Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength
Tears are a very interesting and important part of the human anatomy. Tears are produced by the tear gland, which are small glands that are in our upper eyelid. Tears keep the surface of your eyeball clean, and help protect your eye from damage. But there’s another function of tears. They appear when we experience heartache and sadness. They form when we encounter joy, heartbreak, and sometimes for no reason with some people.
When we cry because of something emotionally painful, most of the time we wish that the problem never would’ve happened In the first place. Tears are a natural part of life. It’s going to happen, no matter how tough we claim to be. At some point we are going to break under the pressure of this world. That’s why I’d like to spend a few moments in one of the most encouraging passages of scripture in the Bible, Isaiah 25:8-9. In these two verses we will notice three painful types of tears that will be wiped away.
It reads, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
The first type of tears that will be wiped away are tears of death (v. 8). Every human on earth will experience death. Our lives will end in death, and scattered all throughout our days on earth we will lose those we love. Death is terrible. It tears us apart– we feel like we are drowning in heartbreak– that this pain will never end. We have to watch as mothers and fathers lose their children, children lose their parents, and spouses lose each other. Death is inevitable and something none of us ever want to go through. But there will come a day when we will never have to shed a tear over a loved one. We will never stand at a graveside again. God will make sure that his children never have to experience this heartache ever again. I long for heaven because the tears of death will be wiped away.
He will wipe away the tears of disgrace (8b). We can all agree that this world is full of evil. There is murder, rape, liars, gossip, and broken homes. This world is a place full of tears over the pain that comes from evil. Homes are torn apart and hearts are broken over the sin of others. A day will come when Christ will wipe away all tears (Rev. 21:4). A day will come when Christ will mend the hearts of the broken. David spoke of his Joy in God. He says, “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psa. 30:10-11). As Christians we can turn to God with hope, knowing that He is our helper and strength. We don’t have to face the evil of this world on our own. God can turn our heartache into Joy. He can wipe away the tears that sin has placed in our eyes. A time will come when the tears of disgrace will be wiped away.
God will wipe away the tears of distance and discouragement (9). It is common after a tragedy has occurred to hear someone pray, “Jesus come quickly.” We say this because we know that Christ is our way of escape from this world. Christ is our hope. We want Him to come back, to help us escape the sin that is around us. Sometimes this distance from God can cause us to become discouraged and to think that He isn’t coming back to save us. God will wipe away the tears of discouragement.
And on that day we will say, “This is OUR God.” The God that we have placed all hope and faith in. “This is OUR God that we have waited on to save us.” “This is OUR God that has brought us salvation.” The day will come when God will wipe away the tears that have been formed by the distance and discouragement we encounter on earth.
The day will also come when we will be judged for how we lived on earth. Can we say that we have waited on God? Can we rejoice in His return? Can we truthfully say that we have placed our faith and hope in God? On that day our tears will either be wiped away, or they will continue on into eternity. The question we must ask ourselves is this: “Will God wipe away my tears?”
While the knowledge of my fear of snakes is widespread, some of the events of my past that hardened that horror as less so. A couple of years before moving to Colorado, we were hit by Hurricane Isabel. On our one acre lot, we had well over 100 trees. In fact, about 100 of them fell in that storm, which was the deadliest and costliest of the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. Cleanup took months, as the storm shook up the environment in some notable ways. To me, the most disturbing was that it forced a great many copperhead snakes out of their dry dens and rocky hillsides down into neighborhoods like ours. In the course of several months of cutting and removing trees, we ran into about a dozen of these demonic creatures.
On one occasion, a copperhead was near my foot. Also near my foot was a garden hoe, which I promptly dispatched for the purpose of eliminating this threat. To my utter dismay, the blade of the hoe, put to the head of the snake, sank into the rain-softened ground. Rather than killing the snake, it made it mad. At this point, I was in a quandary. Pushing the hoe harder was not causing further harm to the snake, but releasing the snake from the hoe felt like a bad option, too. For what seemed like a week, I continued to work the hoe on that copperhead until it was hurt badly enough for me to properly finish the job.
Have you ever been caught on the horns of a dilemma which seemed bigger than you? As you were in the throes of it, you prayed, pleaded, and petitioned God for help. You realized that without His help, you were in big trouble. It could have been regarding your health, finances, a relationship, a sin struggle, or big decision. Most of us become keenly aware of our need of God’s intervention in moments like those. Yet, it is a helpful reminder that even when life is not so scary or circumstances are less dramatic, God is still in control. Our prayers should reflect this. Our plans should be governed by it. Our priorities should show that we get that.
What will happen to our nation in time to come? What might the church face that scares and intimidates us? What could happen in our individual lives that fills us with dread? No matter what, trust that God is always in control. Take heart in this truth: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident” (Psalm 27:1-3).
In other words, God is always in control!
We read it to our sons when they were growing up. We made up our own tune to the song, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” It’s been hard to remember those days in the rocking chair, reading it over and over to them, without getting tearful ever since they weren’t little boys. It turns out that many people can relate. The book’s author, Robert Munsch, reports that it has sold 15,000,000 copies (http://robertmunsch.com/book/love-you-forever). His publisher didn’t want to publish it because it didn’t seem like a traditional children’s book.
If just reading the title gets you choked up with personal memories, you may not want to read the true story behind the book. Munsch says that the song came first:
I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song
was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and
I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was
very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing (ibid.).
He later built a story around the song, and the rest is history for millions of parents and their children. I imagine Gary, Dale, and Carl would tell you this is their favorite book from childhood. It’s certainly ours.
Isn’t it interesting that such a beautiful, intense love story surrounds something heartbreaking and tragic. Out of pain and sorrow, this incredible, enduring legacy was created. Knowing the backstory only intensifies the power of the words in the book.
