Contentment is Quieting our Stormy Hearts in the Midst of our Storms

For the Lord’s Day, November 26, 2017

Dear Saints,

We continue with our devotion through Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The next thing he teaches us is that contentment is “a quiet frame of spirit”.  He explains:

Methinks I feel my heart heavy and sad and more than it should be; yet my judgment is satisfied.  This seemed to be the position of David in Psalm 42: ‘O my soul, why art thou disquieted?’ … This is a very good psalm for those who feel a fretting, discontented sickness in their hearts at any time to read and sing.  He says … twice in that Psalm [and a third time in the following Psalm]: ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? … And why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.’

Notice, the psalmists are not saying there’s no place for lament (as has been recently covered in these devotions).  Rather, they are asking, “Where and to whom will you go with your depression and what will you do with it: will you choose to wallow or rise?  That is, do you want to be consoled?” (As some have said, you can only help those who want to be helped.)  There is a way to rise above if you will take the path of contentment’s quieting.  I can testify that this is true, even in the most painful times.  Jennifer and I went to this Psalm often to seek comfort in our distress as she was dying in the hospital. It did not take away the shadow of the valley of death nor its difficulties for us, but it did bring us closer to God together and thus Him to us, and it did allow us to be able to say for ourselves our other theme verse at that time: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (You can revisit my sermons on Psalm 42 here and 2 Cor. 4:8-9 here during those trials to get us all through together.)  The way to get through depression is to discipline ourselves into a grateful expression of praise to God and in that moment He gives us more of Himself to quiet our hearts in Him and even find joy (Ps. 61:2; 71:23; 73:21-28).

Nonetheless, Burroughs admits ” … it is a lesson that you need to learn, and that if contentment is like this then it is not easily obtained.”  Once again, that is why contentment is a “rare jewel” per the title of his book, or “an art” according to Thomas Watson in the title of his book on the same subject and theme verse (Philippians 4:11).

Burroughs goes on to explain that contentment not only is a quiet frame of spirit, but this spiritual contentment also “comes from the frame of the soul”.  He writes:

The disposition of their own heats causes and brings forth this gracious contentment rather than any external thing … For if a man is to be free from discontent and worry it is not enough merely not to murmur but you must be active in sanctifying God’s name in the affliction.

The other tough lesson we continue to learn about those who will constantly murmur as we return to Numbers tomorrow (chapter 16) should be ample motivation to sanctify the Lord in our hearts through all difficulties so as to protect us from the demon of discontent (as Rev. Ted Donnelly has called it) and rather to trust God to turn our grief to gladness (see this Thanksgiving Day’s sermon).

One last nugget I’ve been meaning to share from my recent readings that is relevant for these devotions on contentment: in his book, Reset, David Murray writes: “Contentment is a wonderful cure for insomnia.”  Again, over the last year of working through our heavy loss that has had us greatly cast down, I have learned over time to experience that this is absolutely true and that Satan cannot destroy us and Jesus truly will lighten our burden and lift us up as we cast our cares upon Him: especially if we lay our head on our pillow at night having learnt more contentment during the day’s school of difficulties.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Post Tenebras Lux: “After Darkness, Light”

Post_tenebras_luxFor Lord’s Day, March 20, 2016

Dear Saints,

Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness … so reads Psalm 112:4.

Thomas Watson quoted this Scripture in his lengthy exposition of the beatitude we look at tomorrow night, Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9), in his chapter about the benefits of being children of God. In particular, Watson references the Psalm within his section, “God works all things for their good”, under the subsection, “Evil things work for good to God’s children.” Then he explains among other things what I trust several of us in our little church will find reassuring:

Sickness works for their good. It shall bring the body of death into a consumption [the using up of a resource]. ‘Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day’ (2 Corinthians 4:16) … When the body withers the soul of a Christian flourishes. How often have we seen a lively faith in a languishing body! Hezekiah was better on his sick bed than upon his throne. When he was upon his sick-bed he humbles himself and weeps. When he was on his throne he grew proud (Isaiah 39:2). God’s children recover by sickness. In this sense, ‘out of weakness they are made strong’ (Hebrews 11:34).

