Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Do you believe that there is power in the human touch..? When we as children, were ever faced with something that felt far beyond our years.. we’d on impulse run to our mother or father. We’d hold on to them. Remember how, with their touch, every fear of ours would fade..?
With the years passing though, the magic of that touch may weaken. When we stand as adults.. if we can’t deal with that which we face, who else can for us..? But even then, life finds a way to give us a chance to feel the power of that touch.
When you’re faced with the pain of the loss of a beloved.. when words can scarcely provide comfort, the warmth of that simple touch is sometimes all that can keep you breathing. When we feel that before us stands an insurmountable mountain, even if the hand that holds us can do little to lead us through, a touch can let us know.. there is someone here to hold on to, should we fail.
The touch can mean compassion. The touch can mean forgiveness. The touch can mean acceptance. The touch can mean sympathy. Even empathy. The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within.
Whether there is a power or not in the human touch, life has lead me through days that has made me understand the value of this means of connection to another soul. The touch that lets you feel the existence of love. Because sometimes, there is no other way left to feel love. And it is with this understanding that I read this verse from the Book of Isaiah:
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
In a moment of loneliness and faced with fear, when perhaps nothing else could’ve reached my troubled soul, His Word reached me through this verse to comfort me. Reminding me of all those who have held me.. the touches that kept me sane through the miseries of life. Reminding me that there is a touch filled with more comfort than any other.
But more than the comfort, there is this sense of amazement, that when God purposed the revelation of His nature through His Word, He made it a point to let us know how near His love extends toward us. That the Lord of all creation, seeing that we need His love expressed in a way we could grasp even when all seems lost, stretches out His hand to take hold of us. To touch us…
This is but one meaning that we can ascribe to the touch of God. When the Son of God walked among us in the flesh, He touched people with a greater purpose. Think of the leper He touched, for instance. Another man condemned by sin. Separated from contact with his people, and even from the presence of his God in His temple.
But Jesus touched him. The touch healed him. What that touch also would’ve done was fill those in presence with hope that despite the Law that condemns, the heart of God does not delight in separation from sinful man, but His desire is in bringing the sinner into union with Him in holiness, through the healing in Him. The hope He would go on to fulfil on the cross.
The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within. The touch can mean even more, when it comes from the God who is love…
[…continuation of, ‘Through The Darkest Night‘]
Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?
In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain. For one, while Peter was unaware of his weakness, God was not. He always knew him for who he is…
When Peter proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” Jesus had no reason to believe, for He knew him. In fact, He prophesied the failing of His disciple. In the Last Supper, replying to Peter,
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
When the Christ looked at Peter that night, as he denied Him the third time, there could’ve been a mix of emotions in the expression on Jesus’ face. But if there is one thing He couldn’t have been, He couldn’t have been surprised. For He had known Peter all along, even the ‘Peter,’ that Peter hadn’t yet known.
Your failings can take you by surprise, but you can never do anything that surprises the Lord. Your actions are but a reflection of the condition of your inner being. And He has always seen you, even to the depths of your soul. If your inner strength has limitations, He knows. If your moral fibre is falling apart and you’re hanging by the last thread, He knows. Trust me, He knows.
But is this a good thing that He knows..? Those of us who have lived life with secrets too dark to bare with ease, will know of the dread that takes over at the thought of being exposed to the glances of people. We do long to be known, even despite the scars and gaping wounds. That we may never deny. But there are consequences in letting people in.
What if there are consequences in being known by Him too..? That I’ll leave you to decide, whether Him knowing us, is Good News or not. But before you make that choice, let’s delve deeper into the person that is Simon Peter, and his relationship with the Christ…
The hours passed since the denial, and Peter’s loneliness continued. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Imagine him in his despair. He had bailed out on his Friend. The purest of souls He was, and Peter had let Him down. Here he is, hearing one news after the other: “Jesus has been sentenced. He has been crucified. Jesus has died. He has been buried.” Peter sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “Happiness could never again be mine,” he could’ve thought.
Hopelessness all around. No thought could lend him solace. Peter could have remembered the time when Jesus taught the disciples that He, the Messiah, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Even if Peter could’ve found the strength to believe Him, could that thought erase his pain..? Even if Jesus did come back to life, would their relationship still be the same..?
