There is a harsh deadness to winter. Will there ever be life again?
Yet year after year we look for signs of Spring. We know from experience that it will come. God has promised and it has always come. So I pray and wait. Trusting a good God will bring Spring and new life out of this deadness. Struggling to thank Him in the winter, knowing it leads to Spring that will be more marvelous because of the winter that came before.
So too trouble comes with its cold, harsh, barrenness.
Sudden storms that are unpredictable.
Storms I have no control of.
Storms I want no part of.
Yet here they are swirling, howling about my life. They refuse to give an answer to my “why?”
So I pray and wait. Trusting God is with me especially in the trouble. Holding me close, teaching me to rely on Him. I haltingly thank Him for His care. Knowing someday there will be a “Spring” that will be even more beautiful because of the trouble that came before.
I can still remember sitting next to my dad and, without thought, resting my head on his shoulder. It was a safe and comfortable place to be. I was a shy child and there was nothing more comforting than to sit beside him and half hide my face behind his strong arm. Sometimes during a long sermon as my head would nod I would gratefully rest my head and drop off to sleep knowing he was there beside me.
Other times at a camp meeting or other large event I would stand beside him and grab his arm as he talked to people I didn’t know. I would not have dared be there by myself, but there was a quiet excitement to being with him. He would protect me. He would bring me safely home again.
Yet again we would be walking through the park. As I got tired, my dad, grinning, would take my hand and we would walk/run the rest of the way. It was so much easier with his arm encouraging me on.
Those arms of his brought great comfort. It wasn’t what he said so much as the action of a simple hug or strong presence. I was heartbroken when he died just before I turned 30. I wasn’t as grown up as I let on, but because of the gaping hole left by his departure I learned to look to my heavenly Father more…to look for His strong arms to comfort and to give courage…knowing that whatever trouble I came across, He would be there to walk me through or possibly to take me home.
It reminds me of a song I learned when I was young. I can still hear my Father singing it with his strong Bass voice.
Are you leaning on these Everlasting Arms? If not, why not? Don’t delay. Decide before it is too late.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms – (E.A. Hoffman/A.J. Showalter)
What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms! What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms!
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms! Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day, Leaning on the everlasting arms! (Chorus)
What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms. (Chorus)
I have two chairs that my grandparents received on their wedding day. They are tiny by today’s standards. I used them as thrones when I was a little girl. There was a matching loveseat that I spent hours sprawled out in reading the World Book Encyclopedia. The loveseat met an unfortunate end when it got in the way of a semi-truck, but that is another story.
The chairs came to me before my mother died. About 10 years ago one of the chairs was damaged while being used in a drama production. The front leg and part of the frame was shattered. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. How do you discard something that you have lived with all your life? It was the only thing I owned that had belonged to my grandmother…so it sat in my basement. The chair that wasn’t damaged sat with it. It seemed they should be together. I looked at it every once in a while and tried to see if I could fix it. It seemed impossible. There were just too many pieces. Still, I couldn’t throw it away.
A couple years ago I decided to buy some fabric and recover the good one. I bought enough for two chairs just in case. I started on the broken one first. I took out the old tacks, peeled back the old fabric, took out the stuffing and removed the webbing from the bottom. There it was looking worse than ever. The springs had come loose. The leg and frame looked hopeless. I carefully took the leg apart where it met the frame. I cleaned out the old glue. I fit the pieces back together with new glue in the joints. I added wood filler where the wood was damaged and splintered. I bound it up tight while the glue dried. I also put some braces up inside where they wouldn’t show. I sanded and covered up the scratches with stain.
Next I started putting new webbing on the bottom, retying the springs, layering the burlap, stuffing, cotton cloth, more stuffing, more cotton cloth and finally the finish fabric. The braid went on last to cover all the edges. I stepped back and looked it over. I was amazed. It was beautiful. It was also strong…stronger than it had ever been. I recovered the good chair too. I had to redo some of the stuffing, but I didn’t have to touch the springs or webbing. They were a matched set again. They looked the same, but one was much stronger. The one that had been broken, seemingly beyond usefulness, was now the stronger of the two.
My thoughts turned to people. Many are broken and shattered. As broken people we have two choices. We can hide in the basement and expect other people to stay there with us or we can give our broken and shattered pieces to the one who made us. It will hurt. He will have to take things apart, scrape off things that shouldn’t be there and dig out some rotten bits. But as we trust Him to work with our life He will make us beautiful and strong…stronger than we would have been if we had never been broken.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Paul Gerhardt’s life was not an easy one. He was a preacher without a parish, tossed from place to place, (Mittenwalde & Berlin) Four of his children died, and at some point his wife also. He had been dismissed from his last church because of disagreements with the Elector Fredrick. He wandered from place to place for two years.
The following hymn was written while he was staying at a wayside inn, homeless and discouraged. After completing it he was finally offered a parish in Lubben where he stayed until his death.
He wrote 123 hymns and was a favorite hymn-writer of the German-speaking people.
Hymn of Trust – (Give to the Winds Thy Fears)
Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)/William H. Walter
Give to the winds thy fears, hope and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way;
Wait thou His time, so shall this night soon end in joyous day.
Who points the clouds their course, whom wind and seas obey;
He shall direct thy wandering feet, He shall prepare thy way.
Leave to His sov’reign sway to choose and to command,
So shalt thou wond’ring own His way, how wise, how strong His hand!
Thou seest our weakness, Lord, our hearts are known to Thee;
O lift Thou up the sinking heart, confirm the feeble knee.
Commit thou all thy griefs and ways into His hands;
To His sure trust and tender care Who earth and heaven commands.
Let us in life, in death, Thy steadfast truth declare,
And publish with our latest breath Thy love and guardian care.
For further study: I Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 125:1; Psalm 37
I’ll be posting some hymns from time to time. I’m choosing things that are over 100 years old to avoid copyright infringement. The words will be posted so you can sing along with me. I wish I could hear you.
Day by Day – Sandell Berg / Oscar Ahnfelt
Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour.
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure is a charge that on Himself He laid.
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then in every tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the Promised Land.
“Just get in the car and you’ll find out.” my husband responds.
“Why? Where are we going?” Arianna insists.
“Just trust me, you will like it.”
“But Papa, I want to know where we are going. Is it the mall or the grocery store?”
“I’m not going to tell you. Just trust me. It’s a surprise! Don’t ruin it.”
“I want to know. I need to know!”
“You need to be patient.”
“I can’t, Papa. I can’t!”
And so the conversation continued all the way to Dairy Queen. Arianna was rewarded even though she wasn’t patient, demanded to know, and didn’t quietly trust. Her Papa rewarded her with one of her favorite treats, not because of her quiet obedience, but because she is his granddaughter and he delights to surprise her with good things.
I was reminded of this episode when we found ourselves in the middle of a housing crisis.
While looking for a home on short notice we encountered several slammed doors. A couple offers slipped through our fingers. We prayed again and again.
“Where do you want us, Lord?”
Almost as clear as day I heard Him say.
“Just trust me, it’s a surprise.” (We were not amused.)
Funny how God uses our own words to pierce our heart.
…”In repentance and rest you shall be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing…Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you…He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.” Isaiah 30:15, 18, 19