A Love That Will Not Let You Go


I am saddened by the amount of troubling news lately. I don’t understand what is going on out there, but I am receiving more and more news of the following:

Men over 35 losing their jobs suddenly

Formerly healthy people now struggling with chronic health issues


 Maybe those are connected. I don’t know. All I know is there’s a lot of hurt happening.

George Matheson was a brilliant theology student and a man engaged to be married. When it became clear he was going blind, his fiancée abandoned him. If blindness were not enough, Matheson’s first book of theology elicited so much harsh criticism for what were deemed small deviations that he was forced to change his career direction. Matheson’s sister took care of him afterward. On the evening before his sister’s wedding, knowing that he was losing his only caretaker, Matheson, at one of the lowest points in his life, wrote these words:

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths
its flow may richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze
its day may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.

I don’t know what you may be facing, or how much pain you may be in, but there is a Love that will not let you go, Jesus.

I will be 51 soon, and if I have learned one thing in that time, it’s that answers are not always easy to come by. George Matheson went on to do pastoral care ministry in a small church, and I’m sure that was not as he had planned, but it seems he had a knack for it. Because he was bruised himself by the vicissitudes of life, he could help those who suffered their own bruising.

It may be that you are being broken to help those who are broken. Your pain is never wasted. And never forget that Love Himself loves you enough to have taken all your brokenness and failure upon Himself. He was broken to identify with your pain, and He does this more completely than anyone.

The Westminster Chorus singing the David Phelps arrangement of O Love That Will Not Let Me Go in the Petrikirche cathedral in Dortmund, Germany:

Christian, It’s OK to Be Sad


Jesus wept

Jesus wept.
—John 11:35 ESV

Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, had died, and Jesus felt the pain.

Jesus knew Lazarus would rise again soon. He knew the man’s two sisters would rejoice at that resurrection. Yet Jesus wept anyway. Sadness gripped Him in that moment despite all He knew was to come.

We Christians know we have a heavenly Kingdom awaiting us. We know every tear will be wiped away. We know we will live eternally in the presence of the Lord. We know the joy will last forever.

Christian, in this world, it’s OK to be sad.

We all know believers who go around perpetually cheerful, even in those situations when it is better to weep than smile. Frankly, those people are a scourge. They are positive thinkers rather than true believers. They’ve bought into a Pollyanna mentality that the Scriptures do not support.

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
—Ecclesiastes 7:3 ESV

I dare any mentally healthy person to find anything good to say about a child dying. Who can go around cheery when a family member makes damaging choices again and again? What good can be found when a lifelong dream dies? Or when that hopeful union dissolves in tears and anger?

In this world, it’s OK to be sad. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
—Acts 8:2 ESV

Today, we rush to medicate people so they will not be forced to deal with sadness. We prefer the daze to sober reality. Escape over truth. To “make great lamentation” over anything is seen as problematic.

This downplaying of sadness is a frightening trend though.

Something in sadness restores a sober view of life. It forces us to confront pain and grow through it. When I look at the lives of the greatest believers I have known, the most distinguishing mark is their fidelity to Christ in the midst of overwhelming personal sadness. Whatever their experience might of been, they came out of it stronger, wiser, better. And because of their journey, they could impart a wisdom gained only by facing sadness and making it a part of their life.

Where we go wrong today in dealing with sadness is by not only medicating our sadness but also allowing it to become an idol in our lives. I wonder if our attempts to rid ourselves of sadness only perpetuates its stay. Better to walk through it with eyes wide open than to sleepwalk into the midst of it and then camp there.

What distinguishes the Christian response to sadness from the world’s is that Christians, by gaining Christ, have gained hope.

Depression is the scourge of our age. While some people suffer through it because of chemical imbalances, I believe we become depressed when we enthrone sadness. That idol not only changes the way we think, it rewires our brains physically. It’s as if sadness takes up residence by making our brains its home, remodeling the dwelling to suit its needs.

The hope we have in Christ wars against the idol of abiding sadness. It is OK to be sad, but like so much in life, we cannot let that feeling own us, because it will if we let it.

Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not OK to be sad.

But don’t let sadness make you its dwelling place either.

We have our own, better Dwelling Place and a mansion in Glory awaiting us. Sadness won’t last forever. Hope is ours always. Embrace it.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust– there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
—Lamentations 3:21-33 ESV

To the Christian, All of Life Is Holy


Heard  a good message recently that was marred by someone adding her thoughts to it. The ruinous addition was that we need always to be careful about those things in life that distract us from God or bring us down to a more worldly level.

When I was younger, I would have heartily endorsed that addendum. Now, I see it as a dilution of the Gospel.

One of Paul’s consistent understatements in his books is that the sacred/secular divide is something of a hoax. Yes, the OT is filled with illustrations about what is holy and what is not, but doesn’t Christ’s death redeem ALL of life?

What verse in the Bible is more astute than this one?

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure….
—Titus 1:15a ESV

Nothing destroys the joy of Christ more than dogmatic, persistent sin management. We encounter these semi-tortured folks who burn worry lines into their faces from all the concern over potential sinning. It’s like grace doesn’t even exist. To those people, I recommend reading about Martin Luther’s rediscovery of grace and his own fight against perpetual sin.

Can I have a glass of wine, play a game of Ca$h ‘n’ Gun$ with friends, and read a novel that makes no pretenses at being Christian? Why would anyone have to even ask that question? Yet there are M-A-N-Y Christians out there who struggle with all that. (Why? Because well-meaning Christians in authority positions keep knocking certain actions as sinful when those actions are anything but.)

One of  the reasons people don’t want to be Christians is that they don’t want to constantly monitor themselves for “sinful” behavior. You know what? I don’t blame them. Call me lazy, but I don’t want to either. That’s not what being a Christian is about.

Crazier still, the sins that most bother some Christians are the ones the Lord Jesus spent the least amount of time denouncing. He wasn’t so worried about how people dress, what they eat and drink, their leisure activities, and so on. Instead, He was angered by pride, injustice, lack of concern for other people, factionalism, materialism, and the like. Last time I checked, those latter sins were the ones least addressed and most stumbled over by the greater crowd of Christians in North America.

Even if we are guilty of any and all of those sins, let’s deal with them and move on. Let’s not keep wallowing in our own filth and lamenting it. Instead, be glad for grace and live fully.

To the Christian, all of life is holy. And there is joy in that!