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Perplexed, But Not Despairing
by Fred London
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Perplexed, But Not Despairing

A word of consolation and encouragement to a battered and weary saint.

First of all, I appreciate the fact that despite the difficult circumstances you have been going through, you still feel comfortable enough to share your heart with me. Now, I would not presume to know exactly what you are experiencing, nor what you are feeling, except the confusion, hardships, and loneliness which are quite apparent in your words. In that respect, I can honestly say, that I have indeed "shared in the fellowship of your sufferings."

Yes, I could quote you a multitude of Scriptural passages intended to minister to you. But, under your current circumstances, and with the best of intentions, would more than likely result in ministering to you "the letter of the law which kills," rather than "the spirit, which ministers life." Furthermore, I would imagine that there is no relevant Scripture I could throw at you that you are not already familiar with. As with Job's socalled friends, they shared an abundance of spiritual truths, and yet, they did not minister life to him. Ministering words of God is not the same as ministering the Word of God.

As Mark Twain once quipped, "It's not what I don't understand about the Bible that bothers me so much as it is what I do understand." So, what is it that I do know about God, His ways, and His character, as limited as that may be? In Psalm 50, it says, "You thought that I was just like you." For me, my natural inclination is that my universe must have order, that things should make sense, and that not only is there a reason and a purpose for all things under heaven, as Ecclesiastes states, but that I am owed an explanation of those reasons.

You see, I had assumed that God was just like me in the sense that I imposed my ways, sense of justice, and values upon the God of the universe. If the very Son of God could be brought to the place of ultimate anguish, where His own humanity was compelled to cry out, "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me, we should take heart in knowing that we are in very select company with whom also shared that same experience. The apostle Paul himself confessed to being "perplexed, but not despairing." King David expressed the time in his own life where "the heavens were as brass."

Truly, the "taking up of our (personal) cross" comes in ways we had not anticipated. There are the Peter's out there who virtually guaranteed us way back when that "Surely, this will never happen to You!" Whether they were mistaken or lied, having "sold us a bill of goods," the outcome remains the same, and that God is always after something in us, the specifics of which may very well remain a mystery until after the fact. But, what I do know is that it is God's aim to conform us to the image of His Son." And it's how He gets us there that reveals the fallacy of "You thought that I was just like you."

For whatever it may be worth, I already see a precious fruit which you, yourself, have expressed, and that is, a yearning for the simplicity you enjoyed in an earlier time. Paul's greatest fear for the early church was that they should "be corrupted from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." It is not surprising that quite often these fruits are not apparent to us in the midst of the storm, "not being able to see the forest for the trees." However, from an outsider's perspective, it can be quite apparent; a bearing witness of an outward manifestation of an inner work. As with Moses when he came down from the mountain, the people recognized immediately that he had been with God, "For his face shone and Moses knew it not."

What God is specifically doing with you, and why, I would not presume to offer some pseudospiritual explanation. Job's socalled friends tried that and were soundly rebuked by God for it. Peter also, in much shock and dismay, found out just how unlike God can be from us. However, it is quite apparent that He is doing something with you, and more importantly, in you. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen, are eternal."

"Wilderness experiences" at the time, seem to be trials without end. But, we cannot reach that end apart from the process. I am often reminded of these haunting words found in Isaiah, "Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night? Morning comes, but also night." As the Psalmist said, "Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning."

For Christ, death preceded resurrection. The Cross preceded death. Gethsemane preceded the Cross. When we received the Lord, we could not comprehend what Christ meant when He said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Sooner or later, we face that same poignant question that Jesus asked His disciples when he walked the face of this earth. “You do not wish to go away also, do you?” May we all be able to reply as Peter did as Peter did at that moment of crisis. “Lord, to whom shall we go for you have the words of eternal life, and we have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of Israel.”

And “the testing of your faith being more precious than gold” is not for the benefit of you, alone. You see, as was with Peter, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but Jesus has also prayed for you, when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” And, in so doing, you will have allowed God to be glorified in you, and through you, in striking one more blow against the prince of darkness, putting him one step closer to his ultimate defeat.

Fred London

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