This prayer at times can become a cry. Life sometimes is so raw, so brutal. Its experiences, whether of death, defeat, or failure are often so difficult to deal with and so hard to face. Yet, we must face them. We are forced to look to see the tragedies in our own lives and in the lives of others. And when we do, the skies of our own man-constructed worlds grow dark as we witness our dreams or parts of our lives crumble and fall apart. It is at such times that life becomes too difficult to deal with. We can only see what we have lost and so we set up again and again the broken remains which never again will make reality. Sometimes our life style reflects this brokenness within us. We may wander aimlessly and without purpose from job to job, from home to home, or from church to church. Or some of us will drive ourselves endlessly in pursuit of forgetfulness, never stopping to examine the wounds or bind them up. And others may force themselves into a bitter, hard mode of life, striving to make themselves believe that their hearts are not so injured after all. And yet, at some time, the pretense, the covering-over must end. We must re-face and re-live those tragic experiences in our lives.
It is Christ who forces us to look again. He turns us around, abruptly sometimes, sometimes gently and helps us to re-evaluate those shattered moments in our lives. But now when we see those anxious days of despair, we see a small woman — broken, tired, and sick — reach out and touch the hem of Christ’s garment. And we hear a great Christ say in love “Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” And then when we feel again the great anguish of loss that tore apart our hearts, we can see beyond the limited scope of our lives and view again a dark, lonely garden where great drops of blood fall from the forehead of the great Christ and hear again those words “O my Father, if it be possible …Yet not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Or else when we are forced to gaze again on the dying face of a loved one, we can with tear-stained faces look up and there see silhouetted against a dark sky a wooden, nail-studded cross and hear again the great voice fill the darkness saying “Into thy hands, Father, I commend my spirit.”
It is here at the foot of Calvary that life finally begins to make sense again. No human betrayal, no loss, however so grievous, is beyond the healing power of the Christ of Golgatha. This healing power of Christ works in our lives not just to make us forget but to make us believe, simply and whole-heartedly just as the woman who received healing through Christ’s garment. It works in our lives also to make us accept those tragic days as means to display God’s glory and will and to make us pray as Christ did before us “not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Finally, that great power of divine healing works in our lives so that we may be able again to see beyond our own lives to the sorrow and grief in the lives of God’s children everywhere. It is not easy to shut the sorrow of others out of our own lives when we have experienced that same sorrow. And in learning to enter into the grief of others, in learning to console, in learning how to love, we learn to live with the constant prayer on our lips and in our souls “Lord! Lord! Make me Thy instrument!”
Silence reigns in the sunny, fourth grade classroom. Twenty-eight children read their textbooks and for a few moments I sit back and drink in these few precious, relaxing moments. For, working with children is one of the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken! It is at such times as this reading time that a sense of awe and wonderment sweeps over me. Twenty-eight lives are in my control, seven hours of each day, nine months of this year! Easily-molded and bent, these children grow and develop as I attempt to lead and teach them. To see this process of growing and learning is one that many parents and teachers will laud as a miracle of life.
I have had the privilege of viewing children from the standpoint of a teacher and have wrestled with and enjoyed the problems and joys of helping children grow up in this world. However, the position of the parent must bring one even closer to the experience of childhood. No one individual holds so much influence in a child’s life as his parents. I was sharply brought to realize this as I worked, hopelessly at times, with children who come from poor or broken homes. Parents can complete or undo in a very short time all the good influences a child receives outside of his home. The parents, too, have the advantage of being with their children year after year, understanding and guiding the child as needs develop. Their help and guidance are perpetual and every child senses the importance of this in his life. The responsibility of parents toward their children, then, is an immense one, one that far surpasses most responsibilities grownups must deal with. We may not underestimate the extremely difficult but beautiful task of bringing children, especially God’s children, into this world.
And so young people who are planning on marriage must face the decision of when they should be ready to bring up children. In the past, young people were married and were expected to begin immediately on their family. Today, a different society and birth control methods have changed that prevalent attitude and family size has dwindled from twelve and thirteen to two and three. But what should a Christian couple decide on the matter of using birth control? I guess there is no one answer to every situation but some guidelines apply to most cases. Every Christian couple who seriously is concerned about bringing up children should discuss this often before marriage. Many times couples use birth control methods immediately after marriage without even giving it much thought or without even asking if this is what God wants them to do.
But if a couple has seriously discussed this together and with God can they even allow birth control as an alternative? To this question I would answer “Yes, it definitely is a Christian alternative!” The problems arise when we begin to examine the motives behind birth control use. If the couple uses birth control because they must first build or buy a home, purchase furniture, and pay for the new car, then the motives are obviously materialistic and sinful. However, recognizing the sin in that motive is easy enough. It is much more difficult to admit and recognize that sin in oneself.
