DIFFERENT DAYS & ASSIGNMENTS

How Ecclesiastes 7:14 Informs Choices in Plenty & Want

In recent years I have returned to this text time and again:

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

Adversity has characterized the better part of my last three years. Great loss, grief, physical sufferings and more have visited my household.

assignment

The wisdom writer calls for different responses for different days. Adversity necessitates reflection.  Consider is the assignment. God brings both plenty and want into our lives. He is sovereign over all. We ponder this truth that we may not find out anything that will be after us.

Puritan commentator Matthew Henry observed:

Day and night, summer and winter, are set the one over against the other, that in prosperity we may rejoice as though we rejoiced not, and in adversity may weep as though we wept not, for we may plainly see the one from the other and quickly exchange the one for the other; and it is to the end that man may find nothing after him, that he may not be at any certainty concerning future events or the continuance of the present scene, but may live in a dependence upon Providence and be ready for whatever happens. Or that man may find nothing in the work of God which he can pretend to amend.

I have done my fair share of considering of late. That has been true even most recently as well. It explains in part the absence of blog posts for more than a month.

I developed a post-op infection in my hip following my November 2016 jaw reconstruction surgery. A draining wound has plagued me ever since. Doctors finally determined the need to debride the hip on March 10. They feared the presence of bone infection that would necessitate continuous IV antibiotics for six to eight weeks.

This past Tuesday proved an occasion for rejoicing. Frankly, I prefer this assignment. Who doesn’t? My Miami surgeon gave me a good report about the incision. He removed the stitches. He does not think I have any lingering infection. I should be fine. Talk about a day of prosperity!

That, in conjunction with my marriage last Saturday to Lady Jan, has brought me into a season of great joy. I’ve not been this happy for a long time. Thanks be to God.

Still, I remain mindful that I don’t know what providence will bring in the future. Different days will require different responses.

May God give grace to rejoice or consider as assigned.

BONHOEFFERS MORNING PRAYER

Dietrich BonhoefferNew Year’s Day, 2015. Time to reflect back in hopes of moving forward.
2014 started miserably with death in January. Grief took up an unwelcome residence in our household. Lesson learned? The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
The year peaked sweetly with blessing in July. Twin grand kids. It doesn’t get much better. Lesson learned? There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). 
We crash dived hard with sickness in December. Cancer again. But this time attacking the queen. Lesson learned? Being learned? Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).
Why must it be so hard? How does one press on into another year when the first Friday will bring another doctor’s visit and the prospect of more bad news?
Turn everlastingly Godward.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did. Imprisoned in Nazi Germany for opposing Hitler’s Third Reich, he wrote his famous treatise, Letters from PrisonIt proved a great comfort to me time and again when I read it during my cancer journey in 2005. A friend of mine recently sent me a copy of Bonhoeffer’s Morning Prayer (see below). The German pastor read it to his fellow prisoners that Christmas morning in 1943. My friend wrote a note with it expressing his hope it would strengthen me and Nancy in, as he put it, “this latest chapter in your life.”
It did. It does. Thanks, Mike.
May it do the same for you, dear reader, whatever 2015 brings to your household.
MORNING PRAYER
Christmas, 1943
God, to you I call early in the morning.
Help me pray
And gather my thoughts to yourself
I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark,
But with you is the light;
I am lonely, but you forsake me not;
I am faint-hearted, but with you is help;
I am restless, but with you is peace;
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience;
I do not understand my way, but
You know the way for me.
Father in Heaven,
Praise and thanks
Be yours for the night’s rest.
Praise and thanks be your for the new day.
Praise and thanks be yours for all your kindness
And faithfulness in my past life.
You have shown me much good,
Let me now receive from your hand
What is hard (emphasis mine).
You will not lay upon me
More than I can bear.
For your children you let all things
Serve for the best.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And miserable, captive and forsaken as I am.
You know every need of humans,
You remain with me
When no man stands by me,
You forget me not and seek me,
You will that I recognize you
And turn to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow,
Help me!
Holy Spirit,
Give me the faith that rescues me from
Despair, addictions, and vice,
Give me the love for God and humans,
That destroys all hate and bitterness,
Give me the hope that frees me from
Fear and despondency.
Holy, merciful God,
My Creator and my Savior,
My Judge and my Deliverer,
You know me and everything I do.
You hate and punish evil in this world
And in the next with no respect of persons;
You forgive sins for the one
Who asks sincerely;
You love good and reward it on this
Earth with a good conscience
And in the world to come
With the crown of righteousness.
Before you I think of all my loved ones,
And of my fellow prisoners, and of all those
Who do their hard service in this house.
Lord, have mercy!
Grant me freedom again,
And let me so live in the present
That I can live responsibly
Before humans.
Lord, whatever else this day brings—
May your name be praised!
Amen.

