Do you worry about apostasising? That, if it came down to it, under real pressure you might renounce your faith in Jesus? The aptly named 2017 film, Silence, tells the story of a 17th Century Christian priest who, in the face of intense persecution at the hands of the Japanese, eventually renounces his Christian faith. Do you fear that this might be you?
Or, less dramatically, do you worry about doubting God in the heat of the moment, only to return to him in relief and thankfulness once the trial is over? Is this your experience already? I can certainly identify with this pattern. As can the author of Psalm 73. Opposed by proud, godless men, the writer here recounts how his feet ‘almost turned’ from God’s way (v2) and how pointless he feels his devotion to God has actually been (v13). He goes so far as to label himself as having been a ‘brute beast’ in God’s presence (v22). But then he rallies when he remembers that God is on his side (v25) and has never let go of His grip on him (v23).
There are several things we can learn about facing trials from the writer of Psalm 73. Let’s focus on two of them:
One, God remains faithful to his commitment to us. He is transcendent. He knows the future (Psalm 73:17). He will not let you go. God will complete the salvation of his elect, a salvation he planned from before the foundation of the world. Revelation 3:5 says ‘He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.’ John Piper in an article on desiringgod.org explains this verse thus: ‘Having our name in the book of life from the foundation of the world seems to mean that God will keep you from falling and grant you to persevere in allegiance to God. Being in the book means you will not apostasise.’
What a relief! How encouraging! Despite any fear of future struggle if we are God’s children we can ‘rest in the assurance that we are not left to ourselves in this “fight of faith”’ (Piper) and that the salvation God began in us He will complete (Philippians 1:6).
Secondly, we can trust during a trial. If God is going to keep us from ultimately apostasising, surely He can keep us from doubting Him in the heat of the moment! UK resident Chery Gadsby and her husband Jules were faced with the decision to terminate their baby’s life or risk Cheryl’s life as she had severe pre-eclampsia (Woman Alive, August 2017). While she was in hospital friends sent Cheryl a card with Psalm 139:16 in it. The verse reads: ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’ Faced with choosing between her life or her baby’s Cheryl was initially angry about being given this verse. Then, after some gentle counsel from a Christian nurse, Cheryl put herself and her baby into God’s hands. God became her strength and she was ‘incredibly aware of the Lord’s peace’ during the trial. This story ends sadly. Cheryl’s baby died in her womb. But Cheryl reports ‘throughout the sadness, we have found that building our lives on the rock of Christ has made the difference to us. The Lord is our strength, our peace and our comfort, and He is faithful.’
Wouldn’t you like to be like Cheryl, trusting God (mostly) through it all? I know I would. I’m sure that in the face of difficulty I’m likely to repeat my pattern of doubt then faith, doubt then faith. But hopefully those cycles will become fewer and shorter, until I trust God implicitly throughout.
Turn to your One-to-One Freedom-in-Fellowship partner now and pray that: she would rest assured for the future, knowing that God will keep her in His grip for eternity; and that she would trust God to be her strength and refuge (Psalm 73:28) in the trials she is facing now.