Some Things Change, but Some Never Change, Thank God!
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
"Change is inevitable," said Robert Gallagher, "except change from a vending
machine." Sometimes that's not very funny! I remember struggling to make a vending machine at the hospital either give me the cup of coffee I'd paid for, or else give me my money back. I gave it money twice (I'm a slow learner) and it gave me back neither coffee nor change.
But Gallagher's right about change: it's inevitable. "If we enter this war," I remember an isolationist say on the radio back in 1939, "civilization as we know it will never be the same." It turns out he was right about the changes that war would make in American lives. (Regardless of his rhetoric, we actually were given no choice about fighting in WW II.) After every great national upheaval, like the 1918 flu pandemic, or the 1929 stock market crash, or the 9/11 attack, we Americans have had to make drastic changes.
Prognosticators say the COVID19 pandemic will have the same kind of major impact on every part of our lives. We may never again experience the casual, free and neighborly contacts we've enjoyed. (What have I missed most in this quarantining? I miss the smiles hidden by masks. I miss the spontaneous handshakes, the comforting hugs. I regret the loss of worshiping with other believers.) No doubt COVID19 will change our lives in unexpected ways.
But, thank God, some things are beyond change. God's sovereignty. His power. His unimaginable love. His righteousness. These will never, ever change. In a world overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear, we can rest in our unchanging, eternally trustworthy God. Here's how James 1:17,18 states it:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Everything God has given us is good, and we can count on His steadfastness even in this time of terrible uncertainty. Your Heavenly Father doesn't waver. He doesn't disappoint. He never gets confused or upset. He always knows, and gives, exactly what we need. The Bible is full of stories of His loving care, His wise provision, His firm guidance. And because He never changes, you can count on His unchanging loving care just the same as He gave those who lived in Bible times. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
When we get through this pandemic, (and we will, because God still has His plans in place for us) we will no doubt have to make some changes in how we earn a living, how we feed the family, how we spend our leisure hours. But one thing will never change:
The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Yes, there'll be changes in our lives when we get out of quarantine. But there will never be a shadow of change in God's faithfulness to His children.
May 18, 2020
When You Don't Know What to Do
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
During the 2008 financial crisis, a U.S. legislator presented a costly bill. He said "We've got to do something! Will this legislation solve the problem? I don't have any idea, but we have to do something! We must act now." (The legislator mercifully remains unnamed because I don't remember his name!)
Are you skeptical about that kind of solution? I was, too. What if that response deepened the chaos the problem was causing? Might there be a better way to find an answer? Might it be better to thoughtfully and honestly assess the root causes, before attempting to meet them?
Lois McMaster Bujold, years ago, wrote: "It didn't work, so let's do it some more? In my line of work, they call that military stupidity. I don't know what they call it in civilian life."
Our Creator/God knows all about the fears and troubles His children face. He made a solemn, unbreakable promise to give us His guidance. Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
But there's an admonition that comes with this promise of guidance. The next verse says, "Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you." If we ask for understanding, but don't sincerely intend to follow God's leading, then He won't guide us.
But what if we listen for His guidence and don't feel we've received it? Psalm 27:14 says, "Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!" Don't know what to do? Then "wait on the Lord."
Is it hard to wait for God to speak when the need is screaming for attention? Yes, it is. But the answer is still, "Wait."
Psalm 37:7 says, "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret." And Psalm 62:5 says, "My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him."
But what if you've waited and begged for His wisdom, and still feel you've not been given the answer? That happens to me, and it likely sometimes happens to you.
Isaiah 50:10 tells you what to do then: "Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God." When it seems God hasn't answered at all, what should you do? Wait. Just wait. You don't, as the congressman suggested, "Do something, even if it doesn't work"! Why not?
Isaiah 50:11 tells us why not: "Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled; This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment." Defiant response to trouble breeds more trouble, not solutions.
So, dear friend, when you are surrounded by difficult and troubling questions, may you turn to your loving Heavenly Father, who yearns to meet your every need. He does keep His promises. He will give you the wisdom and strength to do His perfect will, if only you will wait for Him.
If a Mother Loves Her Child
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
One of our dear children was 5 years old when we adopted her. She had not ever experienced the warmth and comfort of a loving family. She had not even had the most basic of human needs met, something to eat, something to wear, a warm and safe bed out of the cold and rain, a place of sanctuary. She'd never been taught, by word or example, elementary truths of right and wrong. So she came to us with no experience of everlasting love and commitment.
