Adversity and Grace
It has been an odd couple of weeks. Taryn not being home is hard. Having help in the house, is amazing. I haven't slept the greatest. Part of that may be that Taryn isn't there. Another part of that may be that I have a three year old in the bed who takes up far more bed than seems possible for his size. I find in these moments when there is radical change in my life, I look for moments of reflection and thought. Too often life gets busy and I get caught up in whatever is in front of me, I fail to properly contemplate all that is going on in my lives and around me.
During these last few weeks, I have picked up once again a little Banner of Truth book called The Loveliness of Christ. It is a collection of quotes by Samuel Rutherford. One of the quotes that has stuck with me is this:
Grace withereth without adversity. The devil is but God's master fencer, to teach us to handle our weapons.
All too often I flee from adversity. I want to avoid pain and suffering as much as possible. Yet, we all know both from experience and from the Scriptures that this side of Heaven, this side of the eschaton, we will have pain and suffering. We know that life is hard.
As I reflected on this quote, I was reminded of Thomas Brooks Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. The first two of Satan's devices that Brooks considers are:
1. Present the bait and hide the hook
2. Paint sin with virtues colors
What I found interesting as I considered these two devices is that they are the same in essence. They are both simply lies. When Satan uses these devices to tempt us, at the base he is doing what he is. He is the father of lies and therefore he lies to us. He promises one thing and gives us something else.
Thus, the remedies that Brooks offers are uncomplicated. Brooks tells us that we when we encounter temptation to sin this way, we tell ourselves the truth. The truth is that though this particular sin looks pleasing and good, it is vile and worthless, it will only lead to death and destruction. We call sin what it is rather than use the euphemism that so easily hide the true nature of sin from us.
So, what is the connection between the Rutherford quote and the Brooks' reflections of these first two devices? Too often we believe the lie that in this world we should do everything we can to avoid adversity, and when we do encounter adversity, we should do everything we can to get out of it as soon as possible. Yet, I am convinced that this is a lie from the Devil. Now, I am not saying we should go looking for pain, suffering, and adversity. What I am saying is that when it comes our way to experience adversity (and our time will come), we should not be shocked and we should not flee, but we should learn from it, realizing that God's grace is sufficient in those moments.
The lie of the Devil is that life should be easy. However, when life is always easy, we often find our satisfaction and ultimate grounds for life in things other than God. Thus, when adversity comes, we run away from it looking for relief in anything other than God. What we learn from Rutherford and from Brooks then is that when God strips us of all else, those times are the opportunities to throw ourselves on the mercy and lovingkindness of our Lord. We may not see a way out, yet it is in those moments that we learn to be still and trust that God holds us in his hand. We learn to trust that we are loved with the same love with which the Father loves the Son and to the same degree. Those moments can often hurt, but we learn.
Taryn posted this quote from John Piper yesterday in her blog. Piper writes:
For a season, God has made you like a helpless child. Trust him. He is a good Father. All-wise, all-strong, all-loving. Rest in him. He has much to teach you. This is what I found when my time came. And what I hope I will find again. For there will almost certainly be an 'again'.
It has been a crazy week. Taryn is in the hospital. There is a temptation to find ways to hide from this, to pretend like everything is okay. I can easily just throw myself into my work and being a dad, allowing myself to be distracted by everything that is happening so that I don't have to deal with what the Lord is doing. However, that temptation is not from God. At these hard times, it is easy to murmur at the providence of God (WLC Q&A 113). It is easy to avoid seeing how the Lord is using this hard providence in my life. Nevertheless, in that moment rather than run and hide, I sit and rest. So, this week has been crazy, and yet even in the midst of this crazy, I know that God's grace is sufficient for me, that God's power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I may not see how that is happening now, but I can trust the promises of God. I trust that the Father loves me as an adopted son and that this is true because of the work of the Spirit in uniting me to Christ.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! - Romans 11:33
I am currently reading through Thomas Brooks Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. If you would like to read along, next week we will cover chapter 2, devices 3-4.