Behind a Frowning Providence, He Hides a Smiling Face
“Ministers never write or preach so well, as when under the cross.”– George Whitfield
I don’t know why, but I’ve always gravitated toward those who’ve endured suffering—far and above those whose lives are generally considered perfect.
Whenever I’m in the presence of anyone who’s been forever altered by a life of suffering, I am inexplicably drawn to them. They are beautiful and they possess a depth to their souls that causes them to stand out in the midst of everyone around them—a depth that only profound suffering can produce. Even more precious to me among those who’ve suffered, are those who understand that their suffering wasn’t for nothing, but was for a greater purpose.
In William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, he penned this verse:
“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”
A fragrance of suffering permeates those who’ve experienced great pain, loss, and trials, and is far more attractive than that of those whose lives have been defined by happy, clappy superficiality (and this is especially true when it comes to those who occupy pulpits).
Continue reading here.
Preaching and teaching about handling the trials and tribulations of life is always easier than the day you personally encounter those difficulties. When our family spoke of going to Liberia as missionaries, we were not prepared for the very real eventuality that it came close to taking the life of my daughter and myself.
However, through that painful time, we had a small handful of family and friends who supported us financially as well as in prayer. One of those is my dear friend and close brother in Christ, J.L. Pattison, and his lovely family.
J.L. has been a long-time contributor to this blog since the time that it was Defending Contending. I have had the privilege of being their pastor in the past when we lived in deserts of Nevada, and have watched them grow.
Yet, nothing could have prepared us for the news that we received this last November.
This was the beginning in his words —
On November 15, 2019, an x-ray for persistent leg pain in our five-year-old son’s left leg revealed a large tumor that originated in the bone of the upper portion of his femur. After an MRI, we were told by an oncologist in Reno, Nevada that it is likely Ewing Sarcoma. A week later a biopsy was conducted in Salt Lake City, Utah where we were told it was Osteosarcoma.
With only a 70% survival rate, our family has moved from the mourning phase of this life-shattering news, to the action phase where we are fighting for Kohen’s life.
Kohen is a precious little boy and has one of the sweetest personalities. His brothers and sisters have been very supportive through this painful process, but this is taking a toll on everybody. They are all aware that this cancer may end this little life at the worst scenario, or that during his upcoming surgery in March, may require the amputation of his entire leg.
While J.L. and his family are not perfect, they have learned to depend on the sovereign purposes of He who alone is Perfect in every way. They know that the wrong question is “Why did God…?” The Biblical question that they are praying for strength to ask every day is “God, how will you use this to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ?”
I want to encourage each of you to go to “The Kohen Chronicles” and follow the Pattison’s journey through this valley.
Pray for them. Pray for strength, for grace, for healing, for wisdom for the medical teams, and most of all that God will be glorified through this trial. Send a card or gift to them and to Kohen. Any outpouring of support would be greatly appreciated.
Our hearts ache with each new blogpost. While our tears will never match those of the Pattison family, we know that in Christ we share a bond that is anything but common.
J.L. asked us to hold off until now to share this news, but we will now be posting regular updates to Truth in Grace.
Brother, you and your family are dearly loved! There is nothing else I can say right now, except to share this short poem written many, many years ago by a British minister, and the beautiful hymn from the Gettys.
“We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see,
but all is well, that is done by Thee.”
Thank you to J.L. Pattison for sharing this poignant hymn from Sovereign Grace. The beautiful words and story that accompanies Horatio Spafford’s beloved “It is Well” still rings true today, especially for those who learn daily (and sometimes hourly) to trust in the sovereign purposes of God.
Tomorrow, we will be sharing a very special post on behalf of J.L. Pattison and his family. This dear friend and brother has been a great encouragement to our family as well as to the extended readership of “Truth in Grace” and previously on “Defending Contending.”
In the meantime, I would ask you if it is well with you? If so, realize afresh and anew that we have the privilege of coming into the throne room of grace and petitioning the Father with our cares and concerns.
Be blessed today as we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith – Jesus Christ!
In my reading through the Scriptures in a year, today I read Ezekiel 5-9. I realize that Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Judah and Israel. Yet, my mind struggled with what was prophesied would happen to Jerusalem.
