“It is the crushed grape that yields the wine.”
Is there a situation in my life right now that has caused me to be dismayed?
“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity.”
C. H. Spurgeon
“When you come to the bottom, you find God.”
Have you ever faced a situation in your life when you felt as though the problem you were confronting could “take you down?” You know what I mean. Maybe it’s a financial struggle and you feel like you are drowning in debt. Every time the phone rings, you’re afraid to answer for fear it’s another bill collector. Quite possibly the critical situation you face may be a family matter – a child on drugs or a loved-one facing a grim diagnosis of cancer. Or it might be the adversity that has you tied in knots has to do with something personal in your life – a loneliness only God understands or a sense of futility and uselessness you can’t talk about with anyone else.
In the Bible, the feelings that result from the situations I’ve described, are quite often referred to as despair or dismay. Over and over again we find God coming to His children in moments of total despondency and saying, “Be not dismayed.” In fact, in Isaiah 41: 10, God told His children, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed: for I am thy God.”(K.J.V.) We’ll find out today and tomorrow that this text holds the clues to why we need not be dismayed no matter what tidal wave of difficulty comes rolling our way.
In order to understand what God meant when He spoke the words, “Be not dismayed,” to Joshua, I want to go back to Joshua 7:6. After the defeat in Ai, the Bible tells us Joshua, “Rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until eventide.” (K.J.V.) Joshua was so despondent and discouraged by the failure to accomplish what God wanted in Ai he fell on his face. If we go forward to Joshua 8:1, God says, “Fear not, neither be dismayed.” I went to my Hebrew dictionary and found out the word “dismayed” means “prostrate” or to “break down.” In other words, a dismayed person looks just like Joshua did. They fall flat on their faces in a heap of discouragement. God’s response to Joshua wasn’t, “Stay that way.” It was just the opposite! God told His child, “Don’t stay on your face. Don’t be dismayed.” As we found in Isaiah 41:10, we don’t have anything to be “broken down” about when we remember our Father is God, the ruler of heaven and earth. Don’t you love the words God spoke in Isaiah 41,:10, “I am Thy God!” What a way to build confidence in us. Our Father says unequivocally – I am in charge! I’m so glad today to know this. While world leaders and money managers and politicians think they’ve got all the answers, our God reminds His children, who will willingly listen and obey, He’s running things.
Years ago, when I was in Nurse’s Training, it was a custom at that time to have a candle lighting ceremony, a special program at the school I was attending. We, as young student nurses, committed our lives to the unselfish care of the sick. Each of us carried a ceramic lamp fashioned after the light carried by Florence Nightingale as she so untiringly cared for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.
What a lot of people don’t know is that four years before giving herself to the care of others, Florence went through an extreme time of despair. To say she was dismayed or broken down would be an understatement. In fact, here’s how she talked about her life at that time: “O weary days, O evenings that never end! For how many years I have watched that drawing-room clock and thought it would never reach the ten! In my thirty-first year I see nothing desirable but death.” Down in the dumps and prostrate on the ground, Florence felt there was no future for her and yet, God had her finest days ahead. And the same was true with Joshua. The defeat at Ai was just a blip on the radar screen of God’s plan for Joshua’s leadership. Joshua’s best days were ahead of him.
As G. K. Chesterton so correctly pointed out, “One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
God brought Joshua and his children out of the Valley of Achor and through the door of hope where they had nothing to fear and no reason to be dismayed for, “He is our God!”
There’s no reason to fall down or break down with God on our side.
“No matter how low you feel, if you count your blessings, you’ll always show a profit.”
“Sometimes we must be hurt in order to grow,
We must fail in order to know,
We must lose in order to gain,
Some lessons are learned best only through pain.
Sometimes our vision clears
Only after our eyes are washed with tears.
Sometimes we have to be broken,
So we can be tender;
Sick, so we can rest and think better
On things more important than work or fun;
Trip near death, so we can assess how we’ve run.
Sometimes we have to suffer lack,
So we can know God’s provisions.
Feel another’s pain,
So we can have a sense of mission.
So take heart, my friend,
If you don’t understand today,
Instead of grumbling, ask God what He means to say.
In order to learn, you must endure
And learn to see the bigger picture.
In order to grow, you must stand
Look beyond the hurt, to God’s loving hand
That takes what is good
And gives what is best
And on this blessed thought: rest.
As your anxious heart, with questions: wait.
God’s hand only gives, what His loving heart dictates.”