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”
With the dawn of a new week though, the darkness began to recede, and the Light began to shine. The women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb, to anoint His body as per Jewish custom, returned in excitement with a message. Jesus Christ was no longer dead but risen, they said. They had seen the empty tomb. They had seen an angel, who told them that Jesus is heading toward Galilee. The angel urged them to tell the message to Jesus’ disciples.. and peculiarly, to Peter in particular.
“…tell Peter.” The other disciples could have wondered why those words were there, but imagine what those two words would’ve done to Peter. The questions that lingered in Peter’s head. The doubts that weighed like lead in his chest. Imagine, when the women brought in this message, what those two words would have done to all those doubts and questions..?
With those words, Jesus made sure that Peter was called by name. He made sure that Peter felt reassured that he still belonged. The Lord who knew Peter’s brokenness to the intimate details, cared for him with a love as intimate. As soon as Peter heard the message, the Bible says he ran to the tomb. Not a hesitant walk. He ran. Whether the others understood the depth within those words or not, I believe that Peter couldn’t have missed them.
Again, through the Christ, we get to gaze into the heart of God. Through His love for Peter, we know that He is a God of compassion. We know that the Lord forgives the worst of sinners. He forgave the man who denied Him to His face. He has forgiven even worse in me. And through Peter’s [and my own] experience with Him, we know that He doesn’t stop with forgiveness, but the broken heart of the sinner, He yearns to comfort.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
And there is more… The Lord knows our weakness, and He understands. He loves us despite our failures. That is Good News in itself, isn’t it..? But.. do you know where the Good News, becomes even better..? He doesn’t cease with comforting the broken hearted, but as we draw closer to Him, He heals all that is broken in us.
That hope, is the final learning from me from Peter’s night of brokenness. Peter’s life provides hope to all of us who have had the [mis]fortune of having seen our broken selves. Because all that Peter found missing within him on that fateful night, would later be found to abound in him.
The man who faltered when faced with the suspicion of a servant, would go on to become someone who would be bold to stand up for the Truth, in all circumstances. In prison. In persecutions. Even in death. Though he be weak, Peter found strength in abundance for through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God worked in him. And Peter in the end truly became Peter, or as the name means in Greek, the ‘Rock.’
How dark are the nights that you are facing in your life..? Are they as dark as the night that Peter endured..? Perhaps they’re darker still..? Take heart. Morning will come. The Light will shine. Through the Christ there is reason to hope. The Lord who knows you by name. The Lord who has seen your tears. He is the Lord who calls to be Saints, the broken things of this world…
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.
1 Corinthians 1:28
In moments of depression, you may believe you’re all alone. Who is there to see you while the tears flow..? How could someone see your tears, when those tears wait for opportune moments..? To spare you of the pity of those around..? They only flow when you’re all alone. In those lonely nights, you toss and turn and drench your bed in tears. But.. are you ever really alone..?
Life off late seems in my eyes like an unending journey through the Valley of Weeping. I can say with confidence that though things have seemingly gone downhill, His grace has upheld me in the joy of the Lord at most times. But I would be lying if I said that I have never been overwhelmed to the point of tears. Tears that come out of a suffering within, too deep to express in any other way….
And almost always these tears are shed in moments when there isn’t another soul in sight. But even when I feel alone in those moments, there is One who is present.. even if I fail to notice. One who does not fail to notice even a single drop of tear that is shed. In one of those moments of silent suffering, this verse from Psalm 56, spoke to my distressed soul….
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
But what about those tears that He sees..? Does He simply observe..? Is His heart filled with indifference..? When all seems lost and our eyes struggle to find a ray of light in the darkness, that could be how we see Him. But is God ever indifferent to our suffering..?
Through the Christ, God not only made an atonement for our sins, but through Him, God reveals His heart toward the children of man. Children who are loved without measure.
The shortest verse in the Bible, does a profound work in revealing the heart of God. When Jesus saw the tears of Martha and Mary and the people of Bethany, as they grieved the death of Lazarus, He wept. The Lord who knew that He was moments away from bringing Lazarus back to life, wept. The Lord who knew that this is the human suffering that He was to bring to an end, wept. The Lord knew, but still He wept. He wept, not because there was no future hope He could offer – for He Himself was and is our hope – but because He was deeply moved by the suffering and the tears of their present….
