Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Joy in the Midst of Hope Deferred

Have you ever had a really brilliant idea that was followed with enthusiasm and passion and almost overwhelming hope at the prospect of how much this new idea would further kingdom of Christ?  You absolutely knew that this was God’s will for your life.  He had given you this vision.  He has called and equipped you to accomplish this task. 

And then.

You fell flat on your face with your dream crashing on top of you. 

I imagine that is a little what Samuel Rutherford must have felt like.  In 1627 at the ripe old age of 27 Rutherford saw his dreams come true as he found a place for that fire within his bones to expend itself.  He had become the pastor at Anwoth, which was a rural parish where this new minister could give his heart to. 

Shortly after his arrival to Anwoth, though, the Rutherford family was hit by sadness.  His wife fell ill, suffered for a year, and then died in their new home.  This was followed up by the untimely death of two of his children as well.  To top it all off in 1636 Rutherford found himself in prison.  He wrote a book defending Calvinism against the Arminian church authorities.  They 1-starred his book on Amazon and sent him off to exile where he found himself in prison for nonconformity. 

It’s not difficult to understand how Rutherford could say:

At my first coming here [to prison] I sulked at Christ and would, indeed, summon him for unkindness.  I sought a plea of my Lord and was tossed with challenges whether he loved me or not, and disputed over again all that he had done to me, because his word was a fire shut up in my bowels, and I was weary with forbearing, because I said I was cast out of the Lord’s inheritance. 

With everything that he was going through Rutherford, as we too would be tempted towards, began questioning the Lord’s love for him.  He even wondered if this imprisonment was a sign to him that he was no longer useful in ministry and worse yet if he was shut out of the Lord’s inheritance. 

Then time passed.

Nothing changed in his circumstances.  Only his heart and his experience of Christ.  Rutherford would say of his questioning the Lord’s goodness, “I know see that I was a fool.  My Lord overlooked all and did bear with my foolish jealousies, and overlooked that ever I wronged his love”.  He would even, later, refer to his prison as “a palace”.  Through this suffering time Rutherford was met with great comfort from Christ. He even wished that all of Scotland and Ireland could have his experience:

O if Scotland and Ireland had part of my feast!  And yet I get not my meat but with many strokes.

May we come to find, with Rutherford, that the sweetest experiences of the Lord’s grace is seldom on the mountain top while we are living out our dreams.  Instead it is often when our face is flat on the ground and our hopes feel as a burden on our back mocking our demise that we come to see that Christ is more precious than anything else.  We would rather have Jesus than even living out the dreams of serving the kingdom. 

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