How God Speaks to the Brokenhearted / Spiritual Meditations

Admit it.  Sometimes you think God is unaware of what is happening with you.  You imagine He has big things in the world to contend with and your difficulties are small by comparison.  You are told that God loves you and knows every hair on your head, but it doesn’t always feel like it. This story will give you hope.

The following recounts an experience of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, excerpted from his book The Long Road to Eternity.  He tells of Gods immediate reply to his hurt and frustration.


I doubt it has changed much, but when I lived in Sherburne a friend of mine used to say that there are more pigeons on the feed store roof than there are people in the town. The town is a cute little upstate New York town that came into existence in the 1820s as a stop on the former Chenango canal which connected the Erie Canal with the Hudson River in the days before the railroad reached central New York. Sherburne’s claim to fame in the region is its annual pageant of bands parade in the summer, which attracts marching bands and fire departments from upwards of forty surrounding towns and counties.

While the Sherburne church was built around 1820 the parsonage at Sherburne was built in 1872. It looked pretty on the outside, but it had been cheaply made: if you slammed the front door the whole house shook. Since it was built before electricity, when the house was electrified all the wires for the outlets and fixtures were laid on top of the walls. If the Sherburne congregation had ever been wealthy in the past, that time ended many decades before I got there. The parsonage was furnished with tables, couches and chairs that were decades old discards from congregation members. Each room’s walls were covered with whatever wallpaper happened to be on sale at that time, so each room had a different pattern, and all of it was ugly.

When we got there the house was in bad repair: the laundry room / half bathroom on the first floor had a six-foot-long gap along the wall behind the toilet where the floor and the wall should have met. The gap was caused by the wood rotting away from many years of a leaky toilet I suppose, and it was wide enough that you could look down into the basement through it. I was only able to convince the church trustees to repair the floor by telling them that our district superintendent (who was a very large man) was planning to visit the parsonage, and that if he used the potty there was a good chance he and the toilet would wind up in the basement. The carpets were all a generation old; there was asbestos covering the hot water pipes in the basement and the roof leaked.

The parsonage was pretty humble accommodations, but the town was really beautiful, and we were happy and our children found it to be a good place to grow up.

One Thanksgiving Day it was time to start getting ready for the meal. Our dining room table was covered with the week’s mail and with other papers related to the running of our household. Anna, my wife,  asked me to clear the table so that it could be set for the Thanksgiving meal. As I was clearing the table, I found a letter from the Norwich office of the New York Department of Social Services; it was addressed, “to the Pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church.”

The letter said they were writing to every pastor in the county asking us to pass on to our congregation information about a government food help program that was available to low-income families. They said they thought the county’s pastors would have knowledge of which families might benefit from the program. The letter said something to the effect that they knew how hard it was for low-income families in our area to make ends meet, and the county government was sponsoring a food assistance program for families whose income was low enough to qualify depending on the number of children they had.

As I read the letter, I realized that with my income and our three children our family qualified for government food assistance. This news hit me hard. All I could think of was, “I graduated with a Master’s degree from Duke University that had required a total of 7 years of college. I have been serving God as a full-time pastor for nearly four years, and my income is still so low I qualify for government aid!” I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I even felt a little sick to my stomach. I thought, “How can I possibly be thankful on Thanksgiving when I feel like a failure and a fool?”

So, I just stopped what I was doing and began to pray. I poured out my heart to God, I said, “God, I am sorry that I am so sad on Thanksgiving Day! I know that I should be thankful, but I am feeling depressed and so sad. I wish serving you was not so difficult.” I ended my prayer, “Please Lord, help me with this terrible sadness because I want to feel thankful on this day. Never-the-less, I trust in you and I am putting all of this in Your hands.” And so, I gave it up to God and went back to clearing the table, but I was still hurting.

Just as I finished clearing the table the phone rang. A young woman was on the line; she said, “I would like to speak with the pastor please.” I said, “This is the pastor,” she asked me, “Are you the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church?” I said I was. She said, “This might sound funny; this has never happened to me before, but I was just in my room praying, and I heard God speak to me. He said, ‘Call the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church and tell him, “I am watching you and everything will be fine.’ So, I am calling you. I know this sounds strange, but that is what happened. Does that message make sense to you?” I thanked her and told her that was just what I needed to hear at that time. I asked her where she was calling from. She lived in a town about 15 miles away.

Do I need to say that my sadness was immediately turned to thankfulness?! This was the second time, and last time so far, that God spoke to someone on my behalf, the first telling Anna to marry me and now telling this woman to tell me to trust in Him. This experience is another reminder that God is always watching us, really hears our prayers, and is as concerned with our feelings and what is going on with us as any loving father is.

Conclusion

This experience also helped me to realize the accuracy of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” I have found again and again that God responds to us when our hearts are broken for any reason and we turn to God with faith. The Lord truly is close to the sorrowful!

Relevant Scripture

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.(Psalms 139:4)

 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6)

womans eye with tear

How We Endure Persistent Pain / Spiritual Meditations

Being physically ill and in pain is no small trial. It is a heavy burden that we must bear as long as we live on this planet.

The Emotional Impact of Pain

People who suffer from chronic pain carry an extra burden that healthy people may not fully comprehend. For many, pain is a life sentence. Whether the pain is due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, a car accident, or an old football injury, those who suffer can find the simplest tasks overwhelmingly difficult.

As a result, pain can produce  self-centeredness. When you are enduring a sickness, it so easy to only think about yourself and allow your world to be consumed only with your own personal feelings and struggles.

As you can see, pain is influenced by emotions, and the cycle of pain and emotions are interrelated. Some common emotional responses to pain can include anxiety, depression, anger, feeling misunderstood, and demoralization.

Our bodies are fading, and we can expect suffering, but we must not let our internal joy be governed by our external circumstances.  Believing that you have control over your life and can continue to function despite the pain or subsequent life changes has been shown to decrease depression.

Several studies have shown that spiritual belief can help reduce pain. We have a powerful resource in Christ and he is ever-present, in control,  loves us and will help us endure.

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain - Robert Gary Lee  

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain. 

”Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

What Scripture Tells Us About Pain

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain.  Although you must continue to look for remedies, there are some levels of suffering that medicine has yet to reach. Sufferers may wonder if God even cares, so let’s investigate what scripture says about pain.

The briefest glance at the Bible reveals that God is aware of our suffering and is eager to help us (Psalm 50:15Numbers 21:8–9). He made us from dust and knows how our bodies function Psalm 103:14; 139:13–16). He created the nerve endings that communicate pain to our brains, so He well knows how they affect us. We know that God is ultimately in charge of everything, even chronic pain (Isaiah 45:7). Those who know, love, and trust Him need never worry that God is unaware of their suffering or that their requests for relief are being ignored (Matthew 6:31–33Luke 12:6–7).

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He gained renown for healing the crippled and the ill (Matthew 4:23). He sometimes went out of His way to alleviate the pain of an individual, revealing His compassion for the suffering (Luke 13:10–12Matthew 9:20–22). Jesus said that He did nothing of His own accord, but only what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19; 14:10), so from this we learn that the Father also has great compassion on those who suffer and can heal them.

But pain relief was not Jesus’ main mission; nor is it the Father’s. Sometimes pain is the result of sin or foolishness. Sometimes it is merely the fallout from living in mortal, imperfect body. Whatever the case, our suffering is not wasted. God has a purpose in it. This link is to a related post:

Why Did God Make Me ____?

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about a man born blind, Jesus replied,

It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:1–7).

He then healed the man, but only after the man had suffered from blindness his whole life up to that point. So, Jesus’ attention to the chronically ill shows us that God knows about our pain and cares that we suffer. However, for reasons known only to Him, He often allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.

Many times God brings good from our pain by teaching us to rely more on Him. The more acutely we see our need, the more likely we are to seek His face.

Also, God may use pain to help us learn endurance and patience. James describes a life of perseverance as one “not lacking anything.” With patience, endurance and perseverance, our perspective changes because we have matured. We develop a resiliency born from the discovery of our inner strength.

We then can help other sufferers with what God taught us:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Yet chronic pain can be an opportunity to learn to suffer well before the eyes of the world. When those with no hope watch the patient endurance of a child of God, they may yearn for that kind of strength. By their silent testimony, chronic pain sufferers may be storing up mountains of treasure in heaven as they refuse to doubt God’s goodness (see Matthew 5:166:6).

Sometimes God miraculously heals people from pain; other times He does not. Neither instance is an indication of God’s love or the worth of the person. God states clearly that He is sovereign over everything and His plan will stand (Isaiah 46:9–11). Sometimes that plan includes suffering, even for those who love Him and serve Him faithfully (Acts 9:161 Peter 4:13).This link provides an example of a miraculous healing:

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing

The apostle Paul was an example of someone totally devoted to Christ, yet he had to suffer many things in order to remain obedient to God’s will for his life (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). It goes without saying that Paul must have lived with chronic pain from his many beatings and imprisonments. We are not told what his “thorn in the flesh” may have been, but it is entirely possible that it was chronic pain of some sort. He pleaded with the Lord to take it from him, and God’s response has become a source of strength for many sufferers of chronic pain: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul’s strength, no doubt, came from his years of prayer and meditation while in prison.  Recent studies have shown that mindful meditation helps decrease stress and pain. It involves focusing the mind to increase awareness of the present moment. This method, to help cope with pain, can be easily done anywhere, even on the bus.

An example of mindful meditation would be to sit up straight, close your eyes, and put aside all thoughts of the future and past. Stay present and focus on your breathing.

This exercise could be done for just a couple of minutes, letting your thoughts come and go while being aware of your current state. Through performing this kind of exercise, you can create a sense of control, which is crucial in making your pain experience more manageable.

