Being Grounded in the Absolute Love of God

Dr. Sachi Nakamura(Christian Books Translator、JCFN Board Member、Spiritual Director)

 

 

Few years ago, I came across these words by a Catholic Trappist monk, James Finley. 

“(God is) the infinity of the unforeseeable; so we know that [the unforeseeable] is trustworthy, because in everything, God is trying to move us into Christ consciousness. If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” 

“…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…” Thinking that I had misread this phrase, I read it over several times. However, that is surely what it said; “…the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things,…”

                     It does not mean that God does not protect us from anything. However, whether it is a natural disaster, illness, losing a job, or a bereavement of a loved one, such things that happen in this world may happen to anyone who believes in God. God’s love does not protect us from experiencing tragedy, suffering and pain. We all know this from our own experiences. No one can say that they have not experienced some kind of sadness, hardships, or things they cannot understand why it happened. Nonetheless, God’s love sustains us in the midst of it all, no matter how tragic the circumstance is, and how difficult and painful the experience may be. Many of us also know this from our personal experiences. 

                    When you look back at your life, can you identify painful and difficult times that had made you wonder why God didn’t protect you from such circumstances? The pain might have felt unbearable at that moment. You may not have felt His presence during it. However, now turn your thoughts to the truth that God did sustain you through it. The fact that you are reading this sentence right now is proof that the Lord was with you during your difficult time to sustain you. At that time, how and in what ways did the Lord abide with you in your difficulties? Maybe you were not able to notice Him then, but as you look back on it now, you may be able to recognize how His hand was at work. 

                     What about you now? Maybe some of you are going through a great deal of suffering at this moment. You might be facing a painful time and are wondering why God is not protecting you from it. Others of you may not feel like you are going through any specific trials, but are somehow feeling suffocated by the chronic burdens of life. Regardless of the circumstances, how is God sustaining you? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you become aware of Christ’s presence and comfort in the midst of your life. 

                      As we look into the future, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will not face any troubles. In fact, Jesus told us that in this world, there will be trouble. Although we are unable to avoid troubles, we can ask the Lord to help us become absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things.

 

“(T)hen we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.” Let us also reflect on those words of Finley.

Prayer When Your Heart Seems to Be Broken

 Sachi Nakamura (Translator of Christian Books, JCFN Board)

 

It was five years ago in fall. Like every year, a typhoon had just hit Japan and left serious damages in many regions. But the day after the storm passed through, clear blue sky would spread. There were many pictures of beautiful sky posted on Facebook.

Breathless to face crispy clear blue sky, I could not help feeling the heaviness of my heart.

“Heavenly Father, no matter how beautiful the sky after the storm, I cannot be moved by it as we have suffered so much damage and lost so many lives. We have many good and beautiful things in this world. But there also are so many cruel and miserable things. No matter how I try to think about “Whatever is true, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, (Philippians 4:8)”, those things look too small in comparison to too many cruel things in the world. Even when I try to be thankful for a good thing, in face of the magnitude of the misery out there, my heart is prone to be broken.”

Then, our loving Father who is filled with endurance and mercy spoke to me. “At the end of the day, I will restore everything and make everything right. You might feel anything you find good and beautiful in this world seem to be fragmented, too modest, or a mere drop in the bucket. But that is what I am giving you as the foretaste of the coming day so you do not lose hope. Do not doubt by thinking that the good thing would not last long or that would be too modest. Do not let the doubt gnaw at you. Just trust me. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world.

〜*〜*〜*〜

This year again, a huge typhoon devastated West Japan. The earthquake of magnitude 6.9 struck Hokkaido the day after. At one time, nearly the whole area of huge Hokkaido lost power. Light was gone from cities and the darkness covered them.

But during that devastation, someone posted this picture on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Gosuke Shibazaki

It is a picture of the star-studded sky someone saw when he looked up sky in the blackout darkness right after the earthquake. What countless stars! Stars are completely filling the sky! These are not the stars which had not existed before the earthquake. These stars were always there. When all the artificial lights are gone, those starts, which had not been seen, revealed in the sky.

“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)

This Scripture came to my mind.

Presence, love, mercy, and works of God are always surrounding us and supporting us. Perhaps, as we try to do something on our own power, we might not be able to see God’s sign that surrounds us sometime.

When God said, “Be still, and know”, I thought perhaps God also meant, “Turn off all the lights that you produced on your own. Look up these stars that I have made brilliantly shine. I am always with you.”

We are called to be co-workers of the Lord. Our Lord would not desert us to work hard on our own. He is already with us and working. We just join Him. To do that, I think we have to periodically stop what we are doing, calm our hearts, and look to God who is there. In order not for us to start running on our own.  In order for us to remember that it is the Lord who reigns everything even when we are devastated by facing a huge difficulty, evil, or tragedy.

When you become still in front of the Lord, how about asking yourself with prayer questions like these? “Where can I find God in this situation? How God is working in this? How he is supporting me and guiding me? What does God want me to realize now in this situation? What does He want me to learn?”

You might feel an urge to ask “What should I do, Lord?” but just hold that question at this point. Before asking for what you should do, seek where God is and what he is doing. Listen to what He is telling you in that situation.

Facing a tragedy, people would ask, “Where is God?” This question can be rooted, not in the lack of faith, but in the hope coming from our faith and we could address this question to God. No matter devastating the situation can be, with your conviction that God is always present and working to show his love and care for his creation, humbly admit that you cannot see His present work and ask Him to help you see it. Once, someone said this. When we pray, we should not ask for a “sign,” but rather, ask for “sight.”

When we do that, He would let us see His presence, His Love, the works of His hands. He would let us realize those signs have been already given. Just like the sky filled with stars.

We might be in an extremely unreasonable situation when we feel our heart is broken. Unreasonable situation might not be coming from God. Or perhaps it was part of His plan. Or there are many cases evils prevail in contrary to His will.

The most important thing is to believe that God will redeem, restore and put all things to rights in the end. No matter how bad and grave the problem might be. And He is already working for it. Pray so you can find God who is in the midst of our pain, suffering, and difficulties. Open your eyes. Listen. Open your heart. Perhaps a little sign. Perhaps a big sign like a shift of paradigm. You may be given His Word. You may experience an unexpected encounter. What would God show you when you pray?

Also, let’s pray that He might make as His partner of His works of love that he is engaging in that situation. Finally at this point, you should pray, “What can I do?”

May our faith, patience, peace, and wisdom be increased in His mercy and blessing. At this time, we may be able to match the pace of our being and deeds to what God is doing.

Most often, this process cannot be completed by a one-time prayer. Rather, in many cases, it will be a part of our Spiritual formation process, which lasts long time. You might come up with new questions in prayers. Bring them to God without hesitation. You might be given amazing peace that surpasses your understanding. Immerse yourself in that experience without fear.

You might not feel anything after prayers. We cannot demand answers from God. He tells us whenever He sees right in a way He sees fit. Until then, let’s humble ourselves and keep offering our prayers. If you grow to be impatient, like the author of the psalm, you cry out and say, “Lord, until when?” No matter how we do, He will use this process of prayer to shape us to be like Him. And eventually, through us, He will bless the earth.

Are you in some kind of hardship? In confusion? In difficulty? In suffering or in pain? Please submit your situation to God and look up the sky filled with starts that we saw one more time.

 

“Be still, ant know that I am God.”

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