 

December Resource of the Month

Looking for a special gift with a spiritual thrust for someone this Christmas? Why not consider this new devotional from New Growth Press, Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (2012, 412 pages)? This offering of daily devotional readings with suggested Scripture passages comes from the good folks at CCEF, a favorite around our ministry for promoting biblical counseling from a Christ-centered, gospel-shaped perspective.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Change that goes deeper than the surface of our lives happens over the long haul as we daily remember and connect the truths of the gospel to our lives. Every day we need to be reminded – in different ways – that Jesus, God’s own Son, came to this world to save us from sin, sorrow, and death. The promises of God, which are all “yes” in Jesus, change the way we view ourselves, our circumstances, and other people.

This devotional gives a daily reminder of these life-changing truths. Anchored in Scripture and saturated with the gospel, the 366 selections include the following topics: love, hope, grace, redemption, faith, contentment, conflict, relationships, prayer, fear, patience, humility, and anger. These reflections will help the reader to:

  • Learn how God in his Word addresses a host of life situations;
  • Focus on how the gospel intersects with life;
  • Look beyond circumstances to God’s purposes;
  • See how God values relationship and to learn to value it too by persisting, by speaking truth in love, and by not shying away from conflict.
  • Grow in wisdom when confronted by life’s changes.
  • Learn that God works change that is effective and visible.

This hardback gem retails for $19.99. We managed to secure a dozen of them for only $8. Pick up a copy this Sunday in the resource center!

The Antidote for Abandonment

Since 2005 and my bout with tongue cancer, two months out of every year tend to make me more reflective on my life than the remaining ten. They are March and this month, August.

March, because of the surgery on my tongue to remove the cancerous tumor threatening my life and the removal of all the lymph nodes from the right side of my neck (affectionately referred to as a radical neck dissection). Lovely. You can read my most recent musing about that event and time here.

Now I find myself in another August seven years removed from finishing treatment which followed that surgery. It consisted of no less than thirty-eight radiation treatments to the tongue and neck along with four separate infusions of two kinds of chemo, the last of which occurred as a continuous infusion over four LONG days 24/7 in August of 2005. For a description of that particularly nasty napalm-like drug click here.

I just finished reading several entries from my journal in August of ’05. Suffice it to say it wasn’t pretty. Not pretty at all. It almost pained me to read my relentless postings of nausea, vomiting, mucous, gagging, metallic taste, sleeplessness, fatigue, scabbing, gagging, peeling, etc., day in and day out. The cumulative effect took its toll. On September 6, 2005 I wrote:

I know I’m not, but I felt abandoned last night. I kept praying as I turned off the lights, “Please, don’t abandon me God.” It wasn’t a good day. I was more tired than usual. Slept till 1 PM. I did some reading while watching football and then just gave in to the TV. Felt nauseous much of the day. Threw up around dinner time. Tongue is still sore. Mouth is still sore. Cheeks are swollen. Lower lip is still scabbing. It just goes on forever. Mucous still forming. What a routine of drudgery. When will relief come? Lord, have mercy. I am rebuked by Bonhoeffer’s final letter to his wife. He never felt abandoned [in prison] for all the support he had. I feel ashamed.

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. In seasons of such overwhelming agony where one wonders if ever the end will come and the temptation to believe that God indeed has abandoned you to your difficulty overwhelms, one and only one antidote suffices.

Pray for mercy.

Over and over again I prayed the same prayer. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

We must take our cue from the psalmist in Psalm 42:1-3a.

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
Do you feel abandoned in your particular struggle or trial?
Take it from one who wondered if the suffering would ever end but today got to preach somewhere around his 250th sermon post-tongue cancer. He knows your way. Cry out to Him. Plead for His mercy. Pour out your complaint. Tell him your trouble. And never, never, never, cease to do so until you break through or He takes you home.
We have never done all we can do until we have prayed and prayed and prayed. Never give up. Pour out your heart before Him. Plead for mercy.
Mercy there is great and grace is free.
Lord, you never abandoned me through my year-long battle with tongue cancer. I am so very, very grateful. Help me to redeem that time for the sake 0f those wondering if you have abandoned them and may they employ the same antidote as I did even if the trial goes on and on – the simple prayer, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.