When the phone rings at midnight, awakening you from a deep and hard sleep, it rarely rings with happy news.
“Mr. Enns? This is Pastor ________. Your daughter is ok, but she’s been in an accident at camp and has been hurt…We’re getting ready to take her to the emergency room…”
With those words last night, our rejuvenating sleep was transformed to hours of unrestful waiting. Long story short, she’s ok and will be able to finish the week at camp. But those first few hours too many questions raced through our minds to allow us any kind of useful sleep. We were more than 600 miles away and helpless to help.
As I reflected today on my light night of sleep, here are some spiritual lessons I knew but found myself encouraged by as I remembered them (much of our Biblical encouragement comes not from learning new truth, but remembering and practicing already known truth):
- It is possible, and it is good, to give thanks in all circumstances. Around 3:00 a.m., as the phone calls had finished for the night and I was thinking on Scripture and praying, I realized that while I was able to express gratitude for this testing of my faith, there were numerous other testings for which I had to this point only grumbled. So began a time of expressing to God various expressions of gratitude for all the circumstances of my life.
- God really is sovereign — and that is a good gift. What He does may be hard, but it come from His goodness and love and power, and He is trustworthy — and that means, as James Boice noted (my paraphrase from my memory) when he announced to his congregation the presence of cancer within his body that would usher him into glory within weeks, “if we were able to change what God has done, no matter what He has done, it wouldn’t be as good…” Broken teeth don’t undo the sovereignty of God — they make us to embrace that sovereignty in all its fullness and goodness.
- In the face of testings, sin is ugly. That may not be readily apparent. But when Christ is loved and trials arrive, presentations of sin are starkly exposed as the hideous temptations they are to lure us into deadly traps. Trials make truth and error clear and distinct, compelling the Christ-lover to despise the vileness of sin all the more. Trials make death appear darker and life appear brighter. That’s good for our souls.
- Just because there are testings in one part of life does not preclude God from presenting us with other ministry opportunities in other areas of life. In the midst of awaiting some phone calls this morning, Raye Jeanne and I saw an unrecognized car pull into the driveway. “Who’s that?” I asked. “I don’t know…Oh, that’s some Jehovah’s Witnesses…” she replied. And up they marched to the door. In our brief conversation, I was sadly reminded that the exclusive claims of Christ are divisive, and the god of this world will use many means to delude many people to believing they are “close” to Christ by keeping them away from the reality of the true Christ. The parting image in my mind is of two women quickly walking away from me, a dismissive wave of the hands and the words “Don’t bother — we don’t want it,” to my promise to pray for them to come to understand and know Christ. It is the image of two women believing they have the truth, marching resolutely towards eternity in hell. And my heart grieved.
- The body of Christ is a gift of Christ’s grace. How can you train a child that God will provide His sustaining grace even if Dad and Mom aren’t present? That’s a lesson that’s hard to orchestrate. Or, how can you train a child to see that the church is God’s instrument by which He often manifests that grace to His people? For us, this week, that lesson was taught by means of our daughter being 600 miles from home and experiencing the grace of many of Christ’s people sacrificing for her as an expression of their love for Christ.
- My trial or test is about more than just me. I’ve said it for years, God obviously uses my pain to deepen my faith in Him; but He also uses my pain to stimulate others to love and good deeds. “Consider my servant Job” (Job 1:8; cf. also Js. 5:11) means another’s pain is sometimes woven into my life to transform me into greater Christlikeness.
- “Pray without ceasing” can be graciously kick-started by unexpected phone calls. And the quality and depth of one’s prayer life is clarifyingly revealed by those same calls.
It all began with what seemed an untimely phone call. And it ended with the demonstration of God’s grace in manifold ways — both for a young lady and her parents — and a host of timely memories. I thank God for minds to know and hearts to remember Him — both in and out of times of trial.