Yesterday's post on a happy encounter with a young neighbor was already written and scheduled when we, along with the rest in the crowded pews, received the unexpected and rather traumatic news of the departure of a long-serving pastor.
Then I read Jonah's story from my daily portion yesterday and realized being swallowed by the big fish at the end of chapter 1 was the best thing that happened to Jonah that day. Normally, ending up in the belly of a fish would be bad news, yes? In Jonah's case, however, the fish rescued him from drowning (see his prayer in chapter 2) and provided a needed course correction, namely express delivery to God's chosen destination with none of those pesky weather delays or security lines.
Consequently, I'm pondering the dark side of delight, i.e., the other "D" word: discipline. (By "discipline" here, I do not mean punitive consequences for wrongdoing, but the more general parental training up of a child to maturity and in this case Christlikeness.)
Do not despise the LORD's instruction, my son,Like it or not (mostly not, to be honest), even the unpleasantness of life--the apparently unanswered prayers, the radical course corrections, the being allowed to face the consequences of our sin, the times God does in fact tell us to go weed the garden--equally signifies His love and delight in us. He only trains up and lays down the law, so to speak, for His own kids.
and do not loathe His discipline;
for the LORD disciplines the one He loves,
just as a father, the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:11-12, HCSB).
When those not-so-delightful seasons come, I can easily begin to view my Father as my enemy, to let the pain keep me from Him who could have prevented it. If I hold fast instead to His promise that even these "waves and billows" are marks of His love, that trust opens my hands and heart to begin to recognize His presence in the trials. He never forsakes His children; He has promised that (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), but only trust has eyes to see the answer to the promise.
The currently popular song "Blessings" (from the album of the same name) puts that trust into words:
What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this lifeThe story behind the song lends even more authority. Only two years after the songwriter's wedding, her husband was hospitalized with a brain tumor. That was in 2006, and five years later they are still working through the consequences of that cancer and its treatment. In her own words,
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
“The song shows that we still have more questions than answers,” Laura confesses. “But there’s a decision that I find God is asking us to make: whether we are going to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God, or whether we’re going to judge what we hold to be true about God based on our circumstances.”In the book George Müller of Bristol And His Witness to a Prayer-Hearing God, A.T. Pierson comments not on trials generally but specifically on the suffering of earnest prayers which seem unanswered:
God's real answers to prayer are often seeming denials. Beneath the outward request He hears the voice of inward desire, and He responds to the mind of the Spirit rather than to the imperfect and perhaps mistaken words in which the yearning seeks expression. Moreover, His infinite wisdom sees that a larger blessing may be ours only by the withholding of the lesser good which we seek; and so all true prayer trusts Him to give His own answer, not in our way or time, or even to our own expressed desire, but rather to His own unutterable groaning within us which He can interpret better than we.Dear Crumble, if you are in the belly of the fish, in a time of affliction and prayers that seem to fall on deaf ears, if perhaps you read yesterday's post and felt like it wasn't meant for you, I pray that this "strengthen[s] your tired hands and weakened knees" just a little bit. I'm truly sorry that you are not feeling delight in God's delight in you, but yesterday's words are no less true. If you are a child of God through Christ,
Your Father delights in you.May He open your hands and heart, and mine also, to receive His delight by faith when we don't feel it in experience.
Sharing this today with Jen's community: