The Care and Feeding of the Heart: Turning Tragedy to Triumph.

downloadWelcome to the Training Table where you can depend on a feast for the born-again heart, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race (Hebrews 12:3)!

Today’s menu at the table is in response to a recent and horrific tragedy in Jindo, South Korea and the ferry Sewol sinking with mostly school children on board. At least 146 people are confirmed dead. Earlier, when the death toll was reported to be 128, authorities had said that 174 people were still missing. Mostly children.

Upon thinking of this inconceivable loss, I was reminded of another tragedy at sea—and the story of faith amidst the unavoidable trials of living in a thoroughly broken world that surrounds it. A tragedy and triumph that has had positive impact on millions of people ever since.

Today’s feast of the heart deals with the periods of our lives when the real meaning, importance, and efficacy of our faith is tested; when maintaining a deep sense of gratitude and peace is the most challenging ordeal of all: In times of the deepest pain and darkest suffering.

These are the times when our theology is most challenged and revealed for what it truly is; or truly could be.  As CS Lewis said, “If I could only get rid of this toothache, I could write something about pain!”  It is so very difficult to separate ourselves from the past, present or future of pain while pledging to maintain an attitude of gratitude isn’t it?  It would appear as though the only way to separate ourselves is to imagine we were indeed made for another world…

Clearly, the only way to achieve deep abiding peace and joy in the midst of the obvious suffering of the world is NOT to either deny it; or assure that we’re distracted from facing it; but RATHER denounce being a “slave to suffering” by, a) seeing suffering and brokenness as a very momentary plight of living in a fallen world and b) seeing suffering as a means by which God’s love and truth can break through and turn our minds and hearts towards loving Him and neighbor as self more and more each day.

Dear friends, there is one faith, one word, and another attitude of deep and abiding peace that encompasses this issue of “conjoining suffering with thanksgiving”: a) a faith in the hope of salvation and b) an abiding attitude of, Whatever my lot…”. Of, consider it ALL joy (James 1)! Of, “…we know that for those who love God ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)!

Please consider the opposite of these two things—hopelessness, and the ever-shifting sands of circumstance controlling our lives, and not an abiding faith—and ask yourself, “What belief system(s) seems most pervasive today in the culture and in my own sphere of concern and influence?  Why is this so?  And what can I do to offer an abiding, immovable hope and deep peace in another’s life amidst a trial of any kind?”

As I read and prayed over the tragedy at sea in Jindo, South Korea, another tragedy at sea came to mind. If I may, I would like to simply offer a “redemptive fruit, outcome” of this historic event—and its context.

Please relish the very familiar words to the world-famous hymn below.

Please imagine the countless people who have been consoled and filled with a renewed hope, a deeper gratitude, and an abiding peace that passes all understanding… and yet makes understandable and redeemable any trial God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit might allow ONLY for His glory and our temporal and eternal good.

Please, especially, consider the hymn’s refrain: Do the principles and practice of your faith consist of a “refrain”—a recurring theme of your faith—that you can articulate with a story, an assurance, a humility, and witness that’s been tested and refined and retold in the fires of redemptive suffering? Come hell, high water, or abiding happiness… What exactly is the refrain of your faith?

“It is Well With My Soul”
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my 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.”

This hymn was writ­ten af­ter two ma­jor times of pain and suffering in the author, Horatio Spaf­ford’s life.  The first was the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which ru­ined Spafford fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a weal­thy bus­i­ness­man).  Short­ly af­ter, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spaf­ford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship.  Spaf­ford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now-fa­mous tel­e­gram that contained only two words, “Saved alone.”  Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford’s own ship, on the way to a personal pilgrimage in Jerusalem, passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Ho­ly Spir­it in­spired the words of this timeless and treasured hymn.  They speak to the eter­nal hope that all people can have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth, if they place their hope and faith in Jesus Christ.  These words have brought volumes of gratitude and the deepest peace to millions of people since they were written by a man who offered eternal gratitude to God while in the midst of the deepest pain imaginable!  In fact, if it weren’t for the trial the triumph would not exist, would it?

Please consider this and write it down “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8):
What does your faith in God consist of?

What are the most thoroughly and concisely considered and recorded words to describe your faith?

What is the story of your conversion?

What Bible verse or several sentences best describe your relationship with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Amidst all the up’s and down’s of your life journey, what is the “abiding faith refrain” that acts as your immovable foundation… And the words of hope you would offer someone sinking fast in the sea of suffering “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?

Which one, two, or three people can you trust and pour your heart out with… about the above?

I’ll see you next week at the Training Table, beloved marathoners for Christ!


The Meaning of the Gospel, Pastor Tim Keller

Salvation, Ligonier Ministries Resources

Salvation-2, Grace to You Resources

Mere Christianity, CS Lewis

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