“Although you have made me see many and bitter sorrows, you will give me life again: from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.” Psalm 71:20
Teachers are overwhelmed with questions. Questions about missions, social expectations, life, spirituality and everything else spice up the day. Teachers have the
great privilege to invest in students not just for a short time, but for a lifetime. Recently, the questions “If God is good, why did he allow such bad things to happen to me?” ” and
“Why do I have to face difficulties?”. Frankly, most people have asked these questions. Sin, brokenness and sorrow are the result of living in a broken world. None of them
were God’s perfect plan for His children, but He uses these experiences to refine us, strengthen His attributes in us, and draw more people to Him through us.
The following poem answers these questions as well as the following biblical figures.
George Herbert’s Windows
“Lord, how can man preach your eternal word?
It’s a brittle fool [cracked] glass:
However, in their temple, he offers himself
This glorious and transcendent place,
Be a window by your grace.
But when you anneal your story in glass,
Shine your life inside
That of the holy preacher; then light and glory
The more the rev’rend grows, the more he earns:
Who else shows watrish, dark and thin.
Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one
When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong esteem and fear: but the word alone
Disappears like a flaming thing,
And in the ear, no conscience.
In this poem, a preacher is likened to a stained glass window. Consider the message of this poem for all Christians and not just for a preacher. The comparison created by Herbert is one of beauty. In the first stanza, the poet asks rhetorically how can a (Christian) preacher preach the Word of God when he is cracked and capricious in his humanity.
He responds by saying that it is by God’s grace that the preacher can be a messenger of God’s Truth or a window in His temple.
The second stanza indicates that the glass is heated to add colors; just as the preacher’s life is refined by the heat of trial or difficulty. Colors are what make stained glass unique and charming. The life of a preacher or a Christian is embellished by refinement. When followers of Christ allow God to shape, nurture, and sharpen His attributes in them, the beauty of the Kingdom is born. This otherworldly beauty is a beacon that draws people to the kingdom of God. Faithfulness to God during the most difficult times is what speaks loudly to those who watch the lovers of Christ.
The third stanza concludes by saying that advice given by words alone is quickly forgotten, but testimonies observed by a lifetime of actions are not easily forgotten. It is when the heat rises that the decision of the follower of Christ to trust in the goodness, love and faithfulness of God is tested. When Christians face trials and difficulties, their true colors are revealed. People watch, wait and wonder what makes those who love Christ so different. Hearts fixed on heaven, desperate for its presence and faithful to its name are the most powerful weapons against darkness. Words fail, but lives lived in true submission and faithfulness amidst heartache and pain are the Creator’s magnificent masterpieces used for His glory.
The Bible is full of stories of people who suffer, but they are loved by God and the experiences are tools to further his good plan to redeem his creation. Consider these men and women of the Bible and how their challenges advanced the kingdom of God. Job lost his family, his wealth and his health – everything – to prove the authenticity of his faith. Esther faced immense stress as she became a voice and advocate for her entire race in the face of severe hostility. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into a furnace and used as instruments to turn an ignoble king and nation to the Lord. The early apostles were beaten, tortured, and even killed to prove unshakeable witnesses to a transforming power, an undeniable truth. Jesus, the pure and perfect, sinless Son of God, suffered as if he had sinned for the salvation of many. If anyone deserved a pass to suffer it was Jesus, but he suffered immensely for the cause of the kingdom. And, thank God, he did.
We do not live for ourselves and our difficulties can be used to bring others into His presence if we can be vulnerable and open about them. Christians should not think, “why me?”. Christians should ask, “What are you teaching me through difficulties, and how can this be used for your kingdom, Lord?” God allows trying to produce genuine faith. He knows that when his children are connected to him, they can endure and bring him glory.
“I have become a sign for many; you are my strong refuge. Psalm 71:7
“This third I will set on the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “These are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.” Zechariah 13:9
Judith Cooley teaches language arts and drama. Follow his @pondervotional Facebook page for more encouragement.