John Piper has given us a book that is so spot-on timely for this unusual time we are going through. Check out my full book review by clicking here.
“I am a sinner. I have never lived a day of my life—not one—without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness. So how can this be? How can God say, ‘You, John Piper, will be with Me—live or die’ [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10]? God didn’t even wait for the question before He answered. It’s because of Jesus.”
“To be God is to cause His own counsel to stand—always. God does not just declare which future events will happen; He makes them happen. He speaks His word, and then He adds, ‘I am watching over My word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).”
“Jesus expresses the sweetness of God’s sovereignty for His disciples as beautifully as anyone: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10: 29–31). Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: you are of more value than many sparrows; the hairs of your head are all numbered; fear not.”
“Christians get swept away in tsunamis. Christians are killed in terrorist attacks. Christians get the coronavirus. The difference for Christians—those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure—is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation.”
“God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in disease and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.”
“Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.”
“Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that He is coming and that we need to be ready [Matthew 24:44].”
“What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.”
“Paul does not view this experience of desperation as satanic or random [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. It is purposeful. And God is the One whose purpose is mentioned: this life-threatening experience ‘was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’”
“Jesus taught His followers to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering. …
“It is nor mere good deeds that give Christianity its tang and luster. It is good deeds in spite of danger.”
You stood up for someone, but when you needed someone to stand up for you they disappeared Or you did what was right, but no one recognized you for it? Or you were the encourager, but when you needed encouragement no one was around for you? Or maybe even you obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed God abandoned you when you needed Him most?
Jesus knows what every single one of these scenarios feel like! He stood up for the downtrodden, but they screamed, “Crucify Him!” He poured His life into teaching and encouraging His friends, but they all ran when the heat was on, leaving Jesus all by Himself. He obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed like God abandoned Him when He needed Him most.
Have you ever felt abandoned by God?
Hanging from the Cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!”
I cannot help but notice two things about the state of mind Jesus was in heading to the horrific treatment He would face (see Matthew 26:31-44; 27:27-46).
Why would God remain silent during this trial? God didn’t need to speak to His Son during the trial because He had already spoken to Him before the trial!
It’s the same in our trials—
God’s silence is not His rejection or abandonment. Just as God provided for Jesus in His moment of trial, God has provided for us in our trials too—For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP)
So let’s learn three invaluable lessons we can learn from Christ’s time of supreme suffering.
1. Be honest in God’s presence
Jesus didn’t hide His feelings, nor did He try to couch His vocabulary in “churchy” sounding words. God already knows what’s in your heart, so pour it out raw and honestly! Go to the Psalms and see raw emotions on full display in prayer.
2. Lean all your weight on Jesus
Jesus prayed, “My Father!” and He cried out from the Cross, “My God!” His death on the Cross took away the barriers that kept up from coming into God’s presence (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). After His resurrection, Jesus sent this message to His friends: “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to MY Father and YOUR Father, to MY God and YOUR God’” (John 20:17).
3. Go to the Word of God
This is what Jesus did. In His moment of abandonment, He quoted Psalm 22 from the Cross. Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Scriptures, so now we can pray with greater assurance—For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).
God’s silence is NOT God’s abandonment. God’s silence is His invitation for us to be honest, to lean on Jesus, and to trust every promise in His Word. Every single promise that is Yes! and Amen!
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Where’s God? series, please check out:
And join me this Sunday as we take a look at how Jesus has conquered humanity’s ultimate enemy.
Where is God in our trials? When we call, Jesus runs to our cry. He is able to help us because He knows exactly what our cries sound like. Aren’t you glad He does?!
While we are in these difficult times, you might find yourself asking a question I have asked, “Okay, God, I believe You are doing something, but what exactly are You doing?”
I can’t tell you specifically what God is doing in your life, because your story is unique and special. But I can tell you that during the hard, painful chapters of our lives, God is accomplishing at least five things in all of us.
We will learn lessons in these fiery trials that we couldn’t possibly learn any other way.
One dictionary defines empathy as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” It’s only because of our trials that we no longer have to imagine what someone else is feeling, but instead we know exactly what they’re feeling and how we can help.
It’s been said that patience is the “mother of all other virtues.” Paul said that “these troubles produce patience” (Romans 5:3). As God grows your patience, He will also help you to grow all of the other Christlike virtues.
Paul went on to add that not only does trouble produce patience, but “patience produces character” (Romans 5:4). During the times of difficulty and uncertainty, we become more aware of deficiencies in our character.
Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing!
I want to circle back to that word refining because I think that best sums up what God is doing in our painful times. Romans 8 tells us—The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ—sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:15-18)
So where’s God in this time of fire? He is overseeing our trial as a Perfect Refiner. Do you know how the silversmith knows he has purified the impurities from the silver ore? The silver is pure when he can see his own reflection in the silver!
In the heat of your trial, God is close to you. He knows the perfect temperature and the precise time that it will take to allow His face to be seen in you!
