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

The Christian Response to Disaster


TornadoThe foamboard in my front yard spoke to me. The yellow fiberglass insulation told a story.

I don’t know whose damaged or destroyed home those leftover bits and pieces came from, but they are a reminder of suffering and death in the wake of the tornadoes that went through several states last Friday.

In Batavia, a town just west of here, someone found storm debris that contained papers labeled with the name of the town of Nabb, Indiana. Nabb is part of the Henryville/Marysville area that was utterly devastated by the storms. Nabb is also just over a 100 miles west of Batavia. That’s 100 miles.

I’m glad that Pat Robertson does not live in our area. I’m sure he’d have something to say about these storms that I’d later have to apologize for on behalf of other Christians.

I hate it when the news media find some blowhard believer who can’t wait to have his or her opinion heard by the masses. How the media routinely uncover the worst representative of the Christian faith to comment on disasters is a gift, though one of the worst giftings I can think of.

When the “media” of Jesus’ day stuck a figurative microphone under His nose in an attempt to get a pithy comment from Him on recent disasters, this is what He said:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
—Luke 13:1-5

People are always trying to make sense of disasters. Truth is, disaster is part and parcel of a world steeped in human sin. If anything, our perspective should instead be one of gratefulness to God that anything good can come out of the mess we have made. Into that mess came Jesus, who offered Himself as a living sacrifice for sin and showed us by His actions how to show mercy to others.

So here is what I wish we would say and do when confronted with disaster: Show mercy to the survivors and remind everyone that disaster can come upon anyone at any time, and unless we repent, we will all likewise perish.

That’s all. Don’t add to that. Show mercy and remind of repentance. End of comment.

God will see fit to fill in everything else.