In the Hand of God
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 NKJV
Sometimes He lets you sit in it for awhile. Sometimes you find yourself wandering around in the wilderness crying out to God, and wondering how long it will last. Sometimes He lets it hurt. Sometimes He lets you feel the strength of the storm, the wind, the rain, and the hail. Sometimes He prunes you, and the cuts are so deep they are almost unbearable. Sometimes He allows others to hurt you, and He waits until you think you can bear it no longer. You find yourself in the darkness feeling alone and defeated.
And then suddenly there is a light. Faint at first, and then almost so bright you cannot remember the darkness you just were experiencing. You look up into the face of your Father, and you know everything will be okay now.
There are times in our lives when we feel overwhelmed. We don't know what to do next, and it seems like there is nowhere else to turn. It is in those times that we must find ourselves being led to the Rock that is higher than we are. So many people have this perception that God is too big to involve Himself in the everyday lives of people, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation and feel that God has deserted us. Rest assured that the Rock is there, unshakable and unmovable.
You must maintain your trust in the Rock. That is the key. You must hold on to your faith even in the darkness of the deepest pit. You must hold on even when it seems like the storms never end. Eventually you will find that your Father will step in and stop the storms.
Paul and Silas were in jail. They had been beaten and imprisoned for their teaching. They were in stocks, and yet they sang praise to God. They had been preaching the word of God, and yet they found themselves in pain and in prison. Why would they sing and praise God when He allowed this to happen to them? They knew that their work was for Him and that He was in charge. They knew a relationship with the Almighty that was personal. Yes, He had allowed them to suffer, but in the middle of the night amidst their singing and praise, there was an earthquake that loosened their chains and set them free.
We are no different than Paul and Silas. I can testify that if you continually go to the Rock that He will take care of you. It is rarely early, but never too late when He shows up. Sometimes it seems like the forces around you are continually knocking you down. Sometimes it seems as if there is no hope of the situation getting any better. Sometimes you just climb in His arms and tell Him that you are okay with whatever comes as long as He is there. And after the storm beats so long that you can hardly stand, you will find that your Daddy will show up and say, "That's enough. She is Mine." Suddenly you will find that the winds have ceased, the thundering is quieted, and the sun is shining. Even though you are still soaked from the storms, you will find warmth in the love of your Father. You will look up to the Rock that is higher, and He will look down at you and smile.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 KJV
I stand quietly in the doorway of her bedroom. She is reading and hasn't noticed that I am there. I see it on her face and in her eyes. I simply walk away because there isn't anything I can say to make it better.
She didn't say anything when she came in from school today. She just headed to her room to read. I saw it in the way she walked, slow and with her head down. I saw in in her face as she sat slumped on her bed reading. She doesn't have to say a word...I know it all too well. I know what it feels like to have your heart relocate to your stomach on a permanent basis. I know what it feels like to have the tears fall into your cereal. I know the sick feeling you get when you head to bed knowing when you wake up you must face it again. I know what it feels like to not dare look in the mirror while you're brushing your teeth because your tearstained face will make you cry again.
You try to convince yourself that you don't really care, but the hurt screams otherwise. You catch yourself imagining where you could run to and no one would be able to find you just so you can escape for a little while and rest from it. You try to figure out what it was that you did to make her hate you so much, but you just can't put your finger on it. And sometimes if you're lucky, you're able to forget for a minute. You get absorbed in a song or a television show and just for a minute you forget your reality, your darkness, but then it returns to slap you across the face and you find yourself fighting back the tears.
I find myself wanting to take her in my arms and cry with her. I want to tell her that I will protect her. I want to lavish her with compliments and remind her how very special she is and how much she is loved. I want to tell her all the things about her that I find beautiful. I want to give her peace. And yet I know that none of these things will take it away. Nothing I can say or do will remove the darkness she finds herself in or take away the feeling of confusion and hurt. But I know Who can. And I turn from her doorway and I go to a quiet place where I can enter His presence. I beg Him to cover her with His hand. I beg Him to shelter her from this unbearable pain and to calm her fears. And I find peace. This God who created this blessing speaks to this mother's heart and says that He loves her more than I do. He reminds me that I held her in my arms at Pleasant View Baptist Church and we as parents dedicated her to Him and He didn't take that lightly. He reminds me that I am raising an Esther and that much of this bully situation comes from the fact that she belongs to Him.
