Cruel to be kind?

Problem
“The real trouble” (says C. S. Lewis) “is that ‘kindness’ is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that ‘his heart’s in the right place’ … though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature.” This
second of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness [in the sense given above] is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer.

Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished [Hebrews 12:8].

“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

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Love hurts?

Problem
‘Love hurts’ sang the Everly Brothers in 1960, a sentiment taken up by others (Roy Orbison, Nazareth (named for the town in Pennsylvania USA), Jim Capaldi and Cher to name a few). ‘Love is just a lie, made to make you blue’, they sang, ‘I know it isn’t true, no it isn’t true’. Well, that’s not true, though it may sometimes feel like it. It’s certainly not true that the Love of God is a lie; though we find that even with Him, Love is never without pain. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy.

“What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’.

“Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

I fear…I feel…?

Spurgeon

My times are in your hand…
Psalm 31:15

David, in deep trouble, prayed, ‘My times are in your hand’. But he confessed that was not his first response. ‘I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ (Psalm 31:22 ESV). Most of us come to faith by way of fear. This final brief post on the theme of our times also comes from Charles Spurgeon…

Charles Spurgeon preached…. ‘If the case is in His hand, what need can there be for you to be prying and crying? You were worrying this morning, and fretting last night and you are distressed now, and will be worse tomorrow morning. May I ask you a question? Did you ever get any good by fretting? When there was not rain enough for your farm, did you ever fret a shower down? When there was too much wet, or you thought so, did you ever worry the clouds away? Tell me, did you ever make a sixpence by worrying? It is a very unprofitable business.

‘Do you answer, “What, then, are we to do in troublous times?”

‘Why, go to Him into whose hand you have committed yourself and your times. Consult with infinite wisdom by prayer; console yourself with infinite love by fellowship with God. Tell the Lord what you feel, and what you fear. Ten minutes’ praying is better than a year’s murmuring.’

From a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on Sunday morning May 17th, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

The best of times?

 

SpurgeonMy times are in your hand… Psalm 31:15

Jesus, at his death, prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (31:5). The Psalms were a comfort to Him in the worst of times. Charles Spurgeon experienced times of persecution for preaching the gospel, and times of painful illness, and depression. The day he preached on Psalm 31:15 he said, “I have not been able to preach on this text as I hoped to do, for I am full of pain, and have a heavy headache, but, thank God, I have no heartache, with such a glorious truth before me. Sweet to my soul are these words— “My times are in Your hand.” This first of three brief posts on the theme of our times comes from C.H. Spurgeon…

Charles Spurgeon preached…. To be entirely at the disposal of God is life and liberty for us.   The great truth is this – all that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God.

“My times,” these change and shift, but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning.

“My times,” that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth – all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to His holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights.

“Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with Him who is Lord both of time and of eternity, and we are glad it is so.” 

From a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon on Sunday morning May 17th, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

Remember God?

Knowing God cover

J.I.Packer wrote in Knowing God – “Look at Isaiah 40 … God speaks to people whose mood is the mood of many Christians today – despondent…despairing… people against whom the tide of events has been running for a very long time…”. The only solution to these moods (because they rise when we forget God) is a renewed vision of God, particularly of His Greatness. This second of three brief posts on the theme of the Majesty of God also comes from J.I. Packer…

J.I.Packer writes… 2. “‘Why do you say, O Jacob and speak, O Israel, My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?’’ (Isaiah 40:27 ESV). This (second) question rebukes wrong thoughts about ourselves. God has not abandoned us any more than he abandoned Job. He never abandons anyone on whom he has set his love; nor does Christ, the good shepherd, ever lose track of his sheep. It is as false as it is irreverent to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of his own people. If you have been resigning yourself to the thought that God has left you high and dry, seek grace to be ashamed of yourself. Such unbelieving pessimism deeply dishonours our great God and Saviour.”

From J.I.Packer in Knowing God.

Faithful in ‘all things’?

Utmost
28 
And we know that for those who love God
all things work together for good,
for those who are called
according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 ESV

 

Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities great and small, quite rightly find a place in our prayers on a daily basis. But do we truly believe that all these things may also quite rightly find a place in our daily lives? We need never hesitate to ask our loving heavenly Father for relief from all these things, though knowing all the while He may answer us as He answered Paul who prayed repeatedly for relief from his ‘thorn in the flesh’  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). This final brief post on the theme of all things also comes from Oswald Chambers….

Oswald Chambers writes… “It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances. We take such liberties with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord.

“Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realization comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognizing that He had organized them. We never saw what He was after, and that particular thing will never be repeated all the days of our life. The test of loyalty always comes just there.

“If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.

“Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we ‘stick at’ today. We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ. Many Christians are intensely impatient of talking about loyalty to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian workers than by the world. God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers.

“The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us- ‘I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine.’ God wants to use us as He used His own Son.

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

ALL things?

Utmost
28 
And we know that for those who love God
all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
Romans 8:28, 35, 37 ESV

John Stott and F. F. Bruce remind us that, ‘all things do not work themselves into a pattern for good; it is God who works all things together for good….in the case of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose’ (RSV), and that the Holy Spirit especially, ‘pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way; and in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who love God.’ (NEB). This first of three brief posts on the theme of All Things comes from Oswald Chambers….

Oswald Chambers writes… “God does not keep a man immune from trouble; He says – “I will be with him in trouble.” It does not matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can separate him from his relationship to God. “We are “more than conquerors in all these things.”

Paul is not talking of imaginary things, but of things that are desperately actual; and he says we are super-victors in the midst of them, not by our ingenuity, or by our courage, or by anything other than the fact that not one of them affects our relationship to God in Jesus Christ.

“Rightly or wrongly, we are where we are, exactly in the condition we are in. I am sorry for the Christian who has not something in his circumstances he wishes was not there.

“Shall tribulation…?” Tribulation is never a noble thing; but let tribulation be what it may – exhausting, galling, fatiguing, it is not able to separate us from the love of God. Never let cares or tribulations separate you from the fact that God loves you.

“Shall anguish…?” – can God’s love hold when everything says that His love is a lie, and that there is no such thing as justice?

“Shall famine….?” – can we not only believe in the love of God but be more than conquerors, even while we are being starved?

“Either Jesus is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are all against God’s character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it – the love of God in Christ Jesus. Out of the wreck I rise’ every time.”

From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest