Difficult Questions

There was something incongruent in me, something perplexing that I couldn’t get to the heart of. I had not properly grieved for Samuel; the Lord was not through with the entire process and with letting me know of his loving-kindness and compassion as a Father. I had not learned to be weak so that God would be strong. Even as I write this now, I see waves of empty stares within many in churches who have not learned this either. Many men, particularly, struggle with this reality, and their hearts are deceiving themselves. Oh, let the Spirit wash over us and humble us.

I’ve alluded throughout this book that I have had three liver transplants. I’ve experienced a lot in life and actually was blessed to write a book about two of the transplants along with a host of other things. I’ve experienced the loss of family members, even a close brother a few years ago, performed funerals for close friends, and experienced the worries of life. I speak not as a person who understands fully the depth of God, and I write too on a journey with you to understand God more fully in the course of our trials.images

I want to see God’s glory break us free from the shackles of lies that we have believed when it comes to the Lord’s sovereignty in trials. But please understand that I speak from a place of experience, not giving me greater wisdom, but simply asking the reader to give me a platform of trust. I will not talk about pain and not having gone through pain myself. I hope you trust me in this. I have and will continue to struggle through these things; it takes great faith to believe. But praise God, faith is a gift, a treasure, that has been given to us. It is not something we muster in us. So with the faith that you have been given, let’s grapple with some of these issues.

It takes an act of God to carry us through difficult things, and though by no means have I completely understood everything, I seek humbly to reveal to you what the Word of God says about some of the issues I raised and struggled through. I wish I could wave a magic wand that would cause many of us to open our eyes to the reality of weakness and the freedom we have in being weak (which needs to be qualified), but alas, it takes the formation of the Spirit, not the formation of our flesh.

Samuel’s life would have been a waste, truly, if it were not for the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is indeed safe to say that God was glorified in the life and death of my son, particularly as I look back on it, yet I also know that some would still argue that God may have been more glorified in the healing of my son.

Perhaps the biggest question on my mind, and perhaps yours as well as you contemplate your own trials and pain, is this: Was the death of Samuel truly within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is your disease, your sickness, your hurt, and your loss within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is it in God’s control or providence? I ask this question because to me it is the fundamental aspect to understanding the safety net of weakness and strength that we can fall into. The implications run deep; if God is not sovereign, then indeed we are left with questions that will never be answered and a host of new problems that arise. If God was not in control of the events of Samuel’s life, then that would mean many of the things we find ourselves flung into are dependent upon our own wisdom, technology, or strength to endure. And if this is the case, what would be the point of the glory of God in our lives save to make a weak God stronger due to our faith? It would also imply that God would need us in some capacity to fulfill his will, that God is at war with a very strong and capable foe in the form of the devil, and the outcome, though bloody, would seem to be God’s. What security is there in this? God cannot be at the mercies of the situation, wholly dependent upon us, but is far beyond and above.

However, if Samuel’s death, my transplants, your pain and loss, addictions, and frailties are in the realm of God’s sovereign plan of redemption, then by faith don’t we understand that God is allowing these things as in the case of Job 2:3? Is it not our duty then to press this truth close to our hearts, not judging God based upon our limited view of our trials, hide it in our hearts, and allow the Spirit to show not only the truth of it to our minds, but our hearts as well? If this is the case, shouldn’t we seek to justify Christ in all of life’s circumstances as his perfect will is displayed throughout history for his glory in our lives? Is he not the author and perfecter and finisher of our faith? And since he is perfect in all his ways, shouldn’t all that is dealt to us be used to glorify God and cause us to run to him for security and refuge, even when we do not understand? Do we think God cannot take our questions, that he is insecure in any way, and that our demands in this life will somehow make him angry with us?

Excerpted From – Nineteen Days, Wrestling with God in the Death of my son, by Daniel Parkins

Samuel and Christian

Today marks the 21st of March, or thereabouts, and I can’t help but be paralyzed by two realities very near and dear to me.  The first is that Christian is now sixteen days old and is cause for celebration.  His round face is beginning to become even more rounded with the added weight of a mother’s nutrients and his lovely eyes are becoming even more blue as each day passes.  His umbilical chord fell off which means we can begin to give him submerged baths, and his cries, however cute they may be, are growing seemingly louder and louder by the minute.  He also only woke up twice the night before, and gave Kelly and I some much needed rest.  He’s only sixteen days old, and already so much a part of our family.

I remember another boy who was sixteen days old, not too long ago, who was very much a part of our family.  But remembering when Samuel was sixteen days old, though his rounded face was framed by liquids unnatural and disheartening, gives my heart a sense of longing again.  I see Christian, and within Christian, I see Samuel at times.  But of course I do.  He only lived for nineteen days, but in those days we had loved so passionately.

Oftentimes Kelly and I, trying to comfort Christian, have called him Samuel because of varying reasons.  I can’t quit explain it, but Samuel will always be a small baby to us; we will never have the joy of raising him.  And knowing this, because Christian is still within the stages of his older brother when he passed away, still encompassed within the same images of Samuel, I think those images are just so close to us in memory.  For so many days and hours we stared at Samuel.  Now, we have what we believe to be a lifetime with Christian and as his face begins burning our vision, like an image too long on an old television, we continue forth knowing of the faithfulness of our God.  Christian is not Samuel by any means, and though we miss our son who passed over a year ago, we move forward with the joy of this new bundle of our hearts eager to see a future lived with him.

It is hard, but this is life isn’t it?  It will forever be marked with joy and pain, happiness and sorrow, and to ask for anything other than this in life is to ask for something beyond what the Lord has planned.  We grow through the pain, we grow through the trials, we grow through our own weaknesses in seeing that God is all in all.  God has taken all our fears, all our failures, all our heartache and all our pain, all our burdens, all our troubles and shame and tears and placed them within the very bosom of redemption through Jesus Christ.  This is our God; He is our hope, He is our healer, He is our freedom, He is our refuge, He is our justice and He is with us.  God is love, and we will forever praise Him.

All creation sings of your Glory God, all humanity is a display of your glory and each one of us, who have called on the name of Jesus Christ to be saved, are meant to worship and adore you.  I bless your name this day Father.  You are my song, my hope, and my everything; rich in so much love and mercy and unfailing in every way.

I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.

We will forever praise You.

Love or Self-Love During Christmas?

Americans, and much of the world right now, has sneezed.  Out came Christmas in many forms.  From decorations, to trees in homes, lights on the outside of our houses like little beacons in the darkness, and blown up Santa Clauses riding on top of things ranging from mobile homes to motorcycles; all with moving parts.  Oh the comedy of it all.  Am I immune to this?  No.  I have a tree, I have stockings over the mantle, I have lights on the outside of the house that I put up with the fear of death.  Oh the comedy that, having gone through three liver transplants, I would cheat death on a shaky ladder by myself to hang colored lights on my roof.

I have spent more money on my wife, more money on my children, and more time thinking about these gifts than I should have.  I admit this.  But as I sit back and reflect on it all, I am convicted.  I see a reality around me that I must speak on.

God has ordered things when He created creation in such a beautiful and tangible way.  It’s not the things themselves that are evidently beautiful, but the order in which He has placed them that makes it all flow wonderfully; similar to a beautiful canvas.  By the law of creation too, there is no less order and unity among men and women; for we are the highest and cheifest manifestation of His works.  As God has molded the rest of the world into a beautiful frame by the first stamp of His finger and the first powerful Word from His mouth, so did He too engrave upon the hearts of men something that has indeed tied us together as well.  It is a perpetual bond that unites the sons and daughters of men together.

This is the law of love.  We love God, founded upon the essential dependence on and subordination of God as supremely good, and our love to each other, grounded upon our communion with each other and interest in each other as the image of God.  Christ gives us the perfect succinct version of this in Matthew 22.37-39, “And he said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The love we have for God is displayed also in our love for one another.  Romans 13.10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Or again, just a few verses before, Romans 13.8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  But sin has cut to pieces the divine love that knit us originally together, not only with each other, but with the Lord.  Only Christ has enabled us to love freely and rightly now, as we take on His righteousness, and this is done only in faith.

Hugh Binning writes, “If the love of God and of one another had kept the throne, there had been a co-ordination and co-working of all men in their actions, for God’s glory and the common good of man.  But now, self-love having enthroned itself, every man is for himself, and strives by all means, to make a concurrence of all things to his own interest and designs.”

Our unity in love is dissolved because of sin.  Christmas is reminding me of this.  We have so much self-love in what we do.  We have turned all the realities of love back onto ourselves; we have become the center of our worship.

Now Jesus Christ, the Lord, has redeemed lost man and repaired these ruins that make up our castles, particularly restoring the fundamental law of creation and love; He alone unites us to God and to one another.  He is truly our peace and has removed the seeds of discord between God and man and between man and man.  This is the wonderful reality of 1 John 4.7-12, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might liver through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

This is the very substance of the gospel.  We love because we have been loved.  Jesus Christ, particularly during this time of remembrance of His birth, and focusing on the true Gospel of His work, should move us to stop loving ourselves and focus on loving others.

Instead of loving others during this time, are we simply loving ourselves more deeply?  What could be a viable test of this?  Is the amount of money we are spending on others?  Does that signify a self-love or a love for others?  If we give without any hope of return, perhaps to those without the ability to give, then I would argue yes, we are beginning to get it.  But test your bank accounts and see where you are spending your money this holiday season.  I say this not to condemn, but as a lovely challenge to fix our eyes on the glory of Christ, and love as He loved us.