And as I thank HIm and start to leave, He tugs softly at my heart and whispers. He whispers my name and reminds me that I am His baby girl too. He reminds me that His love for me is no different than this love I have for this hurting girl of mine. He whispers in my ear and reminds me that He understands what I feel for her. He has held me in His arms many times when I was hurting. He too has wanted to lavish me with His love and remind me that in His eyes I am beautiful just the way I am. He reminds me that He wants to give me peace and to take away my pain. And so I carry her to Him in prayer and I am reminded what it means to be His. I am reminded that she is His. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that both of us will be fine as long as we find ourselves in the arms of our Father.
For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. 1 Peter 2:21-23 KJV
They hurt me again, God. I thought if I left then maybe I could start to heal.
God, this isn’t fair. It already hurts so much, why does it have to keep getting worse? And why does it have to be over something that meant so much to me?
And He answers me….,They hurt Me. They defiled My name. They rejected Me and I never did anything wrong. I was brought as a spotless lamb to the slaughter with no sin. If I was crucified, do you not think it is fitting for you to experience
suffering? You are merely a sinner, saved by grace.
I heard a speaker on the radio a few days ago, and he made a statement that has not left me for days. He said that God asks if we would rather have an easier road and bear less fruit, or a harder road and bear more fruit. What a thought. I found myself in the middle of my pain telling God that I would rather bear more fruit. There in the middle of the hurt, the rejection, and the pain, I found myself asking Him to let me bear more fruit even if the pruning process hurts.
In order for a fruit tree to bear better quality fruit and in greater quantities, it must be pruned. The limbs of the tree are severed in order to prepare them for growth. It is necessary to wound the tree in order to enable it to bear better
Sometimes God prunes us. It isn’t an enjoyable experience while it is happening. Sometimes we are wounded and it hurts, but God can use those wounds to grow our faith. He can use it to encourage our growth in Him just as pruning a tree can encourage its growth.
But what about the people who hurt us? And isn’t the hurt worse, when it comes from those who claim to be your brothers and sisters in Christ? A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi states a very sad truth for today’s church. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Sadly sometimes that is so true. We Christians can be so unlike our Christ.
But still, it hurts. It is hard to let go of the pain, but when we choose to hold onto it, it leads us to bitterness. According to Anne Graham Lotz, when we hold onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, it is the same thing as drinking poison thinking the other person will die. God commands us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. This is our motivation to forgive.
David had every reason to want to seek revenge on Saul for trying to kill him, yet he did not. Stephen forgave the ones stoning him and asked God to do the same. Jesus prayed from the cross for God’s forgiveness on those who crucified
Him. Who are we to do anything less than that, especially since the God who has forgiven us asks us to do so.
So do we just shut our mouths and let it go? Do we just let them get by with it? That’s hard. I find myself in a place where I have walked away from something dear to my heart and in the middle of that being painful enough, I find myself enduring ridicule and being lied about. I walked away from the situation trying to start to heal and am still being wounded even in my absence. Can I just let that go?
I have to. My big Brother has left me an example to follow. I Peter 2:21-23 tells me that I am to follow in His footsteps. He committed himself to the One who judges righteously, God. He stood before His accusers and remained silent, knowing that His Father who loved Him would set it all straight. He knew that it wasn’t His battle to fight for the battle belonged to His Father and He would make it right in time.
And so I surrender to the pruning. I am willing to suffer the pain of the cutting so that I can see growth and eventually the bearing of better fruit. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Sometimes it hurts so bad that you can barely breathe, but is it worth it? There is no greater joy than growing closer to God. There is no reward
like having a close and personal relationship with the One created the stars. And so I choose to forgive and to move forward. I refuse to drink the poison of my bitterness and be cheated out of whatever it is that my Father has planned for me to do. I can’t move forward by looking backward and it is time to move forward.
Since he is part of the reason for starting this, it is only appropriate that the one thing I wrote for him be here........
Several years ago he asked me to come back to his bedroom so we could talk. Anybody in our family could tell you that this wasn’t unusual, he always did that with somebody almost every time you were there. This time it was different. He asked me to promise him that I would write and read the eulogy for his funeral.
I tried to make excuses and he was frustrated with me. I
tried to convince him that he needed to have a preacher at his funeral, but he
insisted that he didn’t want a preacher to stand over him and tell about what a good man he had been. He wanted someone who knew him best and who would tell the truth. I could see that he was serious and that he really truly wanted me to promise to do this for him, so I asked him what it was he wanted me to say. He said that he wanted me to tell you that he was contrary, sometimes hateful, hard to get along with, that he was a hard worker, a good provider, that he loved his family, and that he loved the Lord. He also told me that he wanted me to read from Job 14 because it had been read at both his father and grandfather’s funerals.
So today I stand before you in honor of my grandfather to tell you that he was a little contrary sometimes and a little hard to get along with on occasion.. He was indeed a hard worker and a good provider.
