Two things I know
May 1, 2010 | My Jottings
As I sit here and type I wonder how many of you who are reading this have ever had a chance to swim in the Pacific Ocean? I grew up fairly close to the mighty Pacific in Southern California, and I swam in it as often as I could. I learned to swim when I was five years old and I’ve always been irresistibly drawn to the water. Even when I was barely nine years old I would run into the breaking waves of the Pacific and swim way out into the deep water until the people on the beach looked like colored dots. I would hold my breath and then dive down as deep as my lungs would allow, to try to touch the bottom, and when I couldn’t reach it, I knew I was far out. When I could barely see my father’s arm waving at me on the shore, I would reluctantly turn and make the swim back to land.
The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean. It covers almost 34% of the earth.
Scientists know a lot more about it now than they ever have; yet they’re certain there are still many undiscovered species of plants and animals in the Pacific. It’s so vast and so deep, it’s probable that we’ll never know all the secrets it contains.
Here’s one example. Just a few years ago a previously unknown creature was discovered in the South Pacific, about a mile and a half deep on the ocean floor. The newly named and classified Yeti crab is blind, and lives near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.
Last year a speaker at my church named Sy Rogers touched on the hugeness of the ocean to illustrate a point about God, and I’ve pondered some of his ideas since then. Some of what I’m writing here stemmed from his message.
When I went to the beach as a little girl, and threw off my towel and dove headlong into the waves, I could immediately ascertain two things about the character of the Pacific ocean: it was salty, and it was wet. I didn’t know that it was 11,000 feet deep in places and had massive underwater mountain ranges, or that it supported thousands and thousands of different species of plants and marine creatures, and that even in the year 2009, many previously undiscovered and bizarre fish would be found and named. The years to come will almost certainly bring new discoveries about the mysterious Pacific, but no one will ever know all there is to know about it.
God is like that too. We all know that God is so huge and so great that His depth and his ways cannot be fully fathomed. As finite beings we cannot possibly know all there is to know about our infinite God, but the things He wants us to know about Himself are all recorded and preserved in the Bible. It’s one reason why I attend Community Bible Study year after year. I want to know all I can about the God who loves me.
A dip in the massive Pacific Ocean may not reveal all its mysteries and treasures to me, but there are some things I can know about it. It’s salty, and it’s wet. The Pacific may be other things I don’t understand, but what I do understand is that it’s salty and wet — always.
And I believe there are some fundamental things we can know about God too, and when dark times overshadow our lives we can cling to these basic but very real things we know about His character. Among the myriad facets of God’s character, we can know and trust that He is good and loving, and that He is powerful. God may be other things I don’t understand, but what I can understand is that He’s good and powerful. Always.
These past few years have been some of the hardest I’ve known. I’ve wept at the death of many cherished and hopeful dreams. My family has gone through one heartbreak after another, and yet I know we’ve been very blessed too. There have been many dark times when I have cried out “where are you Lord?…when will you do something here?” and pleaded for His intervention, only to have things seemingly grow worse. And the longer the darkness lasts, the more of a mess I think I become.
But I am heartened by some of the other people who were real messes in the Bible.
Jacob was a mess – he couldn’t seem to stop deceiving people – even those he loved.
Yet God didn’t give up on him and truly changed him.
King David made a mess of his life too. This man after God’s own heart who wrote so many of the Psalms lusted after another man’s wife, committed adultery, and then murder.
God allowed David to experience terrible consequences, but He never left him and he never gave up on him. How thankful I am that God never gives up on us, no matter how horrific our messes.
Mary Magdalene was a total mess if there ever was one. She was messed up on the outside and the inside.
She was possessed by seven demons, and if it weren’t for Christ’s love and absolute power over all of creation, she would never have tasted freedom and been in her right mind.
The Samaritan woman at the well had certainly made a huge mess of her life. She had tried to fill the emptiness in her life by trying to find the right husband to make her happy. After the fifth, she gave up and just shacked up with man number six.
Then one day she met Jesus and within one afternoon He began to clean up her messy life. He dealt with her mess in such a way that her dignity was restored and she confidently ran to tell the town people who had shunned her all about the man “who told her everything she ever did.”
How about Lazarus? Talk about a stinking mess.