But suppose a couple wishes to marry but does not feel ready to bring up children. This is a very common situation among young people. It has been argued that then the couple may not and should not marry. Ideally this may be true. However, practically, I do not think this is an abnormal situation to be in. It is the vague desire of most men and women to want children of their own someday. This desire has been present in mankind since creation. However, when a couple is faced with marriage, it is no longer a matter of a vague desire but of a very real and maybe near possibility. Therefore, they must be prepared for this situation and possibility. It is difficult for many couples to feel ready for this responsibility before marriage because wanting children together arises from the intimate experience of married love. This must be true. It is only after a Christian man and woman have experienced the spiritual, physical, and emotional facets of mutual Christian love that the desire to bring covenant children into the world and church can arise. For some couples this may take two weeks, for others, two years. There is no hard and fast rule to apply. Relationships develop and grow at so many different rates. Until a couple feels that their relationship has reached that point, it is not only advisable but also Christian to use some form of birth control.
But why? Why must we today put so much emphasis on readiness? Simply because many children today show so obviously that they are growing up in unprepared homes. And this is also true in Christian homes. The society in which we live is different from the one in which our parents grew up. We may not like it but it is a fact we must deal with. Twenty or thirty years ago, families were out of necessity home-centered. Today, families are becoming more and more helter-skelter. A rash of “baby-sit-ism” has developed within the church and parents bring up children in the restaurant, at ballgames, in shopping malls and a hundred other places other than the home. That is why bringing up children is becoming a more and more serious and challenging business. If a Christian couple is not willing to sacrifice an immense amount of time, money, and recreation today, they are not ready to bring up children and they have no business doing so either!
There is one other question that is often brought up in connection with this topic. That is, “Are we not taking into our own hands what is really God’s work, the giving of life, when we use birth control?” Hardly, I think. There are going to be times in the lives of most married couples when it just is not wise for them to have their first or another child. Then, for the sake of the lives involved it is their duty to use some form of birth control and we may not look at doing so as a means to hinder God’s work of giving life. To make such a statement implies that the only purpose of marriage is to produce children.
Birth control, like any other instrument in man’s hand, can become a deadly instrument. But there is a place for its proper use among members of the church. Bringing children into the church is an honor and privilege for Christian parents. But once a life is entrusted to us we better be sure we will shoulder the responsibility. It is an awful indictment against us if a child can say when he is grown, “But where were my parents when I was a child?”
This article was written for all kinds of people – for those who live in a perpetual fear of being socially unaccepted, for those who are afraid to share themselves with others, for those who are too hard and calloused towards others to recognize the cry of a desperate life. It was written for those who enjoy life, for those who hold dreams close to their hearts, and for those who patiently seek to build and shape the lives of people they love. This article was written because at some time in our lives we all are these kind of people and most of us fail to see beyond the types we set up to what lives in other’s hearts. It is the cross that opens our eyes.
Hurt. There are few things in life more capable of dragging up the human heart that hurt. The wounds it leaves behind may never heal or when they do, the remaining ugly white scars continue to press into consciousness a remnant of the pain left from yesterday’s hurt.
Hurt often marks some of the greatest landmarks in our lives. The wonder of a discovering child may be marked with the hurt of failure and words of reproach. Or separation may lance itself deeply into the love of a young couple and the agony of hurt may tear open two hearts. Hurt does not by-pass parents either. It may crash into their lives in forms of parent-child alienation or leave massive wounds in the aftermath of sorrow and death. Hurt inches itself into the lives of the young and the old most often in forms of loneliness, a disease which eats away self-confidence and trust. Hurt works through words too. Even life’s strongest ties of love and understanding are marred and torn by cruel words. Marriages are rent by barrages of angry words or by words that cruelly point up short-comings and weaknesses. Hurt tags those friendships that are broken through words of snobbery and through unkind gossips. Words not spoken cause hurt to thrive in almost everyone’s heart. Kindness not recognized, accomplishment not praised, and
happiness not shared leave behind hurt that so easily grows to bitterness. Both unspoken apologies and unvoiced praise allow hurt to breed barriers of envy and jealousy.
One often wonders why our lives must be so often marked with the agony of hurt. And yet, when we hurt somehow it is always easier to find the road that leads to Calvary. When people fail us, the face of Jesus shines more brightly in the darkness and to find the way to the cross through sorrow and it see that path through tears makes it become a bit less difficult. Then too, it is easier to see the throng of aching hearts and broken up lives that are stumbling on that same road to the cross. But not only is it easier to see into the depths of other’s lives, but suddenly our own lives turn themselves inside out and an awareness of weakness and a realization of how incapable we are of handling life’s troubles and hurts floods our souls. Filled with dismay, frustration and agony, we climb the last incline to the cross and there meet Jesus Christ. We see that his face is lined with sorrow, criss-crossed with eternal lines of suffering. His eyes meet ours. Wordlessly and gently he searches our hurting hearts, overturns hidden thought of desperation and listens to the sobs.
Amazed, we turn again to look into his piercing eyes. They speak of sorrow but also of strength. His entire visage is marred with scars and wounds – scars and wounds from thousands of years. As a father he has borne the insults and rebellions of his ungrateful children and suddenly we become acutely aware of our own contributions to those wounds. Feeling again the wounds of hurt with which we came to this place, we gratefully sigh as His words like balm have healed us enough to go back into life once again. Having given to us of his limitless Self, a Self bearing more sorrow, agony, and hurt than our lives could ever know, we humbly turn from Him and with lifted heads and reflecting hearts are ready to face the hurt in life with more courage and more strength.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 7 November 1971
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