The jar of beans on the counter sat perfectly in its display in my kitchen. But just how old were those beans? The last time I tried using them for chili, they proved their age. Even after a good 24-hour soaking, they still came out too hard to use. This time, I soaked them for 48 hours or more. Then, mixed with a good dose of water and spices, I moved the knob on the slow cooker to "on." The next morning, I awakened to a pleasant aroma. At last, they were tender. Their tough skin softened, they proved themselves worthy additions to salads and wraps the rest of the week.
Sometimes our hearts are like those old beans. They need a great deal of time soaking in the truths of God's Word to transform them from the hard, useless things they are into soft, useable instruments for His service.
God’s Word can so saturate our lives and hearts that we likewise experience transformation from hardness to malability, from tough to tender, from rough to smooth. Gloriously, as we allow Him to use His Word in our lives, God changes the unusable corners of our lives into useable territory for His glory.
What a God of love we have, Who takes potential and turns it into reality! As His Spirit uses the Word to soften our hearts' soil, we become ready gardens for the fruits of the Spirit. But His love creates the transformation.
Ephesians 3 explains the vastness of the ocean that is God’s love and identifies the absolute volume to which one can be filled when partaking of this love. It trumps our understanding. A scientist can’t measure it; it's immeasurable. An analyst can’t track its every feature; it's unable to be explained by human reasoning or materialistic means.
Not a mushy love but one strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in our innermost being is this love that results from the powerful and everlasting Word of God.
Psalm 84 describes the indescribable joy and happiness shared by those who taste of this love:
“Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
“Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
they will be still praising thee. Selah.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.
They go from strength to strength,
every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.”
These lovers of God cherish His house and live their lives saturated by the truths they have heard in this place. No matter the circumstance, they continue praising God, receiving daily strength. Though weak and feeble, they have learned that their hearts must cherish God's truth above any of their own ideas. When the valleys of life they must cross, they receive strength from a Mighty God who showers them with the grace they need to transform those valleys into places of peace. Even floods don't overwhelm them, for they have found abundant joy through pathways that appear troublesome, trial-ridden, and tear-stained. And while sorrow they do meet, even that pain becomes a wellspring of jubilation.
Showers of blessing fill pools created in that tear-stained valley. That water provides refreshment, as God’s Word from Heaven delivers a fresh supply of grace for each step of the way.
Trials become strength-training exercises for the next encounter on the pock-marked trail of life. And the strength these lovers of God receive here in the valley they take with them as the next vail of tears awaits ahead, just beyond a bend over yonder. And yet, it seems, that whatever they encounter, their strength is renewed. The words of God within them bolster their courage and move them ever onward, upward, and forward in the heat of the pathway, while others, not viewing the precious words of God as the treasure they truly are, lag behind or even turn back. In the midst of such trial, these seekers find strength to praise. To sing. To joy exceedingly! How is this possible?
Where some turn to bitterness and anger, these have learned, through the patient God Who gave them a precious Book, to go from strength to strength. Because of His gracious kindness in their lives, they have learned the secret of abiding in Christ, of living in His presence, and experiencing fullness of joy at His right hand. Thus, resting their all upon His perfect character, they pray, as did the psalmist: “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed,” (Ps. 84:9) understanding it is only as God turns us toward Himself that we can get strength during the “why” seasons of life.
Because this God is their own, they cherish God’s house, loving to be faithful, because they believe that truly one day in God’s house is “better than a thousand.” Because God's lovingkindness is better than life, they say with firmness, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness,” (Ps. 84:10) choosing the ways of the people of God over any pleasure of the world. They rest firmly upon the Almighty's character: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11).
God alone gives grace to walk this pathway. And His way is best! All the time. Walking out on God is not an option. Through meditation upon the Word, these individuals find strength to walk uprightly through God’s empowerment, drawing ever nearer their Savior, Who endured all for them. Even those potentially discouraging valleys can become places of praise as they gaze upon the face of their Guide, seeking to joy in Him daily, to live obediently--in His strength Alone!
Such a perspective meets those who daily choose to "taste and see that the Lord is good," clinging to the reality that the one is--oh so happy--who makes God his daily trust, regardless of what frightful dangers and tearful journeys he may encounter on the path of life!