A Steadfast Heart

(Inspired by a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson and Psalm 57, both included in full at the end of the post)

Has God ever given you a thorn when you asked for a beautiful and pure gift? What was your response? And then, what was His response? Often, I am confused. I look at Him and say, “God, I asked for something good. I asked for something beautiful, something that I am supposed to desire, but I think you made a mistake. You gave me something burdensome and painful and it has hurt my heart, more than I can bear.” He smiles at me gently and responds, often in a whisper, “My daughter whom I love and cherish, the one I knit together, the one I died for, I have and will only ever give you good things.” So I have taken many gifts like this. I have gone home with many thorns. Some have remained with me for years and others for but a moment. But each and every one of them I have learned to love. I have learned to love them because they have removed scales from my eyes, torn veils in two, and broken down walls that have kept me from my God. Then I realize, He did give me something good because through it, I have seen Him further and have known His love to a greater degree and have experienced His comfort that He only wanted to lavish upon me. I learned that He never gives a gift without supplying the grace to bear it. He is my provider. He is my sustainer. He is my one desire. Most importantly, I have learned that these thorns are not just for me. Praise God that they are not just for me! They are for you.

Have you ever been so enervated by life, by your forest of thorns, that the only words you can think to cry are, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me”? David penned these words for all of us in Psalm 57. Jesus was brought to this point as well as we see in Matthew 27:46 when He says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” To think that we have a Savior who is acquainted with grief and sorrow, a God who has wept with us, mourned with us, died for us (Isaiah 53:3; John 11:35; John 19:28-30). It is too great to understand. The last anguished cries of our God, the last moments before He met death, would eventually dry our tears and give us a future without grief or pain. How truly magnificent and scandalous. The words that impact me most are in John 19:30, “[He] gave up his spirit.” No one stole it. He gave it for us.

Now, what if you and I were to bear our grief and sorrows knowing that they are not only for our sake of knowing God, but also for the sake of others, that they too might see God more clearly? Jesus faced every trial, not for himself, but for everyone else, so that we could be saved (John 3:16). David experienced many trials for the same reason. I know that understanding this does not remove the pain of your trials. It does not remove the heartache. This is evident in Psalm 57 when David writes verses of pain before verses of thanksgiving. It is a strange thing indeed. And wait, there is even more.

While we experience the fullness of God’s gifts of thorns, we are never left alone. As you will see below, God desires to be our refuge. He wants us to turn towards Him and take cover under His wings as we wait out the storm. He wants us to cry to Him, to grieve with Him. He sends to us His love and faithfulness. He showers on us overwhelming grace and reveals to us His sufficiency. Finally, He vindicates us. Sometimes, this last part isn’t realized until years after the gift is given. I just had a moment of vindication yesterday. I was driving and I was suddenly overwhelmed with thankfulness for sins against my family from years ago. I realized that if it were not for those sins, I would not know God as I know Him now. I would not know His people as I know them now, I would not know my need for and utter dependence on Him as I do now, and the list goes on. And how amazing is it that He even puts our faults and shortcomings to lead people to Himself!

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Dear reader, whoever you are, I pray that God will give you many gifts, whatever He deems best. Then, you will see God and I so want you to see Him, to know Him, and to love Him with all your heart. Remain steadfast in heart amidst the storms (Psalm 57:7). You will learn to love the gifts because they are from a God who loves you and wants you for His own. They are also for just a moment. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV).

The Thorn by Martha Snell Nicholson

I stood a mendicant of God

before His royal throne

And begged Him for a priceless gift,

which I could call my own.

I took the gift from out His hand.

but as I would depart,

I cried, “But Lord, this is a thorn

and it has pierced my heart.

“This is strange, a hurtful gift

that Thou hast given me.”

He said, “My child, I give good gifts to thee.”

I took it home and though at first,

the cruel thorn hurt sore;

As long years passed I learned at last

to love it more and more.

I learned He never gives a thorn

without this added grace.

He takes the thorn to pin aside…

the veil which hides His face.

Psalm 57

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.

   I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who vindicates me.
He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.

 I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

  They spread a net for my feet—
I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
but they have fallen into it themselves.

  My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

  I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

   Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

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A Steadfast Heart

3 thoughts on “A Steadfast Heart

  1. louannieoh says:

    Just read this again today. so true, so true, but not easy.
    “While we experience the fullness of God’s gifts of thorns, we are never left alone. As you will see below, God desires to be our refuge. He wants us to turn towards Him and take cover under His wings as we wait out the storm. He wants us to cry to Him, to grieve with Him. He sends to us His love and faithfulness. He showers on us overwhelming grace and reveals to us His sufficiency. Finally, He vindicates us. Sometimes, this last part isn’t realized until years after the gift is given. “

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