In church on Sunday we sang the hymn How Firm a Foundation, and all week the words of that old hymn have been echoing through my head. I pulled out an old hymnal from a stack that I have collected over the years to look up the words and memorize them. The writer of this old hymn had an understanding of suffering that is often missing among Christians today.
I remember a time in my life when I really struggled with the concept that a good God would allow people (me!) to suffer. I believed in a sovereign God, so I had to believe that He was in control and could alleviate my pain if He chose to, but because I was suffering, I had trouble believing that God was good. At the time, I would not have admitted that I doubted God’s goodness, but the truth was: I did.
However, looking back, I see that it was in the deep waters that shook the very foundations of my faith that I really discovered who I was -how sinful, prideful, and limited I was – and in the midst of fiery trials that God drew me to Himself. As I have read the words of this old hymn again, they move me to tears because this hymn is the song of a believer who can testify to the goodness of the Lord in suffering. Throughout the ages there have been many believers who can testify to the truth written in the words of this hymn, and like many, this hymn could be my story – my testimony to the goodness of the Lord in suffering.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
It was in the midst of deep pain that I found comfort in God’s word and it was on His word that a foundation for my faith began to form. Trials revealed my own limitations and I realized that without the Lord I could do nothing, but I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
….As days may demand, shall thy strength ever be….I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.
When I share about the things that God has done in my life and how he used my handicapped son to reveal His goodness and His grace, I am often compelled to tell of how I went from a shouting, angry “why me?” attitude, to whispering “why me?” on my knees in reverence, awe, and gratitude. Were it not for the suffering of my son, I would not trade that difficult season in my life for anything else, and when I tell of God’s goodness in my life during that season, I have a friend who often quotes Tim Keller in saying, “God will always give you what you would have prayed for if you knew what He knew.”
When through the deep waters I call thee to go….For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless, And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
It was during those darkest moments in my life when I had no control over the circumstances that threatened to over-whelm me with fear and grief that I found God’s grace is sufficient. I knew nothing of grace until I knew fear and faced with trembling those moments of fiery trial, for, it was there in the furnace of pain and suffering that I learned about grace and the gospel.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
And as this hymn writer so richly composed words to convey suffering in the life of a believer, he concludes with words that express the indescribable peace, security, and rest that comes to those who can truly attest to the goodness of God as they have learned to lean on Jesus for repose.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”