Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find at Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon’s own homegrown new and used bookstore) – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition. It is a collection of poems by various poets, some well known and some not so well known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).
Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).
I want to share one of Cowper’s poems with the readers at Broken Believers. I do so because it is a great reminder that even when we think we are too lost and broken to be of any use to God, even then God can do the impossible. He can take a broken vessel and cause great light and wonder pour from its cracks. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for astonishing things.
You see, Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. At times he was convinced that he was damned for all eternity, and that he was a lost soul. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God. This particular poem will cause the “Comfortless, broken, afflicted to delight in the joy of a life to come where all pain and sorrow will cease, and the glory of Jesus will be all we need.”
If you are struggling, feeling like you can never be of any use to God, take heart. God is in the business of using His power and wisdom in tandem with the broken believer to accomplish great things.
The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper
Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heart-felt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs for ever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.
23 “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24, NLT
We are each on a journey, and when we start to get serious about our following, we feel His pleasure. In the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” a line is spoken by Eric Liddell:“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” The film resonated deep inside the bones of many who saw it.
Part of it I suppose was this runner had something called passion– it is something we hardly hear about these days. (Perhaps we need some of that “fervor.”) There is also a point to made that we can really make God happy. And many of us don’t completely understand this. Or don’t believe it! What they end up living is a substandard life, and that is tragic.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
The pleasure we bring God is our profound purpose in life.
When we start moving out into that heart-intensity, we will discover that it is what we crave. All the pleasures of sin will never satisfy us. You might as well sort that out as soon as you can. You will only find satisfaction in running the spiritual race. Oh to grab hold of life with two hands and make it your own!
V. 24, paints a picture of a stumbling runner. Perhaps your feet slipped, or you tripped over a root or rock. Nobody goes out to race with the idea of falling on their hinder parts. The key idea though isn’t my falling, but by His proximity. He is holding your hand! To suggest otherwise is foolish and bad theology. He finds us— follows us—and holds us steady.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”
2 Timothy 4:7
As a mentally ill believer, my race is different than many.
I run with constant pain and clinical depression. I remember in boot camp a recruit had to carry around a thirty pound rock in his ruck sack for 48 hours. He ran with it, ate with it, showered with it. He even had to sleep with it. Perhaps that rock made that recruit a future Command Sargeant Major?!
I still must run, and I’m not disqualified by my ‘rock.’. I still am a disciple and still must run my own particular race. I think deep-down you know this; you see, everyone you meet today is running a challenging race, a profoundly hard race– so be kinder than you have to be. Grit your teeth and be kind.
I’ve learned — 1
that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.
I’ve learned — 2
that no matter how much I care,
some people just don’t care back.
I’ve learned — 3
that it takes years to build up trust,
and only seconds to destroy it.
I’ve learned — 4
that it’s not what you have in your life
but who you have in your life that counts.
I’ve learned — 5
that you can get by on charm
for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you’d better know something.
I’ve learned — 6
that you shouldn’t compare
yourself to the best others can do
but to the best you can do.
I’ve learned — 7
that it’s not what happens to people
that’s important. It’s what they do about it.
I’ve learned — 8
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for life.
I’ve learned — 9
that no matter how thin you slice it,
there are always two sides.
I’ve learned — 10
that it’s taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.
“But Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those people God has called—Jews and Greeks.”
1 Corinthians 1:24, NCV
I’m not sure who wrote this, I can’t remember even where or how I found this. I’m obviously not the author. But it is an excellent piece of thought, I really hope it blesses you– making you see your life through some simple wisdom.
I do know that I have a Savior who is within me, living His life through me. Today, I choose to rest in His unfailing love for me.
I have gained much from reading Spurgeon over the years. I read this this morning, and I could hear the Holy Spirit speaking into my soul. I need more of this “peaceful perseverance” working in me.
From Charle Spurgeon’s “Faith’s Checkbook” Wait for the Finals
“Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last.”
Genesis 49:19, KJV
“Gad will be attacked by marauding bands, but he will attack them when they retreat.”
Some of us have been like the tribe of Gad. Our adversaries for a while were too many for us; they came upon us like a troop. Yes, and for the moment they overcame us; and they exulted greatly because of their temporary victory. Thus they only proved the first part of the family heritage to be really ours, for Christ’s people, like Dan, shall have a troop overcoming them.
This being overcome is very painful, and we should have despaired if we had not by faith believed the second line of our father’s benediction, “He shall overcome at the last.”“All’s well that ends well,” said the world’s poet; and he spoke the truth. A war is to be judged, not by first success or defeats, but by that which happens “at the last.” The Lord will give to truth and righteousness victory “at the last”; and, as Mr. Bunyan says, that means forever, for nothing can come after the last.
What we need is patient perseverance in well-doing, calm confidence in our glorious Captain. Christ, our Lord Jesus, would teach us His holy art of setting the face like a flint to go through with work or suffering till we can say, “It is finished.” Hallelujah. Victory! Victory! We believe the promise.“He shall overcome at the last.”
