Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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22 Peace in the Problems

Psalms 42:1-5

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Over 300 people died and 100,000 were left homeless in the great Chicago fire of 1871. In the midst of the hurt tragedies like this can bring out the hero. One of the heroes was Horatio Gates Spafford an attorney, who saw his sizable investment in real estate reduced to ashes. In spite of their personal loss they unselfishly helped those who were homeless and hopeless. Spafford wasn’t just a compassionate care giver he was a Christian motivated by Christ’s mercy. About two years later, in November 1873, Spafford and his family decided to take a vacation in Europe. Just before they were to leave Horatio was unexpectedly detained by urgent business. The decision was made that his wife Anna and their four daughters would go on ahead and he would catch up with them as soon as possible. Tragedy was again going to strike his life. The ship collided with another vessel and sunk, Anna Spafford was one of only a few survivors, tragically all four of their daughters died. Anna Spafford’s heartbreaking telegram to her husband simply read: “Saved alone.” The grieving father set sail for England to join his grief-stricken wife and as the ship that he was traveling on passed over the approximate location where his daughters had drowned, Horatio Spafford penned the words to one the of the most famous hymns of all time “It is well with my soul”

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea-billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know; “It is well, it is well with my soul.” Tho’ Satan Should buffet, tho’ trials should come, Let his blessed assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul. It is well, with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.”

How about you have you ever been there, when life seems to come apart at the seams and you are trying to survive, surrounded by a sea of sorrow? It’s in these tragic times that you wonder how you can possess peace in the midst of the pain and the problems.  Have you ever gotten to that point and place where you feel like you are drowning in discouragement? When just when you think you have reached rock bottom the bottom actually falls out? We live in a wounded and wicked world, full of failure, trouble and trials. In Psalm 42 we see a song of both pain and praise composed by the sons of Korah. It is worth noting that these were the descendants of Korah, a priest who had led a rebellion against Aaron and Moses and who God had judged using the earth to swallow him for his sin, Numbers 16. Psalm 42 points to the power of God’s grace, that regardless of our past family failures we do not have to live in the cycle of continued chaos repeating our relative’s rebellion. We have a choice we can sing and we can serve, we don’t have to be salves to sin, bound to our parents past problems. Each of us is a testimony to God’s grace, we each have a song of renewed purpose and redemption that should flow from a heart of humility as we remember the fallen state from which He raised us, and the redemption that we experience through His grace. One has to wonder if the poet who penned these lyrics was remembering and reflecting on his ignoble beginnings, his distant ancestor who perished in an earthquake of pride and rebellion. Now we see a family far removed from reckless rebellion, one with a deep devotion and longing for the Lord. The good news is that even in the midst of the mess and the greatest storm we can possess God’s peace. Psalm 42 should cause us to stop and ask ourselves some pointed questions. First who are you turning to in the tribulation, who is you’re:

  • Help

Just like the Psalmist you may be experiencing a time of misery “My tears have been my meat day and night” May be your family is falling apart or your finances are failing and you are wondering how you are going to make ends meet. May be your children are caught up in rebellion, or your marriage is a mess and dangerously close to divorce. Or you may feel hopeless because of current health issues. It’s often in these times of tears that those around us will question God’s power and presence, people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why do we interpret times of adversity as an abandonment of the Almighty? Because we believe in a false premise that the presence of problems indicates an absence of God. The lost world sees a Christian suffering and says where is your God, if he is so good why are you going through this time of trial? But peace is not the absence of problems it is the presence of God. Our circumstances are not a reflection of Christ’s care and compassion, troubles and trials come to us all. We may not know the outcome or how long they will last but we know the Lord who loves us will never leave. It is in these times of trial that we are tempted to throw in the towel, for our faith may falter as we whine, Lord why me? We may feel all alone in these times yet we need to remember that even though we may be uncertain God is not, He is very much in control. When trouble turned up the Psalmist turned to truth, looking to the Lord. First who are you looking to for Help, and second are you living with:

  • Hope

It is in the hardships that we discover hope, because in the chaos we can draw close and cling to Christ. Do you know what the most frequent promise in scripture is? “I will be with you” Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us. We don’t have to wait for the next life to have hope, we can have hope even in our times of hurting. Jesus came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly, John 10:10. Hope should cause us to have both a spiritual assessment, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” ss well as sweet assurance “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Notice that it is in the middle of his misery that the psalmist’s finds hope. What is interesting to note is that at this point nothing has changed when it comes to his circumstances. It’s not that hope is hiding it’s that we need to stop and take a spiritual assessment. We need to realize what is real and what is relevant. “Why my soul, are you downcast” In the time of trouble we must turn to truth, we must walk by faith and not by feeling. When we are in the midst of despair and discouragement we can say just like the old song “It is well with my soul” not because of our situation but because of our Savior. Just like the psalmist we too can “praise him, my Savior and my God.” Who is your help and hope in the hardships? So many people look to everything other than Jesus but nothing in this world can give you the hope, joy and peace that comes from our Savior Jesus Christ. Is your soul thirsty for the source of life, the living God? Will you make time to meet with Him today?