of joy that brought you the greatest happiness you have ever known was snatched away by some tragic event – our God of joy didn’t leave, not for one minute!
May we never forget, in the midst of the heartache which shakes us to the core, as Otto Dibelius so encouragingly writes, “God does not lead His children around hardship, but leads them straight through hardship. But He leads! And amidst the hardship, He is nearer to them then ever before.”
Moment by Moment
“Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment I’m under His care.
Never a heartache and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger but there on the throne,
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.
Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus, my Savior, abides with me still.”
Daniel W. Whittle
“I believe, although everything
hides you from my faith.
I believe, although everything shouts No! to me…
I believe, although everything may seem to die.
I believe, although I no longer would wish to live,
Because I have founded my life
on a sincere word,
on the word of a Friend,
on the word of God.
I believe, although I feel alone in pain.
I believe, although I see people hating.
I believe, although I see children weep,
Because I have learnt with certainty
That He comes to meet us
in the hardest hours,
with His love and his light.
I believe, but increase my faith.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
P.S. Over the past few weeks, because of the generous outpouring of gifts from God’s “Garden daughters and sons,” we were able to complete our current projects and send 10,000 bookmarks to Papua New Guinea. We also sent 500 bookmarks in the Hindi language to Northern India. Thank you. Now we are undertaking the challenge of sending bookmarks to Russia, Lithuania and Brazil and to several domestic abuse shelters here in the United States.
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