From the Pastor’s Desk – January 2013

What shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also give us all things? Romans 8:31.32

I went to the dentist yesterday.  It had been quite a while.  Every time I had an appointment I ended up turning it over to either Charleen or one of the kids.  Anyway, when the dental assistant looked at the X-rays she said, “Uh oh, we have a problem here.”  I already knew it, because it had begun to hurt to chew on that side.

When an exploratory drill exposed the root, my dentist said, “I can’t send you home like this because you will have a horrendous toothache.  We have two choices, either I can do a root canal right now (no guarantees) or I can pull it out.”  Seeing that it was the end of the day and his staff were putting their coats on, I said, “Better pull it out.”  Well, he latched hold of it and wrestled it out, and I came home with one less tooth in my jaw, a cheek full of cotton, and a gold crown in my pocket that I may cash in someday when I want to get Charleen a birthday present.

My dentist is a personal friend.  We have known each other since attending junior high school together.  I trust his judgment, and I trust this call.

All of this seems pretty miniscule in comparison to some of the suffering we face in the church at present.  Cancer seems to be the affliction du jour.  For a small church we are at present represented by far more than our fair share.  We held the funeral service of our dear sister, Eunice, between Christmas and New Year’s, having just received notice of another diagnosis within our fellowship.  Charleen’s brother’s wife has just had a recurrence, and my own mom’s cancer has been determined to be terminal.  In the midst of this much suffering it is easy to ask, “Where is God?” or “Can we really trust his judgment?”

Tribulation can have opposite effects in our lives.  It can either weaken our faith or it can strengthen our faith.  We can question God’s judgment and hold him accountable, or we can grow in our conviction that God knows us and loves us and will always do what is in our greatest best interest, whether we comprehend it or not.

Paul wrote the above words on the heels of a brief discussion on suffering (Romans 8:18ff).  Think of the implication of the words, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also give us all things?” in this light.  What greater proof can there be of God’s love for us?  Yet it is still easy to question God’s wisdom or his care in the midst of our trials, isn’t it?  Thus Paul’s purpose in writing these words.

I sometimes think of Jeremiah’s penning the words of Lamentations after witnessing the annihilation of his beloved city of Jerusalem, along with the complete destruction of Solomon’s temple by the Babylonian army.  In chapter three he attributes the suffering to God himself, with the words, “He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.” (v. 16) Yet five verses later he writes, “But this I call to mind, and therefore have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will have hope in him.”

These words, as does all Scripture, prophetically point us to Christ.  Jesus, not long before his crucifixion, cried, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing,”  (Luke 13:34f) knowing full well that the cross awaited him. (I wonder if Jesus lost any teeth in the beating he received before his crucifixion.)  It was his Father’s judgment call, yet it was because of God’s great love for us.    He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also give us all things? 

Can we doubt God goodness?  Should we question his judgment calls?

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