Then Watson discusses two other things that I believe our church can especially appreciate while we also prepare for the last beatitudes next week that seem to go together in Matthew 5:10-12:

Disgrace increases their grace. The husbandman by dunging his ground makes the soil more rich and fertile. God lets the wicked dung his people with reproaches and calumnies [slanders], that their hearts may be a richer soil for grace to grow in …

Persecution to God’s children works for good. The godly may be compared to that plant which Gregory Nazianzen speaks of. It lives by dying and grows by cutting. The zeal and love of the saints is blown up by sufferings. Their joy flourishes. Tertullian says the primitive Christians rejoiced more in their persecutions than in their deliverances.

That last sentence is amazing, but it echoes what Paul writes:

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

Many of us have recently discussed the Bible’s doctrine of suffering and how too few Christians are willing to acknowledge it, never mind embrace it (a reading of chapters 1 and 2 of Job should prove a helpful corrective, especially 1:20-21 and 2:10 with what later follows in 13:15). We may indeed find special strength in Christ when He calls on us to fellowship with Him in weakness and sufferings (Philippians 3:10). For the darker our days in certain seasons, the brighter the Light of the World is reflected in our teary eyes.

Let us hold tightly to the Calvinist motto of the Protestant Reformation, Post tenebras lux: “after darkness, light.”

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

Persevering Friendship

Image source:

For Lord’s Day, March 6, 201644df758b67a602db160356b3bca3d69a

Dear Saints,

I was impressed with something I recently heard a celebrated American composer and singer-songwriter share that I’d like to pass on to you, my friends and brethren:

I’ve had hopeless times in my life about different things, and you just have to persevere, because one day that door does open and if you don’t persevere you won’t be there when it does. – Carol King

One of Ms. King’s songs, “Beautiful”, closes with these words as what would seem to be her life’s motto as she described above:

I have often asked myself the reason for sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

Of course, you all are beautiful because you are a new creature in Christ. So I think of all people we Christians can live out those words to “Beautiful” most fully with Christ in view. We don’t always feel beautiful, but as we look to Christ and one another we can anew. Because you are beautiful, beloved. I think of your collective inner beauty so often displayed as you continue on with one another through thick and thin submitting to the Word of God. As I think of the theme verse to Matthew Henry’s Quest in our Wednesday Night studies together, I deeply cherish your … ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. (1 Peter 3:4).

Seeing ourselves in Christ as His betrothed wife, let us be motivated to keep our hand to the plow in and out of season as one beloved body knowing that while we often sow in tears we shall always reap in joy. Or as Paul put it, … let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall always eap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:8-9)

I’ve been meditating on the following verses recently about holding fast to overcome together in and for Christ:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Notice how we persevere: together as one. For, A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity; and, A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24)

Indeed, indeed. How thankful are we that Jesus Christ calls us His friends and brethren and promises to never leave us nor forsake us (John 15:14; Hebrews 2:11-12, 13:5). And beloved, as you have continually shown in word and deed to my family and me through our troubling times, let me say on behalf of the Van Leuvens to all of you (in what I trust is only review):

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there

Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold
They’ll hurt you and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

In the tapestry of His providence, though the Lord at times closes a door to us we trust that He will at other times open another wide, and I look forward to being here together to walk through them hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, when He does.

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Grant

PS: Another thing Ms. King said I think we all can use a reminder about is this: “… don’t fail to try, because if you don’t try, you can’t succeed.”

And on a lighter note, and for a fun factoid, I was surprised to learn that when she composed the music for, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”, it was to accompany the lyrics that her song-writing partner and husband at the time, Gerry Goffin, had written—men can empathize! 🙂 Incidentally, he got the idea for the song while walking out of a building in New York City and another man and friend passing by in a car yelled out to him through the window, “Why don’t you write a song called ‘Natural Woman’?”

Uncover Your Opportunity Clothed in Crisis

wordcrisis1For Lord’s Day, August 10, 2014

Dear Saints,

Jennifer shared something with me that she just read which I found really motivating and I want to share it with you.

