I’ve taught my children countless practical lessons, some of which they still remember and a few I’m sure they’d prefer to forget. But there are two lessons that I expect they not only remember but also will repeat to their own children one day.
There’s always a reason.
The truth always comes out.
They’ve heard me repeat these two axioms so often that I’ve heard them murmur them to themselves before I’ve even had a chance to speak. Not only do they know what I’m about to say, but they know that it’s true.
I don’t remember when I first started using these two sentences, but looking back now, it seems like I knew them from the time I was a small child. God’s providence is never random, and there is a specific reason for everything he does and allows, even when we remain completely puzzled. In our limited human intelligence, we can’t possibly know all that God knows. In fact, there are some things that we shouldn’t know and that must be left to his wisdom alone. Because of our human failings, we’re prone to dishonesty, imprudence, doubt, and discouragement. We also can be clueless at times about what’s going on. In those circumstances, there is a truth; it’s just that we don’t know what it is. God does, though, and the truth must always be revealed even if it takes until the end of the world.
There’s always, always a reason, and the truth always, always comes out. God will make certain of that. But we must trust him to do so and allow him to do it in his own way and in his own time because he knows what is best for us.
This is true also when we’re experiencing sorrow. We may not know the reason for it, and we may not know the truth about it, but God does. No matter the cause, there’s a reason for our sorrow, and the truth of it will come out even if it takes a very long time. And, when all is said and done, we’ll find that our sorrow has been turned to joy. That’s our Lord’s promise to us.
It’s my conviction of this that prompted me to write this book. I want you to see that, no matter how terrible your sorrow is right now, one day — maybe sooner, maybe later — your sorrow will be turned to joy. The ten promises outlined in this book are ones made by Jesus and in his own words. They’re not assumptions of what he might have meant or summaries of things that he said. They’re his words, expressed with purpose, knowledge, wisdom, and the power of God. The examples used in each of the chapters are real-life situations of people who were brave enough and kind enough to share their stories with me so that others might also trust in our Lord’s promises. Because of the sensitive nature of the various situations, some of the people who shared their stories requested that I use fictitious names and hide other identifying factors. I did so, gladly, to protect their privacy. But be assured that, even if the names are not real, the way their sorrow was turned joy is completely real. With permission, I used the real names of the others so that readers may benefit from the ministries that have come to life because of their sorrows. Whether the names are real or not, what is real is the way Jesus fulfilled his promises to them.
I pray that you can see a part of yourself in the examples I’ve used and the people who shared them. It’s often by considering someone else’s crosses that we gain courage and strength to carry our own. The stories of others can help us to have hope that our own stories will end in joy as well.
May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with faith and trust in his merciful love, no matter what sorrows you may endure.
Enjoy this excerpt from 10 Promises of Jesus: Stories and Scripture Reflections about Suffering and Joy
“Ask and you shall receive”
I remember wanting a bicycle when I was a child. I didn’t know how to ride yet, but that didn’t matter to me. I’d figure it out somehow. Learning to ride a bike was far less intimidating to me than asking my parents to give me one, however. I was afraid they’d say “no.” I knew I’d have to ask in just the right way so that they’d be convinced I really needed a bike. I spent a lot of time fretting, procrastinating, and figuring out how to ask.
Finally, I got up the nerve to launch the question to my folks. It worked, sort of. They didn’t say no, but they didn’t say yes, either. They said they’d think about it. Well, after a time, I got a bike, but not the brand-new, colorful banana seat, high handlebar one I saw in the store. One day my dad presented me with a sturdy, used bike with regular handlebars and seat. It was grass green. Ugh.
My initial reaction to that bike was shameful. Not only was I ungrateful, but I even became angry at my parents for getting that one instead of the one I really wanted (and pompously felt I deserved). I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t very nice to them that day, and for many days after I refused to so much as look at it. But my yearning to ride overran my displeasure with the bike. Since I had no choice — I certainly didn’t have the means to get my dream bike on my own — I decided to make the best of what I considered was a crummy situation.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that the bike I’d been given was in truth perfect for me. Not the most agile kid, I struggled with learning how to ride it. I tried and tried, both with help and on my own, but just couldn’t get the knack. There were plenty of scrapes and dings (on both the bike and me) to drive home the point that giving a flashy new bike to someone who hadn’t yet acquired the skills would have been imprudent. There was another advantage too. The older bike had wider tires and was easier to balance than a new one. The ugly, old, green one was easier to learn to ride. Eventually, I got the hang of it. I started thinking that it wasn’t such a bad bike after all, even though it wasn’t as fancy as the bikes some of my neighborhood friends were riding. I stopped being mad at my folks for getting me the “wrong” bike and better appreciated the “right” bike for me.
I got a bike, albeit not the bike I originally wanted, but the bike that was good for me to have. Why? Because I had the courage to ask. This is a very human example of the way we approach — or fail to approach — the heavenly Father for the desires of our hearts. We’re afraid to ask for what we want or need because we fear the answer will be “no.” Or, we worry that we’ll receive something we didn’t want or hadn’t bargained for. Sometimes, we halfheartedly ask because we doubt God’s goodness or capability to grant our request. What’s the use of asking when he’s not going to give us what we want, anyway? Too often, we give up on asking because the answer is too long in coming.
It’s especially hard when we’re steeped in sorrow. Whether we sorrow over our own situation or the situation of someone we care for, we can become discouraged and reticent to ask — or keep asking — for the sorrow to be turned to joy. To ask in the first place, to believe in God’s power to provide for us, to continue asking even when all seems lost — all this requires courage.
It’s not easy to heal from a devastating loss. At such a time, you can feel as though God has abandoned you. Maybe you, have wished to die. Hurt, anger, fear, and confusion can overwhelm you and lead you to distance yourself from God. This is exactly the point at which you need to turn toward God and ask him — perhaps many times over — to help you to trust in him.
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Copyright 2018 Marge Steinhage Fenelon
Excerpt from 10 Promises of Jesus. Copyright 2018 Twenty-Third Publications; reprinted here with the kind permission of the publisher.