Many are the afflictions of the righteous…. Psalm 34:19a
Our children may find it disheartening to know that as children of God they will be called upon—chosen really—to suffer many afflictions and persecutions in this life. The concept that it is necessary for them to endure these trials may be hard for them to comprehend. Thus they must be taught to understand that it is a privilege to suffer for the Lord’s sake, and a privilege for which they should give thanks.
That the children of God will suffer persecution is scriptural. Being followers of Christ will put us at odds with the world who hated and despised Him (John 15:18-21). Because they hated Him, they will hate and despise us also. And this hatred will only increase over time. Our refusal to approve the open sins of homosexuality (LGBTQ) and murder (abortion) will continue to bring scorn and derision upon us. Our freedoms of public worship and Christian schools will be jeopardized and possibly taken away. Persecutions such as these, and many others as well, will only increase and intensify with time. Yet all of these are instrumental in preparing us for our place in glory. They are a form of chiseling, chiseling done by the hand of a loving Father.
Jesus is the Cornerstone upon which God builds His church; and His church is composed of lively stones, who live and move and have their being in Him. As living stones of the church militant here on earth, we are being shaped and formed—chiseled really—for a more glorious place in the church triumphant in heaven. All of life, from one’s first cry to final breath, is governed by the almighty hand of God, who makes every joy and every sorrow in this life subservient to His people’s salvation.
Teaching our children (especially our young children) to view themselves as living stones may be a little more difficult than we would like to imagine. The very idea may seem strange and even silly to them. People as stones? Living stones? We may find that this concept is a little hard for them to understand. So we need to instruct them that this is the teaching of Scripture. Jesus is the Cornerstone—the firm foundation upon which His church is built (Is. 28:16; Eph. 2:20-22; I Pet. 2:4- 6). As His people, we are the stones that need to be shaped, formed, and fitted for our individual places— specific places—in the building of His spiritual house. Left in our natural state, we are as plain stones, unattractive and useless. The Lord quickens us by His Spirit— making us as lively stones that need to be chiseled, and chiseled, and chiseled again before we can fit into the places that are marked with our names. And this chiseling hurts. It hurts a great deal!
Most people would agree that while the joys in life are very easy for us to accept, the difficulties and hardships are often hard for us and our children to understand. We can often find ourselves discontent in God’s way with us and we mutter—oftentimes in bitterness—“Why? Why me? Why my loved one?” Yet, we are told that we are to expect these hardships. There will be many of them. We are being chiseled by them. And they are necessary in preparing us for our place in glory.
Although persecution is a very painful form of chiseling, it is not the only form of chiseling that the Lord chooses to use in fitting His people for heavenly glory. There are many more. And they can be just as painful. Every tear and every sorrow in the lives of believers is the result of their Lord’s chiseling. He chisels with sickness, sometimes in the form of a deadly and incurable disease placed upon us or a loved one. Oh, how this hurts! The loss of a job can often raise doubts and fears as to whether one can provide for the physical needs of the family as well as support the kingdom causes. This can result in stirring up a sense of failure and low self-esteem. And it hurts, really hurts. Disruptions to covenant family life caused by the abandonment of one’s spouse or the harsh sadness of having to deal with a wayward and/or rebellious child can bring indescribable heartbreak. Oh, how this chiseling hurts! Being called by God to live the lonely life of singleness, when one desires to marry but God chooses not to bring a godly mate, hurts a great deal and contentment must be painfully learned. God might choose to chisel His stones by taking away their sight, their hearing, or their use of limbs, thus, leaving them to experience the rest of life in a way they would never have imagined or chosen. And it hurts, really hurts. And most, if not all of us, have experienced the chiseling hand of the Lord when called upon to bring a loved one to the grave. Whether it be a beloved parent, spouse, child, or friend—an aged saint, teen, young child, or stillborn babe—whether expected or unexpected, the severing of earthly ties is a very heart-wrenching and painful experience for the children of God. These and many others are the afflictions that befall God’s people. The Lord uses these exceptionally strong and grievous chiselings in order to beautify us for our place in glory.
…but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalm 34:19b
Although we experience many afflictions in life and suffer greatly under the chiseling hand of God, He, in His love and mercy, delivers us out of them all. He does not leave us comfortless. Rather, He sends these trials and afflictions for our good. It is during these hardships and sorrows of life that God’s people grow spiritually. He uses the sufferings and trials of life to draw us closer to Him. He strengthens our faith. He comforts our hearts. He brings us to realize anew that we are fully dependent upon Him for all things. So when we are overwhelmed by the storms and trials of life, where else can we go but to our Cornerstone? He can identify and sympathize with all the struggles we are called to face. Hebrew 4:15, 16 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We should not be afraid or ashamed to go to our Cornerstone and ask for His mercy and grace in our time of need. We should do so boldly, knowing that He has been where we are, has experienced what we are experiencing, and He understands the heartbreak and frustrations with which we struggle.
