Still and Quiet Gratitude
My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not
haughty; I do not concern myself with great
matters or things too wonderful for me. But I
have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned
child with its mother, like a weaned child is my
soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the
LORD both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)
This past month has been a rather normal one for me, no great new revelations, no terribly uncomfortable situations. Just a routine month. And yet… when we walk with Jesus is there ever a month, a week, or a day that is not open to the supernatural, the unexplainable, the miraculous? Let me begin this brief article by sharing a few of my routine experiences.
In the Thursday Bible Study we are slowing working our way through the Old Testament book of Joshua. It doesn’t read like a novel but neither does it read like a theology textbook. Instead it tells a story with repeated lines and without much explanation for them. As Joshua leads the Israelites into the land of Canaan under the command and direction of God we read over and over again as the battles seem to all blend into one that with regard to their enemies, “they totally destroyed them” and that “no survivors were left.” One of the concluding lines with regard to this conquest states very clearly that this total extermination without mercy was “as the LORD commanded” (Joshua 11:20). Well, I have tried to explain this as best I can, but quite frankly, I think we all still have a measure of uneasiness about it.
Mid-month I went to the library sale in Ithaca and stumbled upon the book “Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God” by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan. I picked it up and began reading immediately. It is a most interesting book, and helpful. And although I am not yet finished with it I would still have to say that it doesn’t answer all of my questions.
Our Adult Sunday School Class is doing a study of the concept of silence in the Bible, silence before God. Psalm 46 describes our world as filled with raging destructive storms and needless desolating wars and then states: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). That seems to describe our present reality, but is stillness and quietness possible in the presence of such turmoil and unexplainable tragedies? Yet that is the Biblical directive.
Another book arrived in the mail that I had forgotten I had ordered. It was entitled “Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor” by D.A. Carson. I read it through in two days. I would not give it rave reviews as it is, after all, about just an “ordinary pastor.” But it was encouraging to read of another who also plodding along not always sure of the whys and hows of life, yet knowing the peace and assurance that comes only from walking with Jesus.
So here I am back again with life’s unanswered questions and my small mind unable to grasp or explain the workings of God Almighty. But it occurs to me that I will never be able to fully comprehend God. I can understand the message of salvation, that Jesus died for my sin and for the sin of the world, but I cannot answer the question why he would love me, love us, enough to do so. And I am reminded of my father, another “ordinary pastor,” whose favorite hymn goes:
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
to me he hath made known;
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.
But I know whom I have believed,
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I’ve committed
unto him against that day.
( Daniel Whittle)
And now we are approaching the Thanksgiving season. I am prompted to still and quiet my heart from the things that are beyond me, the matters that exceed my ability to comprehend, and in gratitude to rest in the things that I do know. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” (Anna Warner). There is the place of confident assurance. None of us will ever have all the answers, but we are offered the peace and joy of a life that walks with Jesus. “We’ll understand it better by and by” (Charles Tindley). Join me this season in expressing your thanks to God even as you quiet your soul before him in the wonder of his infinite wisdom.
See you in Worship.