Black Night

Black night, then, great God? You’ve chosen black night
For this your little sheep to wander through,
Cold, shiv’ring, bleating as he follows you
So close behind your steady gate, your sight
Set firmly on your lamb though doubt and fright
Enshroud his moonless route? To him be true!
Lead down a trail that gleams with morning dew
In dawn’s fair light, but please, great God—black night?

Hush now, dear sheep, and shadow close beside
The Maker of the path and of the light
That you so long for; let me be your guide!
Could I not speak and banish dark forthright?
For good I chose this road that you now chide,
So follow on though my choice be black night.

Behind the Poem: “Innocence Lost, Glory Gained”

Click here to read “Innocence Lost, Glory Gained,” posted January 26, 2012.

The Meaning
A little boy stares up at me with probing brown eyes. In a moment I catch a glimpse of the shift that has begun to take place in his bright, young mind. He’s beginning to see the world for what it is. And as you and I know, the world is not always a pretty place—but he’s just figuring that out. And just as you once experienced but have probably forgotten, such a realization can be devastating to a child.

Maybe the other fourth graders have stopped wanting to sit by him at lunch because they’re starting to see that he’s just a little different from the rest. Perhaps his parents are fighting more than ever and he’s not able to drown out their shouting like he used to. It could be his sister tried to kill herself a few days back, and he’s been suddenly faced with realities that he could not, a week ago, even fathom existed. (I wish all those examples were hypothetical. You learn a lot about life from third and fourth graders.)

Staring back into his big brown eyes, I can only weep on the inside, for I see what he doesn’t see. I see what his parents and his classmates and his sister don’t see. I see that life is only going to get harder, especially for this boy, of this socio-economic class, in this racist world, living in this godless and therefore hopeless society. From my vantage point a little bit farther down the road, I can see that this instance is only the first of many run-ins with reality that will leave his head spinning.

And it makes you want to cry. It makes you want to take this precious little boy home and shelter him from every horror that’s out there.

And then this thought hits me upside the head: In my own life it has been amid realizations of the harsh realities that exist around me that Jesus has whispered most clearly, “Nevertheless, I’m here, and I’m sure. I’ll be your rock in a very shaky world.” And doing the only logical thing my mind can conjure up, I cling to him in utter, helpless faith. And he saves me.

It may be that this brown eyed boy has a long, hard road ahead of him. And he may be on the very cusp of realizing that fact. Yet it might just be that this long, hard road was designed by this child’s Creator—who, by the way, loves him infinitely more than I ever could—to eventually lead him to Jesus. Perhaps it’s only through the hardship that this little boy will think to seek out the one who promises to carry him through like nothing else in the universe can. Maybe only up against the ugliness of life will this little boy ever be able to clearly see the beauty of the Jesus he so desperately needs.

May God be faithful to work it out to such an end.

The Technical
This poem doesn’t follow any traditional form. It is written in iambic quadrameter consisting of rhymed couplets. That means that each line has eight syllables that generally follow the pattern ta-DUM-ta-DUM-ta-DUM-ta-DUM. That the poem consists of rhymed couplets means that every two lines rhyme with each other.

The first 22 lines describe the changes that take place as a child grows up. The next four lines act as a commentary on the first 22 lines and a bridge to the next 22 lines. In the second half of the poem I discuss the difficult truth that it is confrontation with the harshness of reality that many times drives one to Jesus, and if that’s the case for my student, may it be so. God will be good to him as he has been to me.

Praise the Lord for the hope that’s found only in Jesus, hope that is seen most clearly when all other hope is lost.

God Come

God.

God is.

God is good.

God is good and holy.

God is good, holy, and loving.

God is good, holy, loving, and wise.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so come.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so come to him.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so run to him.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so run to him and not away from him.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so run to him and not away from him when it hurts.

When it hurts, God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise,

even when you aren’t able perceive it, so run to him and not away from him.

When it hurts, run to the God who is infinitely good, holy, loving and wise,

and not away from him,

even when you aren’t able to perceive

his goodness, his holiness, his love, and his wisdom.

Even when you aren’t able to perceive God, God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise,

so run to him and not away from him when it hurts.

Even when you aren’t able to perceive God when it hurts,

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise,

so run to him and not away from him.

Run to God and not away from him when it hurts because God is infinitely good, holy,

loving, and wise, even when you can’t perceive it.

Flea to God with all your mind and don’t you dare run away from him when it hurts

because God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise,

even when you can’t perceive him.

Run to the infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely loving God

when it hurts instead of running away from him, even if you can’t perceive him.

Run to the infinitely good, infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely loving God

instead of running away from him, even if you can’t perceive him when it hurts.

God is infinitely good when it hurts,

infinitely holy when it hurts,

infinitely loving when it hurts,

and infinitely wise when it hurts,

even when you aren’t able perceive it,

so run to him and not away from him.

God is infinitely good when it hurts, even if you aren’t able to perceive it;

infinitely holy when it hurts, even if you aren’t able to perceive it;

infinitely loving when it hurts, even if you aren’t able to perceive it;

and infinitely wise when it hurts, even if you aren’t able to perceive it;

so run to him and not away from him.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so run to him and not away from him when it hurts.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t able to perceive it,

so run to him and not away from him.

