Seeing Red?

Jerry Bridges


Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 ESV


As a student teacher in the 1970’s I was surprised to learn that one of my favourite books as a child (Tootle – 1945 by Gertrude Crampton – as of 2001 the third best-selling hardcover children’s book in English) was controversial (because of its message that we ‘should stay on the rails, no matter what’). But the red flags that confronted the little engine whenever he left the tracks to play in the meadows along the way suggest a positive aspect of frustration that as Christians we may be thankful to our loving heavenly Father for. This final brief post on the theme of frustration also comes from Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges wrote: “This is a tremendously encouraging and comforting thought. So when something happens that tends to frustrate me, I actually quote Psalm 139:16 to myself and then say to God, ‘This circumstance is part of Your plan for my life today. Help me to respond in faith and in a God-honouring way to Your providential will. And then please give me wisdom to know how to address the situation that that tends to cause the frustration.’

Note what resources I have brought to bear on the circumstance that tends to frustrate me: specific applicable Scripture and dependence on the Holy Spirit expressed through prayer to enable me to respond in a godly manner. And then I pray for practical wisdom to know how to deal with the situation. After all, in my illustration about the computer printer, the important document does eventually need to be printed.

It is also beneficial to ask God if there is something I need to be attentive to. Sometimes God uses events that tempt us toward frustration to get our attention, or even to push us further in an area we need to grow in. In any case, there are no events in our lives that do not ultimately come to us from the invisible hand of God, even though they come through some visible cause.”

From Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins.



Meet the Author?

Jerry Bridges your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16 ESV

At the library, I noticed a poster advertising a meeting with the author of a series of books well familiar to me. In fact I had just checked out the latest in the series, feeling quite pleased with myself to have jumped the queue. Now, I wonder what I would say to the author if I met him. Could I look him in the eye and tell him, ‘Well, it was OK but really not one of your best. I found myself skipping ahead, frustrated with some characters, and some of the action; frustrated with you.’ This second of three brief posts on the theme of frustration comes from Jerry Bridges.

Jerry Bridges wrote: “…frustration usually involves being upset or even angry at whatever or whoever is blocking our plans. I might have an important document to print from my computer, but the printer will only produce gobbledygook. Instead of believing that God is sovereignly in control over the actions of my computer and that He has a good reason for allowing it to act up, I get frustrated. Actually, this type of reaction has its roots in my ungodliness at the moment, for at that time I am living as though God is not involved in my life or in my circumstances. I fail to recognize the invisible hand of God behind whatever is triggering my frustration. In the heat of the moment, I tend not to think about God at all. Instead, I focus entirely on the immediate cause of my frustration.

“The passage of Scripture that has greatly helped me deal with frustration is Psalm 139:16, which says, ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’ (NIV). ‘Days ordained for me’ refers not only to the length of my life but to all the events and circumstances of each day of my life.”

From Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins.

Glorious Frustration?

Weight of Glory

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed
two days longer in the place where he was.
… Did I not tell you that if you believed
you would see the glory of God?
John 11:5-6, 40 ESV

The frustration that Mary and Martha felt towards Jesus over the illness and death of their brother, Lazarus, was shared by the disciples. For the disciples, there was the added irritation that not only, after three days, would Lazarus be dead, but also that Jesus would be putting himself, and them, at risk if they went to Bethany. Their courage was not in question even if their faith was, as Thomas showed when he said to the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16 ESV). How do we deal with our frustration at events and circumstances, at the behavior of others or even, at times, with the behavior of God Himself? This first of three brief posts on the theme of frustration comes from C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis wrote: “The second enemy [of the scholar in war-time] is frustration – the feeling that we shall not have enough time to finish. If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether, of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say, ‘No time for that,’ ‘Too late now,’ and ‘Not for me.’ But Nature herself forbids you to share that experience. A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the lord’. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

The Medicine we need?

Praying With Paul


I suppose we would all say, in our pain, that our great need is for the pain to stop. A doctor, on the other hand, may tell us that our great need is to take the (sometimes nasty) medicine that he will prescribe, because he knows that the pain will not stop otherwise. This second of three brief posts on the theme of What We Really Need also comes from Dr. D. A. Carson.


Dr. Carson wrote: “We quickly learn that God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows himself more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve around good jobs, nice houses and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple” in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leads to death, while the former leads to life.”

From Dr. D. A. Carson in ‘Praying With Paul’.

What I really need…

Praying With Paul

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

I realize now that the childish lists I used to make each Christmas never contained anything I needed, and that, of all the things I wanted back then, few, if any, survive today. Blessed with caring parents, I barely needed even to ask for anything I really needed (love, of course, and care; food, clothes, and shelter). But I was quite sure that I could ask, if I felt a need, and trust them to answer with my best interests at heart (that’s why I never received the air rifle I asked for so often). This first of three brief posts on the theme of What We Really Need comes from Dr. D. A. Carson.

Dr. Carson wrote: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent us an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death, and he sent us a Savior.”

From Dr. D. A. Carson in ‘Praying With Paul’.

The measure we give….

Mere cover

“For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

As a nervous child in the second grade I was terrified of my teacher’s outbursts of temper even when they weren’t aimed at me. Not all the rebukes of Scripture are aimed at all of us, all the time. But like the child I was then (and like the man I have become) I am guilty enough, often enough, to have learned that warnings (particularly the warnings of Scripture) are best never ignored. This final brief post on the theme of charity also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear – fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

Why this waste?

Mere cover


‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40 ESV

Then, in Matthew 26, a woman is accused (by the disciples) of wasting ‘very expensive ointment’ to anoint Jesus with. Jesus saw it differently, ‘…she has done a beautiful thing …’ Perhaps the best clue to our own giving may be found if we imagine what we would do if we met Jesus in need, and doing that for the needy we meet. This second of three brief posts on the theme of charity comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of ‘charities’ in the common way. Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position.”

From C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.