The Smallest Details in the Darkest Times
We all know the old refrain, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NKJV). Many among us have been “heartsick” for quite some time. When unhealed, the sickness seems to blister into a full-orbed malady, or it sneaks up with unexpected pangs in new circumstances.
We have confidence in Him, yet, we know He has plans for our circumstances and reasons, and we know not to “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3), and we know He is enough for us in all circumstances; yet, many of us are hurting and needing deeper reminders.
We Know Better, Yet…
And how can we not sometimes feel burdened if we see the world around us, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Cambodia, persecution after persecution of our kinsmen in the faith? And we are wary of lies like that of the ‘prosperity gospel’ and remind our hearts that all happy endings in this world are not guaranteed. Yet, these truths need tempering with the heart of God behind all of this… we try to remember and often are left ‘good,’ but somewhat dull.
Our hearts cry out: ‘remind me of my Jesus, O heart, begin to remember the treasure He is and how much He promises to care for you!’
We fight and fight, but we need something tangible to hold onto, a promise, a truth sure as the ground under our feet, or perhaps more sure.
In my circumstances, I’ve made a specific and concerted effort not to let myself become jaded or to assume negatively of God. I remember that I deserve nothing, that I am here to prepare for eternity, to glorify Jesus’ name and not my own, and to be thankful for how much He has already helped me beyond measure. Yet, an ever-burning pain, a “sickness” in the heart, sometimes tries to crawl around me like a space-glob following me, a venom symbiote relying on me for life, some sewer beast smelling me from afar.
Fixing the Eyes of Our Hearts On Him
God is always showing me new glimpses of Himself in His Word, and as of late, three old verses have exploded through and cut through the fog with glistening golden thunder.
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11, ESV).
“And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others, he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity” (Ezekiel 9:4-5, ESV).
“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:40-41, ESV).
God’s Purpose in Most Painful and Confusing Times
Something new that has popped out of the James 5 verse for me is the resounding thought that we counted Job as blessed, not cursed, in the end. We saw God’s greater and deeper purposes in his experiences – this is a call for us to see this below all of our own contexts. Do you see defeat after defeat? Engulfing loneliness? Abuse? Frustration with work? God reminds us to suffer well as angels and men are watching, and you are salt and light to their eyes and ears.
As you trust me, as you like a tied up, Princess Buttercup has confidence in the sureness of her coming Wesley (Jesus in this case), “laugh at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:25, ESV) and make our husband (Jesus) look amazing! Because, as you know, He is! Whether we feel it or not, we know that ultimately He is working every circumstance toward ultimate glory where He will reveal the faith He’s worked out of us – and it will be glorious – to the degree that we would be tempted to worship someone in this state.
Purpose… think about that. God has a purpose in THIS circumstance, right now? We shouldn’t trust our reasoning in this circumstance; we need to feel the wind, see the orange moon, and thunder and remember – this is JUST TRUE. Yet, it is okay to reason in our faith about ways God has moved or might be moving, but don’t let your heart move beyond this.
The Consistency of His Character Roots Us
Ponder this question: If you knew God were to work out a hope deferred tonight, how would you live differently today, as you prepared for that moment?
Would you celebrate? Would you lift your voice about God’s character? Would you be talking about God with everyone you see? Ah, see just how fragile we are? How quickly we can be knocked out of service by demonic and fleshly influences! Let us consider how to stir one another up to see God’s bigger purposes in the unforeseeable now.
The God Who Sees and Orchestrates
In the Ezekiel verse, we see a different angle of droning pain. An entire rebellious people among us and the truths we espouse are mocked and scoffed, and, even among those who claim to follow our God! How terrible and disgusting and heartbreaking, yet, here it is all around Ezekiel, and still his heart breaks as he sees his fellow man crushed under judgment. And in all of this hopelessness and being among so much lostness and hopes deferred over and over, we see God taking special notice to state that he sees.
“Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 12:1, ESV).
Consider that God sees your lot. He sees the iniquity and injustice and the pain and toiling. He sees the sighs and the nights you were rolling in your bed day and night. He sees the contradictions in your church, and you’re striving toward grace for these people, and he sees and desires good for you and to take care of you through this and to honor the jewel that he is budding from within your heart – shining out.
I’ve known a certain Christian man, a man who has often thought of me and prayed for me from afar, who had been married for 20 years only to find one day that his wife had left, no explanation, no apparent reason, 20 years down the drain without up or down or a future insight. Imagine the journey he had to make afterward. God saw. Without his triumph over these experiences through Jesus, he would not have been the only one who noticed me coming to church alone.
He wouldn’t have been able to so aptly and deeply understand where I was in life and how difficult it was for me. And we see God’s purposes not only in this. He eventually was given a wife who had also been through her own turmoil. God’s hand is clear in it all, they are able to understand each other’s sufferings, and he, being a doctor, also can tend to some of her specific history and needs.
A dear friend of mine faced spiritual abuses of all kinds, mainly through the Mormon church. He had been dismissed whenever he had a question, and he had many questions and had tried his luck with multiple types of churches already. He was shoulders deep, taking part in ritual “baptism of the dead” in the Mormon temple and deep in Mormon literature. Eventually, the lack of answers, the pointed fingers to fix himself rather than surrender to the grace of God, had revealed an ever-gaping hole in his heart.
This turned to alcoholism. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, though they spoke of God, didn’t have answers for this gaping hole. And to make things more difficult, he discovered he had been facing some level of Autism Spectrum this entire time without support. God, as He always does for His people, He saw. He met him in the depths of pain and brought him to a church that didn’t drive out his questions but invited the digging. He gained a family and support, people who understood and loved and appreciated his gifts. This man is now a friend and brother, and his insight and love are invaluable.
In the SMALLEST Details God is Orchestrating with His WHOLE HEART For The Good of His People
The stories are numberless. When a strong and vulnerable community surrounds us, we see how each of us is met with stories of various kinds, and time and time again how our Jesus sees the smallest detail. From helping Siberian Russian krokodil addicts (a drug that dries out your organs, kills faster than heroin) to healing and taking women out of sex trafficking in Cambodia and into the arms of grace, God sees and is working for the ultimate good.
In the smallest detail, even when we bring a glass of water for a fellow saint, God is watching and takes note. He smiles upon you, His people. He fights your cause behind the scenes.
There is a sense in which God, whether in this life or the next, is working out restoration, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25, NKJV). One cannot work out our restoration without seeing every smallest nibble of the gnats and locusts of life.
The Passion of a Lover
In the final verse, in Jeremiah 32, we see one of the scriptures’ most intense and passionate promises our God makes for those sealed into the New Covenant. God makes a promise to himself, a powerful covenant that will never end, “that I will not turn away from doing good to them…” And not only does He promise not to withhold ultimate good’s from us, but He says he will do this “with all my heart and all my soul.” This is passionate and lover-type language, sounding like a desperate and tear-filled groom to His bride.
Imagine… this is God speaking, and He is promising that in the New Covenant, as you have gained a new heart and the Spirit of God now dwells in you, He is also working in the minutest details to bring forth your good. In the end, whether tasted now or not, he WILL bring about your good in the end and withholds nothing that is for your best. He sees more than we do. He knows why all is happening. And truly, He is not holding back on you and helping others more, He has a purpose in the suffering, and there’s more involved than just your immediate happiness.
When you see the whole story, when you see the ending of your journey, believer, in this next life, you will say, it was worth it, and I’d not have had it any other way.
Casey is passionate about helping other Christian men in their walk with Jesus Christ. His writings on faith draws from a love of malacology, kinesiology, and quantum physics.