Two of my favorite verses in the Bible: Psalm 56:8: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”. . .Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” What a comfort to know that God not only numbers all the hairs on our head but also numbers all of our tears and will wipe them all away in the end!
“But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads. . .With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. . .What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Ps. 109:21-25, 30-31; Rom. 8:31-34)
The way you know for sure that God loves you is not by trying to interpret providence but by looking to the cross of Jesus and the glory that awaits you because he died for your sins.
One of my favorite lines in a hymn is this: “O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.”
It comes from the hymn, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”. I recently learned the historical background to the hymn and thought I would share it here.
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
1. O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
2. O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
History of Hymn
“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. His whole family had went to the wedding and had left him alone. And he writes of something which had happened to him that caused immense mental anguish. There is a story of how years before, he had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do, and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him all these years, but now she is gone. He had been a brilliant student, some say that if he hadn’t went blind he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology and then wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson says this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes in it. When some critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student he was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.” So he turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord has richly blessed him, finally bringing him to a church where he regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. But he was only able to do this because of the care of his sister and now she was married and gone. Who will care for him, a blind man? Not only that, but his sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” It is the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gives him this hymn – written he says in 5 minutes! Looking back over his life, he once wrote that his was “an obstructed life, a circumscribed life… but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not “Good night” but “Good morning.” How could he maintain quenchless hopefulness in the midst of such circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue. “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain” The rainbow image is not for him “If the Lord gives you lemons make lemonade” but a picture of the Lord’s commitment! It is a picture of the battle bow that appears when the skies are darkening and threaten to open up and flood the world again in judgment. But then we see that the battle bow is turned not towards us – but toward the Lord Himself!
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!” (Psalm 61:1-4).
You can cry out to God and cling to these images of God in the Psalm because of what Christ has done for us. The same God that David knew we know in a much more intimate and powerful way, because we know him in the Lord Jesus Christ who fulfills every image of this Psalm: In the words of James Montgomery Boice:
“Jesus is our refuge, but not only a refuge from human enemies and foes. He is a refuge from the wrath of God to be poured out at the final judgment. He is our tower that we can run into and be safe. He is our tabernacle. The apostle John used this very word when he wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In the Greek the words “made his dwelling” are literally “tabernacled.” Jesus is the one who said of the city of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).
JESUS IS THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I! Jesus is the Rock of Ages. He is very God of very God as we confess. And he fulfills every image of this Psalm. But he is also the rock that was cleft for you and me as we sing: “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee, let the water and the blood from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.”
Jesus was the rock that was broken for you and me. He is the one who was truly brought to an end of the earth experience on the cross where he cried out “my God, my God, O why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46) i.e. why are you so far from me! And he prayed “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46), trusting his Father to the end. And God heard his cries for deliverance and raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand. And because of Jesus’ end of the earth experience we will never truly be distant from God. It may feel that way at times but in fact God dwells within us. In Jesus, God tabernacled among us and by His Spirit he tabernacles within us (John 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:19). And Jesus promised us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). So you see, no matter how distant we feel from God, the truth is he will never leave us or forsake us. He is as near to us as the Word that is preached and he dwells within us by His Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:8; Gal. 4:6).
And Jesus is coming again to usher in the fullness of God’s presence in the new heavens and new earth:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1-4).
We may at times feel distant from God in the Christian life, but cling to Jesus by faith, for He is the rock that is higher than I. Once again in the words of James Montgomery Boice: “Sometimes we need to feel we are at “the ends of the earth” before we can discover how wonderful Jesus is.
There’s a reason God gave us more lament Psalms than any other genre and there’s also a reason the Psalms end in a crescendo of praise.
Here is a great quote from Michael Horton’s The Gospel-Driven Life:
“The last thing we need is a church that keeps us sealed up in our own compartment with others of similar experiences in life. We need to be integrated into the body of Christ. Younger believers don’t need another speaker to come in and tell them about dating, self-esteem, and relationships. They need to have relationships with saints who have put on a few miles in the Christian life and have faced challenges to their faith and practice that younger believers have not. And the lessons learned from these relationships need to be passed on to the rest of us in unplanned, unchoreographed, and unplugged conversations.” (p. 197).