Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Psalms 119:81 – 88 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?” Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors? The arrogant dig pitfalls for me, contrary to your law. All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for men persecute me without cause. They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. Preserve my life according to your love, and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.
Two weeks after the big wedding, the church secretary received a letter from the newlyweds with instructions to put a thank-you into the Sunday worship folder. It read,
Thank you all for coming to our wedding. It was beautiful that you brought our happiness to a conclusion.
John and Cindy
While I was in Israel recently, the Lord provided me with a truth statement that is constantly on my mind. Circumstances do not cancel God’s promises. Yet in everyday life, we allow circumstances to dramatically influence our emotional state. Circumstances can and do bring our happiness to a conclusion.
When troubles impact our lives, our soul faints with longing for deliverance. We cry out for comfort. Our endurance of pitfalls and persecution wears thin. Our natural defense mechanisms take over. We transfer our energies into other activities to occupy our minds. We escape the pain of our emotions with some form of temporary high. We hope that time will heal us so that we can try again when the memories have faded. After all, we truly believe that trying harder fixes everything.
Dr. Larry Crabb tells this story.
I was talking with a 29-year-old woman recently. She told me how she was changing and how happy she was that her life was going well. She shared all the victories and good things. In the course of our conversation over lunch, she said she was glad to be alive as a person. Things were going her way for the first time in a long time. She was a happy person. And as I listened, it became clear that she always referred to herself as a person and never once as a woman. After about twenty or thirty minutes, I said to her, “You’ve been talking about yourself, and in every case you refer to yourself as a person. Are you glad you’re alive as a woman?” When I asked that question, she began to tear up. That led to a long, tearful discussion of the fact that she had been sexually abused, and as a woman, she felt useless and dirty. As a woman, she had no joy, but on the outside she was doing super. At the core of her being, she was not the happy woman she seemed to other people.
I suspect when most of us have problems in our lives, we simply try harder. But today’s Scripture reminds us that trying harder is like putting a wineskin into the smoke. I was fascinated by that metaphor, so I did some research. The New Testament gives us a clue when Jesus says, Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. For wineskins to be useful they must be flexible. When exposed to heat and smoke, skins dry up and crack. They become inflexible and useless, unable to hold their contents.
Maybe that’s how you feel today. The heat and smoke from your circumstances has dried you up and you feel useless. Your happiness has been brought to a conclusion, and you believe your only hope is to try harder in some other area of your life to prove your worth.
But that is not your answer. Your answer is found in God’s love for you. The Psalmist knew this when he wrote, Preserve my life according to your love. God is faithful to accomplish every promise of His word in your life. Every word is trustworthy. Circumstances may appear to wreck your life and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Your broken life is not lost or useless. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out his wonderful plan of love.
Your happiness is not concluded, because happiness is a by-product of the joy of your salvation in the Lord, not a by-product of circumstances. You may feel dried up and parched like a wineskin in the smoke, but your faith can overcome your feelings and you will remember the promises of God. Your life is secure. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:31-39)