“If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
According to a 19th century legend, the Truth and the Lie meet one day. The Lie says to the Truth: “It’s a marvelous day today!” The Truth looks up to the skies and sighs, for the day was really beautiful.
They spend a lot of time together, ultimately arriving beside a well. The Lie tells the Truth: “The water is very nice, let’s take a bath together!” The Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discover that it indeed is very nice. They undress and start bathing.
Suddenly, the Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of the Truth and runs away. The furious Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find the Lie and get her clothes back. The World, seeing the Truth naked, turn its gaze away, with contempt and rage.
The poor Truth returns to the well and disappears forever, hiding therein, its shame. Since then, the Lies travels around the World, dressed as the Truth, satisfying the needs of society, because, the World, in any case, harbors no wish at all to meet the naked Truth.
~ From “The Truth coming out of the well;” Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1896
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. Daniel 1:8
After conquering the Jews, Nebuchadnezzar asked Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to choose distinguished young men to be trained to serve in the king’s palace. They would be trained and eat from the king's table for three years and then begin their service (Dan. 1: 3-5).
Among the chosen were Daniel and his three friends. It was their big chance. They were selected and taken to the palace. They would have the best of what the Babylonian kingdom had to offer, and doors would be opened for them. The future was all but guaranteed. They could not miss this opportunity. Most people would accept what was being offered to them so they do not have to go back to being captives. However, this was not the attitude of the young Hebrews.
First, they had the courage to be different and decided to “not defile themselves with the king's delicacies” (Dan. 1: 8). It was a debatable matter, for it was quality choice food, and certainly some of that food was permitted by the Jewish diet. However, they didn’t go looking for exceptions or compromise. They decided to go after the highest values.
They decided to go with their convictions and to stand up for them. They were not afraid to ask, to stand for, and to give of their best for their conviction. They did not quarrel or impose, but they gained the confidence of their handler before demanding their right.
They also understood that being different would require a firm commitment. At no point did they vacillate with their decision. They were not radical in one area and liberal in another. They did not ask for special food and then go overboard in having fun. They did not seek privileges and then shirk their responsibility. They knew that when they asked to be different, they would be living in a fish bowl. Their lives would be scrutinized, more would be asked of them. And because they understood that, they daily gained favor from the chief of the officials.
The end result you already know. The king himself acknowledged that they have become “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Dan 1:20). They were presented with the same things that were offered to the others, but they decided, even in the small things, to remain true to and to honor their faith. God rewarded their faithfulness and will reward your faithfulness as well whenever you decide to remain true and not compromise your faith in Him.
We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C.S. Lewis
Where is God in the midst of suffering, when life is hard, and suffering hits, where in the world is God? How are we to respond to suffering?
No one likes getting shots! Who does? I remember when I was 7 or 8 years old, I was certain that getting a shot was the worst thing ever. So when our school offered vaccine shots, I insisted that my younger siblings take the shots. But I came home without taking them. My mother was furious with me and she ordered me to go back the next day and take the shots. When you are a little kid, even now, your mother (thanks, Mom) and the doctor know a little bit more than you about what is good for you in the long run. It is because they have seen more, and they know more. The little bit of pain from the shot is going to make you stronger and keep you from the bigger pain of a serious illness.
Just like the doctor knows more than the patient, God knows more than us. Moms often say to her kids, “Well, you don’t know everything.” I wonder if Mary ever said to Jesus, “Jesus, you don’t know everything”? And Jesus is thinking, “Hmm, I could really show her.” God knows everything. He knows every situation, everyone’s heart and everyone’s thoughts. There is nothing that God can’t see and there will never be anything that will make God say, “Huh, I didn’t see that one coming…”
God allows us to experience little pains and sufferings here and there because He knows that it will work out better for us in the end. I am not minimizing or trivializing the pain and suffering you may be experiencing. The reason that I say “little pains and sufferings” is that compared to knowing Christ and what we will experience in Heaven, everything on this earth, whether good or bad, is rubbish! They are worthless! (Philippians 3:8) Mother Teresa put it this way, “In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
God is an all-powerful God who loves us to the extent of sending His only Son to be with us, and to die for us. But on the third day, He rose with victory over sin and death. And if He is victorious over sin and death, He is also victorious over our pain and suffering. What if we view the season of suffering in our lives as a chapter of a bigger story that God is writing in our lives? Though we may not like the chapter we are in, we can trust God to write the whole book. We can trust God to finish the story well, because God is good and faithful. He knows what He is doing. In suffering, may we know who our God is, may we know where He is (Emmanuel, God is with us) and may we know what He is doing. He is writing a bigger narrative in and through our lives so that His glory and power may be displayed to the world around us.
“…but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Prov 31:30b)
Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. I would like to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day ahead of time. I once saw a plaque that reads “God created mothers because He can’t be everywhere.” As Christians, we know that God is everywhere; but we also know that mothers are God’s representatives on earth. A mother’s love reflects God’s selfless, enduring, and unconditional love. By His own design, mothers are blessed with a love that is nurturing and comforting. In short, God made them good at what they do. But, with this awesome responsibility, He also gave a promise; “He gently leads those that have young.” (Isa. 40:11) For all that is expected and demanded from mothers, God promises His gentle leading, His sustenance and protection daily.
Our children belong to God, but yet He has entrusted them to mothers for a period of time on this earth. This is a priceless and beautiful calling. Mothers are accountable to God for raising and preparing their children for a life of service to Him and to humanity. Indeed, there is no assignment on earth that utilizes the array of skills needed by a mother in fulfilling her everyday duties. A recent study states that “if the typical stay-at-home mother in the US were paid for her work, she would earn $162,581 a year. A working mother who juggles an outside job would get $81,291 for her motherly duties.” Mom’s market value was calculated by studying the pay levels of at least 20 job titles with duties that a typical mom performs. But, in all reality, there is not a price tag that can truly be affixed to motherhood.
Mothers have a really important job, a job they cannot do well apart from the grace of God. Much is expected of moms today. Well-adjusted kids don’t just happen. And the environment in which we raise our children has dramatically changed. Drive-by shootings, sexual molesters, illegal drugs, etc. were almost unheard of 50 years ago. Yesterday’s mothers didn’t have to worry about dangers and violence haunting the schools and streets. In addition to physical threats, families must also be concerned about the culture today that impacts the hearts and minds of their children. Mothers need to be on their knees so much more these days. “There is no higher height to which humanity can attain than that occupied by a heaven-inspired praying mother.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all our mothers! I salute you, dear sisters … you do indeed have the most important job in the world! Let me also assure you that no investment you make in life will bring you the returns you’ll get from raising your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. “Her children arise and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28a).