CLEF Newsletter - March 2017

“I will give thanks to You with all my heart, and sing my praiseā€¦ giving thanks to You for Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; You have magnified Your promise in conformance to Your Name. On the day I called You answered me, restoring my vitality together with vigor in my soul.” (Psalm 138:1-3)

The book of Job aptly cites that man is born for and unto adversity, just as surely as sparks from a fire fly upward. As are the laws of physics, so the moral laws which adjudicate our lives. We find ourselves either emerging from, currently immersed, or about to descend into trouble. Black spirituals find this a constant theme in its soul-searching music, from “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” How often would we like to just step aboard that sweet ride and be carried home where such trials are ceased. I’m not a dooms-day’er, but to one degree or another we find ourselves regularly either stepping into contrary circumstances or suffering a diabolical offence. Usually it’s the former, just because we’re fallible, faulted, failed human beings, often legally blind of foresight. We take ourselves and the people and things around us for granted, presuming too much of them and assuming too much about ourselves. Our nature often proves the definition of insanity, as we commit over and over the common error of our impudent ways. We mature to finally realize we don’t need to go looking for trouble, and reduce its intake significantly. But the desires of our flesh, eyes, and boastful pride of life keep bubbling to the surface in the choices and decisions we make, which at the time we’re so very good at somehow justifying. Denzel Washington’s movie “Training Day” illustrates this in cinematic eloquence. It’s never right to do wrong. When we compromise standards there will always be a sad, deluding price to pay. We myopically think we’re more than we really are.

Yet the valuable nugget we take away from every such eye-opening experience (we particularly understand what we experience) is a golden treasure coin of humility. Each time we come up short and recognize our complicity for what it is, we come down to earth a bit more and stand eye to eye with those around us. One of the most valuable insights we ever learn is to not take ourselves so seriously. This is not to lose all confidence and self-respect, but rather to appreciate and concede that I’m not more important, and both acknowledge and distinguish the place of another. Defending the weak, venerating the honorable, assisting the deprived, giving grace to the fallen, all adds interest to that coin. Here lies some hope garnered from our troubled humanness.

But it also follows that adversity, hardship and suffering also comes to us apart from anything of our own crafting or contrary magnetism. Sometimes we become, or just are, a target for evil. The saying “no good deed goes unpunished” has some real truth to it. We likewise suffer for doing what is right, or simply because we are either misunderstood, mistaken or misjudged, or even outrightly maltreated and messed with for jealousy or the insecurity and just plain malevolence of an evil world with evil people coercing an evil agenda, and fall prey to them. Evil is indeed everywhere, and the depths of it can know no bounds. And when it wraps itself around a human heart, the devil himself has an apt tool for destruction at his employ. The malicious attacks of hatred and animosity are real and powerful, and sometimes we’re just a target for another’s unbridled and deluded malice, much as even Job suffered. And Job lost everything, except his faith.

Since the fall of man in the garden, adversity has become a menacing specter over us through life. We shrink from it initially but we can ultimately grow in spite of it. And we know that we can do this because from the beginning of that fall we were given the means to do so. God cursed the evil of the serpent, clothed our fallenness and began to show us how to overcome this now altered and toxic knowledge of good and evil. Fundamentally we are preserved by knowing and trusting the God of all grace Who seeks out and saves us from ourselves and such evil. It comes by faith in God’s promises to bring us through the shadowed valley:

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Look upon my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Look upon my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with violent hatred. But guard my soul and deliver me; and do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee. Redeem me out of all my troubles.” Ps.25:16ff

The operative principle is trusting and waiting. “In repentance and rest are you saved; in quietness and trust is your strength” (Is.30:15). God’s eye is on those who yield to Him, who will hope in His deliverance, waiting upon His help and shield (Ps.33:18ff). Our world is marked with trouble, but be of good cheer; our God has overcome the world.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; and stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlastingā€¦” (v.138:7-8)