God is infinitely good, holy, loving, and wise,

even when you aren’t,

so run to him and not away from him.

God is good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t,

so run to him and not away from him.

God is good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t, so run to him.

God is good, holy, loving, and wise, even when you aren’t, so come to him.

God is good, even when you aren’t, so come to him.

God is good, so come to him.

God is good, so come.

God is, so come.

God, come.

Come.

 

© 2011 Eric Evans

Delight in God’s Good Gifts

It’s not a sin to find delight in friends,
New clothes, or sunny skies. And jobs begun
are meant to gratify the heart when done.
With joy receive the Father’s gifts! Suspend
All guilt and let your soul’s enraptured joy extend,
As long as when it rains you’re not undone,
And when your favorite song is left unsung,
Your heart to doom’s dark pit does not descend.
Oh God, unleash your grace; help us to find
A balance by which we might both receive
Your gifts yet not by them our lives define.
We love you for your blessings yet don’t cleave
To them as gods. The lack of rain’s refined
Us—taught us you, not rain, are our relief.

© 2011 Eric Evans

Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

by Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708)

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my Physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my Friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.

Lessons from Job, Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, you can read it here: Lessons from Job, Part 1.  In Part 1 you’ll find an introduction to this series as well as a summary of the book of Job.

Lesson 1: Truly Upright and Blameless Followers of God Suffer Greatly
Both the narrator of Job and God himself affirm that Job was both blameless and upright (1:1, 1:8, 2:3).  That Job was blameless means that no one could have rightly leveled a charge against Job.  That he was upright means that he was honorable.  No one could have rightly denied his moral integrity.  Yet he suffered.  Suffering is no respecter of morals.

More surprising than that, both the narrator of Job and God himself affirm that Job was a man who feared God and who turned away from evil (1:1, 1:8, 2:3).  That Job walked closely with God is obvious.  He knew God in a very deep way, and he lived his life accordingly.  His whole life centered around God.  He did everything he was supposed to.  Yet he suffered.  Knowing God deeply and living for him in no way guarantees an easy life.  In fact, the very opposite is the case (see Acts 14:22).

What do we learn from these hard truths?  Don’t follow God to escape pain.  Jesus said that whoever does not take up his cross and follow him is not worthy of him.  “Taking up your cross” is a euphemism for crucifixion.  It is no easy thing to follow God or his Son.  Don’t start down this road if you are not willing to finish (see Luke 14:28-33).  Why do it then, you ask?  Jesus is worth it.  What I’ll gain by gaining Jesus is worth the loss of everything else I have and am, including my very life.

Paul said it this way: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).  God followers suffer.  Follow God anyway.  God is worth it.

Lesson 2: God is the Active Agent in the Suffering of His People
Ultimately God caused Job to suffer.  To assert that Satan caused Job to suffer and God merely allowed it to happen is to ignore key parts of the biblical narrative.  First, God brought Job to Satan’s attention, not once but twice (1:8, 2:3).  Clearly God was not passive in bringing about Job’s suffering.  He designed it and ensured it was carried out accordingly.  Like a dog on a short leash, Satan is completely beneath God’s sovereign hand.  He does nothing without God’s approval.

Second, Satan is never mentioned after chapter two.  At every point thereafter, Job, Job’s three friends, Elihu, and the narrator of Job attribute Job’s suffering directly to God.  Job’s famous quote states, “The LORD gave, and the LORD [not Satan] has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).  And Job was right.

This is even harder to swallow than lesson 1, yet it is inescapable.  God took Job’s children.  God took Job’s flocks.  God took Job’s health.  Regardless of whether that seems right to you or not, it is an undeniable conclusion from this book that God is sovereign, even over the most horrific circumstances.  That, I hope, is a comfort.  Behind the most bleak circumstances stands a God who, although mysterious and often times silent, is good and loves you enough to send Jesus to die for you.

Rest assured that whatever Satan may throw at you in order to destroy you, God in his sovereign will designed that very trial for your good and is being good to you in it.  That’s how a Christian is able to count it all joy when he meets trials of various kinds (James 1:2).  When Satan does something for evil, God does not merely co-opt it for good.  He designed it for good before Satan even thought of it.  In fact, God may have given Satan the idea, like he did with Job.  He certainly had to give Satan permission.

May God’s sovereignty be sweet to you today.

Share Your Thoughts
1. How is it that God’s sovereignty over all things comforts us?
2. Where else in the Bible do you see God’s complete sovereignty over horrific situations?

Lessons from Job, Part 1

I spent the month of November with Job. It was a gloriously difficult ride. After spending the last few days wrapping up some of my conclusions, I thought I’d like to do a series of posts over the next few weeks on 10 lessons I’ve learned from his story. This first post will be a summary of the book, and every Tuesday afterwards I’m planning to post two truths I gleaned from walking with Job.

