“Although you have made me see many bitter evils, you will bring me back to life again: from the depths of the earth you will bring me up.” Psalm 71:20
Teachers are inundated with questions. Questions about homework, social expectations, life, spirituality and everything in between punctuate the day. Teachers have the
great privilege of investing in students not just for a short time, but for a lifetime. Recently the questions “If God is good, why did he allow such bad things to happen to me?” ” and
“Why do I have to face difficulties? Frankly, most people have asked these questions. Sin, brokenness, and grief are the result of living in a broken world. None of them
were God’s perfect plan for his children, but he uses these experiences to refine us, strengthen his attributes in us, and draw more people to him through us.
The following poem answers these questions as well as the following biblical figures.
The windows of George Herbert
“Lord, how can man preach your everlasting word?
He’s a brittle fool [cracked] a glass:
Yet in their temple he has the means
This glorious and transcendent place,
Be a window by your grace.
But when you annealed your story in the glass,
Make your life shine inside
that of the holy preacher; then the light and the glory
More rev’rend grows, and more doth earn:
Which else shows watrish, dark and thin.
Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one
When they combine and mix, bring
A strong consideration and fear: but the word alone
Doth disappear like a flaming thing,
And in the ear, no ringing of conscience.
In this poem, a preacher is compared to a stained glass window. Consider the message of this poem to all Christians, not just a preacher. The comparison that Herbert creates is that of beauty. In the first stanza, the poet rhetorically asks how a (Christian) preacher can preach the Word of God when he is cracked and capricious in his humanity.
He responds by saying that it is by the grace of God that the preacher can be a messenger of the Truth of God or a window into His temple.
Stanza two states that glass is heated to add color; much as the preacher’s life is refined by the heat of trial or difficulty. The colors are what make the stained glass window unique and charming. The life of a preacher or a Christian is made beautiful by refinement. When Christ’s followers allow God to mold, foster, and perfect his attributes in them, the beauty of the Kingdom is born. This otherworldly beauty is a beacon that draws people to the kingdom of God. Faithfulness to God in the most difficult times is what speaks loudly to those who watch lovers of Christ.
The third stanza concludes by saying that advice given by words alone is quickly forgotten, but the witness observed by a life of action is not easily forgotten. It is when the heat rises that the decision of the follower of Christ to trust in the goodness, love, and faithfulness of God is tested. When Christians face trials and difficulties, their true colors are revealed. People watch and wait and wonder what makes those who love Christ so different. Hearts turned to the sky, desperate by his presence and true to his name are the most powerful weapons against darkness. Words are not enough, but lives lived in true submission and faithfulness in the midst of sorrow and pain are the Creator’s magnificent masterpieces used for His glory.
The Bible is full of stories of people who are suffering, yet they are loved by God and experiences are tools to advance His good plan to redeem His creation. Consider these men and women of the Bible and how their trials advanced the kingdom of God. Job lost his family, his wealth, and his health – everything – to prove that his faith was genuine. Esther faced immense stress as she became a voice and advocate for her entire race in the face of severe hostility. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into a furnace and used as instruments to turn a vile king and nation to the Lord. The early apostles were beaten, tortured, and even killed for being steadfast witnesses to a transformative power, an undeniable truth. Jesus, the pure and perfect sinless Son of God, suffered as though he had sinned for the salvation of many. If anyone deserved not to suffer, it was Jesus, but he suffered tremendously for the sake of the kingdom. And, thank goodness, he did.
We do not live for ourselves and our difficulties can be used to bring others into his presence if we can be vulnerable and open about them. Christians shouldn’t be thinking, “why me?”. Christians should ask, “What do you teach me through trials, and how can it be used for your kingdom, Lord? God allows an attempt to produce genuine faith. He knows that when his children are related to him, they can endure him and bring him glory.
“I have become a sign for many; you are my strong refuge. Psalm 71: 7
“This third, I will set it on fire; I’ll refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people” and they will say, “The Lord is our God. Zechariah 13: 9
Judith Cooley teaches language arts and drama. Follow her @pondervotional Facebook page for more encouragement.