Thoughts turn like the pages of a skeptic’s encyclopedia. Troubled times seem more like a series of pantomimed clues in a game of charades. Has certainty been shaken?
Everyone’s mood more weathered than the change of seasons. Maybe it’s just the spring showers cascading a deeper hue of grey, hiding the rainbows from view. But, let’s not talk weather. When life gets stripped down to the core, it brings to mind another simile, a wooden plank laid before the carpenter. Sure, the tree that once was the sum of the lumbered boards is no more. The splendor vanished into what lay behind in the minds-eye. What was would be transformed. What had been would become what was not before. Something new!
During such times, as we face today, it is helpful to remember times in history that point toward the human condition. There are testimonies of those who dot the timeline of humanity, and left us with the legacy of garnishing hope from their perseverance. One such person was uniquely unrepeatable.
A famous carpenter knew with a peculiar certainty that it would be, in the midst of troubled times clamping down, when the days yet to be known would be ideal for his purposed project to be finished. Carpentry was his veil, but splintered hearts was his calling. A life not lived out by smoothed surfaces, but lived in the rough, organic style of realism. Sweat would drop like anguished tears to come. Strength would be tested, and the will’s resign secured with every hammered blow. The glorious breathe-taking design would be worth every ounce of sacrifice.
This carpenter possessed not just skill, but a joy unrenowned to depths unpillaged by common stature. His existence fixed by his mind and passions focused on the end, the unveiled of a piece of history never to be repeated. Joy, to this carpenter, was more than a feeling, more than an emotional point of reference. He acutely understood joy as a strength, a character trait to be exercised in preparation for everyday beginnings and tasks. In fact, it is because he exemplified this kind of joy and strength in very unsettled times, that we too gain endurance and hope from his example! Do you know who I am talking about…keep reading!
But, strength in unsettled times is not always our ambition.
You see, fear strengthens forgetfulness. Anxiety kindles distrust and sometimes anger. We find wrestling despair to a shrunk down, pocket-sized manageability is hard. Despair can quickly overwhelm. But how did this carpenter capitalize on his masterpiece while engulfed with burdens of the day abruptly bearing down? Here, it is good for us to remember that entering troubled times is a reoccurring theme of history. In fact, we would be an anomaly to escape such. Ironically, the most challenging of days can exercise a great realization, and may I say, a bolder appreciation for this carpenter’s kind of joy. A joy, even we can attain, that is not circumstantial, but carries a soulful strut to life’s unsynchronized whims of change.
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.
Trust is not a gift for inward possession alone. Trust is meant to be seen through the outward expression of joy. Trust is a catalyst for refuge from permeating anxiousness and strength to overcome fear. Does it seem impossible to still weep one’s losses with joy? It shouldn’t. Counting one’s joy is not reserved for the meticulously stoic spirit, but simply with an eternal perspective applied. Trust and joy remind us where we stand in light of who God is.
Read Psalm 46.
Title: God the Refuge of His People.
For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Does my heart truly trust God this much? Do I rest in His strength as my “very present help” (v. 1), who is always found with a speed and completeness of might and all-sufficiency? His works have proved Him to be so. Whether, as Creator of land and sea, of sky and trees, of animals and humanity, or as a humble carpenter turned teaching Rabbi Redeemer capable of transforming what no one else could into the very fabric of every generation (before, current, and yet to come). He, in human form Jesus Christ, at the pinnacle of empires, shifted all of humanities eternal destiny. A design, a plan, a purpose, a scope, a masterpiece: the salvation of souls.
You see this carpenter who “made” and fashioned the unrepeatable piece of history, was Jesus Christ. Jesus, the “One who has been tempted in all things as we are” embraced the trust we are to grasp hold of as well (Hebrews 4:15; John 17). As He commended His spirit, so to can we (Luke 23:46; Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 11:16). It is through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, we learn how to be ruled by the promises of God. Oh Lord, hear my cry, “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Convict my doubt. Restore my soul. May my mind remember your works, how the carpenter laid bare, the Messiah of splintered hearts, on the planks crossed to redeem the human soul.
May your Passover reflection be beautiful, and your Resurrection rejoicing be sweeter in 2020 than ever before.