Sometimes you will see what God is doing through your furnace time, sometimes you won’t. But don’t ever bail out! God IS working! He is giving you a new perspective, a deeper empathy, more patience, an unshakable hope, and most of all—He is removing the impurities that will allow His face to be seen more clearly in you!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn where God is in our darkest times. And if you didn’t catch the previous messages in this series, please check out The God That Runs To You and How Long Will This Last?
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.
Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries
‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ … This cry is taken from ‘the Book.’ Does it not show our Lord’s love of the sacred Volume, that when He felt His sharpest grief, He turned to the Scripture to find a fit utterance for it? Here we have the opening sentence of the twenty-second Psalm. Oh, that we may so love the inspired Word that we may not only sing to its score but even weep to its music! …
When you are delirious with pain, think of your Bible. When your mind wonders, let it roam toward the mercy seat. And when your heart and your flesh fail, still live by faith and still cry, ‘My God, my God.’ …
Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian. Even the holiest, when in extreme agony, though they cannot speak otherwise than according to purity and truth, yet use a language of their own that only the ear of sympathy can fully receive.
From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?
Grief is a time to get real. As Spurgeon said, “Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian.” Grief is not a time to carefully choose our words.
Get real with God in your prayer closet. Tell Him everything that frustrates you. I promise you, God is not going to fall off His throne and say, “What?! I had no idea you felt that way!” He already knows what’s in your heart, but it will do you much good to get it out. Much like someone with food poisoning needs to vomit out the poison, God will not be offended when you vomit out your “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” in His presence.
Many scholars believe that Jesus probably sang the entirety of the 22nd Psalm from the Cross. Whether He did or not, listen to the assurances that Jesus had from just this psalm alone, even in the midst of His heart-wrenching cry—
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame. … But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. … I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You. … From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him. (vv. 1-5, 19, 22, 25-26)
Jesus turned to the Scriptures to find the words He cried out to His Father in His darkest moment, and He invites you to follow His example. Make the psalms your own—turn them into your own prayers. God is close to you when you cry out, “My God!” to Him.
I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’ve experienced. My nice, orderly world came crashing down all around me. It totally blindsided me! I got on my knees to do some serious soul searching and I prayed, “God I know you called me here. I know I’ve done what You’ve asked me to do. What’s happening? Why am I being attacked? Where are You, God?”
I’m sure you’ve been there too. “Where’s God?” has been the cry of countless people from the oldest book of the Old Testament until this very day. In dark times our world seems to shrink, and the weight of the entire world seems to rest on our shoulders. We begin to at first sigh and say, “Why me?” and then those sighs become sobs of “God, where are You?!”
“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like.…” —A.W. Tozer
Here’s the truth: We are always in a spiritual battle. It’s just hard to see it in the “good ol’ days.” But in the “bad ol’ days” we realize we don’t have it all figured out! The dark days are simply the reality of spiritual warfare revealed.
Answers don’t come easily because there are no easy answers!
One of Job’s friends named Zophar thought he had God all figured out. He concluded his easy answer that the wicked have a bad life and the righteous have a good life. So if things were going badly for Job, he must have messed up somewhere. Except Zophar was wrong! God Himself pronounced Job righteous (see Job 20:1-8; 1:8). Zophar’s easy answer now doesn’t seem so easy, does it?
I’ll say it again: In the hard times, answers don’t come easily because there are no easy answers.
In fact, Jesus told us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
How did Jesus overcome the world of hurt and pain? He did it by taking a hands-on approach—Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity…. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way…. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18).
The phrase “He is able to help” literally means that He runs to the cry!
In order to be able to run to our cry, Jesus has to know what our cries sound like and what our pain feels like. He had to taste all our pain for Himself. He had to feel all of them in a human body. The Limitless God was incarnated in limited flesh to experience everything we would ever feel.
Now that Jesus has died and been resurrected, our cries bring Him running to us with ALL of His LIMITLESS love and power and empathy!
In the good ol’ days we may not recognize just how close God is to us. But when the bad days come and we cry out to Him, He comes running. Jesus may be closer when you say, “I don’t know where You are!” than He’s ever been before.
Go ahead and cry out. Jesus knows those cries. He hears you, He knows your pain, He runs to your cries, He comes close to help.
Join me next week as we continue this series asking “Where’s God?” in the specific difficulties that we face. We’ll ask questions like, “Where’s God in my depression?” and “Where’s God in my divorce?” and “Where’s God in this national calamity?” Please don’t miss these encouraging messages!
Even the apostle James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2). Wait, trials are “an opportunity for great joy”? How can that be?!
→ Trials teach us lessons that we can learn in no other way! ←
How much more mature, and wise, and empathetic would we become if instead of trying to get out of the trials that come our way, we would instead see what we could get out of that trial!
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:3-5)
So the next time a trial comes your way, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lessons you can learn by going through the trial.
My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts.
Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!
Then comes the Selah—pause.
And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25).
Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better.
But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU!
He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less.
The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).
In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all!
God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17).
Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!
Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.”
No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He loves you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you.