Have you ever sung a song for years and, when you really stopped to think about it, not truly known or understood the meaning of the lyrics? I’d sung “How He Loves”, written by John Mark McMillan and made known by David Crowder Band, for 9 years before even scratching the surface of understanding the powerful depths professed in the truth of these lyrics.
“He is jealous for me.” Not until later years in my walk with the Lord did I truly understand how God is jealous for us. This is not jealousy as we commonly understand it. He is not jealous because He wants something He doesn’t have; everything and everyone are already His (Psalm 24:1). He is jealous when He sees us worshiping anything else above Him. Worship, praise, and adoration belong to Him alone, as only He is worthy. He is jealous for us in the sense that He knows we will not be completely satisfied with anything or anyone besides Him, and He wants us to find that fulfillment in Him alone (Jer. 2:13).
Back to “How He Loves”….the line of this song that I rather mindlessly sang all these years was most certainly, “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory…” That’s a bit of a lyrical mouthful, isn’t it? These lyrics were somewhat trivial to me until I experienced God’s foreknown afflictions in my life, embraced His sovereignty in all things, and saw His glory eclipse my humanity.
“And I realize(d) just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me. Oh, how He loves us…”
Psalm 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” In the moment of any trial or affliction we may immediately believe life is not supposed to be this way. Or we may have a difficult time imagining getting to the other side of the situation. As the psalmist states, we learn God’s statues when we’re afflicted, and we can even look back and say it was good. Likewise, Job 36:15 tells us that in affliction is when God opens our ears. Maybe you can look back and recognize how you repeatedly ignored God’s warnings and opportunities to get your attention prior to the affliction, yet you hardened your heart to His voice and charged forward with your own agenda to please yourself and not Him.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ~C.S. Lewis
Afflictions can bring myriad lessons. I’ve recently learned a lot about covetousness and contentment. Did you know that covetousness is at the root of every sin? If we are not genuinely thankful in our heart to God in all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:18) it ought to be acknowledged as rebellion against God, a lack of trust in Him, and essentially the belief that He’s not enough or He doesn’t know our needs best.
A lack of contentment follows closely on the heels of covetousness. When everything seems to be going our own way and we are loving life, deceptively “content” in every way imaginable, have you considered that this is actually a form of discontent? What if several of those aspects of your so-called-content life were instantly taken from you? Would you continue to thank God and find equal contentment? The fact is that we often proclaim contentedness because of circumstances or possessions or relationships, but if any of those were removed, perhaps by the aforementioned afflictions, would we find ourselves in a state of discontent…or is our Creator God, our Heavenly Father that has loved, called, redeemed, and restored us to Himself for eternity, more than enough for us in this and every moment? That is a good litmus test for each of us. Do you trust Him no matter the afflictions He allows on your journey? Do you call them good, because He is good?
All God does is done to display His glory, majesty, and goodness.
In August 2017 I witnessed the most awesome display of God in nature that I’ve ever seen. The solar eclipse path of totality was right over our area and I will never forget the breathtaking, unique experience God afforded us that day. The experience has come to give me more meaning and a visual picture of God’s eclipsing glory in our afflictions.
For a moment, the sun was blocked entirely by the moon except for the circular sliver of a radiant glow peeking around the edges of the dark moon. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The earth became dim and a strange glow illuminated around us. Metaphorically speaking I could see my blackened sin nearly consuming the moment, yet the Son’s glory was piercing from around the darkness of the situation and eclipsing my affliction with His radiant light, reminding me He washes away my sin for His glory (Isa. 43:25), as well as everything that happens is for His glory (Romans 11:36).
Looking again at unearthing our lyrics; how does God eclipse our afflictions by His glory? We must first look through God’s “lens” in the situation, not our own. What is He accomplishing in terms of our sanctification and growth in Christlikeness? What have we been coveting more than His presence and His perfect love? Have we been willfully ignoring His Word in order to pursue selfish desires that feed our pride or flesh? How have we exploited a good gift He’s given by indulging excessively? In what ways have we been breaking His heart in pursuit of earthly pleasures, worshiping created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:5)?
“If we supremely love God, we will thank God for what He is accomplishing through trials. But if we love ourselves more than God, we will question God’s wisdom and become upset and bitter. If anything is dearer to us than God, then He must remove it for us to grow spiritually.” ~John MacArthur
Our afflictions are eclipsed by His glory when we accept with open hands the gift God is giving us in drawing us closer to Himself, in becoming more like His Son through the trial, in paring away more of the sin nature we’ll inherently have until we leave Earth. If we can know that God does everything for His glory, which we do (Isa. 48:9-11, Isa. 43:7), this is how we may sing for joy, recognizing how His glory does eclipse our afflictions, and we realize just how beautiful He is and how great His affections are for us.
We owe Almighty God nothing short of our whole lives. As stated in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” As we progressively, albeit often begrudgingly, die daily to ourselves we will come to experience more of His glory and power in our lives. (John 14:21) This ought to drive us to our knees in immeasurable thankfulness that God continues to intersect our lives through afflictions eclipsed by His glory.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” ~Titus 2:11-14