Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.
Alice was still able to get out occasionally. She seemed to welcome the opportunity to escape the confines of her bed. Surprisingly, she could still sit fairly well in her wheel chair, though now for only short periods of time. She took her last, brief shopping trip on February 16 to K-mart. She found this to be interesting still, but she returned home very tired. That favorite pastime of hers, shopping, had also now come to an end.
Good Morning Alice:
I’m afraid I should have suggested that you read more than just one verse again this time.
When you read verse 13 alone, you don’t understand the wonder of what the text explains.
Just as the children of Israel were in captivity, we were captive—dead—in our sins. Just as God turned away their captivity, He redeemed us from our sin.
Verses 10-11 show so beautifully that God does His work first in us, and verse 12 tells us how the child of God turns to Him in prayer, and finally verses 13-14 show how the child of God desires to seek Him and learn more about Him and serve Him.
I chose verse 13 because it seems like that’s what you and I are desiring to do together.
Surely the verse doesn’t mean that a heathen can seek and find God by himself, but the verse is speaking of a regenerated child of God—you and me, desiring to become ever closer in our hearts to God.
Because God has placed a desire in our hearts, we seek Him—in searching His Word and in prayer. And then we too will find the joy and comfort He gives.
With love, Your friend
That February 16 was, we later realized, the last of Alice’s “good” days. That evening friends came to visit Alice—to her very great delight. She repeatedly joined in the conversation through the use of her spelling card. Old incidents were recalled; current news was exchanged. There was nothing that she enjoyed doing more than this. Her mind was clear and sharp. Not infrequently, she managed to correct misinformation presented by others.
Alice’s final trip outside her room was on March 2 when she went to the Muscular Dystrophy Clinic for her monthly visit. The trip and the wait in the office were extremely tiring and trying for her. Obviously, she was not very happy about it all, and was glad to be back home again and in bed. She was ready to concede that she was losing strength and could do virtually nothing anymore.
Good Morning Alice:
I can go over and over these verses and never feel I’ve touched the surface of the meaning of them in my life.
We must be careful never to stress Jesus’ words over the words of John, or Peter, or Moses but remember that all is God’s Word.
Jesus here explains so wonderfully that all of God’s law is tied together in one. It is either obeyed completely, or completely broken. And it involves the entirety of our lives.
The way the command begins is so striking: “Hear, child of God, Our God is One. He is over all”.
And what follows demands complete devotion of heart, mind, body, and soul to God. And how often we fall so far short.
I am going to think for today about these verses and write again maybe for the next couple of notes what my thoughts are.
Why don’t you set aside the next few minutes, right now, Alice, to think what these commands mean in your own life. True, your obedience will come in completely different ways than mine; you don’t have to obey a husband, or have patience with a child, but as children of God, we must both struggle to know how God’s law applies to our lives and then obey it.
With love, Your friend
Please read these verses again and think deeply on them.
Helplessness: utter, complete helplessness. That’s what Alice now faced. She was able to do absolutely nothing. Someone else must wipe her nose. Someone else must move a stray hair from her face. Someone else must shoo away the fly on her arm. The only movement Alice could still control was that of her head: she could nod a “yes” or “no”, although even then we were not certain always which it was. But her eyes: how these could flash or smile! It was as though she would force us to know her thoughts through her eyes. But how discouraging; how depressing—to have a mind to think, will, reason but a body which refuses to respond to this; a tongue which will no longer move at command.
Good Morning Alice:
The Lord our God is one Lord. God is God and there is no one else or no other thing that we may put above God.
For this weak, sinful flesh, that is an impossible thing. For to be very truthful, above all else I love myself—well, don’t I? That sounds horrible, but when I examine myself and be honest, whom do I think about most? Whom do I desire to please most? I can hardly wait to finish doing necessary things so I have some time for “myself”. Even if it is to do something for my family or others, basically I do it because it’s something I want to do.
Sure, I read Scripture—at times.
Sure I pray—at times; but really now, is it out of joy or is it something that I have to take hold of myself and make myself do!
Yes, this morning I can understand the problem of a friend: “‘How can I be a child of God!?”
And yet there is that feeling, that sorrowful prick of my new heart, which sorrows when I neglect God, and then at those times, turning to God with my whole self I do experience comfort and the warm realization over and over again that Christ has saved me from myself and I am His. And then I remember what one of our ministers said: “In everything you do, you must ask yourself: is the blessing of the Lord upon this?’
I’m sure that battling your human nature must be difficult for you too, Alice. I’m sure you must have questioned: “Why did my life have to go this way?” I’m sure your human nature wishes to be back at your job. I’m sure that every day you must wish you could care for your own needs; and you probably have thought: “If I could just talk!”
Let’s both remember in this day, Alice, that God is God. Desiring to do things for myself instead of what needs to be done, is like telling God I know better than He does. And your desire to be independent again is the same thing.
We would never come out and say to God: “Never mind; I’ll run my own life”—and yet that’s exactly what we’re doing when we wish something in our life was different. It we could just keep ourselves from the world, it might be easier. When we see a T. V. program and see how the “carefree” world lives, it is going to make us more rebellious than ever, and we will have more trouble battling that sinful nature.
This may be just a childish suggestion, but after all, we are children of our God. Let’s try today, every hour-on-the-hour, to stop and remember God is God. I must love Him above all else—and above myself; I must not give in to my own thoughts and desires.
Then, if I can do that, I will know if what I am doing is God-glorifying or not. If I am honest, I will know if I feel sorry for myself (actually meaning God’s way isn’t the best way).
I will know if I am wasting precious time watching T. V. or reading or just being lazy, and I will desire to be near to Him often in prayer, and sing to Him in my soul, and read His Word to learn what it will be like soon to live with Him everlastingly.
Rejoice in this day, Alice—God is God and He is our God.
In His amazing love, Your friend
When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control.
That Christ hast regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—O the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment.”