I was talking on the phone today with my mom and she encouraged me with a few words from Cowper’s famous hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (you can find the tune and lyrics here). One line in particular captures how I feel about 2010: “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.” In many respects, 2010 has tasted bitter to me. I’ve blogged already about the loss of my ministry as a pastor at Hague Gospel Church in Saskatchewan. But I haven’t said much about the discouragement I’ve struggled with, unemployed, as weeks have turned to months with few clear prospects. In December, one hopeful prospect dissolved into thin air, leaving me with feelings of disappointment (mostly in myself), rejection and frustration. We’re back, in a way, to square one. No closer to establishing a new home and ministry than we were 4 months ago—or even 8 months ago.
My frustration is compounded by two harsh and unwelcome realities. My own character flaws, personality and weaknesses have definitely factored in to how and why we left Hague. That’s hard to live with. But nearly as bad, though I have tried to be faithful to preach the Gospel, see people saved, disciple new believers and “put these things before the brothers” (1 Tim 4:6), nonetheless I’ve come to know the sting Job speaks of when he says, “those whom I loved have turned against me” (Job 19:19). Frankly it has been difficult work in 2010 to continually forgive those who have wronged me and my family and also to continually rest in God’s forgiveness. And it’s been difficult work to keep on trusting that God will bring good out of what has transpired in 2010.
A friend wondered aloud to me yesterday whether sometimes the trials and hardships God sees fit to take us through have no other purpose than to simply teach us to trust Him still. Cowper’s words ring so true: “the bud may have a bitter taste”. I’ve consoled myself and others many times this year by holding out a vision for what God might do out of dim circumstances. But what if there is no better home or happy ministry just around the corner? What if God is merely aiming to wean me from fixing my hopes and affections on lesser things, to trust Him and depend on Him more deeply? Is it possible there is no other flower than this to emerge from the bitter tasting bud? I hope not. I hope God will yet lead my family and me to a new home and happy ministry. But if not, I pray that in 2011 He will instruct my heart to desire that the greatest and best outcome I could hope for is nothing other—and certainly nothing less—than to rest happily in the “bright designs”, “sovereign will” and “smiling face” of God.
God Moves in a Mysterious Way, William Cowper
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.