Life, for so many of us, can be more like a cloudy sky than a clear one, more like darkness than light, more like climbing a mountain than walking round a mole hill, more like struggling in the depths than soaring on the heights. When life is like that we remember Jesus made it clear that following him meant knowing the great blessing of being saved from judgment (John 5:24), welcomed into God’s family (Gal 3:26) and assured of eternal life in a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13), but also having to carry great burdens (Luke 9:23). When we are going through these times we would do well to remember what Solomon said: ‘Better is the end of a thing than the beginning’ (Eccl 7:8). We look beyond the here and now to the end.
In Psalm 13:1-4 David is in a dark place and from that he cries out, ‘How long, O LORD? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall’. In the here and now his life is hard, but he heeds Solomon’s counsel and advice and ends the psalm saying, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).
The brutal honesty about our lives and following Jesus is that we are going to go through dark and difficult times and places, but that is not the end of the story. And because of that we also can trust in his unfailing love and rejoice in his salvation because, like David, we too know the Lord will deliver us and like Solomon we too know that the end of a thing is better than the beginning.
The following story illustrates the point well. ‘‘The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.’’
It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering and has the end in view as he guides us through each day.
Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground, it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God to help or rescue or deliver you.
Your friend and Pastor
Rev Colin MacLeod