Is God frowning at you?

Christians have the great promise of joy and hope, and these are based on God’s grace in Christ. What better promises? And what greater foundation to trust them?

And yet, Christians may and do feel joyless and hopeless at times. When the circumstances of life bite and gnaw, when the sinful desires of our own heart roar and prowl, and when the presence of our beloved Savior seems but a distant memory, it is quite normal for Christians to feel a sense of despair. In Psalm 42, the psalmist gives literary expression to the feelings that sometimes plague us.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (v5).

I say to God… why have You forgotten me?” (v9).

Adversaries taunt me… all day long… [saying], ‘Where is your God?'” (v11).

If you feel some sense of the frown of God today, then consider the Gospel, and invite trusted Christian friends to help you discern whether or not you are truly trusting and following Christ. If their loving counsel is an encouragement that you are, then please, dear brother or sister, remember these things:

1) Remember that you have felt God’s smile before. These times are real, though they may feel distant. If God has ever smiled over you, given you His blessing and not His curse, then you may be certain that He is always smiling over you (Eph. 2:1-10).

2) Remember that God’s promises are absolutely trustworthy and not at all dependent upon feeling or circumstance. Think of Abraham and God’s delayed promise of an offspring and a nation. God doesn’t always do what we might want, but He is always working for the good ends He has prepared for His people (Rom. 8:28-29).

3) Remember that God is glorified, not in your confident self-reliance, but in your simple trust in His power and grace. Putting one foot in front of the other towards Christ is much more glorious than dashing or leaping in any other direction (Gal. 2:20).

May God grant you joy and hope, and especially if these things seem far away from you today. May you behold the glory of Christ and feel His Spirit refreshingly assure you of your glorious and secure adoption into the family of God (Rom. 8:14-17).

Are You Prepared to Suffer?

When tragedy strikes, we usually experience a range of emotions. We feel sorrow and pain, guilt and regret, and sometimes even vulnerable and bitter. At some point we decide, whether consciously or not, how we will cope with our new reality.

In these moments of turmoil, there is little we can do to regain our solid footing. The winds of circumstance and emotion furiously toss us to and fro. And yet, there is solid ground for those who are prepared for these perilous times.

But, how does one prepare for such times? And, how does one brave such perils?

The Bible proves itself to be divine wisdom in so many ways, but in my experience, its usefulness is most precious in the midst of the stormiest calamities. God knows His creation well, and He is sovereign over everything, so He is not surprised by suffering. In fact, He has ordained it. Furthermore, He has given us counsel and even His own example in an effort to prepare us and shelter us from all kinds of distress.

First, consider the reality and expectation of suffering. Since Genesis 3, this mortal life has been full of suffering. In our modern western culture, we are often insulated from some of the painful realities of life, but our illusions of safety are ripped away when the sting of this world wounds us too (James 5:10-11).

Second, consider the biblical teaching that God ordains suffering. The Bible knows nothing of a god who merely watches human events and activities. The God of the Bible is sovereign over whatever happens, and He is at work through suffering. God not only allows suffering; He brings it to pass according to His will (1 Pet. 4:19; Lamentations 3:37-38) and for His purposes (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28-29).

Third, consider Christ’s example of suffering. Not only may we take heart in the fact that God is sovereign over our suffering, but we may also be encouraged to see God Himself endure suffering through Christ. As followers of Jesus, we are not surprised to experience suffering because our Master and Lord experienced it long ago (Heb. 2:10; Phil. 3:8-10; 1 Pet. 2:19-21).

Last, consider the hope of what is to come for those who trust Christ through their suffering. One can hardly say it better than the Bible already has:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 5:6–11).

May God spare us all from too many harsh and painful experiences. More importantly, however, may He help us to be sober-minded about what to expect in this fallen world, and may He grant us grace to trust Him in the midst of our stormy days.

For we know that He who reigns supreme will gloriously strengthen all who lean upon Him, and we know that God Himself will exalt those who cast their anxieties on Him.

Hope because of Love

The prophet Jeremiah assures, “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 hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

The coming of Christ is demonstration of something profound about God Himself. God decided to create humans, and He decided to lovingly preserve humanity even after egregious disobedience. Throughout human history, God kept saying He loved humans despite their proclivity to dissent from and even disregard God’s good authority.

