I recently finished reading the book Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. (I know that I’m late to the party) If you have not read the book or seen the movie, it is a biography of William Wilberforce of England. Wilberforce is mostly known for his many years of pushing for the abolition of the slave trade in England in the late 18th/early 19th century. By reading the book I was able to see a greater picture of his life and see how he lived obediently and faithfully before God, trusting in Him to rule faithfully in his life. Much of his life was plagued by bad health. Along the way he lost many friends, mentors, family members, and even his wealth.
I was struck by a couple of quotes that Metaxas shared from the hand of Wilberforce as he experienced pain, struggle and loss in his life. As I was reading this I too was going through one of the most difficult times in my life, thus magnifying the impact of his words.
“A kind of providence has enabled me with truth to adopt the declaration of David, that goodness and mercy have followed me all my days. And now, when the cup presented to me has some bitter ingredients, yet surely no draught can be deemed distasteful which comes from such a hand, and contains such grateful infusions as those of social intercourse and the sweet endearments of filial gratitude and affection.”
If you are like me, taking a cup to drink without knowing about it’s contents seems extremely odd. There is nothing worse than thinking you have one thing in the cup only to take that liberal first drink and it turn out to be something different. There is a level of trust involved in taking that liberal swig from a cup containing mysterious drink. It could be sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, putrid, or bland. Wilberforce though equates the quality of the drink to the trustworthiness of the server. If the cup is being offered by a Creator, Sustainer, Purposeful, Just, Loving God then it’s contents must be trusted and ingested faithfully and thankfully.
Once his daughter Lizzie died, her infant daughter was being vaccinated and Wilberforce offered the following:
“I was much impressed yesterday, with the similarity in some respects of my own situation to that of [Lizzie’s] dear little innocent, who was undergoing the operation of vaccination. The infant gave up its little arm to the operator without suspicion or fear. But when it felt the puncture, which must have been sharp, no words can express the astonishment and grief that followed. I could not have thought the mouth could have been distended so widely as it continued, till the nurse’s soothing restored her usual calmness. What an illustration is this of the impatient feelings we are often apt to experience, and sometimes even to express, when suffering from the dispensations of a Being, whose wisdom we profess to believe to be unerring, whose kindness we know to be unfailing, whose truth also is sure, and who has declared to us, that all things shall work together for good to them that love Him, and that the object of His inflictions is to make us partakers of His holiness.”
Life is perplexing. Death, illness, pain, and sorrow don’t discriminate between the believer and the unbeliever. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. This is the vanity of life that King Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes. The reality of God changes our perspective and our condition. We are not lost without hope in times of trouble, pain or sorrow. God’s sovereignty gives us confidence and hope to drink the cup we are given with thanksgiving knowing that it is given us to drink by a loving, just and sovereign God.
Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to not be anxious about the bitterness of the drink and instead thankfully lift our burden to God knowing that he will give us peace that will guard our hearts and minds.
I am reminded of our Lord Jesus in the garden the night of his arrest crying out to God that if the cup that He was to drink is given to Him by God that He would drink it faithfully, trusting in His Father.
In times of turmoil, stress and anxiety I crave rest. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 to give our burdens to Him and that He would give us rest. Knowing that He is serving the drink gives me peace and rest knowing that it’s contents are purposeful and given to me by my Lord and Savior.
Like Wilberforce I am learning to focus on the server of the drink rather than on the drink itself.
Obedience is mine. The Results are His.