Out of the Depths, I Cry to You, O Lord
Seven years ago on the 19th of December I was allowed to go home after a serious illness, which brought me to the point of death. https://theweeflea.com/2015/01/01/the-shelter-of-the-most-high-new-year-old-hope-a-personal-testimony/
Each year on that anniversary I stop to remember and give thanks to God for his goodness to me and for the opportunity given to serve Him, be with friends and family and enjoy his world – until he finally calls me home.
As I have been reflecting I read Sinclair Ferguson’s summary (in his Some Pastors and Teachers) of John Flavel’s book on The Mystery of Providence. After I came out of hospital I worked my way through the six volume set of Flavel’s works – slowly and deliciously. They were an absolute delight and for several years I felt that Flavel was my pastor – he certainly ministered to me.
I suspect that many contemporary Christians do not think much about providence. We either think that the Spirit speaks to us directly, through our feelings or only in the Word. But the fact is that God uses our circumstances (his providence) to speak to us. Of course Scripture is the only absolute authority and we can misinterpret providence. We must always interpret it through the Word. But we must not be deaf to what God is saying through what is happening to, in and around us.
Flavel points out that we see God’s providence in conversion (why were we in that place at that particular time?); in ordinary blessings (including our employment); and in marriage. “A prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14). I can certainly testify to all those – especially the latter – Annabel has been a great blessing of providence to me. As have our children and now grandchildren (something we did not have when I was lying in a coma!).
Flavel is also very helpful when he discusses how God’s providence is also seen in evil and suffering. Amongst other things such providences transform our lives and mortify sin. As CS Lewis argued “God whispers to us in our pleasures and shouts to us in our pains”. For me those months at the end of 2011 were distressing, hard and painful – even the memory of them is disturbing. But the Lord meant it for good. Sinclair lists the following lessons from Flavel
1)God is in control of his universe.
2) God is working out his perfect purposes.
3) God is not my servant.
4) God’s ways are far more mysterious and wonderful than I can understand.
5) God is good – all the time; I can trust him – all of the time.
6) God’s timetable is not the same as mine.
7) God is far more interested in what I become than in what I do.
8) Freedom from suffering is no part of the promise of the Christian gospel.
9) Suffering is an integral part of the Christian life.
10) God works through suffering to fulfil his purposes in me.
11) God’s purposes, not mine, are what bring him glory.
12) God guides by enabling me to read his providences through the lenses of his word.
13) I have few greater pleasures than tracing the wonders of God’s ways.
As Sinclair says; “Learning these lessons from John Flavel will transform your life and do you endless and eternal good!”>
Psa. 116:1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.c 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!” 5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. 8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”