Skip to content

3

You may have noticed that things don’t always turn out the way you hope they will. And they almost always take longer than you want them to. In this world of instant everything, many of us have lost our ability to wait patiently. And yet, there are times when we must wait, whether we like it or not. As I told you last week, I have been ill recently, and because of a condition that may or may not be related, and that did not resolve itself within six weeks, my doctor sent me for a medical test. I waited a month for that appointment, and the results were inconclusive. So I was sent for a different medical test. Again inconclusive. A third test has been scheduled for next Tuesday. It has now been almost three months without answers, and frankly without any information about what the problem might be. I am still waiting.

Now if I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I don’t always have the best of attitudes in situations like this. I worry, and I often complain. Unfortunately, that only proves that I’m not as good as I would like to be at trusting God with the outcome. What should I do instead? As hard as it is sometimes, I should be praising God. King David had a lot of trials and struggles in his life too, so much more serious than mine, and he concluded that he should praise God continually. Early in Psalm 86, David was pleading with God for mercy, but in Psalm 86:12 he declared that he would give God praise with his whole heart and would honour His name continually. With his whole heart meant that David would be sincere in his praise; he wouldn’t just go through the motions. He could do that, because he had established a relationship with God, and knew that He was trustworthy. God had shown David His mercy many times before. David knew that he could trust God with his life and with the outcome to the situations he found himself in. Continually is pretty self-explanatory. At all times. In every situation. Since not all situations are good ones, David would honour God even when things weren’t going the way he wanted them to.

Moira Brown has said that, “Praise is the elevator that lifts us out of the pit of despair.” If we can praise God even in the tough times, we will be able to focus more on the goodness and faithfulness of God, the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever, (Hebrews 13:8) rather than dwelling on the challenges in our circumstances. I’m still working on it. How about you?

2

I have to admit that I have a tendency to focus on the destination rather than the journey. I’ve often said that I would enjoy my vacations more if I didn’t have to spend time getting there. Every time I hear some profound quotation about enjoying the journey, I think, I really should learn how to do that! The problem with my way of doing things is that I always seem to be looking forward to a future event, rather than fully enjoying the present.

When I was a very young girl in Sunday School, I had to memorize Psalm 23, though at the time it was referred to as The Twenty-Third Psalm. I memorized it in the King James Version, and I still think of it that way. Like most verses I memorized in the KJV, it always seems a little odd to read them in a different version. But I think it’s a very good practice to look at scripture in different versions, especially if you are familiar with it, because new wording may make you look at the passage a little differently. Such is the case for me with Psalm 23.

It started with thinking about Bella, a friend’s 9 month old daughter with stage 3 cancer—thoracic neuroblastoma. The Lord gave me a vision of my friend and her baby walking through a dark valley, and the assurance that they would reach the other side. But the only way out of the valley was to walk through it; there was no way around.

We all have different circumstances in our lives that could be regarded as our dark valley. Injuries, job loss, family breakdown, house fires, natural disasters… the list of tragedies we might face in our lifetime could go on and on. And in many cases there is nothing we can do to avoid them. So how do we make it through? We let the Lord be our shepherd and lead us. Now I see Psalm 23 as a journey. I am walking through the valley, but with my shepherd beside me, I will lack nothing. I will be protected and have no reason to fear. One day I will be victorious, and, like the psalmist, instead of being pursued by my enemies, I will be pursued by God’s goodness and faithfulness. And you can be sure that I will enjoy my final destination.

2

In December 2009, a friend of mine, a 39 year old wife and mother of six, had a routine medical exam. Not long after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She died on this date two years ago. On that same day a teenage girl also died of a cancer that she had been battling much longer. Two days ago a dear friend’s mother also died of cancer. She was 66. Other friends and family members of various ages have also died of this savage disease, but for some reason, it hits home a little harder on February 10. And cancer is just one of the many trials we face in this world. It’s so frustrating! It seems so unfair!

