Friday, 27 January 2017

God Has Spoken To Us

For reasons that will become obvious, this post probably isn't the clearest I've ever written... but I hope it's encouraging anyway... 

These are a series of questions I scribbled in my notebook in the middle of a teary church service, in the middle of a teary weekend, in the middle of a teary few months:

Wouldn't it be better if I wasn't walking wounded; if I wasn't limping; if my vision wasn't blurry? 
Wouldn't it be better if I was less of a smouldering wick, and more of a blazing torch; if I was an unshakeable oak, rather than a broken, bound up reed? 
Wouldn't I love better if my heart wasn't aching? 
Couldn't I go further if my legs were less tired? 
Couldn't I climb higher if my feet didn't slip; if I wasn't weeping by the wayside? 

Over the past weeks and months, the darkness has not lifted. Day by day I've felt the weight of it heavier, its destructiveness feral, its influence all consuming. And God's ways have seemed increasingly mysterious. When the fog of my mind clears enough to remember a time before I was 'brought low', I remember a brighter, more generous, more outwardly focussed, version of myself. And I think 'surely it would be better for me to be that version of me!' From the darkness I have cried out to God, desperate for him to take the pain away, perplexed as to why I have the temperament, biology, and life circumstances that have led me to a place that feels so completely overwhelming and broken.

It's so tempting in these times to focus on all the unanswered questions and to feel first perplexed, and then when an answer doesn't come, to give way to despair.

And this is true of my questions about depression, as well as my questions about other painful experiences in my life and the lives of others. At times, amid all of the hurt it is easy to desperately wonder why God is silent.

But God is not silent.

God has spoken to us.

Yes, there are unanswered questions. But "God has spoken to us" in and of itself is such good news. These five words tell us that God has made himself known. He has revealed himself, declared himself, shown himself... and He's been clear. He is not a puzzle that the cleverest people solve, or a reward that the godliest people earn: no! He is a person who has told us who he is! The unedited version of this verse reads:

"God has spoken to us by His Son." (Hebrews 1:2) 

This is even better news! Because through His Son God has said, "I am with you,", "I am given for you,", "I am on your side,", "I forgive you completely,", "I am not ashamed of you,"...  amid the things God has not said there are all the things that He has said- and He's said them to us, and for us.

Looking back on this 'five words' series (still not done yet!), I feel blown away by all that God's said to me through such little nuggets of Scripture, and challenged that despite all of this, I've often judged God by what he hasn't said to me, far more than by what he has. I've created a version of God that's an amalgamation of what the Bible says, and what my mind and my circumstances and my heart say. Unsurprisingly, the God created in my own image is not that great!

There's a verse in Deuteronomy that says: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our children..." Deuteronomy 29:29 

The revealed things are a gift to us- they're something for us to cling to, to take refuge in, and in our darkness and weakness and fragility to lean all of our weight upon. And the revealed things liberate us to trust God with the things that he keeps secret.

Although there are some things God has not said, He has not left us in obscurity. He has given us words and promises that are ours; they belong to us. He gives us the words we need most to sustain us, to comfort us, to strengthen us, to bring life to us. He has said: "I have seen your tears," He has said, "I will give you..." He has said, "God meant it for good" and  "Christ died for your sins" and "It is God who justifies" and "surely I am coming soon" and "I will be with you..." and much, much more. (Yep, cheeky little plug for some other posts...)

As I write this, I am on sick leave for depression. I hope that makes clear that this "take God at his word" idea doesn't come from a place of triteness. Every day I am praying that the LORD will be in my healing. I am praying that I will be able to live free of depression's burden. And I am also praying that every single day, whatever happens, I will cling to what He has said more tightly than I cling to those things He has not yet revealed.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain, 

God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain. 

"If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." 
Jesus, John 14:9 

Note: My comments on Deuteronomy 29:29 were significantly influenced by what Jon Bloom writes in his excellent book Don't Follow Your Heart (Published by Desiring God).

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Surely I Am Coming Soon

Recently I've been struggling to write.

There may be many reasons for this, but the main one, I think, is that at certain times, words can seem more trite than at others. In times of shocking, incalculable horror words of wisdom can feel completely repellent and inadequate for acknowledging the weight and devastation of our experiences.

Life in our world is too deep, and big, and complex; too horrendous and yet too thirsty for hope;  too nuanced, too human for triteness. So although these thoughts are hugely influenced by current events, I hope they don't sound too easy, or neat, or trite.

There is no such answer for our world.

Yet, there is a person.

Like every person- Jesus is not neat, or easy, or trite.

He is unfathomable! He has a character, personal reactions, he has mystery, he has glory- and though he can be utterly perplexing, he is equally compelling.   He is not trite, for He has suffered violence, and death and humanity. When he returns, we will see Him looking slain. He is not easy because has said, "Surely, I am coming soon." Yet our hearts yearn with the cry of, "how long, O LORD?" We feel the struggle of the wait and it seems so clear that His return will be the only satisfying answer.  Yet Jesus- whose kindness is so abundant to have many more repent- will not be "neat."

And yet, because of this, because he's not an "answer" or a maxim, or a meme, because he is complex, in a deep, mysterious, hopeful way- He is sufficient for the depth of the darkness. Because He is rich and sometimes inscrutable in his wisdom, He is the light that overcomes.

So below is something I wrote a few nights back. It feels inadequate in many ways- but it is the Person of Jesus, rather than any words, who is the cause for real hope.

To the darkness;
To nights of bloodshed and of wailing,
To the shrill cries of victory from the mouths of merciless slaughterers;

He is coming soon.

To the murkiest of perversions that have long lurked in the shadow,
To presumptions that threats might hold the power to conceal,
To all that has soiled innocence, trampled life, extinguished hope;

He is coming soon. 

To brutality; 
To violence; 
To arrogant, aggressive minds;
To tyranny in cities, and in homes and minds and bedrooms; 

To meaningless religiousity and empty masks of morality,
To staggering pomposity that would patronise the truth;
To stubbornness and cynicism and damaging indifference;
To prejudice, to selfishness, to unashamed egotism;
To judgments laid heavy without meekness, without truth;
To devastating foolishness wrapped in words of empty wisdom;

To clanging gongs and echoes; to every kind of lovelessness;
To tombs; 
to graves; 
to every evil power;

He is coming for His victory, 
and He is coming soon. 

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all tribes on earth will mourn on account of Him."
Revelation 1: 7

"In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth, and meekness and righteousness..."
Psalm 45: 4

"Surely, I am coming soon."
Revelation 22:20

Blogger Template By Designer Blogs