There are certainly ways we can see God’s love on display in various acts in the past, but one particular scene shows God’s love more than any other. In the coming of God the Son to earth, humanity was able to point to something tangible and say, “This is God’s love.” When Christ came, lived, died, and rose again, we forevermore could know for sure that God’s love is steadfast.

On this last day of the week of hope, we begin to see how our hope rests upon the never-ceasing love of God. The Lord is our portion, indeed, and we may enjoy new mercies every morning because our hope is in the God who has already demonstrated His unwavering love in Christ.

How do you know that God will keep His promises? Why do you hope in Him? It is because He loves with an active and inexhaustible love, which we have already seen on display in the person and work of Christ.

A Sure Faith

The author of Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation” (Hebrews 11:1-2).

Faith has become something of a nebulous word in recent days. For someone to “have faith” is often nothing more than their possession of a feeling of optimism. Faith, however, is much more stabilizing than mere feeling… at least from the Bible’s perspective of such things.

Biblical faith is much more akin to “trust in” or “secure dependence upon” someone or something. The necessary question that must follow any mention of faith is, “Who or what are you depending on?” or “In what or who are you placing your faith?”.

God has promised to give eternal and abundant life through Christ Jesus. This is good reason to have faith that all who trust in Jesus will receive as God has promised. But there is still further assurance of the promises of God, namely that God has delivered on His promises in Christ.

Jesus Christ has come! He has lived, and He has died, and He has conquered death for all who trust in Him! Therefore, faith is an assured hope that the same God who raised Christ from the dead is working in all things to bring about His desired ends.

We Hope for Justice

The prophet Isaiah laments, “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men” (Isaiah 59:9-10).

The world we live in is not as it should be, and this is the reason we need hope. Justice and righteousness and vigor for both is not the norm among humanity today. Furthermore, this is not just a contemporary problem. Human history is replete with injustice and immorality. Even among the people of God there is weakness and brokenness, and this is why we hope.

The evidence of our human desire for justice is all around us. Our modern American vocabulary even includes the phrase “social justice warrior.” Now, the phrase may sometimes be intended as virtuous and other times used as a pejorative, but the reality that we use such a phrase at all is indicative of our desire for justice.

Our hearts break when we see injustice, and we may work towards a more just society. However, Christians know that justice is something only Christ can truly bring. We do not place our hope in a political office, a social movement, a judicial appointment, or an economic strategy. We wait in hope for the arrival of the gracious king of glory, Christ Jesus Himself, who brings justice and healing to all who embrace His righteous rule.

Hope-filled Promise

The psalmist says, “Remember Your word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:49-50).

In this world, we will face good days and bad ones. Anyone who has lived long enough can easily attest to the fact that some days are quite bad. We endure affliction from multiple sources and with varying effects.

Some suffer from the pains of bodily illness, others from mental anguish, still others from emotional distress. Some grieve the personal loss of a loved one, and others ache under the weight of needy loved ones who yet remain. Financial strain, relational dysfunction, precarious job situations, wayward children, and a slew of other crises may afflict us throughout our lifetime.

With all of this, what is the Christian’s hope? Do we hope in the words of politicians or doctors, philosophers or well-meaning friends, employers or academics? The psalmist reminds us that there is a word from God, which has the ability to create hope and give comfort… even in the midst of affliction.

What, then, is that life-giving word from God? Ah, the most glorious word from God is the promise He made to renew all things through the Savior – the suffering conqueror. Oh, such a word is blessed hope to all those who hear and believe! Though things are not now as they should be, God in Christ is making all things new! He will not leave things as they are, but He will renovate heaven and earth.

Dawn of Hope

God said to the serpent of old, “I will put enmity between you and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

It is overwhelming to measure what was lost when sin entered creation through Adam and Eve. The bleakness of death, the brokenness of relationships, and the barrenness of creation itself are all results or effects of this horrific fall. In God’s poetic response to humanity’s first sin, we hear terrifying truths.

And yet… there is also a beam of hope-filled light amid that darkness! God’s first words about the future of mankind were not condemning but restorative. Before God declared the disastrous curse, He shouted the hope-giving promise of blessing!

In this ancient account of the first sin, we find the first gracious proclamation of the good news from God. He is merciful, and He promised a rescuer, a savior, a restorer. All that was lost in the fall is gained through Jesus Christ.

Jesus restores life to the dead, He restores the joy of living to the glory of God, He restores harmony in broken relationships, and He restores the heritage of an everlasting family.

In short, Jesus is Himself the dawn of hope for all who love and trust Him.