Two books of “gloom and doom” are found in the Old Testament: Job and Lamentations. The main body of both of these is a series of laments over tragedy. For Job, it was personal tragedy—rather, a whole series of them. For Jeremiah, who wrote Lamentations, it was national tragedy as he toured the ruins of what had been his beloved Jerusalem.
But in the middle of each book shines an outstanding expression of hope.
Job, after expressing a lot of complaint and despair, bursts out with a statement of faith that on which Handel based a beautiful air in his Messiah:
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought! (Job 19:25-17 NLT)
And Jeremiah—right smack dab in the middle of his anguish, he exclaims:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
When gloom and doom loom on my horizon, Lord, let me see that silver lining and hope in You!
I’m a bookworm, but I don’t buy, keep, or re-read books unless they’re very, very special. Those that merit a permanent place on our bookshelves are the exceptions. Today I want to share an exceptional book with you which my husband and I have just read together. It is truly a keeper!
Miracle on the River Kwai, by Ernest Gordon, is a story of grace in the worst possible of circumstances. Under the most extreme duress, despair and hopelessness were transformed to faith in God, redemption, and selfless love for one another. It began with a few POWs who sacrificially served and even laid down their lives to save others in what had been a dog-eat-dog environment, every man for himself. The power of God changed lives long-term as they served, taught, shared and worshipped with one another for several years as the war raged on. When they were finally released, one of the men said, “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was rough, all right. But I learned an awful lot that I couldn’t have learned at the university or anywhere else.”
When hard times come for me, I pray that God’s grace and power will do the same, shining through the darkness to refine my character in ways that may not be possible through peace time.
My granddaughter and her family are at Disney World right now, enjoying a week of pure grace provided by a foundation that delights in making wishes come true for very sick children. She was happy about this, but I suspect that it means even more to her younger sister who had been fervently praying that someday she’d get to go to Disney!
Many times Jesus invited people to pray for what they wished. And if they had faith, it would be granted. So here came James and John to make a request.
Jesus: What do you wish me to do for you?
They pridefully asked for the places of honor in the Kingdom but didn’t get their wish. (Mark 10:35-40)
Right after that, blind Bartimaeus shouted out from the side of the road as Jesus walked by.
Jesus: What do you wish me to do for you?
Full of faith, he asked for his sight, and it was granted! (Mark 10:46-52)
Why was one request denied and the other answered? How can we be sure ours will be granted?
“The United Nations Human Development Index 2011 measures happiness in different countries based on factors such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economy, gender equality and sustainability.” Norway, they say, is the happiest country. The US is #4. (Source: CNN Travel website.)
Looking at the website, I don’t see the word “happiness.” That seems to be an inference made by the CNN writer. But assuming the viewpoint that these factors comprise happiness,what’s wrong here? By these standards, Scrooge might have been a happy man, and definitely Bob Cratchit (father of Tiny Tim) would not be. However, the reverse was actually true in that well-loved Christmas tale.
In this scheme, where are the following factors?
sense of purpose & fulfillment
solid loving relationships
a clean conscience
And greatest of all, faith and hope in our Creator and Savior
If you had to choose between the first list (health, wealth, long life) and this second list, which do you think would make you happier? And do the more “developed” countries really have a corner on happiness? Having lived in both, I think not.
She must have been 4 or 5 years old, standing on the pew between her dad and mom as we all worshipped. Her dad was totally focused on God as he prayed and sang. But the girl’s focus was on her dad, wide-eyed, studying his face intently as he was oblivious of her. And when we sang, she sang too—with gusto. Obviously she had learned from her parents not only the words of this song but also their wholehearted worship. This vignette says so much to me about being a worthy parent and also about the kind of childlikeness that Jesus commends.
Here’s a song I appreciate, entitled “Lover of the Children.” (Sorry I forgot to get the name of the author which is in my book at home.)
Walkin’ in the sunshine, laughin’ in the rain;
Lover of the children, make me young again.
Climbing in the treetops, running down the shore;
Lover of the children, make me young once more.
Vigorous and daring, teachable and mild;
Love of the children, make me like a child.
Trusting to your goodness, walking where you lead;
Lover of the children, make me young indeed.
Make me young enough to know that alone I dare not go
through the darkness of the night.
Make me young enough to see that your love will never let me go.
Make me open to surprise,
put wonder in my eyes,
make my vision clear and bright.
Make me willing to be led and to follow where you bid me go.
Fearing not tomorrow, trusting you today;
Lover of the children, make me young, I pray.
Here are excerpts from the lyrics to a song I ran across. Pretty poignant.
We say, “Show me, and I’ll trust You”
God says, “Trust me and I’ll show You.”
We say, “Heal me, and I’ll praise You,”
God says, “Praise me and I’ll heal you.”
We say, “Bless me and I’ll follow,”
God says, “Follow and I’ll bless you.”
We say, “Change me and I’ll love You,”
God says, “Love me and I’ll change you”….
You’ve got to put first things first, get your heart out of reverse,
for the highest will be servants, and the lowest will be kings…
(Words by Claire Clonginger, copyright 1987 Paragon Music and Word Music.)
Israel was in big trouble. That big Philistine had kept them quaking in their boots for over a month already. It seemed hopeless. Stalemate.
Then comes Little Brother with food and lots of questions. But wait–this “little brother” was the one who had been anointed as the next king right in front of his older brothers! And he’s the one who had killed a lion and a bear bare-handed. And now with God’s power, Goliath was no match for him! “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?…The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” And He did. (1 Samuel 17, NLT)
Now back up. His soon-to-be best friend Jonathan had done a very similar thing just three chapters before. With only his armor-bearer, he successfully attacked a Philistine outpost saying, “Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” And He did.
Don’t you love it? These guys are my heroes. God still does miracles, and He still uses people who step out boldly for His cause, depending on Him. I want to be one of them!