Are you familiar with the meaning of the Chinese characters that make up the element word for “crisis”?  The first character can be translated as “danger”; the second, as “opportunity”.  See the image above (source:  Do you see your crises as dangerous opportunities?  Maybe you should, as more than one American president has suggested pointing to this Asian insight in a motivational speech.

Now, an important disclaimer should be shared. Wikipedia notes: The Chinese word for “crisis” (simplified Chinese危机traditional Chinese危機pinyinwēijī) is frequently invoked in Western motivational speaking because the word is composed of two sino-characters that can represent “danger” and “opportunity”. However this analysis is fallacious because the character pronounced  (simplified Chinese;traditional Chinese) has other meanings besides “opportunity” … Chinese philologist Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania states the popular interpretation of wēijī as “danger” plus “opportunity” is a “widespread public misperception” in the English-speaking world. While wēi () does mean “dangerous” or “precarious”, the element  () is highly polysemous. The basic theme common to its meanings is something like “critical point”. “Opportunity” in Chinese is instead a compound noun that contains jīhuì (机会, literally “meeting a critical point”).

OK, so let’s understand “crisis” as as a “Critical Point”.  Even better, really.  Our most critical points in life surely are not safe, but they also truly can be major moments of revelation, release, reformation, and revival.

May we not uncover our crises and find the beginning of opportunities lying before our feet?

Maybe we should thus speak of a life crisis (midlife or otherwise) as a “Crossroads”.  Choosing Christ’s abundant life along His narrow way at every juncture will always reveal later that it was a new opportunity for growth in grace and sanctification (the pain bringing the gain). So long as we face our crises taking steps of faith directed by God’s Word, He will always draw us closer to His wonderful Self through afflictions’ detours (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75).  Robert Frosts’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, comes to mind considering where our crises should lead us:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

At what critical crossroad point are you standing?  We don’t choose the crossroads we face, but we do choose which path to take (the Lord helping us).  What opportunity is clothed in your crisis presently?  Are you looking for it?  Are you following its lead?  And what are you going to do with it?  Your crisis doesn’t have to be your breaking point.  May it become your new starting point.

I write this devotion while sitting with Jennifer during her eighth chemotherapy treatment, at which time she shared what she read with me about these Chinese characters making up the word for “crisis” while receiving her IV drip (for three hours before then getting her pump that she wears for the next two days at home).  This motivating concept she found was in a book handed to her today here, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, in which authors Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson describe the second Chinese character discussed as including the ideas of having an opportunity for change, nourishment, happiness, and community. But they also gave this qualification: a crisis is  “… a chance–not a guarantee, mind you, but a chance–to embrace life even while in the throes of serious illness.”

How are you handling your current crisis? Are you using it as an opportunity for new direction? If so, good things will happen.

You know, the reason the volunteer (herself a cancer survivor) handed my wife this book is because she was curious about another book Jennifer was reading at the moment about healing through special nutrition.  Jenn found this Chinese “proverb” in the making, if you will, by taking a look.  And due to the book she had brought with her and was reading, we have gotten a high end juicer to maximize vegetable and fruit nutrients in a modest and modified supplemental application of what is known as the Gerson Therapy.  To do so, we asked God to provide such a juicer used and much cheaper online, and He did almost immediately!  Not only is using the juicer going to help Jennifer now and proactively later, it will help me lose weight and it will help our children learn superb nutrition while they’re young.  As well, we found the machine we chose also makes incredible sorbet with frozen fruit (nothing added) — an absolutely delicious treat that gives us great fun!

By God’s grace, we are taking lemons and making lemonade.  Or rather, by God’s power and guidance, and with the love and support of you His saints, we are taking a sour providence and turning it into its intended sweetness.  What about you?

May you make the most of every difficult moment to witness for Jesus Christ, trusting that you will be able to say what Joseph said at the end of a long string of excruciating experiences: … God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Comfort and Joy One Day at a Time

IMG_9071For Lord’s Day, April 13, 2014

Dear Saints,

If I may get a little ahead of where we are in our Sabbath Class with Elder Huffmaster on John MacArthur’s book, Anxious for Nothing, two nuggets on getting through suffering patiently were really helpful for our family this week, which I want to encourage you to make frequent use of through your trials as they come.

