Tuesday, November 05, 2013
One of my favorite pictures of God’s working in our lives, especially during hard times, is the picture of God weaving a beautiful tapestry together with both light and dark colors (joyful and sorrowful times). On this side of heaven, though, we stand behind the tapestry and usually see only the knotted ends and frayed edges of what God is doing. If we could get “on the other side” of the tapestry, we could see God doing something beautiful, but we live on the underside with painful circumstances and God’s purposes unclear.
This image comes from a poem of unknown origin that was popularized by Corrie Ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place). Here it is:
My Life is but a weaving
between my Lord and me;
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the under side.
Not til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares,
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives His very best to those
Who leave the choice with Him.
I’d love for you to think of this image in two ways:
1. FOR YOURSELF: Think of how this is true in your own life. When have you struggled to see what God was doing? How have you struggled to believe that He was weaving anything beautiful? Can you think of a time when God gave you a glimpse of the “beautiful side” of the tapestry after a season of staring at the “ugly side”? We spend a lot of time in small groups sharing with each other about the difficult situations of life, the struggles of living in a fallen world, the frustrations of staring at the “ugly side” of the tapestry. (Going back to last month’s blog post), your willingness to wrestle with your own experience of this and share that with your group will enable them to reciprocate with similar honesty.
2. FOR YOUR GROUP: If you haven’t had someone in your group share of a difficult time in life when it’s hard to trust God or see what He’s doing, you will soon. Let me tell you our temptation in those moments: We see the knotted underside of the tapestry and like to give encouragement by speculating as to what the beautiful thing is that God is doing. We like to suggest possible hopeful outcomes, to write our own endings to God’s story. This is actually NOT helpful! It’s not helpful because we don’t actually know for sure what God is doing – even if we sometimes think we do. But it’s also not helpful because it implies that what is needed for us to trust God in these hard times is an understanding of what He is doing, where the particular part of the story fits into the big picture.
Biblically, that’s not what God tells us is needed. Ask Job. Ask Joseph. Ask the author of Ecclesiastes. Our seeing the tapestry from God’s viewpoint and understanding the whole story is NOT the answer. God says the answer is to know and trust the Weaver, to know and trust that He is indeed making something beautiful, that He is in fact a God who redeems and restores even the most broken and hopeless situation even when we don’t understand why or how. He actually calls us to live almost exclusively looking at the underside of the tapestry. Our hope from that side is a trust that there is a beautiful side being created by a Master Weaver who “knows, loves, and cares.”
What this means in our small groups is that we need not tell Jack and Jill how their marital struggles are part of God’s grander purposes. We need not tell Sally Sue how her heartbreak will be redeemed. We need not tell Billy Bob how his failure will be made glorious. INSTEAD, when those “ugly sides” of the tapestry are shared, we can love others well by reminding them of who God is, what He is like as a God who can be trusted, how much He understands their pain and has experienced it himself on the cross. That’s a God we can trust. That’s a Weaver who gives us hope from the underside of the tapestry.
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You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.
You Can Change
How do we mortify sin? How do we address the sin in our lives that reignite like a trick birthday candle we thought we had already blown out of our lives? This is a careful and thoroughly theological book that is hopeful without avoiding honesty. It is practical without being legalistic. It gets to the root of the sinful areas of our lives without offering a prescriptive regimen to hide behind avoiding the grace that has the only true power to teach “us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp
Small groups would be easy if weren’t for the people in the group! This book will help equip you to see your own sin first and provide the courage and humility to address it in others.
The Heart of a Servant Leader
This is a collection of letters written by Jack Miller to people experiencing real-life concerns and struggles. Through these gracious and honest letters you will learn how to humbly offer to others (and yourself!) hope, repentance, and courage that flows from the truth of the gospel of grace. Though this isn’t a “how to” book full of nifty steps to Your Best Gospel Life Now. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a person who has found food at the Cross, and you watch (and learn) as he humbly points others to the feast.
Comforts From The Cross
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
This 31 day devotional will bring you to the foot of the cross to remember and celebrate the truth of the gospel of grace, and develop skills that will help “inform, free, gladden, and enliven your soul every day.” Becoming proficient in applying the Gospel of grace to our own hearts is a key skill that is well worth our effort to develop.
- Christ PCA - Nashville
Scott Sauls and CPC Staff
Listen to sermons from Senior Pastor Scott Sauls and other CPC pastors at a sister church.
- Lookout Mountain PCA
Joe Novenson and LMPC Staff
Check out sermons by Senior Pastor Joe Novenson and other LMPC pastors at a sister church.
- Steve Brown Etc.
Steve Brown’s unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games will give you permission you have needed to stop being so uptight. And even if it’s for 30 minutes, you just might experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.
- Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
Tim has an incredible way of applying the Gospel of grace that is both practical and honest with a consistent skillful affinity to point us to Jesus. He is director of The Porterbrook Institute; a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK; and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.
- Of First Importance
Living Each Day in the Good of The Gospel
Here you will find a growing collection of gospel-centered quotes to help reorient your thoughts toward the splendor and grandeur of the person and work of Jesus.