“God certainly desires our greatest good . . .”

“God certainly desires our greatest good more than we ourselves desire it.” (St. Augustine)

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I have to give you at least one quote from St. Augustine on this, his feast day. Augustine

God certainly desires our greatest good more than we ourselves desire it.  He knows better than we by what way it can come to us, and the choice of ways is wholly in His hands, as it is He who governs and regulates all that occurs in the world.  It is, then, most certain that in all chances that can befall, whatever may happen will always be best for us.”

I get stopped by that first sentence: “God certainly desires our greatest good more than we ourselves desire it.” That is cause for great hope. “Be not afraid!”

This God–his way is perfect

As for God, His way is perfect . . . And if His way is perfect we need no explanation. (Amy Carmichael)

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This morning during our worship time we were singing Jane Terwilliger’s “Psalm 18”, and I was struck by the line: “This God–his way is perfect.”  That reminded me of a section of an incredible letter written by Rev. Frank Houghton in the 1800’s, I believe, after his sister died.  Rev. Houghton was part of the China Inland Mission–any of you remember the story of Hudson Taylor? (a must read!).  His sister sailed for China as part of the Two Hundred, a group of missionaries setting off for China.  She had waited 10 years for the opportunity to go.  Here’s the section of his letter:

As a family God has been speaking to us recently through the death of my youngest sister, Freda, on August 31.  We have no details yet. She sailed on September 18 of last year in one of the parties of the Two Hundred, after ten years’ patient waiting for the way to open.
     Many of our friends in their letters of sympathy speak of God’s mysterious ways, and I know there is an element of mystery.  But I shrink from the suggestion that our Father has done anything which needs to be explained.  What He has done is the best, because He has done it, and I pray that as a family we may not cast about for explanations of the mystery, but exult in the Holy Spirit, and say, ‘I thank Thee Father . . . Even so, Father.”  It suggests a lack of confidence in Him if we find it necessary to try to understand all that He does.
     Will it not bring Him greater joy to tell Him that we need no explanation because we know Him?  But I doubt not there will be a fulfillment of Jn 12:24.

On the same page in my journal, I have this quote from Amy Carmichael:

As for God, His way is perfect . . . And if His way is perfect we need no explanation.  (Rose from Brier, p. 115)

Lord, help us to be women who trust that Your way is perfect. . .

It takes all the sting out of a disappointment . . .

Can we receive all as coming from the hand of Christ?

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This is a follow-up on “God is the One at the end of the line” (posted 7/5/09).   This quote from Amy Carmichael caused a paradigm shift in my thinking when I first read it, and I continue to come back to it periodically.  She’s commenting on how St. Paul called himself a “prisoner for the Lord” numerous times.  “Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner” (2 Tim 1:8) :

It takes all the sting out of a disappointment if we see it as Paul did.  Isn’t it interesting that never once does he call himself Nero’s prisoner, though he was chained by Nero’s chain and in Nero’s cell?  This has been a great comfort to me.  We don’t admit the domination of Nero–no, not for an hour.  We have to do only with the sovereignship of Christ.

And that brought to mind this same orientation from St. Paul of the Cross, this time in reference to Jesus.  “[Jesus] said to Peter, as Peter was wielding his sword against the soldiers who had come to take Jesus, ‘Put your sword into its scabbard.  Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (Jn 18:11)”

It is significant that Jesus did not say, “Am I not to drink the cup that these soldiers are giving me?” or “the cup that Annas or Pilate is giving me?” Jesus saw everything as coming from the hand of his Father and did not take the cup from those whom St. Paul of the Cross calls “intermediaries”.  Jesus took it directly from the hand of his Father.

Can we say the same about the difficulties in our own lives?