Monday, March 30, 2020

A Puritan’s Encouragements to Courage

“Seek to do the following to heighten our Christian courage:
(1) Resign all to God.
(2) Set your faith on the promise that assures us that God will sanctify all of our troubles (Rom. 8:28).
(3) Consider that God’s presence is with us in all of our troubles (Ps. 119:15).
(4) He moderates our troubles to the measure and degree they are bearable [but not in our own strength, only in His] (Isa 27:8).
(5) We will know a safe and comfortable deliverance from them at least (Rev. 7:17).
With these considerations we may recover our hearts out of the hands of our fears again, and return them to a quiet and sweet satisfaction in the wise and holy pleasure of our God.”
~John Flavel

Thursday, March 26, 2020

All in Him

"Whatever God takes away, He never takes away Himself. He can immediately convey the comfort I have lost from others. If all of the world were taken away, I yet have all in Him."

Richard Sibbes

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Refuge from Our Fears

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“In times of danger our heart is so prone to sinking fears. The sin of unbelief is the real cause for most distracting and afflictive fears. If men would dig to the root of their fears, they would certainly find unbelief there. The less faith, the more fear. All the skill in the world can never cure us of the disease of fear, until God cures us of our unbelief. This sin in God’s own people is the cause and fountain of their fears. It is the office of faith to effect the soul with the invisible things of the world to come. This encourages us to face the fears and dangers of the present world (Heb. 11:27). If faith is weakened in the soul, and if invisibles seem uncertain, and visibles the only realities, no wonder we are so scared and frightened when these visible and sensible comforts [toilet paper, anyone?] are endangered. A man is afraid to stand his ground if he is not thoroughly persuaded the ground he stands on is firm....

“But the divine promises give us a refuge from our fears. They fortify a Christian in evil times through their dependence upon God for protection. The cutting off of this retreat through unbelief deprives the soul of comfort and support and fills the heart with anxiety and fear.... Unbelief places our dearest interests in our own hands, and so fills the heart with distracting fears. But believers have committed their souls and all that is precious and valuable to them into the hands of God by faith, and putting them into such safe hands, they enjoy quietness and peace.
~John Flavel (Voices from the Past, Volume 2, March 15)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- Hebrews 4:15-16

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Fear, Promises, and COVID-19

So many threats and enemies surround us today. That awful tornado devastated a swath of Nashville. COVID-19 is scaring people worldwide and now has arrived in my county and 2 others nearby. Other ongoing challenges don't disappear when a big new one like that blows in like a tornado. Regarding the viral threat, we are practicing "social distancing" as much as may be, but there are still doctors' appointments, pharmacy runs, car inspections, my husband's job,.... This virus is scary for someone like me who is in the high-risk category. It's even scarier for loved ones whose risk is still more elevated than mine. My handwashing and social distancing is potentially a matter of life and death for the high-risk family members I see frequently, and with such a long incubation period (up to 2 weeks), I could easily expose them before I knew I had been exposed myself.

The following passage from a devotional I've been reading this year challenges, comforts, and encourages me, so I pass it along to any of you Crumbles walking through Big Scary Things.

"The Lord of hosts governs all creatures and their actions. All the armies of heaven and earth are at his beck and command. We can rely upon his care and love if we look to him in the day of trouble. We can trust him in danger, as a child trusts in the care and provision of his father—O what peace and rest! Who would be afraid to pass through the midst of armed troops when you know that the General of the army is your own father? If we sanctify the Lord of hosts as our heavenly Father, he will be a sanctuary to us in times of danger. He will surely protect, defend, and provide for us in the worst of times and cases. We can follow him as a cloud by day and a flame of fire by night! His glory will be our defense and a place of refuge. Let the winds roar, the rains beat, the lightning flash—yet you are in safety. The best of men are too apt to be overcome with fear in times of imminent distress and danger. But we do not duly consider God's almighty power, his vigilant care, his unspotted faithfulness, and his engaged covenant for his people! This lies at the root of fear. If we but once thoroughly understood what power there is in God's hand to defend us, what tenderness in his heart to comfort us, and what faithfulness to all his promises given over to us, O how quiet and calm would our hearts be! Our courage would quickly be up, and our fears down."

"If a man can but rely upon God in a promise, so far as he is enabled to believe, so far will he reckon himself well secured.... One act of faith shall do you better service than Pharaoh and all his forces. Fear sometimes puts men into such a hurry, and their thoughts into such disorder, that, for the present, there is hardly any comfort from their graces and reason. Under an extraordinary fear, both grace and reason are like the wheels of a frozen watch with no motion at all. It is rare to find a man with that largeness and constancy of heart and mind in a day of fear like Jehoshaphat—'Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to see the Lord; (2 Chron 20:3). He set his heart to prayer at the terrible alarm. If believers only thoroughly understood how dear they are to God, what value they are in his eyes, and how well they are secured by his faithful promises and gracious presence, they would not tumble at every noise and appearance of danger."
John Flavel, via Voices from the Past, Volume 2 (affiliate link)

O Lord, would You please shut the lions' mouths against the most vulnerable of Your sheep? Would you defend us from both fear and disease? For those who must isolate themselves and feel the heavy burden of loneliness, make Yourself known to them as the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace with them. Let Your sheep want for nothing, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Unfreeze grace and reason in our hearts, and turn us toward Yourself in prayer. Somehow let the Gospel of Christ shine forth from this present darkness. Use these trials to draw us into deeper communion with yourself. Fill us all, whether sick or well, with the hope of the resurrection, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Please, please, please:
Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Stay home if you're ill, and avoid crowds if you have recently been on a cruise or traveled to a coronavirus hotspot.
Text, call, or video chat with relatives and friends at high risk from this disease. We probably can't go to lunch with you right now or have you in for tea but you can still help fight the loneliness that can accompany this journey. If a family you know experiences quarantine or needs to hunker down at home as a medical precaaution, you could also see whether they have necessities of daily life or need a prescription picked up.
Here are the CDC guidelines for those at high risk and their families:

Monday, March 2, 2020

Sinking Fits

"Christians may sometimes have their sinking fits. And though the depths of calamity into which the godly may fall may be as deep as hell, yet this is our great comfort—the mercy of God lies even deeper! 'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom. 8:38-39). However, this is hard to grasp for those who are sinking and smartingly feel all of God's waves and billows rolling over them. But whether they see it or not, God's blessing lies ready to pounce like a lion upon the sinking soul. God's everlasting arms are undergirding you in your deepest extremities. His arms are strong and long, and can reach to the bottom beyond all misery and distress that Christians are subject to in this life. Indeed, mercy seems to be asleep when we are sinking, but it will awaken in time for our help! God will arise at the fittest season to help and deliver his sinking people."

John Bunyan