Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament (Christian Focus, 2016). You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
Since I moved last year, the GPS on my phone has become my constant guide. I follow it wherever it leads. Traffic can pop up unexpectedly at any moment, and since I still don’t know the roads, I let the GPS tell me the way.
The problem is, I use it too much. I don’t pay attention to where I am going. I just blindly follow wherever it tells me to go. As a result, I think it is making me lazy. I haven’t learned the names of the roads. I couldn’t tell you which way is north, south, east, or west. If I lost cell service, I would be stuck. Helpless. Lost.
Blindly following anything is usually not a good idea. We should know where we are and where we are going. There are parallels in this to our spiritual life. How often do we pick up a devotional to read before reading the actual Bible? How often do we let other people tell us what Scripture means before learning it for ourselves? How often do we listen to what sounds good, feels good, seems good, rather than what actually is good and right?
GPS has made me lazy. Not studying God’s word for ourselves makes us spiritually lazy. If we only know Scripture that has been regurgitated and spoon fed to us, we’ll never know how to taste it on our own. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Knowing God’s Word is not only vital for spiritual health, but for spiritual life as well. If we can’t read God’s Word for ourselves and grasp the main idea, how can we identify when someone is twisting the truth? 1 Peter 2 warns about false teachers and prophets who lead people astray by things that sound good to the ear but are in fact false, “just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (vv. 1-3). It is all too easy to just follow what someone else says without verifying that it is true. The Bereans didn’t take Paul’s teaching at face value. They wanted to see for themselves whether what he said was true. so they compared his teaching to God’s Word (Acts 17:11).
Lastly, I should want and desire to learn my way around so I am not dependent upon my GPS. After all, it is my home, where I live. It should become familiar to me. I should desire to know it like a resident, rather than a visitor. Likewise, I should also value and love God’s Word. I should find it worthy of my time to read and know it. It should be familiar to me, like knowing my way around my hometown.
My kids and I recently read Corrie Ten Boom’s biography. The one thing she wanted with her in the concentration camp was her Bible. She went to great lengths to keep it and hide it. Corrie read it to the women in the camp with her. She and her sister praised God for the lice in their cabin because it kept the German guards from inspecting it and finding their Bible. As I thought about this, I wondered about myself and my own heart. Do I love God’s Word that much? Is it the spiritual food that sustains me? Would I hunger and thirst for it if I did not have it? Or would I get by on a substitute, a fill in, a watered down version of the real thing?
My GPS is helpful for getting around town and avoiding the frustrations of traffic. But I shouldn't be dependent upon it. I should take time to learn my way around for myself. In a similar way, may we know God's Word for ourselves so we can navigate truth and identify falsehood. May we develop a taste for its rich food, rather than always being spoon fed by others. And may we value the truth it contains more than anything else.
I haven't experienced spring in twenty years.
Oh, I've traveled during the months of spring to places where flowers and trees are waking from their slumber. I've seen the daffodils and tulips pop out from the ground, bringing a sudden splash of color to a gray landscape.
But I haven't watched the spring transformation take place in two decades. I haven't witnessed the world change from death to life over a period of weeks.
Now that we've moved away from a tropical climate, I get to experience spring again. We have a large window in our kitchen with a table in front of it. I like to sit there and watch the world outside in our backyard. Since we moved here last spring, I've watched everything come full circle. I watched the green trees in my yard transform into shades of crimson, gold, and rust. I saw the grass turn brown and die. I witnessed the leaves blow off in the wind and flutter to the ground. And before long, I saw hail, ice, and snow batter the same window.
Then, in late January, because it was unseasonably warm, I saw pink buds form on a neighbor's tree. Slowly more trees began to bloom with flowers. Then the daffodils and other flowers came to life. My neighbor's camellia bush burst in color. But the oaks, maples, and other trees still did not have leaves. I looked out the window each morning, wondering when they would appear.
Remarkably, it was the first day of spring. I looked out my kitchen window again and noticed little green specks on the ends of each tree branch. The beginnings of leaves!
Watching the seasons come and go each year for some may be tiresome. And I probably took it for granted growing up in a four season climate. But seeing it again after twenty years was wonderful. I marveled at the process. And not just at the beauty of nature. Not just at the stark contrast between the dark emptiness of winter and the colorful life of spring.
But at the faithful hand of God.
Day in and day out, the sun rises. Every single morning. The earth turns on its axis, rotating exactly as it should. Time moves forward at the same rate each second, minute, and hour. The season for planting comes as does the harvest at its appointed time. The animals make their nests, birth their young, gather for winter, and wait for spring to come again.
Psalm 119 says, "Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants." (vv. 89-91).
God is faithful and true. He does all that He says He will do. He makes everything happen as He has ordained it to. By His very word, He keeps and sustains all things. He is a covenant keeping God who fulfills all that He has decreed.
