Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Soul Music

"Behold, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian!"

I read those words last night before sleep claimed me.  Still worn from the events of last week, my soul needs extra nourishing and I read Spurgeon's devotion several times, willing his wisdom to sink into the deep places.

This morning the boy has returned to his spot on the bathroom floor, and I am frustrated with my own Eeyore self.  After all, we've been dealing with this monster for two years.  You'd think I wouldn't have to climb out of the pit every time the kid has an episode, that I'd be able to "keep calm and carry on," and all that.  Does feeling sucker punched have to be the natural maternal response to hearing your child moan in pain?

Charles Spurgeon's words flit through my mind and I return to last night's devotion:

Behold, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian!  What bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without!  How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed!  Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian's heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss!   Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit's power to comfort us.  Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty?  Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance.  You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content.  Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers?  Do you expect to suffer long nights of of languishing and days of pain?  O be not sad!  That bed may become a throne to you.  You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross -- a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul.  Are the eyes growing dim?  Jesus will be your light.  Do the ears fail you?  Jesus' name will be your soul's best music, and His person your dear delight.  Socrates used to say, "Philosophers can be happy without music;" and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn.  In thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without!  By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.

Today I have a choice.  I can sit at my desk, head in my hands, and wonder how we are ever going to tame this monster.  I can make myself crazy considering unanswered questions and an uncertain future.  Or I can choose to stand.  I can choose to take God at His Word.  To trust that in the trials, God is planting roses of content, consuming my dross, and making His name my soul's best music.  May it be so.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It is Well

"Mom, it feels like God has betrayed me."  He looks at me, hair mussed with sweat, questions in his pain-reddened eyes. And my heart squeezes because I get it.  I remind him that God allows pain in our lives to make us stronger.  He declares he'd rather be weak and avoid the pain.  Oh yeah, I definitely get it.

Eight years old seems young to be faced with the task of making faith his own.  Seems like he's still the age of singing Jesus Loves Me and believing it because he has no reason not to.  But as he's curled tight on the bathroom floor, knife-pain slicing through his gut, exhausted from hours of dry-heaving, the happy Sunday-school stories collide hard with reality and a boy is grappling with questions that mature adults struggle to make peace with.  If God loves me, why am I in pain?  I prayed; why isn't the pain going away?  Why is He letting this happen to me?

In the last 24 hours, the boy and I have had theological discussions I never imagined having with an 8 year old.  They're questions I'm still working out myself.  Ironically, it seems such poignant, deep conversations occur in the oddest places.  Maybe because there's not much else to do in the wee hours hanging out on cold linoleum.  Honestly, I'd much prefer them worked out over a cup of chai at the kitchen table in mid afternoon, than spoken between moans at 2 in the morning. But maybe when life is easy, we forget to ask the questions, are too busy to hear the answers.

And so we talk about sovereignty and suffering and refinement.  I remind him that Jesus asked to be delivered from pain too, but ultimately trusted God's will for Him, trusting His love and perfect plan.  That He commiserates with pain, understands wanting it gone, understood it enough to endure it in order to conquer it once and for all.  I say all the things I am supposed to say, and then slip away to let the hot water run over me.  I repeat my sermon to myself, begging the Holy Spirit to help me live the words I've just preached, to stand firm.  A verse whispers in my ear, "for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross."  He was able to endure the pain because His focus was on the joyous prize:  the purpose in the suffering.

Can I not follow His example?  Does God not enable me to endure the pain of this world by giving it a glorious purpose and reminding me to set my eye on the prize He has for me?  Is that not part of being crucified with Christ, sharing in His suffering?

As Easter approaches, I'm aware how easy it is to glibly say "I believe."  But if I really do, how does that belief translate to the knife-in-the-gut moments when it feels like God has betrayed me or turned His back?  Does it bring hope to the trenches?  Does it give me the ability to declare with confidence "if God raised His Son from the dead (!!!) surely He's big enough to handle this!?"

His pain easing, the boy hangs up the phone and smiles at me, tells me he has lots of people praying for him.  I turn the music loud as saints sing ancient words they have proven true and I close my eyes and sing along because truly, it is well with my soul.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

A song in the night, oh my soul