Does the Lord ever guarantee that our present will be free of suffering..? No. In fact, in John 16:33, He says that in the world we WILL face tribulations. No amount of religious living guarantees a life free of pain, in this life. But instead, He offers us something far far better. If we continue to look to our Lord for salvation, there is a future and there is a hope.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
There is coming a day, when no more heartache shall come. Nor will there be any tear to dim the eye. The God who wept over the anguish of His children, didn’t stop with His tears, you see. He descended from His High estate, and took upon our earthly frame. He endured all the pain that we endure, as sojourners in this sin stained world. He endured even worse, as He took upon Himself the sins of all humankind and paid the price such sins demand, on our behalf, on the cross. All that He endured, He endured so that we could arrive at the gates of His Eternal Kingdom, where He could wipe away our tears, and tenderly tell us, “No more….”
Until then, as long as He feels it necessary that we walk through this Valley of Weeping, we can lean on Him for strength. If even for a moment our situations overwhelm us, we can rest in the fact that the God who wept over our suffering, never fails to notice even a single drop of tear. And He will never forget, for He has each one stored in a bottle….
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
She fled home with her family to escape a severe famine in the land. She became widowed as she lived among a strange people. She watched her sons die, leaving behind their widows, without a child to call their own. She was named Pleasantness – in her Hebrew tongue, the name was Naomi. After all that she had seen, who could have had the heart to contended with her when she cried, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara [Bitterness], for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me”..?
Look at life through Naomi’s eyes for a minute. What do you see..? Do you see any sign of hope..? Till where the eye could see, even till the horizon.. I could see nothing that could possibly have given Naomi an incentive to take another step forward. There could have been times in that phase of her life when living seemed a pointless exercise. But even when life seemed vain, Naomi was in truth fulfilling an extraordinary purpose….
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Naomi though was oblivious to that extraordinary purpose. Could she have ever known that her widowed daughter-in-law – Ruth the Moabite – whom she was leading toward Judah, was a chosen vessel in the eyes of the Lord..? The woman whom God found worthy of honour above every woman in Judah in her time..? Through whom, over a millennium later, at the time appointed, the Messiah whom the people of Israel awaited, would be born..?
Or could Naomi have known that the restoration and the future that she so dearly did seek was never far from her..? When Naomi returned to Bethlehem from her tragic sojourn in Moab, she lamented, ‘I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty’. She must have considered Ruth’s presence in her life insignificant [though Naomi’s love for her could never be questioned] in light of all that she had lost. But we do know – through the Book of Ruth – how the script turned out, don’t we..? God didn’t bring Ruth to Bethlehem to remain a destitute. He exalted her in stature. And Ruth – who was once considered insignificant by Naomi – cared for her mother-in-law with such a love, that the Bible notes that she was ‘more to her than seven sons’.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7
Though all these events were soon to take place, from where Naomi stood, the future was masked by the veil of time. Yet.. in the face of utter devastation and amidst the hopelessness, what did Naomi do..? In the simplest of terms, she did two things: kept living and kept loving….
Kept living..? Is that even worth mentioning..? Perhaps not for some of us. But for some, that may be a be a real challenge that we wake up with each day. The adversities may pull us down from time to time, but the worst is the ever present burden of a vacuum in our hearts where there should have been hope. To those of you I would say, JUST KEEP LIVING. The Lord who turned the bitter waters in the life of Naomi, pleasant again, and brought her out of the pit of hopelessness, can do the same with you.
And Naomi did keep the love burning bright, even in the darkest of times. There lies a challenge that is before each of us who are walking the hard road. How often do we allow the bitterness of our situations seep into our being, that we allow it to tarnish our relationships with the people around us. But Naomi could still empathize. She remained full of love and compassion. In her widowed daughter-in-laws, she saw two women who could still have a future, living far from her than with her, and she pleaded with them to leave. Imagine this.. Naomi was willing to face life all alone as an aged woman, if only her daughter in-laws could have a better future….
Our lives can at times seem to be taking us on an endless downward spiral.. sinking from one level of bitterness to the next. The search for a reason to live could seem as futile as can be, but from the life of Naomi, we can see that there is a world beyond the horizon. Our hope can come from places that we yet cannot see….
Until then, we need to ask ourselves, even as life seems like an aimless walk in a maze.. what beautiful plans are we unknowingly living out..? Who/what are the Ruth’s that God our Father has placed in our lives that we are oblivious to..? I pray to Him, that through quiet whispers He will remind you at your time of need: ‘Keep living. Keep loving.’ Trust Him – the God who makes bitter waters, pleasant again….
