Richard Exley Ministries


Does Steel Float
Posted on September 02, 2009

“For those who refuse to give up, who dare to see with both eyes, there’s something beyond the darkness, something beyond the pain and brokenness of our shattered world.”



Most people can overcome any adversity if they can be assured of three things. First, they must know that God cares. Then they must be convinced that He won’t forsake them. Finally, they have to know that God will redeem their situation. As rational creatures, the thought that a tragic accident or some other life-altering event might be pointless is simply unbearable. But if we are convinced that God will ultimately bring good out of what looks for all the world like a senseless tragedy, we can somehow bear it.
 
Do you remember the time Jesus and His disciples got caught in a terrible storm? Mark records it:  “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’” (Mark 4:37,38).

“Don’t you care?”

That’s the question that haunts us when our secure world is suddenly shattered. We want to know if God cares.

I’m thinking of a young couple who spent two years on the mission field. While there, their second child was stillborn. It was a devastating blow. They were thousands of miles from family and friends, laying their lives on the line for the sake of the kingdom, doing exactly what God had called them to do, so why did their baby die? How many times, I wonder, did they cry, “Lord, don’t You care?”

Theirs is an extreme case, I’ll grant you, but it is not nearly as isolated as you might think. After more than forty years in the ministry, I’ve come to realize just how many people live with unspeakable sorrow, how many people suffer in silence and hide their hurt behind a public smile. Over and over they have pled with me for an answer. “Does God care?” they ask, or, “Why doesn’t God do something?”

It’s not really answers we seek, but assurance. Anyway the real question isn’t so much “Why?” but “Does God know, does He care?” And in response, all I can do is point to the cross. There He is – God’s Son – bleeding and dying because He cares!

Once we know God cares, then we need to be assured that He is with us. The sense of God’s nearness is what has kept my sister going. When she is tempted to despair, to give up the fight, she strengthens herself by focusing on the Lord’s nearness. I’ve prayed with her nearly every day. We pray for a miracle of healing. We pray for strength to get through all the chemotherapy treatments. We pray for God to redeem this tragedy, to bring good out of this terrible ordeal. All of this is meaningful to her but what quiets her spirit and strengthens her heart is when I pray for God to be nearer to her than the breath she breaths, closer than life itself. As long as she can sense His near presence she can face her uncertain future with courage.
Like so many others who have endured unspeakable hardship, Sherry can’t bear the thought that her suffering might be pointless.  If she has to endure the ravages of chemotherapy and surgery, while looking the possibility of a premature death in the eye, she wants to be assured that her suffering won’t be wasted. She clings tightly to Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Unfortunately, the good God is working through our suffering is often nearly impossible to see in this life. Still, that doesn’t mean that God is not at work.

I’m thinking of a pastor whose only son committed suicide. One Lord’s day he entered the pulpit and announced his text. Visibly struggling he read Romans 8:28. Holding up his Bible he said, “I cannot make my son’s suicide fit into this verse. It’s impossible for me to see how anything good can come out of it. And yet this verse supports me somehow, it enables me to go on living even though life doesn’t seem to make any sense.

“It’s like the mystery, the miracle, of the shipyard. Almost every part of our great ocean-going vessels is made of steel and if you take any single part, be it a steel plate out of the hull or the huge steel rudder, and throw it into the ocean it will sink. Steel doesn’t float! But when the shipbuilders are finished, when the last steel plate has been riveted into place then that massive steel ship will float. Steel doesn’t ordinarily float but when the ship builders are finished it does!

“Taken by itself my son’s suicide “won’t float.” Throw it into the ocean of Romans 8:28 and it sinks. But when the divine shipbuilder is finally finished, when God has worked out His perfect design, even this senseless tragedy will float!”

When you look around what do you see? Do you see shattered dreams, a failed business, family problems and an impending divorce? That’s all there plus a whole lot more. No one can deny that but if that’s all you see you’re only seeing with one eye. If you open both eyes you will not only see what is – the tragedies of life – but what can be. If you look with the eye of faith you will see joy where you were sure there was no joy to be found and possibilities where you were sure none existed. You might even see a miracle in the making for with God nothing is impossible (Lu. 1:37).

When you’re in Gethsemane the situation can look hopeless. No matter how desperately you pray things never seem to get any better. Worst of all it feels like God has forsaken you. The sense of His nearness that once sustained you seems to have vanished. You are left to wander alone in the darkness, stumbling over the wreckage of your world, or so it seems. But you are only seeing with one eye. For those who refuse to give up, who dare to see with both eyes, there’s something beyond the darkness, something beyond the pain and brokenness of our shattered world. Whether God saves us from our “Gethsemane” or allows us to walk the “Via Dolorosa” (literally the sorrowful way) our ultimate deliverance is assured. “‘…He who believes in me,’” Jesus said, “‘will live, even though he dies;’” (John 11:25).

Sometimes the future triumph is just around the corner. A young woman is instantly healed of an incurable bone disease, another woman receives a regenerative miracle when her dead thyroid is fully restored, a six-year-old boy is healed of cancer, a pastor’s blocked arteries are instantly opened making heart surgery unnecessary. Financial provision too – a struggling author receives several paying projects after praying for provision.  A small congregation receives a one-time gift of $429,444.79 enabling them to finally move out of rented facilities where they have been holding services for ten years!

Sometimes it is a long way off, maybe even in the next life, but knowing it’s coming gives us the strength to live with joy no matter how difficult this present life. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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Category: Grief