Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He(Jesus) still stayed two days longer in the same place where He was. Then after that interval, He said to His disciples, ‘Let us go back again to Judea.’”
John 11: 6, 7
“How long will You forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I lay up cares within me and have sorrow in my heart day after day? How long shall my enemy exalt himself over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten the eyes [of my faith to behold Your face in the pitch like darkness,] lest I sleep the sleep of death…But I have trusted and been confident in Your mercy and loving-kindness; my heart shall rejoice and be in high spirits in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Psalm 13: 1-3; 5, 6
Thoughts for Consideration:
Is there a time in my life when I’ve cried out to God, “How long?”
What do I think it was that made it possible for David to say at the end of Psalm 13, “He has dealt bountifully with me?”
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Romans 8: 25
“Simply wait upon Him. So doing, we shall be directed, supplied, protected, corrected, and rewarded.”
“Waiting can be the most intense and poignant of all human experiences – the experience which, above all others, strips us of our needs…and ourselves.”
W. H. Vanstone
I don’t like waiting! Frankly, I don’t think many of us like waiting. Delay seems like such a waste of time. And yet, in God’s over-arching plan for my life and yours, waiting seems to be part of His refining process. Author Heather Whitestone McCollum, in her book, Let God Surprise You, offers a very astute insight into the method God frequently uses to transform us. Here’s her take on waiting: “Our society has become accustomed to instant coffee, microwave meals, and quick access to information via the Internet. We don’t like to wait, but sometimes we learn while we’re waiting. During the time of waiting, God leads us through the valley and refines our character.”
One of the toughest problems that develops while we are waiting is that it can appear that God has somehow forgotten all about us. And when clouds of darkness settle upon us, the silence which envelopes our world leaves us in what John of the Cross referred to as a “dark night of the soul.” Several years ago, I read a biographical record about John of the Cross. To say he had a tough life would be putting it mildly. It was when imprisoned in a small bathroom where he could scarcely move that he struggled fiercely with the challenge of learning to trust God in the most despairing situation. It may be that you too, have experienced your own dark night in your soul. Recently as I was beginning my studies on the family in Bethany, I received a note from Nina Ruth, one of God’s precious daughters in the Transformation Garden family. I wrote Nina Ruth and asked for her permission to let you read what she wrote to me and I thank her for allowing me to share her words penned so touchingly:
“Last night was the pinnacle of a dark night of the soul that seemed to have no end. I wrote these words in my journal before crying myself into a fitful, aching sleep: ‘Heavenly Father, I come to You tonight about as bewildered and broken as any child of God (wondering if I even am a true child of God) can be. I cry out for deliverance, but the heavens are as brass to me. I hate the world and ache for true fellowship in You. Above every trial, test, and temptation assaulting me on every side and front, the being alone in every way is the beam I find myself finally sinking to the ground under. Will You not send me a Simon to help me carry the weight of this cross to the end?...Only You know the depths of all that I cannot even express…Father, are You there? No one has ever wanted me in my whole life. Now it feels like even You don’t. I know this isn’t true, according to Your Word…but the something in me wonders…You know my heart. I cannot tell this to anyone…I cannot pretend everything is OK any longer…I don’t know what else to say. Please, somehow, against all hope, give me a song in the night .’”
I can’t begin to tell you how Nina Ruth’s words touched my heart for I truly believe that all of us can relate to her honest, heart-felt expression of how it feels to be out on a sea of trouble, floating alone without any direction whatsoever.
This is why I love the Bible so much. God’s Word doesn’t sugar-coat the tough times. Instead, our Father in heaven has left behind the stories of His children, down through time. Their own records of the moments when like the Psalmist David, they cry out, “How long, O Lord?” provide such insight for us. I’m so grateful that David didn’t just tell us about our Shepherd who guides us by cool streams and lets us be in lush green grass.
Instead, David left a record that traces the fact that there were times when God didn’t do what David expected. His Father in heaven waited much too long! He waited until David came to the breaking point. He couldn’t face another day or another foe! And with all the energy he could muster, David screamed out, “O Father, how long are You going to keep hidden? How long is this pain and trouble going to weigh on me like a ton of bricks?”
These words of David also help me better understand the perplexing behavior exhibited by Jesus when some of the dearest friends He had on earth sent Him a message that one in their family was terribly ill. Please note: Mary and Martha never demanded that Jesus run to the rescue of their beloved brother. But I ask you, “Wouldn’t it have seemed natural for Jesus to get back to Bethany ASAP! I would have thought that if Jesus really loved this family, He would have dropped everything He was doing and cleared His schedule. His priorities would have changed and Lazarus’ name would be “Number 1” on Jesus’ “To-Do” list.
This isn’t what happened! In fact, the Apostle John tells us that after an “interval” of two days, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Let us go back to Judea.” Another delay! More waiting! And new questions! What in the world was Jesus thinking? Perhaps the answer we are looking for during the dark days in our lives is expressed best by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Ben Patterson, in his book, Waiting. Patterson underscores encouragement during the delays in our own lives: “Perhaps one reason God delays His answer to our prayers is because He knows we need to be with Him far more than we need the things we ask of Him.”
Maybe, just maybe, during the time of dark waiting in your own life as you press into the presence of Jesus, it be that the change which takes place in your life is one that will prepare you for unbelievable service that glorifies the name of your Father? Please keep this idea at the forefront of your mind as we go back to Judea with Jesus on a seemingly wild goose chase before we finally get back to Bethany.
“If (God) lets loose the storm, and suffers it to sweep with a vengeance apparently uncontrolled, it is that (His) living trees may strike their roots firmer and deeper in Himself – the Rock of eternal ages. Trust Him where you cannot trace Him. Not one promise of His can come to nought. The channel may have continued long dry – the streams of Lebanon may have failed – the cloud has been laden, but no shower descends – the barren waste is unwatered – the windows of heaven seem hopelessly closed. Nay, nay! Though the ‘vision tarry’, yet if you ‘wait for it’ the gracious assurance will be fulfilled in your experience – ‘The Lord is good to them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him’…The apparently unacknowledged prayer will be crowned with a gracious answer.”
Memories of Bethany
“How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever?”
Psalm 89: 46
“How long will You be absent? For ever? Oh Lord! Have You forgotten to be gracious, and have You shut up Your loving kindness in displeasure? Will You be no more entreated? Is Your mercy clean gone for ever, and Your promise come utterly to an end for ever? Why do You wait for so long? Shall I despair of Your mercy? Oh God! Far be that from me; for You know better than I what is good for me. Therefore do with me in all things what you will.”
Lady Jane Grey
Prayer Based on Psalm 89: 46
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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