First, in chapter 3, “Casting Your Cares on God”, he points out something really helpful with 1 Peter 5:6-7:  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you:

“The word translated ‘casting’ was used to describe throwing something on something else, such as a blanket over a pack animal (e.g., Luke 19:35).  Take all your anxiety–all the discontent, discouragement, despair, questioning, pain, and suffering that you’re going through–and toss it all onto God.” (60)

This insight has been extremely helpful for us.  In particular, when we visualize taking a blanket off of ourselves and laying it on Jesus’ back, Who only truly can bare it for us.  I don’t mean to sound mechanical or magical, but I suppose it is mystical–or rather, Spiritual with a capital “S”. The Holy Spirit really does remove the feeling of pressure when we visualize taking our burden off of us and putting it onto Jesus (and praying to that effect that it would be so).  Now, we have to do this on more than one occasion, but it helps a lot.  It will help you when you need help giving over your burdens to Jesus so that you can take His upon you, which is light.

Second, in chapter 4, “Living a Life of Faith and Trust”, as we ask for our daily bread, let’s look at every day as a victory at the end of the day:

“What awaits us at the finish line of the race of faith? Joy and triumph.  Jesus endured the cross ‘for the joy set before Him’ (Heb. 12:2).  Any athlete will tell you that there’s nothing equal to the thrill of winning.  It isn’t the medal or the trophy or anything else–it’s just the winning, the exhilaration of victory … Ultimately, our real joy and reward as believers is to be in heaven with Christ, but here and now we can experience a great sense of triumph when we have victory over temptation.” (70)


It has been really helpful to recognize (with Romans 8 becoming even more real for us) that every day is a victory, and can be celebrated as such.  Every day we get through our trials and do not curse God but praise Him, and do not stay huddled in a corner but hug each other and get out there and take in life, every day we fight the temptation of fear and worry and choose to keep our eyes on Jesus asking for more faith, we are more than conquerors.  We win.  Every day is a battle of the cosmic war of Gen. 3:15, and every day we do not give in, we win. Every day we fight the good fight, albeit with battle scars to show for it, we can thank God for the thrill of not being beaten by Satan; yes, by His glorious grace, but not excluding our willingness to duke it out as good soldiers.  This effort again is not magical or mechanical — it is just real and Scriptural and blessed by the Spirit.


These lessons have been very meaningful for us this week, and I trust they will prove meaningful for you, beloved, as you cast your cares upon Jesus and keep your eyes on Him and look forward to putting another notch in the “W” column before you go to bed.  It’s the best way to live, whatever the Lord’s hand lays upon us to humble us before He exalts us. It gives real comfort and real joy that Satan can never steal. One day at a time.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Fighting for Jesus Instead of Complaining

For Lord’s Day, February 9, 2014

Dear Saints,

I recently saw two videos providing amazing examples of not murmuring against God over difficult providences.  It was a humbling reminder of what Christ preached to us last week in Exodus 16:1-17:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-12.

FiZionrst, the story of Zion Isaiah Blick. He was born this January, and he died this January.  Zion’s parents knew at 20 weeks that he would be born with a rare disease likely to quickly prove fatal post natal. Click here to view the USA Today video about it, and click here to see their family documentary celebrating little Zion’s ten days of life.  While I’m sure this Christian family (the father, a pastor) has and will shed many tears of sorrow, they admirably chose to celebrate Zion’s life with this Scripture as their standard bearer:

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. (Psalm 50:2)

What a beautiful testimony to us as we consider our covenant children in Sabbath Class tomorrow on baptism (Westminster Confession, Chapter 28). And what a glorious witness to not murmur against the Messiah, but praise Him in and with everything we receive from His sovereign hand. [Warning, I wept deeply after watching these, and expect you might too, but it was a blessing].

Second, the story of one of our nation’s brave servants, Marine Corporal Tony Porta. His bravery is not only seen in how he faced the battlefield overseas, but even more for how he courageously faces his new battles on the home front.  Serving our nation, Mr. Porta was severely burned (over 35 percent of his body, including severe disfiguring of his face), and lost his right arm and the fingers on his left hand. He has endured 125 reconstructive surgeries.