He truly loved his family and he loved the Lord. He was those things, but he was more. He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He was a friend, a co-worker, a deacon,
and a neighbor. Most importantly, he was a Christian.
I was the oldest grandchild, and he often would tell me the story of when I was born. He often
told me that he remembered standing at the window of the nursery at the hospital and praying that God would bless me. God honored that request and has blessed me beyond measure, but I think that Pappaw never understood that God had already blessed me before he ever prayed that prayer….God had already blessed me by allowing me to be born into this family and to have him as my grandfather.
When I was little, I remember coming into my grandparents’ house and as soon as you entered the door you would see the coffee table….covered with an open Bible, commentary, Sunday School quarterly, and him getting ready for teaching his Sunday School class. I remember him sitting in the “Amen Corner” on Sunday mornings during preaching and hearing his occasional amen. He had been raised in a Christian home,
but wasn’t saved until after he was a father. I grew up hearing how he and my grandmother were baptized at the same time, literally at the same time arm in arm. He later was ordained as a deacon and when I was little he was the Chairman of the Deacons. He knew his Bible like the back of his hand and could tell you off the
top of his head where verses were located. As he grew older, he told me that one of the things that bothered him most was that he feared he could no longer bring verses to his recollection like he once could. He was blessed to never get to that point but even if he had, they were still written on his heart.
I loved to hear him pray. He always said that he didn’t have a way with words because he didn’t
have much education, but I will tell you that he knew how to talk to God. He would humbly thank God for the
privilege to call upon Him, and would name those he wished to pray for, always including those in the military “in harm’s way”. He spent most of his life talking to God and knew how to speak from his heart. Sometimes the prayers were beautiful and the words would flow gracefully from his lips. Sometimes the prayers were harder as he found himself in places where he found it more difficult to pray.
He was blessed with many friends. As the proverb says, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” He had a way of drawing people to him. He would talk to anyone and usually found something in common with them all. We were blessed this week to hear stories from friends, family, and neighbors, about what he meant to each of them. When you are grieving the loss of your grandfather, it helps so much to hear things like, “he meant the world to me”, “he always wanted everything to be done right, it had to be perfect”, “he taught me all kinds of things”, and “he was one of a kind”. A neighbor who was dear to him told us a story about how he needed advice
and went to Pappaw because his own family was gone. He said, “I asked Jim what to do, he told me, and it fixed it.” That was my grandfather. He absolutely loved to give his advice….whether you asked for it or
not. Most of the time, if you listened, he was right.
I watched him lose first his son, and then his daughter. He would go to the book of Job because he could draw strength from it. He could identify with Job. And so maybe he wanted Job 14 to be read today because it had been read at his father’s funeral or maybe it was because in part because it was his favorite book.
Job 14:1-6 reads: 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2He
cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. 3And
dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? 4Who
can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. 5Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; 6Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
One of the things that Pappaw had learned was that life was a few days and full of rrouble. Serving God did not promise a life without hardship and heartache. He had suffered the loss of both his parents. In 1987 he lost his son and then in 2003 his daughter. Just as Job had lost his children, he mourned the loss and although he could not understand why God had chosen such a path for him, he continued on it. He knew as he himself grew older, that his time on earth was limited. He no longer could do the things he once did. He knew that God Himself knew the day he would leave and he felt it drawing nearer. He told me one evening at his house after a visit to the hospital that he was leaving and that he had an appointment in Heaven. He
wanted to go home. I was blessed to be there when he left. I had asked God to let me know when it was time because I wanted to be there to send him off. I woke up just a few minutes before it was time for him to leave, and I was able to kiss him, tell him I’d see him later, and to tell him that it was okay for him to go.
Job 14:7-15 reads: For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that
the tender branch thereof will not cease. 8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; 9Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a
plant. 10But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11As
the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: 12So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. 13O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! 14If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
Unlike a tree that has hope of regenerating even after being cut down, once a man dies, his life on earth is over. But it isn’t the end. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says “13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.14 For if we believe
that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Today we
mourn the loss of a great man, but he wouldn’t want us to be sad. He would want us to be jealous. We are sad because we selfishly want to keep him here with us, but he wouldn’t come back if he could, because he is where he spent his life waiting to go. The Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Here we are, crying and sad because we didn’t want to lose him. If he could talk to us right now, he would tell us not to be sad. He has seen the beauty of Heaven. He woke up and found himself surrounded by beauty we cannot find words to describe. By now he’s found his dad, mom, brothers, and sisters. I’m sure Porkey and Susie were waiting when he walked in, so they could show him around. He’s probably talked to everyone he saw and as we say our earthly goodbyes, he is at the feet of Jesus. God has called and He answered. Now he is Home.