There is no doubt that we should expect trouble in this world, (John 16:33) but we can also be assured that God still cares for us through the hard times. We do not face these hardships because God has stopped caring for us, but because we live in an imperfect world. God, however, is not imperfect, and He has compassion on those who humbly seek Him. Psalm 34:18 assures us that He is close to the brokenhearted and will deliver those who are discouraged. Sometimes the deliverance takes longer than we want it to, and it doesn’t necessarily come in the way we expect. Psalm 34 is David’s testimony of how the Lord delivered him, and his assurance that God will do the same for future generations as well.

The King James Version translates the last part of Psalm 34:18 as those who have a contrite spirit. It makes sense that being humble would be a requirement for God’s deliverance. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) Psalm 51:17 tells us that the sacrifice that God desires is a humble spirit; a humble and repentant heart He will not reject. If we come to God humbly, and lay our burdens at His feet, (Psalm 34:15, Matthew 11:28) He will be gracious to us, bring us through the discouragement and heal our broken hearts.

4

I’ve been going to church all my life. I’ve heard a lot of people’s interpretations of a lot of scripture passages. They don’t always agree. Often, only one or two verses are quoted to reinforce a point that is being made. Then when I’ve studied the verses for myself, I’ve seen them in a different light because of the context. Without context, you can make a verse seem to say anything you like, but it may or may not be accurate.

A good example of this is Psalm 37:4. I first heard this verse in the New International Version: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It has been interpreted to mean that if you focus on God, He will give you what you want. The important thing to note is that the promise of getting what you want is based on the fulfillment of the command to delight yourself in the Lord. If you put God first, your desires will be holy, and He will fulfill them. (Matthew 6:33) I’ve also heard it explained that God puts your desires in your heart. You want what you want because God put that thought in your head. I would not want to say that God doesn’t give us our dreams, or that our desires don’t come from Him, but I don’t believe that the context of this verse supports that interpretation. If you look at the rest of Psalm 37, you will see that the major focus is not to fret when things go well for those who do evil. (Psalm 37:1, Psalm 37:7-8)

I believe that the first interpretation is more accurate. But I think it is important to realize that the fulfillment of our desires will not necessarily (or even likely) be instantaneous. That is why in Psalm 37:7 David reminds us to wait patiently and confidently. It is possible that our desires will not be fulfilled before we reach heaven. Don't be discouraged by that. In this life we will have our good days and our bad days, days of blessing and days of frustration, but whatever is happening, we cannot look at the evildoers and think that we would be better off if we lied, cheated or stole. Whatever gratification they get from their actions is temporary.

The other thing I think it is important to consider is that we might often misinterpret our afflictions as well. The older I get, the more I can look back and see the benefits that came from my struggles—how job loss led to a better job, how working through conflicts led to stronger relationships, how hard times led to leaning more on God’s grace. David was looking back too when he wrote this Psalm, (Psalm 37:25) so his counsel was based on experience.

The New English Translation (the version you see when you hover over the reference) doesn’t isolate Psalm 37:4, but translates it as an extension of Psalm 37:3. (Psalm 37:3-4) Trust in the Lord, do what is right, maintain your integrity. Then you will delight in the Lord, your desires will be pure, and He will delight in giving good gifts to you. (Matthew 7:11)

Today's post was written by pastor Rick Cowan.  You can visit his website here.

---------

It was quite a shock to find ourselves behind two air bags and atop a fallen traffic light last night.  We reacted like any parents would, quickly checking to see if all the kids were OK (having to calm six shaken kids forces you to look past your own nerves!).  Once we assessed the condition of our kids and realized they were all safe (apart from some seatbelt burns and a loose tooth), we began to praise God for his goodness.

This morning as I reflected on the accident I began to thank God for his goodness once again.  Then it occurred to me.  What if one of us were seriously hurt? What if one of my kids were taken away via ambulance?  Would God not still be good?  What determines God's goodness?  Things going our way?  Averting injury? What prompts us to thank him for his goodness?