Have you ever looked at the story of the cross in that light? Scripture teaches us from beginning to end that God loves us, His children. He cares for us, protects us, and wants us to live with Him forever.
But there is a backstory. In fact, it goes back to eternity. There, the Godhead made a plan to make sure we could live with Him forever. But it would require His Son dying for us in order to make it happen. Discovering that may bring tears to our eyes, but it also melts our hearts. What love! It’s a forever love, one that can make us the best we could ever be.
Here is God’s message throughout Scripture: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jer. 31:3). In other words, “I’ve loved you forever and I’ll love you forever.”
“You Will Have…”
—Treasure in heaven if you follow Jesus (Mat. 19:21; Mk. 10:21).
—Honor in the sight of all if you are humble (Lk. 14:10).
—Praise of rulers and authority if you do good (Rom. 13:3).
—An answer for the sinfully proud if you are persuaded about the Lord (2 Cor. 5:12).
—Brief tribulation if you are faithful, but then the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
“You Will Be…”
—Judged in the way you judge (Mat. 7:2).
—Hated by all for Christ’s name (Mat. 10:22).
—Justified or condemned by your words (Mat. 12:37).
—Sons of the Most High by loving unconditionally (Lk. 6:35).
—Repaid for charitable kindness at the resurrection of the righteous (Lk. 14:14).
—Free indeed if freed by the Son (Jn. 8:36).
—Saved by faith in Christ (Ac. 16:31).
—Saved by confessing Christ (Rom. 10:9).
—Able to overcome any temptation (1 Co. 10:13).
—Enriched by being generous (2 Co. 9:11).
—Able to stand firm against the devil’s schemes if you put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11ff).
—A good servant of Christ Jesus by pointing out His Word (1 Tim. 4:6).
—Tested (Rev. 2:10).
“You Will Not…”
—Enter the kingdom of heaven without a righteousness surpassing the scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 5:20).
—Enter the kingdom of heaven without being converted like little children (Mt. 18:3).
—Carry out the desire of the flesh if you walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
—Grieve like the hopeless if you face the death of a faithful Christian (1 Th. 4:13).
—Grow weary and lose heart if you consider Jesus’ example of endurance (Heb. 12:3).
“You Will See…”
—Others faults more fairly when you look accurately at your own (Mt. 7:5).
—The Majesty and power of Jesus if you look with spiritual eyes (Mt. 26:64).
—The glory of God if you believe (Jn. 11:40).
—The King some day (Jn. 16:16-19).
“You Will Know…”
—Teachers by their fruits (Mt. 7:16,20).
—The emancipating truth (Jn. 8:32).
—The hope of God’s calling through faith in His revealed will (Eph. 1:18).
—How to respond to every man if you use gracious, well-seasoned speech (Col. 4:6).
—How to conduct yourself in the Lord’s church if you consult God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:15).
“You Will Receive…”
—All things you ask in prayer, believing (Mt. 21:22).
—If you ask in Christ’s name (Jn. 16:24).
—The gift of the Holy Spirit if you repent and are baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
—The reward of the inheritance as the result of works of obedience (Col. 3:24).
—The unfading crown of glory if you are an elder who serves faithfully (1 Pet. 5:4).
In view of just a portion of God’s generosity, may we stand on the promises of God today and every day. One of the most thrilling statements of all Scripture is this: “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Whatever you are struggling with, claim this ironclad fact with its many implications! Holding onto it, surely you can handle any trial, temptation, or trouble you are facing.
The mighty arm of creation, brooding or building
The hand that tipped the canopy, drowning sinners
The finger that stirred the languages, babblers yielding
The heart that made the heirs of Abram winners
The Majesty presented in a bush, resilient though burning
The Master who through plagues made Pharaoh submit
The Merciful One who longed for Israel’s returning
The Measuring Rod whose justice sin did not acquit.
The everlasting to everlasting, whose word’s a holy knife
Inhabitant of the heavens, swaddling Incarnate babe
Kindling Spirit, Father, Son, the way, truth and life
Perfect in character, with power the obedient to save.
Gatekeeper of heaven, consigner of the wicked to hell
Served by angels, ruler of the living and the dead
Spirit, love and light, divinest nature not one part frail
Eyes all-seeing, mind all-knowing, power unlimited.
Hope of the hopeless, joy for the tearful mourner
Source of strength for the heavy-laden soul
Lifter of the penitent fallen, all-glory adorner
Author of salvation who one day will call the judgment roll.
Since He is and is rewarder, let not one refuse His order!
If Satan’s power you’d have repealed, obey the God the word’s revealed!
I read the words of David today
They were so full of hope and trust
They spoke of God’s merciful way
That He is mindful we’re but dust.
He knows that transgressions we commit
That His forgiveness is a must
His lovingkindness He gives those who try to quit
Because He knows that we are dust.
Like David, I’m glad God has not dealt
Just with justice toward my anger, sin, and lust
As exalted His nature, so His tender heart will melt
Because He’s mindful we are but dust.
Like a father pities his erring child,
He reacts with compassion, not disgust,
When we fear Him, we learn He’s tender and mild.
He is mindful that we are but dust.
So as I embark on this unique day,
I know God is holy, perfect, and just,
But He balances this with a most merciful way
As He dwells on the fact that we’re but dust.
How should I treat you, my fellow pilgrim
Who’s also driven by imperfection’s fierce gust?
May I see you as I’m seen by Him,
And remember that you are but dust.
Extend you grace and excuse your stumbles,
Be willing to forgive, forget, adjust,
Because David’s inspired truth forever humbles,
He is mindful that we are but dust!