Where do you turn in Scripture when God calls you to walk through suffering? During a particularly difficult trial 20 years ago, a wise Spiritual Mother asked me, “What if the worst thing you fear in this circumstance comes true? What is still true?” Her answer pointed me to Psalm 139. The entire Psalm is filled with comforting truths; here are four which have guided me through many a dark valley.
God knows me
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139 begins with God’s intimate knowledge of me. Not only does he know everything there is to know about me, even the ugly and shameful secrets which I hope to hide from the world, but he knows my thoughts before I think them and my words before I speak them. His knowledge of my path and acquaintance with my ways is not based on observation, but on his sovereign providence in my life, for he predestined my steps according to the counsel of his will before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 11). God doesn’t merely know my steps, but he is guiding my every step and holding me close…
On June 6, one of the elders of our church died at the age of 58. This was an unexpected and painful loss and came only 18 months after the death of another elder from our church who was 62. Both men were beloved by their families, their church, and the Covenant College community where they worked.
It was one of those situations that makes you ask, why? If God healed Epaphroditus and spared Paul grief upon grief (Phil 2:27), why couldn’t he have restored these men who were helping care for his flock? Our church prayed fervently for that kind of healing, yet God chose not to heal them.In a fallen world, we are well acquainted with grief, loss, and suffering. But that prompts the question, what difference does Jesus make in the daily trials and hardships of life? If the way I live my life is no different from those who don’t follow Jesus, then I have a problem. Am I basically a secular person who goes to church to socialize—or do my theological beliefs have a direct impact on my daily life?
Beyond Sunday School Answers
When I ask what difference Jesus makes, the Sunday School answer is “Jesus makes ALL the difference.” And I heartily agree. But what does that mean in the mess of our daily lives? Although I believe Jesus is important, I don’t always live in a way that reflects this confession. Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus can handle my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries.
As I think about the difference Jesus makes in my life, several Scriptures stand out…
Recently a friend, who became acquainted with some of my life’s story, asked— rather bluntly— “Lori, do you sometimes wonder if God is really good and if He really loves you since He’s allowed so much hard stuff to happen?”
It was a bold question— one that momentarily stopped me in my tracks. But it was an honest question— one that’s bounced about in my brain a time or two because my life has indeed seemed to make a habit out of things that are hard.
I was conceived in adultery, nearly aborted, and later adopted— but into a home filled with the strife, struggle, and strain of mental illness. I spent a season as an angry atheist before coming to Christ; endured nearly a decade of being abandoned by my adoptive parents; and have a lived my entire life as a person with autism. I’ve grieved at the graveside of my mom, my dad, my father-in-law, and my precious sister-in-law; and right now, my husband is battling cancer while laboring to plant a new church on the Mississippi coast.
So, my friend’s bold question about the character and compassion of God comes out of that context. My life’s been hard — some of your lives have been harder! The truth is, there are times when we struggle with the course God has carved for us and with the intentions and affections He has for us in light of that…