Matthew Henry, in discussing what “meekness toward God” looks like, says that we must have a meek spirit towards God’s plan for our lives…
When the events of providence are grievous and afflictive, displeasing to sense, and crossing our secular interests.
When the methods of providence are dark and intricate and we are quite at a loss what God is about to do with us.
When God’s plan for you is a combination of those two scenarios (grievous and confusing), you are experiencing a very painful situation. Henry reminds us in those situations when we don’t understand why God is allowing a trial to afflict us that a meek and quiet spirit “acquiesces in an assurance that all things shall work together for good to us if we love God, though we cannot apprehend how or which way.”
This meekness teaches us to follow God in faith, like Abraham did, when we went following a God he didn’t know well, to find a country that he did not know. (Heb. 11:8) Think of Jesus’ answer to Peter in John 13:7, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” And strong Job, who experienced more pain than we can imagine, testifies, “But he knows the way I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Is there anything more strengthening to our faith than the trying of it? We went through severe trials our first term here as missionaries. I knew what the verses said–Romans 8:28-29, Proverbs 3:5-6, Colossians 3:2–and I tried to remind myself of them. But I was struggling to trust that God knew what was best for me, and that He was really working for my best! Knowing what to do is not so tough when you’ve grown up memorizing the answers; but finding the strength to do it is tough. This is still a struggle for me, but I will share with you some thoughts that strengthen me now during hard times.
I found that one of my main questions boiled down to this: Can I attribute “bad” things to God without making Him [look] bad? Or to put it another way–How am I supposed to think about God when bad things happen? How can I trust in the Lord with all of my heart IF God is an angry Judge? (which is how I tend to see Him)
So a few years ago when I was going through some trials, I “happened” to be reading an excellent book by John Piper called The Pleasures of God. I was blessed by my journey through the first six chapters, but when I reached chapter seven, entitled “The Pleasure of God in Doing Good to All Who Hope in Him,” my soul found rest, a balm was applied to my hurts, and my mind found strength to believe in God’s promises.
I would not recommend this chapter for a believer in the prosperity gospel, but for someone in a similar position to mine–a believer in the true undiluted Gospel, striving to follow God in dark times and retain his trust in God even when hurt–this awesome chapter was so incredibly helpful (and even more helpful if built up with having read the chapters prior to it).
To summarize Piper’s answer to my question seems unjust to the strength of his arguments, but I’ll give the gist here anyway, since–how many of us have time to pick up each and every recommended book we hear about? His basic answer is that God’s happiness is the foundation of my happiness.
The Bible’s perspective is not that God is an angry, whimsical Judge waiting for my missteps so that He can take pleasure in disciplining me for them. In Jeremiah 32:39-41, God says,
And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
Piper outlined three promises that God makes in these verses:
- I will not turn away from them to do them good.
- I will rejoice over them to do them good.
- This rejoicing will be with all of my whole heart and with my whole soul.
The first promise reminds us that God will not stop doing good to us. He doesn’t do good in fits and starts and get tired at other times. Piper says, “When things are going ‘bad’ that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means He is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving Him.” (Rom. 8:28)
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. ~ Psalm 119:71
God’s emotions aren’t like ours. We joke about “the honeymoon being over” because we can’t keep our emotions at that honeymoon intensity the whole of our marriage. But God is never cranky or irritable, moody or stressed; he’s not blue, doesn’t have a short fuse–Piper says He’s like the Niagara Falls–
You look at it and think: Surely this can’t keep going at this force for year after year after year. It seems like it would have to rest. Or it seems like some place up stream it would run dry. But no, it just keep surging and crashing and making honeymooners happy century after century. That’s the way God is about doing us good. He never grows weary of it. It never gets boring to Him.
So when God says He rejoices with all of His heart and soul over doing good to those who love Him, what a great, great happy good is being done to us! Believe it. Rest in it. Meekly. Even when going through a tough, hard-to-understand trial.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (“he will exult over you with loud singing.” RSV) ~Zephaniah 3:17
This is my attempt to rephrase Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit.
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