Tears & Trials Are Not Long (McCheyne)

In a letter dated March 8, 1843, Robert Murray McCheyne was trying to console someone who was struggling with heart issues. I don’t mean medical issues. Instead, this person had some spiritual heart issues such as sinfulness, struggling under trials, and the fear of man. Speaking of the trials, here’s how McCheyne gave comforting words to encourage the person who was facing a trial:

…Stay your soul on God. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.” A few more trials, a few more tears, a few more days of darkness, and we shall be for ever with the Lord! “In this tabernacle we groan, being burdened.” All dark things shall yet be cleared up, all sufferings healed, all blanks supplied, and we shall find fulness of joy (not one drop lacking) in the smile and presence of our God. It is one of the laws of Christ’s kingdom, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” We must not reckon upon a smooth road to glory, but it will be a short one. How glad I am that you have “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit!” Cleave closely to Jesus, that you may not have to say in a little while, “Oh that I had affliction back again to quicken me in prayer, and make me lie at his feet!”

Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.

Robert Murray McChyene, “Letter to One Complaining of the Plagues of the Heart” (March 8, 1843).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Hymn on Suffering (Wesley)

It’s been awhile since I posted a song here for “Music Monday” so I thought I’d find another one worth sharing. Today’s hymn is one by Charles Wesley and it’s about suffering as a Christian. Notice how this hymn is a prayer that alludes to Daniel 3, 2 Corinthians 12:9, and 1 Peter 1:7e

Thee, Jesus, full of truth and grace,
Thee, Savior, we adore;
Thee in affliction’s furnace praise,
And magnify thy power.

2 Thy power in human weakness shown
Shall make us all entire;
We now thy guardian presence own,
And walk unburnt in fire.

3 Thee, Son of man, by faith we see,
And glory in our Guide,
Surrounded and upheld by thee,
The fiery test abide.

4 The fire our graces shall refine
Till, moulded from above,
We bear the character divine,
The stamp of perfect love.

 John Wesley and Charles Wesley, John and Charles Wesley: Selected Prayers, Hymns, Journal Notes, Sermons, Letters and Treatises, ed. Richard J. Payne and Frank Whaling, The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981), 215–216.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

“When the Stars Disappear” A Review

When the Stars Disappear: Help and Hope from Stories of Suffering in Scripture (Suffering and the Christian Life) - Talbot, Mark - 9781433533501

Mark Talbot knows firsthand what suffering is about. He’s gone through his share of trials in his Christian life. Talbot’s book, When the Stars Disappear, is a discussion about suffering from a biblical perspective. It’s a very short book – it’s less than 100 pages of writing. And it’s not a difficult book to read, which was one of Talbot’s goals. Also worth mentioning is that this is book 1 of a series on suffering by Talbot.

The outline of this book is pretty straightforward. First, Talbot talks about the reality of suffering and gives three examples of people who suffered in Scripture (Job, Naomi, and Jeremiah). The next thing Talbot discusses is how to get through suffering as a Christian. He uses the Psalms of lament to say that we need to pray through suffering and remember God’s truths through it. After this we learn about God’s steadfast love in the lives of Job, Naomi, and Jeremiah. In his steadfast love, God brought them through suffering. The last short section of the book talks about how one day in the new creation there will be no more suffering for God’s people. These stories and the storylines of Scripture, Talbot argues, give us hope in the midst of suffering.

When the Stars Disappear is a helpful book on suffering from a Christian perspective. It’s biblical and solid – for that it deserves five stars for sure! However, this book isn’t really a unique contribution to the Christian perspective on suffering. There are scores of Christian books on suffering, many of which cover the same ground as When the Stars Disappear. As I read through this book I could guess where it was going; it was somewhat predictable. All in all this is a good book on suffering from a Christian perspective. But there are others like it. And in my view, although When the Stars Disappear is worth reading, there are other similar books that are better. For example, check out D. A. Carson, How Long O Lord; Jerry Bridges Is God Really in Control?; Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain And Suffering; R. C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering; Sinclair Ferguson, Deserted by God?; John Bunyan, Seasonable Counsel, and Thomas Watson, All Things for Good.

Having said all this, we can be thankful for solid Christian books that help God’s people face suffering in a biblical and hope-filled way!

Mark Talbot, When the Stars Diasppear (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Bunyan’s Prison Poem and Comfort in Death

When John Bunyan was in prison in 1665 he wrote a poem called “Prison Meditations Directed to the Heart of Suffering Saints and Reigning Sinners.” Here’s a part of it I thought our readers would appreciate:

5. I am, indeed, in prison now
In body, but my mind
Is free to study Christ, and how
Unto me he is kind.

6. For though men keep my outward man
Within their locks and bars,
Yet by the faith of Christ I can
Mount higher than the stars.

7. Their fetters cannot spirits tame,
Nor tie up God from me;
My faith and hope they cannot lame,
Above them I shall be.

8. I here am very much refreshed
To think when I was out,
I preached life, and peace, and rest
To sinners round about.

9. My business then was souls to save,
By preaching grace and faith;
Of which the comfort now I have,
And have it shall till death.

John Bunyan, Bunyan’s Prison Meditations, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006), 66.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church, OPC
Hammond, WI

Overcoming Evil (Guinness)

(This is a re-post from September 2010. I wanted to put it up here again since I’ve been listening to The Brothers Karamazov.)

Os Guinness:

“For Christians who believe that Jesus is kinsman redeemer and Messiah, their faith centers on a scandal that no time can rub smooth and no triumphs ever soften: A tortured criminal spread-eagled and naked on the instrument of his execution – for our sake.  The God whom Jesus shows on the cross is one who defeats evil by letting it do its very worst to him and then overcoming it.”

“It was this cross that took Dostoevsky to faith through ‘the hellfire of doubt.’  Gazing at the suffering Jesus as he stood in front of Hans Holbein’s Descent from the Cross, he realized the painted scene was more than graphic realism.  It was a window into the reality of the universe.  If God’s Son suffered like this, there could be redemption in the world.  As Alyosha says in The Brothers Karamazov, ‘I do not know the answer to the problem of evil, but I do know love.'”

Os Guinness’ The Long Journey Home (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2001), 106.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015