I once admired the earrings my friend, Ann, was wearing – they were square, smooth, flat, and made of gold. When I remarked how beautiful they were, she replied, “They’re yours!” Ann then proceeded to take them off and put them on my ears! Humbled by her gift, the earrings became a treasure. Once while wearing them at work, one slipped off my ear – looked but couldn’t find it, so I wheeled to my office door to ask for help.
That’s when I felt a clunk-clunk-clunk. The earring was impaled on my tire; it was ruined! That weekend I took it to a jeweler and asked, “Sir, can you make this mangled earring look like the smooth one?” He rubbed his chin and said, “I can’t make that one look like this one… But I can make this one look like that one!” He then took a mallet and hammered the smooth, square earring into a mangled mess! At first I was horrified, but now I realize that the misshapen earrings reflect the light more beautifully than when they were ‘normal.’ It’s a lesson reflected in this timeless poem:
When God wants to drill a man, And thrill a man, and skill a man, When God wants to make a man To play the noblest part, When He yearns with all His heart To build so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed, Then watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects, Whom He royally elects; How He hammers him and hurts him, And with mighty blows converts him Into shapes and forms of clay Which only God can understand While man’s tortured heart is crying And he lifts beseeching hands…
Yet God bends but never breaks When man’s good He undertakes; How He uses whom He chooses, And with mighty power, infuses him, With every act induces him to try His splendor out, God knows what He’s about.
When you visit this site you will find a lot of helpful resources to some pretty useful materials on the disability needs on an international level.
Emails, Facebook, Podcasts, TV Series, and great teachings are just part of the daily ministries available. Anyone interested in being discipled with a strong disability emphasis not always heard anywhere else really should visit.
There are some who may not understand the term, but back on the farm in Wisconsin, “barnburning” meant one of two things:
1. A person who burns down a barn, (obviously literal.)
2. Something amazing or noteworthy. To be strong, impressive, or of interest, (metaphorical.)
The following verses have made a tremendous influence on me. Here are five “barn burners” — incendiary verses that have directed me and given me support in challenging times. I hope at least one will fire up your heart.
It is a challenge to limit myself to just these five, so much has blessed me over 40 years–I should have at least 500. Scraping up five was really not the problem, there could be so many more.
So here are five which have made a definite impact on my thinking. (I reserve the right to change my mind as necessary, LOL.) All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV), such as it is. Get ready for some “spiritual napalm.”
ONE: “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
This is a very precise chapter in my mind. A great deal of attention is given to Paul and Barnabas’ relationship to the people. At first, they are deified, but moments later the crowds pick up rocks to stone him. However Paul’s message to the local church was impressive. He strengthens, and he encourages. The reality of difficulty and tribulation has become the very doorway for them to come into the kingdom. This encourages me, and helps me in the conflicts I deal with.
TWO: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
This verse tells me of God’s commitment to me. First, I’m part of a little flock. Nothing of any significance. The world evaluates me, but I’m just a simple guy involved with a simple group of people, nothing more. However in this verse, fear is the primary issue. “Fear not, little flock.” Our fear is supposed to be eradicated and extracted.
The word “pleasure” is an interesting choice of words. We understand pleasure, or at least we think we do. This verse implies that the Father has put into play His intensity. Pleasure is often a way of doing intensity. God is “ultra-involved” and is exceptionally extravagant in His treatment of us. We are brought into this place of grace, by His kindness and grace. He can’t wait to pour out his love on us.
THREE: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6
What confidence! That is a vital ingredient in our lives, this confidence and boldness. Our God is active in bringing us to a deeper place of maturity. Paul understands this, and uses God’s diligence as the basis for his growth. This verse is a real confidence builder for me. A promise that He will continue His work in me, no matter what. This is a great promise for young Christians. I often look at my own issues, and I give up after I accrue a certain frequency–a certain “sin-ratio.”
Shortly before I became a Christian, I spent a lot of time with Fred Tsholl who was the night-shift announcer at a nearby Christian radio station. He was so patient and kind to me. I would sit with him in the studio, all night long. When it was time for me to leave he would quote this verse to me. Looking back, this verse became quite significant. I would take it as a promise from the Lord Himself.
FOUR: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7
‘Jars of clay,’ really nothing more than this. We are weak and vulnerable, we so easily can be broken. But a treasure, I don’t think we grasp the value of treasure. But, if it resides in us, we become a repository of great significance. This magnificent work is not of our own effort. It belongs to God. It is nothing we can claim from any working on our part.
FIVE: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Song of Sol. 8:5
This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere. We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt. This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge. He is present with me.
We come up out of this ugliness, precisely because of that close presence. We lean on the Lord, as we traverse this hard place. His dear presence will bring us through this darkness, He gives me the amazing strength to do this journey.