My Daddy would have called this a Blackberry Winter. I could see my breath as I walked the dogs early this morning, and my hands were quickly chilled. Thick socks, a blanket over my legs and a steaming cup of coffee felt very cozy when we finished our walk and I took my seat on the deck. The shadows were long on the dewy grass, and Oscar, the girl’s gray cat, stalked something only he could see at the edge of the yard. The birds, jockeying for position at the feeders, seemed oblivious to him.
A few hot days spoke sharply of summer last week, but a cold front crept in, clashed with the sultry air, drenched the earth, and left deliciously cool days.
In very much the same way, God allows storms in our life to occur, so that our personal “climate” changes. Isaiah 48:10 says:
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Why would a loving God allow difficulties to rage in our lives? Every storm we face spawns from the sinful nature of mankind and a fallen, imperfect world. God allows those storms, because He knows that storms will test and refine our faith, help us find or develop a closer walk with Him and tear away “dead branches” that clutter our character.
You can develop an “Emergency List” of things to keep on hand, and actions to take when a natural storm occurs. It’s good to be prepared. But in some cases, no amount of preparation can protect you. Storms of great magnitude leave piles of rubble, dashed dreams, and shriveled spirits. How do you pick up the pieces and deal with the challenges left behind?
God’s Word gives the answers: truth, wisdom and freedom. Pour a cup of coffee, grab your Bible, sit with me and let’s look in God’s Word.
On another Sabbath He went into a synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them,” I ask you which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man,”Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
The big picture here has to do with the relationship between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day, (teachers of the law and Pharisees). They simply didn’t believe Jesus was God’s Son. They were outraged when He told people their sins were forgiven and hated Him because He saw through them and knew they loved their law more than God. Jesus didn’t bow to their authority and follow their traditions. One of those was a hot topic: God’s fourth commandment: concerning what was allowed on the Sabbath.
Over time, the scribes, who became teachers of the law, developed layers of laws and traditions on top of God’s original. They came up with 39 categories of things not allowed on the Sabbath. Practicing medicine was one of those. Jesus chose compassion above their law and healed on the Sabbath. It incited them to plot against Him. Ultimately, their hatred of Him was the tool God used to take Jesus to the cross and carry out His plan of salvation. But, let’s set the big picture aside, and look closely at:
The Man With the Shriveled Hand
We don’t know why or for how long the man’s hand had been shriveled. All we know is that it was his right one. We can safely say this man had challenges. Without the ability to use his hand, the muscles in his arm, shoulder and back had likely atrophied, because bodies are designed to function as connected units.
In the same way, emotional damage, done to your spirit, rarely stays isolated. You may try to cover it up, but it impacts other parts of your life. Emotional harm can be more damaging than physical wounds. We can move beyond that only through the presence of Jesus in our lives.
We don’t know this man’s name, whether he had a family, what his profession was or any of his life details, but what we do know speaks powerfully.
Insights and Life Applications:
- God was compassionately involved in the detail of the man’s life. Luke 6:8 records that Jesus went into a synagogue to teach. “A man was there” it says. We have a God of purpose, not coincidence. The man with the shriveled hand was there because God had a plan for this man’s life and his disability. Matthew 10:28-31 shows how God is involved in the details of YOUR life and how He knows and allows all things.
God knows every sin, heartache, and tear. His compassion, greater than our understanding, seeks our best, as He defines it, and He knows that life storms develop our character, faith and spiritual maturity.
- The man had the courage to obey Jesus. Jesus said, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” Pharisees hung on the edge, watching to see what Jesus would do. All eyes in the temple were likely riveted on the man with the shriveled hand. Most of us don’t like to have attention drawn to ourselves. But the man became an instant focal point. Scripture says, “So he got up and stood there.” Did he tremble or stand without fear? All we need to know is that he obeyed Jesus.
Step out and say you need Jesus, either for salvation, or to get through a storm in your life. Admitting that need takes many people out of their comfort zones. If you’ve already made that step, then have the courage to live for Him. When you hear Jesus calling you to come to Him, or do something for Him, what’s your posture? Do you hunker down or are you ready to stand?
- The man’s faith in Jesus overcame his insecurity. Not only did Jesus ask him to stand, but he said, “Stretch out your hand.” He asked him to display his weakness. Was he insecure about that shriveled hand? Had to be. We all have insecurities.
We must recognize we can never be completely secure in ourselves. It is only in God that we find security. We have to stretch our insecurities out to Him in faith and let Him work in and through those. Scripture said “He did so and his hand was completely restored.” He Who Restores works in the presence of faith. Read: Matthew 9:27-30 (with faith) Matthew 13:54-58 (without faith).
Here’s a hard truth: God answers prayers offered in faith IF they are in line with His will. You may ask in faith for Him to calm a storm; but it may be God’s will for you to endure it because He has a higher purpose.
What did the man do after his hand was restored? I wonder if the man was married. Did he run home, swing his wife around, stroke her cheek with a hand that once was shriveled? Did he scoop up his children with two strong arms and dance with them? Did he build a house, plant a garden, reach out to someone in need? Whatever he did, you can be sure his life was changed because Jesus re-created his hand! We don’t know his story. What is your story like?
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
If you are a believer, Jesus re-created you, taking a spirit shriveled with sin and restoring it so you could have a relationship with God. Write the story of your life for Him!
Learn from the man with the shriveled hand. Stretch it out for Jesus. Believe: He has a purpose for you AND what you are going through. He compassionately loves you and wants to work through your storms. Trust Him. Become His child.
Blessings, to you. Join me again, for coffee and time in His Word. We’ll share some Blackberry Cobbler when the berries are ripe.