The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:
Frustrating times jerk me back to underlying convictions about who is really in charge of everything, including my life. So the simplest question is the most profound: Do I believe the Bible? It describes a God sovereign over everything — the delightful and disconcerting, the hard and happy. If true, and if I rest in that truth, no frustration can take away God’s peace which surpasses understanding.
Death of God’s precious ones is better by far for them (Philippians 1:23). Famine may be what ties contentious branches of Christ’s church together (Romans 15:25-31). Poverty may rescue me from arrogant atheism (Proverbs 30:7-9). An abiding wound or pain may be God’s assurance that his strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Persecution of the church in one place may be God’s way to move his gospel into new places (Acts 8:1-4). Victimization at the hands of hateful brothers may be God’s way to save many nations (Genesis 50:15-21). My anguished suffering may spur my church-body to care for its ailing member (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
The death of my shepherd means life for all his sheep. Lice in my barracks may keep Nazi guards from disrupting a hope-bestowing Bible study (“Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom). This worldwide economic downturn is distracting government officials in another nation from oppressing faithful gospel ministers (as one told me last month)! If I say God’s glory and the extension of Christ’s kingdom are my highest goals, my temporary frustrations are God’s adjustment mechanisms to make my claim sincere. With Jesus’ disciples, I cry to him: To whom shall I go? You alone have the words of eternal life (John 6:68). I hear him promise: In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
— Send e-mail to John McFarland at JMMLawrence@aol.com.
The Rev. Robert Leiste, pastor, Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2700 Lawrence Ave.:
Like many others, I get through devastating times by grasping through faith the grace God has already given me. I have learned both myself and through others when that faith grasps the comfort of God’s word, God’s people abide.
I once asked a confirmand what his favorite Bible verse was. He replied the 23rd Psalm. I asked him why. He responded that when his younger brother almost died he remembered this Psalm he had memorized in confirmation of how God was his shepherd and it comforted and strengthened him.
I have found the promises contained in the Lord’s Supper, where God promises that supernaturally he will give his divine-human union presence in the bread and wine, to be a comfort as I receive forgiveness, life and salvation. Many a time I have received his body and blood and in return given him my cares and concerns.
My baptism and its gifts grant me a peace and calm as I live out this new life with my God. One of those new life gifts is the call to pray. There have been numerous times that I have had one-sided discussions with God as to what was going on in life that ended with me following the words of Psalm 46, being still and having God be the God in whom I trust.
Sometimes, it is just realizing that there are other Christians who may be God’s hands of help such as this past weekend when our church family at Redeemer held a rummage sale and breakfast to raise funds to help a family deal with a medical crisis.
My faith abides because God has granted the gifts needed. Grace and faith work together for me in devastating times.
— Send e-mail to Robert Leiste at email@example.com.