The last verses of Job 14 read as follows: 16For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin? 17My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity. 18And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place.19The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man. 20Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance,
and sendest him away.21His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low but he perceiveth it not of them.22But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall
Life brings suffering. Even a child of God is not immune to the heartaches this life brings to each of us. As Pappaw grew older he suffered with illnesses, aches, and pains. Things that once came easy to him, became difficult. It was hard for him to go from being independent and strong to being dependent and somewhat
weaker. He found himself relying more and more on those around him for help. But today that is no longer the
case. He doesn’t have a deformed heart. He doesn’t have to check his sugar anymore because there is no diabetes in Heaven. There will never be another day when he feels weak. He will no longer forget what it was he wanted to say. He has been healed from all the things that bothered him here on earth. Revelation 21:4 tells us that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
There is a Hebrew proverb that says, “Say not in grief, ‘he is no more’, but live in thankfulness that he was.” So today rather than concentrate on his being gone, my prayer is that we can remember how blessed we were to have him in our lives. As much as we are hurting right now and as much as we wanted him to stay, we are above all, blessed. We had the opportunity to have this man in our lives. If nothing else, he made us laugh. It’s so hard to cry when everyone is sitting around sharing stories about him. The stories make us laugh and remind us just how great this man really was. My kids loved to go to his house when he got a call from a telemarketer. Everyone’s favorite telemarketer story has to be the day the lady called about the replacement windows. Pappaw told her he didn’t think he could use them because he lived in a tent. He went on to tell the lady he had a leak in his tent and if she could tell him how he could use one of those replacement windows to fix that leak, then he would be interested in buying one. She told him she would check on it and hung up. We were all at the table eating and a few minutes later, the phone rang again. He leaned back in his chair and reached behind his head to answer it. It was the telemarketer lady. She told him she was sorry, but she had checked with everyone in the office and no one knew how to make it work. He told her thank you and then got off the phone laughing.
We could sit here all night listening to the stories each individual would share. I wish we could. I would love to hear each and every one of your stories about him. And we would love to share our own stories….stories of him hurrying outside to shoot at birds without his suspenders. When Mammaw came to the door to tell him he had a call, she saw him go to shoot up in the trees only to have his pants fall around his ankles. Stories of the time he killed a cat, only to find it looking at him when he went to the barn a few days later. He just knew that cat had come back to haunt him. There are so many stories that make us smile, but perhaps the best illustration of him would be the story of his swimming lesson. Pappaw’s neighbor has a pool and her little boy, Jake, offered to teach Pappaw to swim. So one day Pappaw, who could swim like a fish, put on his swim trunks, and headed over to the neighbor’s for his swimming lesson. Jake worked and worked teaching Pappaw to swim, even having to rescue him from near drowning a couple of times. Finally Jake taught Pappaw how swim and Pappaw paid him $10 for his swimming lesson. That was my grandfather.
My grandfather asked me to tell you who he really was….what he was really like. He was strong and
devoted. He was a family man, a friend, a neighbor, and a servant of God. He meant something different to each of us….each of us has suffered a different kind of loss. I will tell you that there is no one on the face of this planet who has ever loved me like my Pappaw did. There is no one else who has ever had the kind of faith in me that he had. Wednesday morning I lost my biggest fan.
My grandfather was many things, but above all I am thankful most for the fact that he was a Christian. If Pappaw could talk to you right now, he would tell you about God. He would tell you that life iis hard. He would tell you that life brings pain, heartache, and suffering. He would tell you that God had blessed him beyond measure. His relationship with God was personal. He was a man of faith. If he were here right now, he would ask you if you were saved and if you weren’t he would introduce you to his Jesus.
If you ever have wondered if God was real, I can personally assure you that He is. The God Who created the Universe, Who hung every star in place, heard the prayer of my grandfather and granted him his request to go to Heaven rather than to stay here and suffer. My grandfather was there when I entered the world, and God allowed me to be there when it was time for him to leave it. I cannot find the words to describe what that was like. I literally felt him leave, not just die, but leave. God brought comfort to Chris through a dream. Just as Chris and I were in the car after leaving the hospital after Pappaw passed away, Chris told me that he was having a dream that Pappaw was better when my mom woke him up to tell him that Pappaw was gone. I told him that at the time he had the dream, that Pappaw was better. He was in Heaven. God brought him comfort. Our greatest comfort is that we are not saying goodbye….we are simply saying, “See you later.” On this Good Friday I am thankful for Easter and the fact that our Savior was crucified and rose again. Because of that and because years ago my grandfather accepted Christ, I have the promise of one day seeing him again. For that I am most thankful.