Highs and Lows
I have always loved question 113 in the Westminster Larger Catechism. It is an odd one for people to like, but it is on the third commandment.
Q: What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
A: The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning, or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots; violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; murmuring and quarreling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences; misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the word, or any part of it, to profane jests, curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, or sinful lusts and practices; the maligning, scorning, reviling, or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.
The line that has always struck me in this is that the Westminster Divines take ‘murmuring and quarreling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences’ as a form of taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is such an interesting application of the third commandment and I often don’t think about it. Over the years I have found it easier and easier to avoid saying why I think God put something in my life or the life of someone I know (Job’s friends tried that and they got told that they were wrong).
I think the part that is hard for many of us, myself included, is ‘murmuring and quarreling at God’s decrees and providences’. All too often we experience a hard providence, and we immediately start to complain about all that is happening around us. It is a natural reaction. We experience something bad and our natural reaction is to complain that it is happening to us. Yet, what the third commandment teaches us is that our natural reaction isn’t the right reaction.
This week has been filled with highs and lows and for our family. The highest of highs was when we had our new daughter, Mpho Grace run into our arms. All of the fears, all the questions we had about how she would receive us were relieved. She called us mom and dad and immediately ran and played with Calvin. Calvin loved her and played with her. It was a joyous meeting and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment. She is the perfect addition to our family.
The funny part is that in the midst of those good providences, came a hard providence. As we were celebrating at lunch, Calvin fell and broke his elbow. It meant two days in the hospital for him. It was hard. We were anticipating a week of bonding ahead. We were excited about spending time together as a family. Then bang, Calvin was put in the hospital, and Mpho Grace’s bonding with our family was given a very odd beginning. Calvin ended up having surgery and is home now, and we are restarting our time together as a family.
I am not sure why God chose to give us this time with Calvin in the hospital. I am not sure why in his providence he has given us this experience to walk through in the midst of everything else. What I do know is that this is the providence of God.
We may never know why God has given this hard providence. What we can know is that this hard providence comes from the hand of a good God. He has promised to use it to change, to conform us into the image of his Son. There have been many hard providences in my life and the life of the people I love that I can look back on now and see how God has used them to change us. There are many that I still have no clue why God brought them into my life. In the end, I am learning to not grumble about God’s decrees and providences because I know that I can trust the God that has given them to me.
This week has been filled with highs. Mpho Grace really is amazing. We could not have asked for a more perfect fit to our family. It has been filled with lows. Seeing Calvin helpless and crying was horrible. It was not the way we wanted to welcome Mpho Grace into our family. Yet, both these highs and these lows are given to us by the hand of a loving God. So, I am learning to sing:
Whate'er my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken; though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet am I not forsaken. My Father's care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall: and so to him I leave it all.