Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But He knows the way that I take, He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold, pure and luminous.”
“Believer! What a glorious assurance! This way of thine – this, it may be, a crooked, mysterious, tangled way – this way of trial and tears. ‘He knoweth it.’…There is an almighty Guide knowing and directing our footsteps.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before He unto the other side, while He sent the multitude away.”
“He Constrained Them”
1) Meaning of word “constrained”: To compel by physical or moral force.
2) Meaning of word “anakazõ” in Greek for constrained: to necessitate or to compel.
“He (God) is either in full control or He’s not on the throne at all.”
Joseph: Portrait of a Winner
What do I think it means in my life that God is either in control or He isn’t?
As I look around the world, how does it change my perception if I believe God is sovereign?
“I have lived a long time, Sir, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men (and women).”
“Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: He either permits it to happen, or He brings it about Himself.”
Augustine of Hippo
Of all the challenges I have faced since our catastrophic car accident which left both Jim and me with over forty broken bones and multiple internal injuries which continue to cause us untold chronic pain and limited mobility, these problems are not what has been most difficult for me to deal with. Why? Because I recognize that bad things happen to people everyday. Cruel and vicious events transpire which cause mayhem and loss of life. Just think of the life-long problems perpetrated on innocent lives by two young men recently, whose only apparent goal was to maim, kill and terrorize individuals who, as we have since found out, are some of our society’s most precious souls. I have forever engraved in my memory bank the picture of darling eight-year-old Martin Richard, whose private funeral was held. The photograph of this child holding up his touching hand-drawn sign which reads: “No more hurting people – PEACE,” is enough to make me weep.
It is at the junction where evil and good meet my dearest Garden friends, I struggle for it wasn’t just the accident that crashed Jim’s and my life. It was the fact that in the years following this wreck of a mess, we had five family members diagnosed with cancer – three of whom have died. They did not warrant this killer disease. Kind souls all, they battled bravely to the end. And along with this, there have been financial setbacks of great magnitude – and not because someone did something stupid or got in debt over their heads. No! These were evil deeds, foisted by evil people, on totally unsuspecting victims. Life is not only unfair, it is sometimes devastatingly cruel.
As all these events have happened, I will frankly tell you, it has caused my already unstable legs to shake a little more because I’ve had to face the realization that as Michael Youssef so correctly pens in the quote I already shared, “God is either in full control or He’s not on the throne at all.” He is simply right in this statement and it is this very deep truth which has called forth the faith in my life in more than one occasion and sometimes repeatedly on the same day. This, to be clear, is where I find the struggle difficult as many of you do as well. I know because you have told me so.
Last week, I received an email from one of our faithful male readers here at Transformation Garden. Over the last couple of years, nearly 20% of the daily devotional readers are men and I deeply appreciate their observations and perspectives for they have broadened, in the best way possible, my vision as I open God’s Word with you each day. Rob Rossetti was gracious to agree to let me share some of what he wrote:
“Please address or give your insight into the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. Please if you could use your wisdom to comfort these innocent victims and their families. And also for all those who don’t understand how an incident like this could kill the most innocent of children. I have trouble understanding how so many young children could be taken from us in such heinous ways over the last four months. Thank you, Rob.”
I really appreciated this note first and foremost for its honesty. But the expression of tender concern also touched me for it is easy to feel the pain from Rob’s heart of love. Who of us, I might ask, can’t relate to the difficulty he expresses – the difficulty in matching up the horrific tragedy with the words of the Psalmist who tells us that our God, our Father in heaven, “The Lord is gracious, merciful, and full of loving compassion.”
This to me is where the pedal hits the metal or to coin another old-fashioned statement, it is where the rubber meets the road, at least for me. And here’s why. Unlike a number of you who have shared with me the fact that you have not had a wonderful father, I did. A dearest person who died young and left a hole in my heart. More like a chasm. I can tell you truly that if my dad could have taken my place in that little car of ours as we drove down Interstate 10, headed toward a life-changing disaster, not only would he have traded places, he would have done so even if it meant his certain death. And so, it is from this point, that I start my “Dorothy thinking” when some unexpected calamity strikes my life or the lives of people I don’t even personally know. I begin with this logic, because this is what I call it. And my discussion with God, my heavenly Father, goes something like this: “Dear Father in heaven. I’m furious. I’m upset. But most of all, I am confused. I’ve been telling people You are gracious and kind. That Your loving-kindness embraces us when we are at our worst. You were willing even to forgive Your enemies. You forgive people when they do very bad things. But this innocent death stuff, I don’t understand it. And getting a little closer to home. I don’t understand why You let my world come crashing down. Things were going well and I was working hard to help my family and others. I wasn’t living a selfish life, at least I didn’t think so at the time. To get to the point I’m trying to make, if You really are gracious, kind and loving, then why didn’t you stop that sick kid from trying to kill us. I know that if my earthly dad had had the power to do something like slow that car down he would have done it. He would have stepped in front of the car if necessary. So where were you?” I have to tell you, I used to think this kind of confrontational language to God might incur a bolt of lightening or fire from heaven. Not anymore! After reading entire passages of Scripture carefully, God tolerated much worse from David. And Job had a lot to say to God as did Jeremiah. Furthermore, Hannah was so smitten with pain in her heart that when she was crying out to God, the Temple priest, Eli accused her of being nothing but a drunk lush. God can take our questions. He can take our rantings. And most of all, He can handle our anger when the worst happens to the innocents among us.
How I wish I had an answer for Rob. A simple answer. But one thing I’ve come to conclude from my years on this planet is that the more books and sermons I’ve heard about human suffering, the less answers I personally have. Now, before you think I’m going to try and dodge the questions that immediately flood our minds when evil strikes, I beg you to stay tuned – and to please continue this walk with me over the coming few days right into the eye of a storm – a storm the disciples thought would kill them And here’s the critical point I’ve missed throughout the years as I’ve read this passage in the Bible. It was Jesus, Himself, who compelled His disciples to head out on that sea in the first place knowing full-well that rough weather was ahead. What do you think about that? Putting those you love in danger or as the Greek tells us, it was “necessary.” What is that about? Like I said, let’s keep reading and studying over the next few days. We aren’t going to get all the answers you and I may need right now to put our questions to rest, but believe me, from very personal experience, I have found that our Father is more than able to take something, which we think is a total, devastating catastrophe, and turn it into something we could never have imagined that not only blesses our lives but also blesses the lives of everyone we touch.
“Let us consider ourselves under the all-seeing eye of that divine Majesty, as in the midst of an infinite globe of light, which compasseth us about both behind and before, and pierceth to the innermost corners of the soul.”
I Believe God
“I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”
“‘I believe’ – but, do I? Am I sure?
Can I trust my trusting to endure?
Can I hope that my belief will last?
Will my hand forever hold Him fast?
Am I certain I am saved from sin?
Do I feel His presence here within?
Do I hear Him tell me that He cares?
Do I see the answers to my prayers?
Do no fears my confidence assail?
Do I know my faith will never fail?
‘I believe’ – ay, do I! I believe
He will never fail me, never leave;
I believe He holds me, and I know
His strong hand will never let me go;
Seeing, hearing, feeling – what are these?
Given or withheld as He shall please.
I believe in Him and what He saith;
I have faith in Him, not in my faith
That may fail, tomorrow or today
Trust may weaken, feeling pass away,
Thoughts grow weary, anxious or depressed;
I believe in God – and here I rest.”
Annie Johnson Flint
“Dear Lord, let thy will be done in my life and give me the wisdom to know, the strength to accept, and the courage to do it. In Your name. Amen.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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