The truth is, God's goodness exists outside of circumstance.  It is not determined by what makes us feel good.  God is good all the time.  Not because our lives are pleasant all the time.  Not because we get what we want all the time.  No.  God is good all the time because his goodness is an unchangeable aspect of his perfect character.

It was sobering this morning to search my own soul and consider, would I still be thanking God for his goodness if our accident had a less than happy outcome?  I pray that I would.

It was right to thank God for his goodness yesterday, not simply because he kept us safe but because he is good no matter what he chooses to do.  No matter the circumstance, God never violates his goodness.  So, to thank God in this way is to affirm within our own hearts that God is good even when circumstances are bad.

After thinking on this a while this morning I began to consider -- "What then could have been a better prayer?"  I began to thank God, not just for his goodness, but for his mercy.  The truth is, we deserve nothing.  Our sin condemns us to death.  Yet God, by his mercy, chose to allow us to keep on living.  I don't deserve life and I only live by his mercy.

Lamentations 3:22  It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. [KJV]

I am thankful for God's goodness, which is independent of any circumstance.  I am also thankful for his mercy on undeserving men.  I am thankful that God is unchanging and that no matter what happens we can be assured that he has violated none of his perfect attributes.  He is the unchanging, unmovable Rock upon which we can build our lives.

Psalms 23:6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. [KJV]

1

I’m a bit of an idealist, so I don’t like it when things go wrong, especially when bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it.  It’s one thing to deal with the consequences when you’ve made a mistake, but if you didn’t do anything wrong, it just seems so unfair.  Either way though, it is good to be able to call on God to rescue you.

Do you ever wonder if God really hears you when you pray?  Sometimes we feel like the pain, frustration and struggles will go on forever.  He says that He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), but do you ever want to negotiate with Him?  Tell Him your side of the story?  Give Him your ideas for the plan?  I think that the Psalmist David must have felt that way when he wrote Psalm 13.  In the first two verses he asked “How long?” four times.  He felt ignored, anxious and threatened by his enemy.  We don’t know for sure, but he may have been running for his life at this point.  David didn’t end his psalm the same way he started it though.  He moved from complaint (Psalm 13:1-2) to prayer (Psalm 13:3-4) to praise (Psalm 13:5-6).

Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but with thankful hearts to present all of our requests to God.  This is what David did.  He asked the Lord to answer him, to revive him, and to save him, not only so that he would be saved, but so would the reputation of God’s name.

What caused David to turn from despair to praise?  Hope in God’s unfailing love and mercy.  David had faith that God was still God and would keep His covenant with him.  We must do the same when we face trials that have gone on so long that we think they will go on forever.  When we have lost our joy and our hope, we must cling to our faith.  We must remember that God is God and more importantly that we are not.  Even when we don’t understand what He is doing, we must believe that He does.  We know that He understands every trial that we go through (Hebrews 4:14-16), that He will not give us more trials than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13) and that He longs to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).  Think back on how God has brought you through trials before.  He will again.

1

A few days ago, a friend shared a photo on Facebook that I thought represented Psalm 91:4 beautifully. I shared it on the Memos From God Facebook page. I particularly like that verse in the New International Version: He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. In my Bible a feather marks that page.

Psalm 91 is one of the most reassuring chapters in the Bible. First of all, it tells us that God who is sovereign, almighty and trustworthy will rescue us and protect us. The words are figurative and symbolic, but surely that is their message. It goes on to tell us of all the kinds of dangers from which we will be protected, and assures us that He will be there for us to save us. That all sounds excellent, but is it true? The Bible also tells us that we are guaranteed to face trouble, (John 16:33) and this Psalm doesn’t tell us that we won’t see those dangers, only that they won’t overtake us. But how do you explain the fact that faithful Christians suffer—disease, tragic circumstances, financial ruin—and sometimes die at a very young age? Where is the truth of Psalm 91 then?