With that incredible suffering in mind, consider that Mr. Porta spoke of joining the Marine Corps like this: “It was the best decision of my life.”  He never complained, and he spoke with honor of his service and happiness for his wife, his son (named after two men who died in the same attack during which he was injured), and a new “smart home” being provided for him.  I was struck by his lack of murmuring and inspired by his gratitude for and commitment to living. Click here to watch the interview with this hero.

Brethren, tomorrow we will see the Lord leads the Church from rest with water to war with the Amalekites.  Difficult providences are a part of life, and no less when we walk with the Angel of God Who is a man of war. We will rest in the Promised Land. For now, we must be faithful warriors, trusting that as we look up to Jehovahnissi (Ex. 17:15), “The Lord My Banner”, we can know that while we are yet on the battlefield, we are winning and we will rest in heaven.  March forward, brethren. And let the Sabbath bless you with the reminder of your final rest when this wicked world is all one day behind us (Hebrews 4:9).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be a Good Soldier

For Lord’s Day, January 26, 2014

Dear Saints,

We will see this Lord’s Day that the Angel of God (the preincarnate Jesus Christ) leads Israel into the wilderness.  Previously, we saw He led the Church to the edge of the wilderness, and then to the edge of the Sea, both places where much faith was needed.  This time, Jesus lets His people get thirsty in the dessert so that they learn even more to only drink of Him. What we keep learning is that Jesus tries our faith to increase it.  He would have us be faithful servants: good soldiers.

We don’t like this testing, but it is what prepares us; or, as Exodus 15:25 says, testing is what God uses to prove (or train) us.  King Jesus prepares us for survival through spiritual battle the same way boot camp does our military for earthly wars.  In his sermon on Exodus 14:19-20, entitled “The Glory in the Rear”, Charles Spurgeon (a faithful soldier who mightily suffered before us) challenges us to accept Christ’s training and to quit ourselves like men:

I know some of you who are Christian people want to be always coddled and cuddled, like weakly babies. You pine for love-visits and delights, and promises sealed home to your heart. You would live on sweetmeats and be wheeled in a spiritual perambulator all the way to heaven, but your heavenly Father is not going to do anything of the sort. He will be with you, but he will try your manhood, and so develop it. I have seen children cosseted into the grave by their fond mother; and I suppose that a great many more will follow in the same way; but God never spoils his children. He educates them for nobler ends. He takes visible guides away from them that they may exercise faith in him. Why, Job would have been nobody if he had not lost everything …

Beloved, you and I lose the enjoyments of religion and the comforts of hope in order that we may walk by faith and not by sight, and may the more greatly glorify God …

I should think myself all the more called to a service if I found obstacles in my way. The course of true service never did run smooth …

Will you always be wanting to have your bread buttered for you on both sides? Must your road be gravelled, and smoothed with a garden roller? Are you a carpet knight, for whom there is to be no fighting? You are not worthy to be a soldier of Jesus Christ at all if you look for ease. Go home! I dare say, after all, it is the best thing you can do. True believers expect difficulties. It is ours to do what we are bidden to do, not to act according to fancied indications of providence. When the Lord said “Forward!” forward Israel must go, without a fiery cloudy pillar to cheer the way. Has not the Lord spoken? Who shall ask for plainer guidance? …

To you the daily supply of grace is more important than the supply of comfort, and this shall never fail you so long as you live.

Beloved, may we each … endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Great Exchange for Sweet Peace

For Lord’s Day, September 8, 2013

Dear Saints,

The Scottish Puritan and Westminster Divine, Samuel Rutherford wrote: “I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ’s joys, my afflictions with that sweet peace I have with himself.”

There is a lovely exchange that you can have ongoing with Christ to have a sweet peace in this life.  Of course, the foundation off this ongoing exchange is to have already made an eternal exchange.