When I read Hebrews 4:15, 16, my mind goes to some of the most recent chiselings we have been called upon to suffer—as individuals, families, churches, and denomination. Our children and grandchildren ask, sometimes amidst tears, why those who have been their friends for many years now say they can no longer have anything to do with them. And this question is a difficult one for us as parents to answer because we too are hurting. We too have experienced such heartache. Not only have friendships been broken and dissolved, but family relationships have suffered damage as well. Husband and wife, parent and child, sibling and sibling—many of these relationships have suffered severely as a result of our recent denominational controversy and split. Chiseled! Severely chiseled! And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts! This is for our good? This is necessary? How can we explain it to our children when it is so very difficult to understand ourselves?
And so we go to Jesus, our Cornerstone and High Priest. He has been where we are. He has experienced what we are going through—experienced this and so much more. He was betrayed by one of His own disciples while others forsook Him and fled. He was denied, not once but thrice, by His beloved Peter. And listen to the words of the anguished cry He uttered while hanging on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Oh, what suffering He endured! Truly, then, He knows our heartache and suffering! And He is a sympathizing Savior. He knows our many afflictions—and delivers us out of them all!
What comfort for us! Though we suffer many afflictions, the Lord will deliver us out of them. Though our afflictions be many, we are told they are light and but for a moment. We have both the blessing and comfort of knowing that they work “for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). Unworthy sinners that we are, polluted with sin and depraved in nature, when we think about the beauty and glory of heaven, it is no wonder that we must go through much chiseling—grievous chiseling—before we are properly and perfectly fitted for our place in glory. We need to be totally reconstructed, or transformed so to speak. Transformed from useless and unattractive to amazingly beautiful. That will be glory, glory indeed!
Glory. That, too, can be a difficult concept to teach our children. Scripture does tell us some things about the beauty and glory of heaven. To name a few: God’s dwelling place, Father’s house of many mansions, streets of gold, peace and joy, no more tears, no more pain, living with our Lord and seeing Him face to face, and being in the company of angels and God’s chosen people from every nation, tongue, and tribe. Sounds amazingly wonderful. And yet, no matter how strikingly beautiful the Scriptures may describe heaven, the reality of it is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Even so, I believe that even though the Lord chisels us sorely, He also allows us small tastes of heaven’s joy amidst our afflictions. He gives us the blessings of godly marriages, covenant family life, and the communion of saints within our congregational and denominational lives. I believe He allows us to enjoy these small tastes of heaven to encourage and strengthen us for the journey we must travel in getting there.
What follows is a short reiteration of the article in poetry form.
“How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”
As we journey through life in this world below
And we follow the path that God wants us to go,
He gives earthly pictures to you and to me
That we through comparison pictorially see
Of how beautiful heaven must be.
He gives us the blessing of husband and wife
United as one for the rest of their life,
’Tis a picture of Christ and the church, His bride,
And in wonder we see how the Lord does not hide
Of how beautiful heaven must be.
He gives us the picture of family life, too,
The love of a father so tender and true
Who cares for his children—each little need,
And then in comparison our thoughts must lead
To how beautiful heaven must be.
He gives us the gift of communion of saints
And we think of the beautiful picture this paints—
As we fellowship here in a love that is sweet
We think of the day when we’ll sit at Christ’s feet
And how beautiful heaven must be.
But all is not well as we dwell here below,
For also through troublous times we must go.
God chisels with hardships—some hard to bear,
But they’re sent in His love, and we’re kept in His care.
Oh how beautiful heaven must be.
He chisels with sickness, sorrow, and pain
And yet, when compared to our heavenly gain
We see He’s preparing us not for this earth
But for a life with our Lord of unmeasurable worth.
Oh how beautiful heaven must be.
And so when our journey and work here is done,
When by our Lord’s grace the vict’ry is won,
From death’s cold wave we will not flee
For ‘tis only then we will truly see
Just how beautiful heaven must be!
Chiseled. Chiseled for beauty. Chiseled for the beauty of heaven. We must be thankful for such chiseling. For it is necessary, so very necessary, in preparing us for our place in glory. “In every thing give thanks [including chiseling]: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thess. 5:18). And we must teach our children to be thankful also. For although chiseling is extremely painful, we have the blessing and comfort of knowing that it is rendered in love by the hand of our heavenly Father; and that when we are tried and beautified (purified), we shall come forth as gold—perfectly and beautifully fitted for our place in Father’s house. That will be true glory for you and for me. Thank God for our Cornerstone. And all praise be to Him!