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
You might be familiar with a man named C.T. Studd… one of the most inspiring missionaries to have preached the Gospel in the modern era. But do you know how this man found and accepted Christ as his saviour..? I recently had a chance to read his personal testimony, and in it I found a story of a man, a missed train ride and lives transformed…
Walking down the streets of 19th century Dublin, a man was looking for ways to while his time on a Saturday evening. He should’ve been elsewhere, had he only been able to be on time for the train that was to take him there. The next train didn’t leave until Sunday, and wondering how he could keep himself entertained, he took a stroll around town.
Advertisement bills promoting Moody and Sankey who were on a visit from the US, caught his eye. “I will just go and hear those Americans,” he thought to himself… just eager to hear something different, perhaps. He went. The person speaking on the stage may have been merely a man, but through his words, God welcomed this man into His fold. End of story..? Not quite…
The new Christian came to London on the invitation of his friend. The said friend – Mr. Studd – after dinner let his guest choose the form of entertainment. The man suggested they go listen to Moody, but Studd complained that it wasn’t a Sunday. Still, he went. He too, embraced the Lord.
Like his friend, Studd could not keep the Good News to himself. He took his sons to hear Moody. But this time, God didn’t choose Moody to work His transformation. Being a man with means, Studd organized conventions at his estate where many would come to preach and to hear God’s Word. One man who happened to be at one such convention to share God’s message, initiated a conversation with Studd’s son Charles as he was heading out to play a game of cricket. And that conversation lead to Charles a.k.a. C.T. Studd, give his life to Jesus.
C.T. Studd would go on to share the Gospel with many around the world. And a little thing as a missed train – which at that moment, might have lead to much frustration – had a part to play in the Master’s plans.
Has a situation in your life made you feel like you’re standing on the platform watching the train you’d rather have been on… run away..? Consider this, the moment that might make you upset, frustrated, or even angry today, could turn out to be a blessing… not just for you, or those around you, but for hundreds and thousands more.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The Personal Testimony of C.T. Studd can be found here.
When you see yourself as strong,
Remember how weak you were.
When you see yourself as kind,
Remember how reckless and rude you were.
When you see yourself as wise,
Remember the fool that you once were.
When you see yourself as bold,
Remember the coward that you were.
When you see you have a heart that loves,
Remember how cold it were.
When you see you have unbreakable faith,
Remember how brittle it once were.
When you see yourself as a righteous man,
Remember the sinner that you were.
At the end of it all,
When you see that you’ve done your duties in life,
Remember the nothing that you were,
When you stood by yourself,
And leaned not on Him.
Help me remember, Lord. Amen.
An excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon ‘THE BACKSLIDERS DOOR OF HOPE’ from May 8th, 1898.
You must have noticed, dear friends, that whenever men turn aside from Christ, they go away from all the music of true religion. A little religion is a very’ miserable thing; if you have just enough religion to let you know that you are wrong, and not enough to make you right, you are spoiled for the joys of the world, yet you do not possess the joys of the world to come. I cannot help telling you again the old American story about the apples in the orchard. There is said to have been a gentleman, who asked a friend to come and have some of his apples, which he said were among the finest apples in the State; yet his friend did not come, though he was invited several times. The gentleman thought that there must be some reason for his refusal, so he asked him why he did not come; and he answered, “The fact is, while I have been driving by your orchard, I have picked up an apple or two that fell into the road, and I can’t say that I have at all pleasant memories of those apples, they were the sourest that I ever ate in my life, they set my teeth on edge even to think of them.” “Oh!” said the owner of the orchard, “now I understand. Why, I sent a great many miles to buy those particular apples that grow just by the side of the hedge, and fall into the road. I bought them for the special benefit of the boys who might be inclined to steal my fruit. Whenever they taste them, they say to themselves, It is no use to rob that orchard, the apples are horribly sour. “But,” he added, “if you will come inside, where those boys do not come, you shall then see what a good apple is like.” So is it with religion; all along the outside of the hedge:, where those people come who have just a little religion, the fruit; is as sour as it can be, — repentance that needs to be repented of, and that gripes the very spirit of the man who has it. There are plenty of those things on the outside; but you have no idea of the luscious sweetness of the fruits that grow in the center; and these shall be yours if you come back to the Master, and give yourself up wholly to him; and the result will be that you will again begin to sing.
You can read the transcript of the full sermon at Biblia.
How long..? How long..?
Can I stay away..?
How long can I stay away,
From all I’m meant to be..?
Is no passing thought,
But a longing
Deep within me.
Like pictures on the wall,
Remind me of all
The times I tried,
Pick yourself up.”,
Just try again.”