So Jesus says in Revelation 3:18: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

He is reflecting toward Himself what was prophesied in Isaiah 55:1: Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

I trust that by God’s grace, you have already made that exchange, because you understood this:  … we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Thus you have such peace when you remember Jesus made an exchange with you: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

So Paul (the Apostle) and Paul (our elder teaching in our Sabbath class) can say to you: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Samuel Rutherford knew a lot about suffering.  He lost his first wife to death, and he buried all his many children (to say nothing of all his losses in ministry). Yet he knew how to get through: “I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ’s joys, my afflictions with that sweet peace I have with himself.”

May your faith be able to say the same thing through our experiences, beloved. May you give up your pain, be thankful to know the fellowship of His sufferings, remember what He has done for you, and find peace with Him there.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Enduring Pain and Suffering With the Lord

For Lord’s Day, July 28, 2013

Dear Saints,

At our Session meeting this week, Elder Paul Huffmaster shared some things God taught him during his six-week stay in bed with terrible back pain.  I asked him to write what follows to share with you as this week’s e-devotion.  I think it will help anyone who is going through great pain and suffering.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PaulWhen my back went out it was excruciatingly painful.  So much so that even the pain medication did not remove the pain.  I asked the doctor for stronger meds, but he said that I was taking the strongest medication available so the next thing would be pain medication through an IV.  He told me the pain medications were working, but my level of pain was so high that it could not be stopped. I just had to bear with it.  That wasn’t comforting at all.

Many nights, the pain lead to sleeplessness.  One night in particular, the pain was so bad that I could not sleep or be relieved of the pain. I had taken the maximum limit on the pain medication, but to no avail. It was late, and everybody was asleep (except my darling wife and she was trying to sleep).  It didn’t matter because no one could help me be relieved of this horrible pain.  I could not stand up, sit up, or lay down to relieve the pain.  I remember going into the living room lying on the floor on my back, my side, my stomach, curled in the fetal position, over the coffee table, on the edge of the sofa — but the pain never subsided. 

I was crying because it hurt so bad and I felt so alone.  Physically, no one was there with me, I was in pain and crying and the best I could do was pray “Lord please help me”.   I began to talk with the Lord, I told Him, “I hate this and I am miserable, I’m exhausted, I would really like to be relieved of this pain or at least be able to sleep.”  I told Him, “I’m sorry but right now I can’t see how this is good for me but I trust You that it must be good because You are allowing it to happen.”

I remembered Psalm 119:71 “It is good for me that I have been afflicted: that I might learn thy statutes”.   The psalmist said that it was good that he had been afflicted so I knew that this affliction must be for my good.  I remember thinking, “Lord thank You for bringing Your word to my mind.”  I began to praise Him for His Word and then I began to say from memory Psalm 23 …

The next thing I remember is waking up in the morning.  I had fallen asleep while reciting Psalm 23.  The Lord my Shepherd had fulfilled Psalm 23 in my situation at that moment. He had made me lie down and sleep. He was my refuge and strength, a very
present help in trouble (Psalm 46:10).

As I lay in bed the next day I thought to myself, “I am so glad that God has made Himself known to me.  Because what would I do without Him?”  I thought of the verse in Matthew 16:26: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  I remembered that in that previous night I was not thinking about wealth, money, my house, my job, or anything thing else except how much pain I was suffering and how I wanted and needed relief.

Often, when we are healthy and things are going good, we have a tendency to think that we will always be healthy and we don’t think much about it.  But in reality, anything can be taken from us at any moment. And all the things that we think are so important turn out to be nothing — or at least nothing that can help us in our time of need.  All these things, whatever they are, can’t help us.  In reality, only God can help us in our situation.  Only He can: not family, not friends, not fame, not money, not our dream job, not a big, bigger or the biggest of houses.  None of this will profit us in this life or in the the life to come.  We tend to forget that at any moment the smallest of things, even an unseen thing, can take us out and put us flat on our backs or worse. 

Psalm 4:8 ” I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou LORD only makest me dwell in safety.”  We are only safe when we are safe in the Lord.

I feel better now, and I praise the Lord for His healing me and relieving me of the pain.  I also thank you for all of your prayers God used to bring me much comfort.  It is nice to know that people are praying for you.

I can confess with the psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted: that I might learn thy statutes”.

In Christ,
Elder Paul