Friday, February 27, 2009

"O Lord!"

The following is an excerpt by Elisabeth Elliot from her book On Asking God Why. It contains a bit of her personal story - of some of the trials she's faced - and how God has led her through them. It is a great reminder of God's constancy, no matter how we feel.

Thirty years ago I was standing beside a shortwave radio in a house on the Atun Yacu, one of the principal headwaters of the Amazon, when I learned that my husband, Jim Elliot, was one of the five missionaries missing. They had gone into the territory of the Auca Indians, a people who had never heard even the name of Jesus Christ. What did I do? I suppose I said out loud, "O Lord!"

And he answered me. Not with an audible voice (I've never heard him speak that way in my life). But God brought to mind an ancient promise from the Book of Isaiah: "I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned....For I am the Lord your God" (Isaiah 43:1, 2).

l am the Lord your God. Think of it! The One who engineered this incredible universe with such exquisite precision that astronomers can predict exactly where and when Halley's comet will appear--this God is my Lord.

Evelyn Underhill said, "If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped."

Can we imagine that God, who is concerned with so many stupendous things, can possibly be concerned about us? We do imagine it. We hope he is. That is why we turn to him in desperation and cry out, as I did, "O Lord!" Where else can we possibly turn when we have come to the end of our resources?

Does God love us? Karl Barth, the great theologian, was once asked if he could condense all the theology he had ever written into one simple sentence.
"Yes," he said. "I can. 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"

Think about the account of the Crucifixion in Mark 15. Jesus was fastened to a cross. It was a man-made cross, and man-made nails were hammered through his hands--the hands that had formed the galaxies. Wicked men put him up there. Then they flung at him a bold and insolent challenge: "If you're the Son of God, come down! Then we'll believe."

Did he come down? No. He stayed there. He could have summoned an army of angels to rescue him, but he stayed there. Why? Because he loved us with a love that gives everything.
Because of the love of the father for us, he gave his son. Because of the love of the son for his father, he was willing to die, "so that by God's gracious will, in tasting death, he should stand for us all" (Hebrews 2:9).

When I heard Jim was missing, my first response was "O Lord!" God answered by giving me a promise: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."

Was that enough for me? Was that all I wanted? No, I wanted Jim back alive. I didn't want to go through that deep river, that dark tunnel. Five days later I got another radio message: Jim was dead. All five of the men were dead.

God hadn't worked any magic. He is not a talisman, a magic charm to carry in our pocket and stroke to get whatever we want. He could have sent a rescue squad of angels to save Jim and the others, but he didn't. Why not? Didn't he love us?

Fourteen years later God brought another man into my life. I thought it was a miracle I'd gotten married the first time! Now, once again, I was a wife.
However, Addison Leitch and I had not yet reached our fourth anniversary when we learned he had cancer. O Lord, I thought, another dark tunnel. The medical verdict was grim, but we prayed for healing. We did not know positively what the outcome would be, but we knew our Father. We had to keep turning our eyes from the frightening things to him, knowing him to be utterly faithful.

Whatever dark tunnel we may be called upon to travel through, God has been there. Whatever deep waters seem about to drown us, he has traversed. Faith is not merely "feeling good about God" but a conscious choice, even in the utter absence of feelings or external encouragements, to obey his Word when he says, "Trust Me." This choice has nothing to do with mood but is a deliberate act of laying hold on the character of God whom circumstances never change.

Does he love us? No, no, no is what our circumstances seem to say. We cannot deduce the fact of his unchanging love from the evidence we see around us. Things are a mess. Yet to turn our eyes back to the Cross of Calvary is to see the irrefutable proof that has stood all the tests of the ages: "It is by this that we know what love is: that Christ laid down his life for us" (John 3:16 NEB).

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