Just as the seasons unfold throughout the year, just as the sun rises each morning, just as the cherry tree blossoms in spring, we can trust in God's faithfulness. He is as sure as the sunrise each morning, the gravity that holds us to the ground, and the air we breathe. God's faithfulness in the created world around us is a constant reminder of His faithfulness toward His people.
His faithfulness is often joined together in Scripture with His love. "The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). The ultimate display of His love and faithfulness is found in Christ, "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
This is a good reminder for me as life is often filled with uncertainty. I have things in my life which I fear will never change or come to an end. There are other things which keep me up at night, wondering what will happen and when. The seeming unpredictability of life can keep me on edge, feeling anxious, fretful, and fearful.
But for God's faithfulness.
The beauty and wonder of spring, as amazing as new life and growth is, serves to point me to the One who holds the world in His hands. As He cares for His creation, how much more so does He care for me? As our Savior said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6: 25-26).
God is faithful in the life of a sparrow and in the life of His people. As we trace His faithfulness back through the seasons, year in and year out, we will see the constant pattern of His love and faithfulness on display, not only in creation, but in our very lives as well. Eventually, we'll trace it back to the cross itself where Christ fulfilled every promise and met every requirement and answered every heart's longing and cry. God was faithful to us in Christ and is faithful to us in this very moment and into eternity.
Do you see God's love and faithfulness in your life?
Have you ever turned to the Psalms during a time of emotional turmoil? Most believers have found comfort in the words of the psalmist because his descriptive prose seems to give voice to what they are feeling. Many of us have favorite psalms—perhaps even some we’ve memorized—which give us hope in the midst of sorrow, fear, loneliness, or grief.
If we were to study the Psalms in detail, we would notice certain patterns. In the darkest Psalms, the Psalms of Lament, we would find a common structure. I discuss those patterns in detail in my book, A Heart Set Free. But one pattern I want to point out today is the way the psalmist often referred to God as his salvation.
“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness” (Psalm 51:14).
“Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love!” (Psalm 109:26).
“Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 74:12).
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
On this side of redemptive history, we know that God has provided for our salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. After his resurrection, Jesus met some disciples along the road to Emmaus. They were talking about all that had taken place when Jesus was crucified and the hours after. Not realizing they were talking with the resurrected Christ, they said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Luke goes on to tell us, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (vs. 25-27). All those stories they had heard and read throughout their lives in God’s Word were about Jesus. He was the One they all pointed to. As the subtitle to The Jesus Story Book Bible says: “Every Story Whispers His Name.”
Even the Psalms.
What this means is: Jesus fulfills all the deepest cries of our heart. Jesus is God’s ultimate answer to all that the psalmist cried out for. Just as the psalmist turned to God as his salvation in the midst of his sorrow, grief, and fear, we also must turn to Christ as our salvation in our own emotional turmoil. And just as the psalmist reflected on who God is and what he has done, we too must dwell on all that God has done for us in Christ. Jesus came to do what we could not do. He came to live the life we could not live. He came to make a way for us to be restored back into right relationship with God. He came to redeem, restore, and make all things new.
When we fear, we can remember that Christ has conquered our greatest fear at the cross, eternal separation from God. As Romans 8 tells us “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (vs. 31-32). We can remember that Christ is with us. He is our comfort, strength, and hope in all our fears.
When we have sorrow, we can remember the Man of Sorrows, our Lord and Savior who bore our sorrows on the tree. When he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he was voicing his own lament. As he cried that lament, he was bearing our sins, receiving the just punishment we were due. In our sorrow, we can also remember that God catches our tears in a bottle and hears all our cries. We can remember that not one tear we shed is wasted; God will use each and every one for his glory and our good. But most of all, we can remember that there is coming a day where all our tears will be wiped away and sorrow will be no more. When Christ returns, all things will be made new.
When we have been rejected, we can remember that our Savior was rejected. As Isaiah 53 said “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” He was rejected by the people he came to save. He was abandoned by his closest friends at his darkest hour. He knows and understands what it is to be abandoned and alone. But because he went to the cross, we have been adopted into the family of God. We are part of an eternal community. With Christ as our brother and fellow heir, we will never be alone. He will never forsake or reject us.
When we experience loss in our life, whether it is the loss of a loved one or of a dream or of anything else, we can remember that our Savior knew loss. He knew grief. He wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. But because Christ lost his life for our sake, we gain new life. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). As Paul reminds us, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Whatever trial, hardship, or suffering we experience, Christ is our hope. He is the answer to all our pain and sorrow. As the writer to the Hebrews encourages us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Consider Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, the One who hears every cry of our heart and the One who answered those cries with a cry of his own: “It is finished!” (John 19:30).