“When through the deep waters I call you to go,the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with you, your troubles to bless, and sanctify to you your deepest distress. When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply; the flame shall not hurt you; I only design your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.”
We sang “How Firm a Foundation” Saturday in band rehersal and then yesterday in the church meeting and you know how you can hear something you’ve heard a million times and all of the sudden you’re hearing it for the first time? Well, that happened to me with this song this weekend. I can quote this song. But the words came alive to me in the living room at the Britt’s house about 8 PM on Saturday. I think the reason was several-fold. First, I had just read through 1st Peter in preparation for the new series we started at church this Sunday. The book talks a lot about suffering but the first thing I noticed when I read was the number of times “hope” is mentioned. Its a guarantee, we will suffer in this life, BUT not as one without hope. Why?? Because we are rooted on a firm foundation.
So, as I was singing this song, trying to match the harmony line with the piano and guitar chords, it was as if God was speaking directly to me… “Emily… I have called you to this place in your life. It WILL be a struggle. This coming year will not be easy… Even in your apprehension to embark on what I’m calling you to do, don’t forget I’m here. Don’t forget I care. Don’t forget I’m fully able to relate to your fears and cares. Don’t forget that as you’re going through the deep waters I’ve called you to, I WILL BE WITH YOU! And as I’m sending you to the fire, its not to kill you. My goal is not your harm, rather your good. I long to make you more useful to me. And I can’t do that without the fire. But even through the fire, I WILL BE WITH YOU. And I am not punishing you – I’m refining and re-creating you. Don’t lose hope. I’m the Suffering servant and I’m calling you to mortify your desires – put them to death – choose to suffer lack for me. But realize in that “suffering” you are actually gaining. You are gaining ME! I WILL BE WITH YOU! My presence, comfort, hope, re-assurance and patience will be with you as you stumble, fail, hurt, lack trust and lose hope and focus. But in the end, I’m the God who will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
So, the words “the flame shall not hurt you, I only design your dross to consume and your gold to refine” have taken on new meaning. Its a meaning that’s oozing with hope. Its not a shallow “feel – good” hope, but rather a hope that is not dependent on ease. Why?? Because my foundation is firm. And my God is good. And that’s the reason I can look at this year with hope. My prayer is that God will graciously impart joy in my life as I seek to faithfully bear my cross and follow him. As I kill my temporal desires to find eternal satisfaction, I pray that He would remind me of the big picture. When my only wish is to crawl in a ditch and hide from the world, I pray that He would surround me with fresh reminders of His care and provision. And when I get lazy, I pray He would keep me transparent so that the Body can work together in pursuing a common goal of transformation. I pray as I’m tempted to sacrifice my joy for fleeting pleasures, that He would remind me of my eternal Hope to see Him face to face. I want to end well. I want this year to be a year where I die to my desires, I die to my selfish pride and where I consistently have my eternal hope in mind.