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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Defining Disaster

Right now I'm putting the service together for Sunday morning and our music leader for this service, Hilary Kisler, has suggested a Tim Dudley Smith hymn that I'd never come across before. I looked it up (it's a great choice) and saw it was based on Psalm 91. Reading through the Psalm I come to an abrupt halt at verse 9:

If you make the Most High your dwelling -
even the Lord, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.

To be perfectly honest, pastorally, I tend to get really embarrassed by these kinds of verses particularly when they're used in public worship. I know that on Sunday morning when we read the text and then sing the hymn that's based on it then this verse is going to stick in the throat of a good number of people who have had some pretty bad stuff happen to them. ""No disaster will come near your tent", is that a fact!".

And, if it doesn't cause a problem then I'm going to feel equally as bad as it probably means that the Scripture is not being taken seriously ("I know it says that but it must mean something's just one of those odd bits - the Bible's got quite a few of them!").

But as I reflected on it, not ten minutes ago now, concerned about the stuck in the throat thing, I was really struck by the way the gospel redefines our terms. The verse is either true or it's not true - it can't be true and false simultaneously - we have to chose. If we assume that it must be true for we know that God isn't in the business of telling us lies we have to ask "how is it true?".

It surely must mean that when we lose our car keys/a promotion/an entire career/ a loved one then despite the evidence to the contrary.... it's not a disaster. It might look like one, it might taste and smell like one but the Lord says that "no disaster" will come near us so it can't be one. The text also says that "no harm" will befall us and, again, it must surely mean that the loss we face is not something that will, actually, do us harm. Again despite what we're conditioned to think.

This is more than just playing with words and putting a positive spin on terrible stuff. Rather it's choosing to view our lives through the lens of the gospel, using God's definitions to understand what happens and not our definitions.


  1. Don't get it! How can losing a loved one not be a disaster or cause us harm? Car keys, yep, can live without those but a loved one?

  2. Yes, hard to imagine isn't it. The Word says "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
    Romans 8:27-29. KJV

    Just a few weeks ago I received the most horrible news about a pastor friend who was brutally murdered on Sunday morning in her own church. She was there alone. "How could this be?" I asked my spiritual advisor. Her response was the scripture above. She said it was hard to swallow (this pastor was like a daughter to her), but wait and see. I've waited and I've seen... that while this was tragic and horrible, this pastor’s message of God's love and her life's story of dedication and service to the things of God have now traveled around the world. Peoples' lives have been touched and changed. She has touched more by this one horrific event than she touched during her lifetime. Others would have never known about her extremely deep dedication to God and her complete service to others because she was the quite-type and was never one to call attention to herself. We know she was also one that if God said, "I need someone to bring glory to my name by giving their life", she would have said, "Lord, here am I, send me." Her death is some of the worst news I have ever received in my life, but the fruit that is growing from her life is amazing. We could not have predicted it. Rough text that comes to mind when I think of her story is John 12:23-25.

    Despite all this, I still struggle with what has happened, but I know that God is greater than I and He is good. He has proven that to me. In the end, was this a disaster? No. Did it cause us harm - it hurt, but we (including her family) trust in God. We have been shocked, taken back, endured sorrow, but then strengthened and renewed. We have grown. We have not been harmed.

  3. Wow, what a testimony. Thanks for sharing that.


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