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A Place for Weakness

Greetings All,

     This week's 'thought' comes to you from Michael Horton's book, "A Place for Weakness." In it he shows (in accord with Scripture) that "Our weaknesses really are an opportunity for God to show his strength."
     Contrary to what we sometimes think, our weaknesses are not a reason for shame, but an undeniable reality of our human existence -- one that is meant to push us to seek, cast ourselves upon, and thus be able to testify to, the sufficiency of God's grace for any situation (II Cor. 12:9).
     This selection has to do with a time of weakness/struggle in his wife Lisa's life, and how she got through it. Enjoy.

     "My wife, confined to bed rest not only for her pregnancy but by a severe hormone-induced depression, recited Psalm 51:12 as the cry of her heart: 'Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.' Never had she harbored the dark thoughts that now threatened to drown her in a sea of unbelief.
     Unlike me, Lisa had in the past never really questioned God or his purposes. Although we were both nurtured in a similar Christian background, we handled trouble differently. She would be confused sometimes by the matter-of-fact way I would express my own opinions to God about how he was handling things, whining to God over the slightest disappointment. But now the tables had turned: Lisa was in a deep, partly chemical but nevertheless real, depression. Whereas I was vocal in my pleas to God, Lisa became quiet, lonely, and angry.
     God seemed a million miles away -- or actually maybe too close. He seemed to be actively putting her through trials, which caused her to question his goodness.
     If she allowed her experience to have the last word, she would give up all hope. But God sustained her faith even when she could not. There was no obvious turning point, a particular day or week, that marked an observable transition from despair to hope. In fact, since we know from Scripture that we are simultaneously sinners and justified, doubters and believers, both were present all along.
     Lisa realized that she could not preach the Word to herself. She needed a herald sent from God himself to proclaim externally something different from what she was feeling internally. In times of crisis the most important thing we can do is go to church. Chiefly, this is where God's herald announces that 'external Word' that contradicts our private judgments.
     Working against the tide of our inner experience and thoughts, this announcement comes rushing toward us like water from the Himalayas: 'You are forgiven, go in peace.' It is also where Christ gives himself to us anew, sealing his saints' fellowship in invocation of his merciful presence, confession, prayer, and praise. Here we take our place despite our misgivings, doubts, fears, and temptations -- not with the scornful and proud, but with our fellow pilgrims.
     Gradually through a combination of factors (the end of raging hormones after delivery, as well as wonder at simple truths made fresh in trial), she raised her eyes to heaven in gratitude again. With additional trials that came with the overwhelming challenges of premature triplets and a two-year-old, she learned (as I did) both the humiliation and treasure of dependence on God and those wonderful 'masks' he wears when he comes to us through neighbors and the communion of saints...
     Intense physical distress is often accompanied by spiritual doubts, and vice versa. At the heart of it all is the question of God's presence. Where is God when we need him most? Is anybody up there? Reading the circumstances of our own lives at times, much less the newspaper, we wonder. We would hardly be alive if we didn't...
     When we are tormented by life's circumstances, we assume that God is far away, when in fact, as the cross itself demonstrates and Paul attests in his own suffering, it is precisely there and then when God is closest. That's the paradox. Our experience is simply wrong. Things are not as they seem. Oftentimes God is most intimately involved in our lives when we least experience him."

     There are times when we must fight our feelings with the truth of God's Word or let those feelings drag us into places of despair we do not want to go.  What we feel does not dictate the reality of our status or position with God.  A believer may experience feelings of forsakenness, but those feelings do not call the state of his or her justification into question.
     We now live and will one day die -- and in the time remaining will experience many emotional ups and downs.  Yet those feelings neither define us nor the state of our grace-secured relationship with God.  We stand of the promises of the Gospel, not our fickle, seasonal, sometimes chemically-induced emotions. The faster we learn that, the better equipped we will be to face the struggles that will continue to come our way until the day He calls us home!
In the grip of His grace, Pastor Jeff