The Book In Summary
The book of Job is a literary masterpiece. It begins and ends with narration but is poetry throughout except for the narrator’s introduction of a new character, Elihu, in chapter 32. In the opening scene, both the narrator and God establish that Job is an upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. That is very important as it is repeated three times (1:1, 1:8, and 2:3). One day Satan presents himself before God, and God asks him if he has considered his servant Job. God allows Satan to take Job’s possessions and children. Job trusts God despite his suffering. Satan again presents himself before God, and God again brings up Job. This time Satan has permission to take his health as long as he doesn’t kill him. Again, Job trusts God despite his suffering.

Then three men come to Job—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—supposedly with the intention of comforting him. After seven days of silence, Job finally speaks beginning in chapter 3, lamenting his birth. Chapters 4 through 31 record the conversation between Job and his three friends. The author very craftily develops the story through various rounds of dialogue. Job’s friends become increasingly critical and judgmental. Job becomes increasingly defensive. His friends argue that Job must have done something wrong; otherwise, he wouldn’t be suffering this way. Job maintains he’s innocent, though his self-defense becomes progressively provocative to the point of calling God’s justice into question.

Round and round they go until a new character, Elihu, shows up in chapter 32. The narrator reveals that Elihu, after hearing Job and friends go at it to no avail, had bones to pick with both parties. He was mad at Job “because he justified himself rather than God” (32:2), and he was mad at Job’s friends because “they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong” (32:3). Elihu shows up and says that they’re all wrong. Job’s saying he’s more righteous than God, and his friends, despite all their rhetoric, simply can’t explain why this man is suffering.

Elihu reorients their focus completely. He turns their focus away from both man’s sinfulness and man’s righteousness and sets their sights on God (35:2-8). In addition, Elihu frames the discussion in a new way. While Job and his friends have been arguing as to whether Job was truly upright or not, Elihu says that even the righteous can be “bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction” (36:7-12). And when they are, God has not taken his eyes from them (v. 7). In fact, he’s graciously commanding the righteous to return from their iniquity (v. 10). So are they righteous or sinful? The answer, Elihu shows, is yes. Truly the author of Job was not naïve as to the condition of the human heart. Elihu presents the reader with some astonishing, yet very realistic, complexities.  Even Job’s self-defense and his accusations against God were mixed with declarations of hope and trust in God despite it all (see 13:15-16 and 19:25-27).

After Elihu gets his 15 minutes, he disappears, and the real hero of the story makes his entrance: God. While never explaining himself or his actions, God reveals his wisdom, knowledge, and ability by revealing Job’s lack of wisdom, knowledge, and ability. God doesn’t like when people challenge him. In light of God’s revelation of himself to Job, Job repents and concludes, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). So that’s what it took for Job to know God better.

God commands Job’s three friends to repent and to ask Job to pray for them. Interestingly enough he doesn’t say anything about Elihu. They do, God hears Job’s prayer, and Job is restored manifold times all that he had lost.

With this very broad overview in mind, stay tuned weekly for two new truths from Job that, Lord willing, I’ll be posting every Tuesday.

Share Your Thoughts
1. What strikes you most about the story of Job?
2. What do you do or where do you go when suffering comes upon you?
3. Share a verse that comforts you in suffering.

7 Things to Remember

There are moments in your life when you’re on the cusp of something new.  Perhaps a period of hardship is finally coming to an end.  Maybe something long-awaited has finally arrived.  It could be that you’re wrapping up one chapter of your life to begin a new one.  In those moments, it’s good to pause and remember.

In the book of Deuteronomy, just as the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land after a grueling 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses calls his people to remember.  Below are six things that Moses (and one thing that Joshua) tells Israel to keep in mind as they move into a new chapter of their history.

Remember What and Where you Were

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 5:15).

It’s good to look back and remember where God has brought you from.

Remember God’s Past Works

“[Y]ou shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out” (Deuteronomy 7:18-19).

Remember what God has done in the past gives us confidence that he will continue to be faithful in the future.

Remember God’s Sweet Discipline

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:2-3).

In verse 16 Moses tells them that God humbled them in this way “to do you good in the end.”  So God’s discipline, though hard, is precious.  Remember it.

Remember that All Good Things Come from God

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

The good you’re on the cusp of enjoying will not be of your own doing.  It is God’s good gift to you.  Remember that.

Remember your Sin, and Remember that God Remembers His Faithfulness in Spite of It

“Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD” (Deuteronomy 9:7).

So much so, Moses says, that God was ready to destroy them (9:8).

Yet, when Moses fell prostrate before God and begged him to remember the covenant he had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God didn’t destroy them.  He was faithful even though his people weren’t (Deuteronomy 9:27-10:2).

Remember that God is Both Savior and Lord

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today (Deuteronomy 15:15)”

God said that he redeemed his people and therefore commands them.  The God who saves you is the God who rules you. Don’t forget that.

Remember the Hope that is Before You

“Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land’” (Joshua 1:13).

As you look back on God’s past faithfulness, be encouraged to know that he will continue to be faithful in this next step.  As he fulfilled his promises in the past, trust that he will fulfill his promises in the future.

As we stand on the brink and look forward to what’s ahead, may we, like the Israelites, pause to remember.