The backdrop to this post is our recent news (see Newsletters) that we are expecting a 5th baby at the beginning of May. We learned this just after Christmas and suffice to say that it was quite a surprise especially given that Debbie was already around half way through! Questions about such as; Why us? Why now? Why not for others? How are we going to cope with five? We’ve been wrestling with this but feel like we are starting to get our heads around it. The chances of this happening were very slim indeed and yet nothing is impossible for God. He’s chosen to bless our family with another life. My aim here in this posting is to wrestle with the concepts of faith and hope when we do not understand God’s plan or what He is doing.
The Character of God
In The Potters Right to Transform the Clay I quoted Jerry Bridges fantastic book “Trusting God in which He examines God’s Sovereignty, Wisdom and Love. Here I will look briefly at each of these truths as we wrestle a little with the concepts of Faith and Hope;
“In the area of adversity, the Scriptures teach us 3 essential truths about God – truths we must believe if we are to trust Him in adversity. They are ‘God is completely sovereign’, ‘God is infinite in wisdom’ and ‘God is perfect in love’…“God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His Sovereignty He has the power to bring it about.”
There is nothing that happens which is out of His control. Jeremiah makes this clear, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38). The Apostle James also writes that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17). Over the past few years we’ve been wrestling with the difficulties that have been coming our way! Hence it is quite refreshing to be wrestling not so much with difficulty but with unexpected blessing. I am of course more than aware of the consequences of such blessing (we have some experience in this area!) and the fact that it will be hard work. The reality however is that every new baby is a precious gift of God and so we are thankful.
God is working all things out according to His Sovereign plan. The Apostle Paul writes “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). When He speaks about ‘working for our good’ Paul explains in the next verse that he is talking about us being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. In all things God is working toward that end. He is committed to our ‘good’ even when in order to accomplish that ‘good’ we are taken into the ‘crucible of suffering’. The struggle we tend to have is to question God’s wisdom. While we readily ascribe to Romans 11:33 which says “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”, we by nature question that wisdom when we face the unexpected. God says;
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In June 2015 I wrote the post Life of Job: Hope, Suffering and Mystery and one of my conclusions was that God wants us to trust Him even when we don’t know why and even when we don’t understand what He is doing. Job never received the answer he sought to his questions…instead God revealed Himself and His involvement in the creation of the world. Job’s comment is poignant for us, “You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:3. The real question is not so much ‘why’ but ‘will we trust Him even when we do not understand?’
“If God were small enough to be understood, he wouldn’t be big enough to be worshipped.” Everly Underhill
The final truth is often where the ‘rubber hits the road’. Intellectually I can readily accept that God is in control and that in His wisdom He knows what is best for me but can I also trust that God is working in love even when it hurts or even when I don’t understand? This hits us at more of an emotional level and we so easy find ourselves questioning God’s love. In the space of two verses Isaiah describes the Sovereign and powerful God as the shepherd tending, caring and leading the flock which He loves.
“See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:10-11
We might like to separate God’s Sovereignty from His love or even to question whether they are compatible. In reality however they are two sides of the same coin. Are you doubting God’s goodness and love? Look no further than the cross where we see God’s love vividly demonstrated.
“If God loved me enough to give His Son to die for me when I was His enemy, surely He loves me enough to care for me now that I am His child. Having loved me to the ultimate extent at the cross, He cannot possibly fail to love me in my times of adversity.” Jerry Bridges, Trusting God
So as we look forward we do so in faith and in hope knowing that God is Sovereign, infinitely wise and perfect in love. Do I understand what God is doing? No, but I trust that God is working out His Sovereign, wise and loving plan. I can think of many logical, practical and sensible reasons why it might not be good to have another child. Yet I must trust God in faith and hope that His plan (which is bigger than me and beyond my understanding) is ultimately for the best. God has already blessed us with four amazing children (see picture below); why should it be any different with baby #5?
While Debbie was in hospital briefly in November 2015 God spoke to her through Psalm 40 in which David testifies that God had “lifted him out of the pit of despair” (40:2 NLT). Our friend Derek had written in his blog entitled Under Pressure that “David was in the pit long enough to call it the pit of despair, yet he persisted and the Lord lifted him out.” The God of Hope impressed this thought on Debbie to hang on to amidst the darkness. It was framed around moving from a ‘place of despair’ to a ‘place of hope’. When another friend heard the news (from our Church home-group) and with no knowledge of this suggested that the arrival of baby #5 could be God’s means to move to that place of hope. Watch this space in May 2016 for the arrival of a new hope…