This morning, as I sat down to sip some hot coffee and do my Bible study, I decided to try something a little different. At the moment, I’m reading Streams in the Desert, a compilation of daily devotions that, yes, deals mostly with the trials we face in life. And frankly, I am sick to death of focusing on my trials. I am ready for some celebrations!
However, even when reading a book I abhor (and I do not hate this book; it’s actually awesome) I keep reading until the end. A pride thing I guess. So, I keep plowing ahead and I’m glad, because it’s got some amazing lessons in it! Today’s focus is Genesis 32:24, which is the story of Jacob meeting an angel and wrestling with him.
So, it’s just an angel, right? And they only appear to super-holy godly men in the Old Testament? Yep, that’s what I though too. I mean, it’s a nice idea, isn’t it? To have your own superhero guarding your every moment?
It reminds me of when I was driving my husband and kids to visit my Daddy. (Those of you who know me well will understand why this did not help my anxiety!) We were almost to Moundville, Alabama. I was doing 70 in a 65, I guess? Anyway, out of nowhere, this van comes at me. The driver was turning onto Highway 69 and did not even see me.
I literally had zero time to react. I just acted on impulse. The van’s driver pulled right into my lane, like I wasn’t even there. First I got into the left lane (thank God there was no one coming from that direction) and then, sure enough, here comes the van. So I (still going 70 miles an hour!) pull off onto the grass on the left side of the road, and the van’s driver just keeps going happily on. I realized I needed to get back into the right lane, and thank the Lord there was a street to turn off onto. I did, and got out the car, shaking and mad as you-know-what! (Mama would say “as a hatter,” whatever in heck that means).
I was high-fiving myself on being such an awesome driver. But now that I think about it, in context of guardian angels, I mean, come on! I’m not a horrible driver, but I’m not a perfect one. Yes, I think quickly on my feet, but that van should have driven straight into us, and I only had (in reality) about three seconds, maybe, to execute said driving so skillfully.
It isn’t just driving catastrophes. Think of all the times you’ve been able to say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Sure it is His grace. But what if, at the meanest, hardest times of our lives, God’s given us our private superhero? Hey, it’s something to think about!
There are those who say The Apocrypha isn’t fit to be trusted; there are those who claim it is almost blasphemous. I’m not a religious scholar at seminary – for all I know, they may be right in both cases.
But, as I explained recently to a seminary student, reading the small book is like reading Job. There are nuggets of truth we can pan for that are useful.
By the end of Job, we know all his friends were dead wrong. But it’s easy to say that because we weren’t there; if we had been, we’d have said the same things because we’d be desperately trying to find the truth. I think his friends really wanted to help him, not make him more miserable. And, being truthful friends, did their best to be honest.
Would it have helped him more if they’d just sat with him, making mewling noises when he complained? Of if they had agreed with his questioning of God? I don’t know. Maybe. But still – even though some of what they said didn’t apply to Job, it applies to us. Such as: who are we to question God? (Doubt is a part of life, even for the godly, and questions are His pleasure, as a mature Christian I believe it’s not necessary). Who are we to say we have never sinned? (Job was a rarity there!)
Wow. I digressed a bit. Sorry ‘bout that. As I was saying – some of The Apocrypha is quite good. Case in point: my study of the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 13, verses 1 and 10.
1: “[V]ain are all men by nature, who are ignorant of God, and could not out of the good things that are seen know Him that is: neither by considering the works did they acknowledge the workmaster.”
10: “But miserable are they, and in dead things is their hope.”
These words made an impact on me because lately I have been considering those without hope in the Lord, and how sorrowful they feel. They might not even know it! I did not, when I was in their shoes. I just kept trying this and that, searching for something to make it all feel better, but it never did. We all want people to learn from what we say, do, think, believe – but that’s not the way it works. We need to admit and accept that deep within our hearts. It doesn’t work that way because God doesn’t want it to! He wants us to discover His truths for ourselves; otherwise they mean nothing. What’s the point of having an intimate, deep relationship with the Holy Trinity without knowing within our souls that we believe in Them, that They love us, and that They are the only things that can fill the catastrophic holes in our bodies, minds, souls, spirits, and emotions? Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.
As godly men and women we are often in situations – with friends, family members, strangers, colleagues – in which we are in despair due to their lack of faith. We try our very souls, in the vain attempt to figure out the right words and actions that will change their minds, but that isn’t up to us. That’s between man and God, as it was for us. Why do we expect our children, spouses, parents, friends, bosses, etc. deserve to skate through the process? What will they learn from cutting that corner? Nothing, and we know it. But we cannot bear to see them suffering while they are lost. I know it. Now that I have children of my own, I know what my mother went through when I was wandering in pain and despair and had no trust or faith. I pray that I will never go through that with my sons.
What is the remedy for us? I think faith and hope are the only antidotes to our despair. But with faith and hope there must be action.
Have you ever met someone who said, in a troubling situation, “It’s all in God’s hands now,” yet you felt that they didn’t come at that conclusion through experience? That they were told that by pastors or parents and never encountered a single situation in which that applied, until now? I have. I don’t trust that kind of faith.
However, many of you know people (or are that person yourself) who have been refined by the fire of personal experience in suffering, pain, sorrow, and trouble (whether in or out of your control) who have had to drop to your knees and confess, at last, that you are totally incapable of handling any of this yourself and, therefore, you place it in God’s hands. That faith I absolutely trust.
Who has genuine hope but the person who has nothing left but hope? Who has genuine faith but the person who has exhausted all human supply of love, support, and caring? (At least, it feels that way.) Those are the people who know the secret of action: example.
Laura Susan Bamberg Gideon
February 15, 2015