Two particular circumstances come to mind—the death of several friends at too young an age, and the fact that Albert Chretien is still missing in the Nevada wilderness after seven months. How can we say that those people are protected from all the dangers in the world? Perhaps the sense of being protected as described in these verses is not the same as avoiding trying circumstances altogether. Perhaps all the trying circumstances we go through have a purpose, something to teach us. Perhaps it means that we will be rescued from them in the life to come. Perhaps we need to dwell in the shelter of the Most High, rather than just visit occasionally, in order to experience this refuge. Perhaps we just can’t imagine how awful life could possibly be without God’s protection, a protection that we actually experience without fully realizing it. John Calvin has said, “When we look back on our life from the perspective of eternity, we are going to see that the power of Satan was so great, that the weakness of our flesh was feeble, and that the hostility of the world was so strong, that every day of our lives—if God had not intervened—we would never have made it through a day.”

What I do know is this: God knows better than I do. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that His ways are not like our ways. Just as the sky is higher than the earth, so His deeds and plans are higher than ours. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9) Whatever trials we have to go through, He will give us the strength to endure them. What we need to do is trust Him, and be devoted and loyal to Him. (Psalm 91:14) He will take care of the rest.

---------
Update:
Al Chretien has not yet been found, and I would like to ask for extra prayer right now as hunters begin to enter the area for deer hunting season. This is Al's best chance of being found before winter returns.

Rita Chretien has now shared her story publicly. You can see the report here.

Well, here it is Monday morning (at least in my time zone). For many of us that means the end of a relaxing weekend and going back to work—a job that we may or may not enjoy. For many of us, the stress level that was lowered on Friday evening, is back on full. Depending on your situation and where you live, you might not only have to get yourself together, but you might have to get the kids up and ready to go to day care, school, summer school or hockey camp. Any camp for that matter. Clothes packed, lunches packed, schedule jam packed with things to do. Perhaps at some point we should discuss the importance of rest, but I think Psalm 121:1-2 might be apt verses for us today!

In the King James Version, there is no question mark. The psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills because he knew where his help came from. He didn’t mean the hills themselves, as some later thought would be the source of confusion. It was symbolic. Today we might look to the sky when we think of or pray to God. In that time and place, God was considered to dwell in the temple on the holy hill of Zion. Psalm 121 is often thought of as a pilgrim’s Psalm, spoken by travellers as they made their way through the hill country to Jerusalem. After the declaration of where our help comes from, the rest of the Psalm elaborates the kind of help that a traveller would need and that the Lord provides.

Except for poetry’s sake, it doesn’t really matter where we look for God, for He is only a thought away. We don’t have to go to any particular place or kneel in any particular way. God is not only always available to us, but He is always waiting for us, wanting us to look to Him and promising that we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:12-14) He is just as happy to hear from us on Monday morning, as He was on Sunday morning. Our help still comes from the Lord. Look to Him today.

When I finished my post on Friday, (May 6, 2011) I had intended to share it with the Chretien family on their Facebook page (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) with the hope that it might bring them some comfort. They had been waiting a long time without answers, and even the notes of encouragement were becoming few and far between. But when I went to their page, I saw that Rita had been found! Alive! What joy I felt, I do not have adequate words to express.

Today’s post is in honour of Rita Chretien, her strength and her faith. My regular readers will know that I’ve been following the story of Al and Rita Chretien since they failed to return home as scheduled from a business trip to Las Vegas. From the evening of the day that they left their home in British Columbia, Canada, March 19, 2011, until the afternoon of May 6, 2011, Rita was stranded on a remote logging road in Northeastern Nevada. For the first three days, until he left on foot to get help, her husband Albert was there with her. Forty-nine days stranded in the wilderness, 46 without any human interaction. There is no cell phone service for miles, and no one used the road. There was no access to food, save what little bit of snack food they had in the van, and little access to water.

