Jesus can be trusted, even when it’s hard

Louisa Stead felt called to be a missionary to China but health problems got in the way of her dream. Instead she settled in the U.S., got married and had a baby girl. In 1876, when her daughter was 4-years-old, the Steed family was visiting the beach. Louisa’s husband heard the cries of a boy who was drowning in the ocean. He rushed into the surf to rescue the boy, but ended up losing his life. Louisa lost the husband she loved and also her means of support.

About a year after the tragedy Louisa and her daughter had no food in the house and no money to buy any. But that same day money and food were left on their doorstep by an anonymous giver. It led Louisa to write the words that became a hymn: “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word. Just to trust upon His promise, just to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’”

After her husband’s death Louisa still wanted to be a missionary. She and her daughter eventually served as missionaries to South Africa. Her trials and testing convinced her that Jesus could be trusted in all things. “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him; how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.”

The challenges of life can prove that our own abilities can’t be trusted, but Jesus can be. The apostle Paul testified: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. … this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (II Corinthians 1:8-9).

It’s hard when it gets proven that we can’t handle the problems on our own and we can’t fix things and figure things out. It’s difficult to admit we can’t depend upon our own wisdom, strength and goodness. But it’s a necessary step to helping us find out what we can depend upon.

It is sweet to trust in Jesus. It is refreshing and relaxing to know the responsibility isn’t all on my shoulders. I don’t have to handle every challenge that comes along. I can trust that Jesus will be able to handle whatever comes.

There have been times before a service or an event when I’ve had some responsibility and someone has asked: “Are you ready? Everything under control?” It may surprise them a little bit and lessen their confidence when I tell them, “No.” But then I try to assure them the Lord is ready. He has everything under control.

It is good to prepare, but ultimately our confidence is not in our preparation. It is good to work hard and train and sharpen our skills and grow in wisdom. But our trust is not in our skills or wisdom. Your hope for being an effective parent, a loving friend, a faithful follower of Jesus doesn’t totally depend on you. It is sweet to be able to trust in the One who has all wisdom and power. He graciously invites us to rely on Him.

“Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust Him more.”

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Thankful we can imagine

It was a night of communicating with a number of people going through some serious trials. There was frustration over pain that just won’t go away, fear about what might be coming next, heartbreak over hurting loved ones and tough decisions that have to be made.

After hearing the stories and praying, I took my eyes off of the computer and phone and watched “The Voice” on TV. For the last song of the evening a young lady sang, “I Can Only Imagine.” It felt like God was providing just the right song I needed at that time. “I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when Your face is before me. … I can only imagine when that day comes, when I find myself standing in the Son. … Surrounded by Your glory what will my heart feel? Will I dance for Your glory or in awe of You be still? … Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”

In this world so full of pain it is great that we can look forward to a day beyond our imagination when pain and hurt and heartbreak will be no more. A day is coming when parents will no longer have to agonize over their children. Family members will no longer shed tears of sorrow over lost loved ones. “God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:3-4).

When I got the news that my second mom, Ruth, had passed away, that song “I Can Only Imagine” was playing in the background. It was comforting to imagine what Ruth was experiencing at that moment. Her trials and struggles were over. But the joy she had just begun to experience will never be over.

We see a lot of pain and hurt in this life. But the Bible promises: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what its seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 5:17-18).

We pray for eyes of faith to see what is unseen. We pray for the gift of a strength-encouraging, hope-sustaining imagination.

Extraordinary love

Leonard’s memorial service was last Saturday. He and his wife, Betty, had been members of our congregation for a number of years. Leonard was a hard-working guy who was part-owner of an auto garage, drove a log truck and faithfully served around the church. He didn’t serve by doing things upfront, but when something needed to be repaired Leonard was the one to call.

Some of the words that could be used to describe Leonard might be dependable, humble, quiet, faithful. He certainly wouldn’t be described as flashy or a guy who was clamoring to be the center of attention. He was the kind of man the world often doesn’t pay much attention to or notice. He was one of those guys who is like a hidden gem whose value the world overlooks.

Betty came down with a serious and rather mysterious illness a number of years ago. Leonard didn’t leave Betty’s side much after that and when I’d visit them it was now Leonard who fixed the coffee. He faithfully took care of Betty until she needed more medical care than he and the family could provide at home. She eventually had to go into a care center in a town a 45-minute drive one way from their home. Leonard made the trip each day until he couldn’t drive himself there any more. After that he got somebody to drive him to see Betty every day.

Leonard might not be the kind of guy they write romance novels about or make movies about. But he’s the kind of man who demonstrated what Christlike love looks like. It might not be flashy, but it’s faithful. Even though it can be hard and require sacrifice, Christlike love keeps serving day after day.

Proverbs 20:6 challenges us with the question: “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” At first glance the world considers men like Leonard to be kind of ordinary. But the kind of faithful love he showed Betty isn’t found on an ordinary basis. When it is found it ought to be respected and admired.

God can enable ordinary people to love in extraordinary ways. That enabling happens as we focus on and get overwhelmed by God’s extraordinary unfailing love for us. “I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3).

God keeps on faithfully serving us. God keeps on loving us, even though we’re needy and sometimes not easy to love. We strive to be faithful men and women, but we fall short. We give thanks that we can rely on the extraordinary faithfulness of God.