V. 3 tells us the glory of God had departed! This is itself is tragic, but read on.
Vv. 4-6 give a solemn declaration of judgment pronounced against those who were God’s chosen people. These verses read like this in the ESV,
4 And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. 6 Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. — (Emphasis added)
Dear brothers and sisters, how often do we read through the pages of Scripture and fail to understand what is happening?
We can often overlook the principles found in the Scriptures and do not comprehend how it can apply to our own lives over 2 1/2 millennium after Ezekiel wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Under the judgment of God, the ONLY people who would be protected from the wrath of the Almighty were those who sighed and groaned over all the abominations.
There would be no pity shown, and nobody was exempt. Sadly, the nation had become so corrupt that the messengers who would be placing the mark upon the foreheads were told to start with the elders. These were the men charged with the religious and governmental affairs of the nation.
In other words, there were people from the top of the religious and social stratum who were NOT sighing and groaning over the abominations. These abominations were so vulgar and grotesque that Ezekiel only alludes to some of what these might have been.
The scenario we find in the 21st century is much different. The world faces even greater abominations. Abortion is now acceptable. The family is being destroyed. LGBTQ issues cloud every aspect of culture and society. What transpires behind closed doors is now openly flaunted and accepted.
In fact, our own governments willingly and deliberately strip financial aid from countries that refuse to allow for abortion at will and who refuse to legitimize ALL aspects of the LGBTQ movement.
What is NOT different is that many “elders” who are to stand in the gap and proclaim thus saith the Lord refuse to stand anymore. Even evangelical churches are becoming more open and accepting of contemporary issues of the day.
Instead of being like Martin Luther and stating, “Here I stand, I can do no other”, elders and churches are allowing for more and more abominations to come into the places where God’s people are to worship. Entertainment drives the masses and the goats feel happy while the sheep starve for lack of the bread of life from pulpits.
In this life, we are not worried about the enemy brazenly storming across our land. We do not go to sleep worrying whether our women will be violated, our children openly sold as slaves, and whether we will even have enough to eat for tomorrow.
Sadly — nay, tragically, the abominations that surround us are compounded by the reality that very few sigh and groan. Instead, we laugh when it flickers across our screens. At times, we can become so hardened in our hearts that there is only a twinge of guilt that we have mocked the God we claim as our Father.
My challenge to you — go and read Ezekiel 9. See the state of Israel and Judah. Ask yourself whether you are laughing and enjoying the fruit of the world and its abomination.
If we truly desire revival, we need to begin learning once again how to sigh and groan over the abominations. We need to seek forgiveness for our own areas where we fail to meet the perfect, holy standard that is Jesus Christ. We must hold ourselves accountable and strive to become more like the Master.
May you and I who truly know Jesus Christ as our Savior remember that like Israel of old, we are called to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). Unlike the abominable offerings that God refused to accept from Israel, we MUST offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Take the world, BUT GIVE ME JESUS!
What should be our attitude toward suffering trials and tribulations? Let us look into the Word.
Twice in the book of Job, YHWH taunts Satan, asking if he has considered His servant. Here’s the first one:
Job 1:6-8 (HCSB) One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” “From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered Him, “and walking around on it.” Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
In all his suffering Job did not sin – God held him in His hand, sustaining Job through the trial; not removing him from it.
Much later in redemptive history, YHWH tells one of His servants that Satan wants another shot.
Luke 22:31-32 (HCSB) “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
The faithful Son follows the path of His Father and holds His servant and sustains him through the trial, not removing him from it.
When we read of tribulation in the Bible, we are promised we’ll have them if we are walking as children of the light. Rather than looking to be removed from trials, we should have much confidence that God will sustain us through them. For our good and His glory. He has saved us from the wrath to come – what is it to suffer a little while in the flesh?
Leonard Ravenhill is the type of preacher that is needed today. Yet, many places no longer have times of prayer. Churches are kept afloat by sermonettes or entertainment, not because of the clear message of the Gospel. The Gospel is all about Jesus Christ, and not about what we bring to the equation.
May God daily, even hourly, bring His holiness to our attention so that we will humble ourselves before Him. If we are ever to see revival, which we desperately need in this day and hour, we must get back to the basics.