Fortunately, Rita was in good health when she started this stationary odyssey. But what would you do, what would you think, how would you feel if you were in this situation? I know that as I prayed for them, not knowing where they were or if they were still alive, I pleaded with God, “How long oh Lord, how long?” as the psalmist David did in Psalm 13 (February, 11, 2011). While I was praying from Psalm 13, Rita was evidently drawing strength from Psalm 86. She could have prayed David’s very words, except that the arrogant men of Psalm 86:14 could have been replaced by the harsh wilderness and the seemingly impossible situation that she was in.

I expect that when she reached Psalm 86:8, Rita too praised God and worshiped Him for His power and majesty. She would have seen evidence of it all around her, and the very fact that she was still alive several weeks into this ordeal was proof of the power and love of God. Rita certainly depended on the promises of God, which according to Ann Thomas, author of the blog, the writing heart, “are realized by those who choose to believe”. The psalms are full of David’s words pleading for help, for protection from his enemies, for deliverance, but they end with David giving praise to God. David always comes back to trusting in God because of who God is, and because he knows that God will be faithful.

Many may ask why, if Rita was such a devoted child of God, why would God allow this to happen to her. I don’t have all the answers, because God is God, and I am not. However, we might gain some clues from two men who endured great suffering in the Bible. Job was a great man of God, who lost everything he owned, including his children and his health, because Satan wanted to prove that Job’s faith was based on his wealth and privilege. God allowed Satan to take everything but his life from him. (Job 2:6) Job had questions, you can be sure, and he in no way pretended that he was happy with his situation, but he never stopped trusting in God. (Job 13:15) The Apostle Paul had plenty of trials of his own (II Corinthians 11:24-27), but from prison he wrote to the people of Philippi that his situation had actually turned out to advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12) More and more people were finding out about the saving love of God because of Paul, and I believe the same will be said of Rita.

At the time of this posting, Al Chretien is still missing. Please continue to pray for him and for the people who are searching for him. One more lesson we can learn is to never give up. (Philippians 3:12-14) As Rita’s son Raymond Chretien said at a press conference from his mother’s hospital, “Never give up. Never lose your faith. Miracles happen. Never underestimate that.”
---------
Update:
On September 29, 2012, Albert Chretien's body was found by elk hunters, 11 kilometres from where the van had been stranded. He had been going in the right direction to find help, but the terrain was steep and wooded, and the snow was up to ten feet deep at the time. His body was found intact with identification still in his pocket.

“When the world says you’re not good enough, get a second opinion.” These words were spoken by Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without arms and legs, and who now spends his time travelling around the world speaking to audiences that range from high school students to prisoners. He tells them how much God loves them and how valuable they are in God’s eyes. (Nick’s website is: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org)

In Psalm 139:17-18, David cannot fathom how much God cares for him. Think about this. The creator of the universe cares for each one of us so much that we could not possibly count the number of thoughts He has about us. You might think that those thoughts were just for David, because after all God chose David to be king, and David was a man after God’s own heart. Perhaps you think that these verses don’t apply to you. They do. So many other verses in the Bible reinforce this point. (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5, I John 4:10, Romans 5:8, II Thessalonians 2:16, Romans 5:5, I John 3:1, Romans 8:38-39)

The psalmist elaborates in Psalm 139:1-16 how well and intricately God knows him. This is how He knows us too. God is aware of everything you do, everywhere you go, every word you say. He is with you each step of the way, and He is there to steady and guide you (verse 10). He knew you before you were born, and He is the one who formed you in your mother’s womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He knows us this well, better than we know ourselves, and yet He still loves us. Realizing all this prompted David to give thanks to God. (Psalm 139:14) We might not always understand how awesome and amazing God is. We might not be able to get our heads around His power that is so much greater than ours, but even then God is with us every step of the way, and we should remember to thank Him for it.