Week 6 Trust and Peace
The Bars of Our Gates
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
o often our peace is disrupted because we feel confined by our responsibilities, but we forget that the same bars that imprison can also provide protection and nurture. For example, the job that requires arising daily to the sound of a hated alarm may also provide health insurance and income. Likewise, the responsibilities we must fulfill to other people may weary and exasperate, but they also enable us to form relationships that provide emotional sustenance. Also, when we are about the Lord’s business we are often protected from the world’s demands by what is essentially a God-signed note of excuse: My child can’t work for you today because I have given another assignment. The Lord knows how to protect us from the world’s judgments while we do His work.
In Acts 26:14, the Apostle Paul tells of his conversion on the Damascus Road when he heard God’s voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads (ESV).” The Voice translation paints a graphic picture of the futility of an ox that kicks against a goad (a pointed stick used to prod it forward): “…you are only hurting yourself.” Indeed, we only hurt ourselves when we fight against the confines of the circumstances God has provided for us.
Our peace depends upon our perspectives; are we grateful for the protection God has provided through our circumstances? Or do we chafe at the frustration of the daily challenges He allows? As Hannah Whitall Smith says in her classic book, The God of All Comfort, “The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing.”
Regarding the attitude of resignation many Christians exude regarding their life circumstances, Smith goes on to say:
“…instead of thanking Him we complain against Him; although we generally direct our complaints, not against the divine Physician himself who has ordered our medicine, but against the ‘bottle’ in which He has sent it. This ‘bottle’ is usually some human being, whose unkindness or carelessness, or neglect, or cruelty has caused our suffering; but who has been after all only the instrumentality or ‘second cause’ that God has used for our healing. Good common sense tells us that it would be folly to rail against the bottles in which the medicines, prescribed by our earthy physicians, come to us; and it is equal folly to rail against the ‘second causes’ that are meant to teach us the lessons our souls need to learn.”[i]
During the years I provided care to my mother, who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, she would often lash out at me. Her anger toward me was virulent and sometimes brought me to tears. I struggled as I grieved for my mother as she had once been. I missed being the apple of her eye, and my heart was broken by her unreasoning anger toward me, even though I knew it had its source in the brain damage of Alzheimer’s. However, it was during those years that I learned to look to the Lord for my sustenance in a way I had not needed to do earlier in my life when I rested safe in the knowledge of my mother’s unconditional love and support. At this writing we are nearing the end of my mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s, and I am able to say, as Joseph did, “Satan meant this for my harm but God used it for my good.”[ii]
People are imperfect and we hurt one another every day, but God is able to bless and protect us even through hurtful circumstances. When we determine to give thanks in everything,[iii] we can trust that the truth of Romans 8:28 will hold: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Pray: Father, I thank You for those beloved burdens of mine; people who wear me out and sometimes hurt my heart. I do love them, but help me to love as You have loved me, and forgive as You have forgiven me. Lord, thank You for being my vindicator, advocate, and protector; I do trust You Lord, I love You and I praise You. I would like deliverance from difficult circumstances, but barring that please strengthen and sustain me through them. Thank You for Your comforting presence with me, amen.
We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.
Romans 8:28 The Voice
…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1Thessalonians 5:18