His mess may not have been sin-related, but Jesus called out in stunning power to that decaying mess in the tomb and healthy life returned.
So if you ever feel like you’re a mess, whether just occasionally or for an extended period of time, you’re in good company. I’m so thankful that there isn’t a mess that Jesus doesn’t know how to deal with.
During some of these recent hard times, I think the Lord has been teaching me to simply keep relying on what I know about Him. And just like I know the Pacific Ocean is salty and wet, I know that my God is powerful and good.
How do I know God is good? I have experienced His goodness in my life. The Bible tells me He is good and I have found the Bible reliable and defensible. I know He’s good because He allowed His own Son to be executed for my selfish sins because of His wonderful love for me. I know He is good because I have seven precious grandchildren. 🙂
How do I know God is powerful? God Himself gives us a little glimpse of His power when he “answered” Job when Job wondered why he was being allowed to suffer so intensely:
From Job 38: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place? Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons? Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom…does the eagle soar at your command? Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?”
And Job, who had walked in obedience to God his whole life, humbly responded, “Surely I spoke of things I do not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
My favorite thing to ponder when I need to remember how powerful God is for my family’s needs, is the size of the universe. The most current estimates say that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the universe, each of which has hundreds of billions of stars. A recent German supercomputer simulation put that number even higher: possibly 500 billion galaxies.
Think of that as you read Ephesians 4:10, which is speaking of Jesus: “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.”
Jesus fills the whole universe. He is powerful and huge, and He is good. He is the One who can clean up our lives and make something beautiful out of them. He is all-wise and knows just how long to let us be in the dark to build our faith and trust in Him, and to accomplish the work He’s doing for His mysterious purposes.
When I’m swimming in a vast, mysterious ocean, I may have no idea of the millions of treasures it holds. But I can still know that it’s salty and wet.
And when I’m fumbling around in the darkness of deep sorrow and loss, things so hard to understand, I can still know that God is good and God is powerful.
In fact, sometimes I think we just need to say what we know is true in the face of all the circumstances thrown our way that tempt us to doubt and despair. I used to think it was very sweet and quaint when an older woman would pat my hand and say, “God is good, dear” when she knew as well as I did that life can be really hard.
But now I see her statement a little differently. When we say “God is good” out loud in the midst of our trials, we’re declaring a powerful truth that our own ears need to hear. When we say, “God is able” out loud in the face of a problem so huge that we can’t possibly imagine it solved, we are reminding ourselves about the power of our God to deliver us and our loved ones, in His timing. These are not platitudes. These are two of the most beautiful attributes of God that we can lean on during hard times.
Did you say the prayer, “God is great, God is good, now we thank Him for our food” when you were little?
As simple as that little prayer sounds, there’s a truckload of wisdom there. God is great. He is able. He is powerful. Jesus fills the whole universe, yet is closer than our very breath. God is good. He can be trusted. He is faithful and true. Even in the dark.
After Job went through his horrible suffering and times of questioning, losing his possessions and his family and his health, God then chastised one of his friends, Eliphaz, and commended Job.
From Job chapter 42: “After the LORD said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.’ So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.”
I believe God has cautioned me in the same way, even though I have never been afflicted like Job. In the midst of suffering and sadness we don’t understand, we can still speak rightly of God. It’s important to the LORD that we speak correctly of Him, that we ascribe to Him the characteristics that are really true. To speak wrongly of Him is folly.
To stand at the edge of the Mighty Pacific and scream “You’re not wet! You’re not salty!” is folly.
To accuse God of anything less than goodness and greatness in the midst of our own trials is foolishness also.
So the next time we’re tempted to lash out at God because our prayers are still going unanswered and the dawn hasn’t yet broken over our darkness, even in the silence of our own thoughts, let’s not do as Eliphaz did and speak wrongly of God. God can handle it and He will forgive if we do, but why engage in folly to add to our struggles?
Instead, we can say “God is good. God is great.” When we’re weeping before Him quietly, we can whisper, “God you are good. You are great.” When driving in the car with our children or grandchildren, let them hear us say out loud, “God you are so loving and good! You are so great and mighty!” When the next bad news comes and threatens to undo us, let us be the kind of children who announce to the demonic realm that seeks our ruin, “My Father God is so good. My Father God is so great.”
These are two things I know.