Our other two children had great compassion for her. They seemed to understand that we needed to be very gentle in teaching her the things they already knew. Walt and I tempered our expectations for her and gave her as much slack as we could. We didn't always know how to handle her, because it seemed she kept testing the limits of our love on purpose. How bad would she have to be before we rejected her, and sent her away, like every other adult she'd ever known?
But one day she disobeyed so flagrantly, so willfully, I knew she had to be punished. So I did so, as carefully and lovingly as I knew how.
How did she react when I disciplined her, this child who'd been abused and mistreated all her little life? She threw her arms around me, sobbing, and clung to me as if she'd never let go. Somehow, she seemed to understand that my disciplining her meant that she really and truly was ours. She was a Handford, and she would belong to us forever and ever!
Hebrews 12:5-8 says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."
But what is God's heart, as He sees us suffering under His discipline? God feels the way I felt that day I spanked my child for the first time. I wept.
So does God, when He must discipline us. Lamentations 3:31-33 says,
"For the Lord will not cast off forever.
Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men."
God does not send judgment on us angrily or vindictively. His heart is broken when He has to discipline us, but He does it lovingly, faithfully, and wisely, for our sakes.
These Scriptures came to my mind because a friend's pastor said God is punishing America with COVID-19 because of our sins. My friend felt like the pastor was blaming God for something that wasn't His fault. But our great God is sovereign over all the universe. He could have prevented COVID-19, and didn't. Why? Because a good father always does what is right, and disciplines even when it distresses him to do so. Why COVID-19? Perhaps because God wants to draw us to Himself-believers and non-believers-to repent and come to trust Him in a way that we never before been driven to trust. And, thank God, His eyes are filled with tears and His arms are open wide to welcome us back if only we will come.
What Assurance This Is!
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
Has the corona virus been the most disastrous experience of our lifetime?
I grew up in Texas during the dust bowl and the depression, and I remember the numbers of strangers who knocked on our door begging for food. (And I remember how graciously my mother fed them all.) I was a teenager when the attack on Pearl Harbor was made. I remember the panic of black-outs, sirens, shortage of essentials, seven-day workweeks, the fears as the battle deaths climbed week by week, some of them friends and relatives.
In the isolation and stress of this pandemic, I've felt the need to sing, "It Is Well with My Soul," written by Horatio Spafford. Are you familiar with it?
1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
Horatio Spafford was a lawyer in Chicago in 1871 when the Chicago fire destroyed the city. His home burned, so Spafford sent his wife and four little girls to England, intending to join them as soon as he could. But their ship, the Ville du Havre, collided with another ship in the night and sank. When Mrs. Spafford got to England, she cabled, "Survived alone." Their four little girls were among the 226 passengers who died.
On his way to rejoin his bereaved wife in England, Spafford wrote "It Is Well" as his response.
2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
The story of the young man who composed the music to "It Is Well" is equally tragic. Philip. P. Bliss was a gifted young musician who sang in D. L. Moody's church. He wrote many beautiful Gospel songs, which we still sing a hundred years later. The Bliss and Spafford families were friends.
In 1876, three years after the Ville du Havre disaster, and after Bliss wrote the music for "It Is Well with My Soul," he and his family traveled to Pennsylvania for Christmas. On December 29, Moody telegraphed Bliss begging him to return to Chicago.
Philip and Lucy left their children with her sister and caught the train on a bitter winter night. Deep snow drifts had slowed the train, so it was five hours late pulling out of Ashtabula, Ohio. A bridge trestle collapsed, and the train plummeted 70 feet into a deep ravine. The wooden cars immediately caught fire from the coal stoves. Several survivors saw Bliss crawl out of a window, and then climb back in to rescue his wife. But she was trapped by the twisted girders, and he could not drag her free. Only 69 of 159 passengers survived. Bliss died with Lucy in the flames rather than leave her to die alone. Where did he find such love, such courage, such certainty?
3. My sin - oh! the bliss of this glorious thought! - My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Just before the Blisses left Chicago for Christmas, Moody asked him to sing in a service. Bliss said, "I don't know that I shall ever sing here again, but I want to sing this as the language of my heart." He didn't know the future, but his heart understood the blessed security of God's promises.
4. And, Lord, haste the day, when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
So in this time of terrible uncertainty, I pray you too will find courage and security in the promises God has made to you in His Word. Your righteous God always, always keeps His promises. However this dreadful time of testing turns out, you too can find God faithful if only you will trust Him..