This link provides full information on how to meditate:

How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness

Paul also wrote that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV). If Paul could call the abuse he suffered “light momentary affliction,” then we can all take heart and follow suit. He seemed to be saying that those who learn to suffer well will be rewarded grandly for all eternity. God is not standing idly by while His children suffer. He promises to draw near and comfort us when we call to Him (Psalm 34:18; Hosea 6:1). Although chronic pain is exhausting and disheartening, we have God’s promise that it will be worth it when we see Him face to face (Philippians 3:8–111 Corinthians 13:12). Our pain is not pointless when our lives are devoted to God’s will. We can rest in the confidence that He is allowing it for His greater purposes (Romans 8:28) and that soon we will be with Him and free from pain forever (Revelation 21:4).

”Pain has its own noble joy, when it starts a strong consciousness of life, from a stagnant one.” – John Sterling
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” – William Penn

Conclusion

The solution for your pain may be waiting for you to discover it, so don’t give up.  Continually pray for relief while putting yourself in God’s hands and accepting His will.  Your pain may be meant to strengthen or teach you something that you can use for yourself, for others or that God can use for His purposes.  If you are healed miraculously, it will certainly strengthen your faith. The following link discusses how and when God performs miracles.

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

To get everything you need for life, pain, both physical and emotional, is an absolute necessity. Without pain, you would never truly appreciate what hope is. Without pain, you would too easily forget your need for God. Without pain, you would neglect your need for saving and salvation. Pain heightens your senses and gives you a greater awareness of the more important things in life: love, God, family, hope. If you lived a life completely without pain, there would be a void in your life, a void only filled through the experience that pain gives you.

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Relevant Scripture

If we are not joyful in God, we will be weak. But even if we our physically weak because of a sickness, when our joy is in the Lord, we will be strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4, NIV).

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NIV).

References

What Does the Bible Say About Enduring Pain by Mark Ballenger

10 Powerful Principles to Endure Suffering by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

What does the Bible say about dealing with chronic pain?

6 Ways Your Pain Has a Purpose By Josh Daffern

The Emotional Impact of the Pain Experience (hss.edu) by Maris Pasquale, LMSW

justice scale weighing questions marks

You Choose What’s Right-Ethical Relativism / Spiritual Meditations

I believe people are good for the most part.  So how is it that some believe that women should be quiet and submissive while others have women preachers?  How is it that some believe the LGBTQ community is defined by their genetics and should be allowed to choose whom they love while others think they should be killed or imprisoned?

Where we stand on these polar opposites, and everything in between, is based on what our cultures have taught us is right or wrong.  It’s known as ethical relativism.

What is Ethical Relativism

Ethical relativism – In ethics, the belief that nothing is objectively right or wrong and that the definition of right or wrong depends on the prevailing view of a particular individual, culture, or historical period.

Does that raise some major concerns for you?  It does for me but it warrants consideration.

When it comes to determining what is ethical, many of us rely on our religious upbringing or that of our parents.  Why not, what else do we have to base them on?  It is interesting to apply ethical relativism to a few controversial scripture verses and see where it takes us. I encourage you to search your own heart and expand on these thoughts.

Scripture Worth a Modern Review

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. (Deut 22:5) 
  • This truly depends on the cultural definition of what constitutes men’s and women’s clothing.  Does this include theatrical costumes?
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet (1 Timothy 2:11–12, NIV)
  • Some societies are matriarchal.
  • Some have women preachers with God-given inspiration to share.
  • Some have women CEOs.
  • These do not separate anyone from God.
[In worship] Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with no covering of hair dishonors her head—she is just like one of the “shorn women.” If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair; but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again. A man ought not to have long hair. (1 Corinthians 11:7) 
  • Praying women internationally have been cutting their hair for centuries.
  • and the long-haired man that comes to my mind is Samson, one of God’s own people. 
  • God cares more about what is in a person’s heart than what they look like; hair length has nothing to do with reverence.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,  for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine  that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Tim 1:8-11)

Historical cultures exhibit much diversity in what is covered in this verse, but here are a few jumping off points.

  • Have you ever run a red light or parked illegally? 
  • Let us thank God for Jesus the rebel. 
  • Are we not all sinful?
  • God gives us free will to be irreligious or not. 
  • Some societies have practiced human sacrifice as normal.
  • Where people draw the line defining sexual immorality fluctuates between cultures and periods in time.
  • Recent history has not been kind to homosexuals but there were periods of ancient history when it was quite acceptable, and some societies are moving in that direction today.
  • The slave trade in the Southern USA in the 18th and 19th century was common-place and rationalized as acceptable, even by some professed Christians. 
  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t lie occasionally, even if only to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; some lie to themselves.
There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. …Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you. (Lev 11:4,12)
  • Here is an example of the Old Testament law that was retracted by God in a dream to Peter in the New Testament.  Did God change His mind, or did humanity find healthy ways to prepare the ‘unclean’ food?

Time and Place Matters

So, here’s the point-we can’t always apply Biblical statements to every culture but must understand them in the context of the time and place they were written. Then apply that understand to our current time and place.  Too often we cling to our well-ingrained dogma, thoughts, and behaviors, searching in spiritual texts for those fragments that support our position, that of our friends or what is generally socially acceptable.   

Jesus said

“Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.”  (Luke 17:1 NIV)

Leading someone astray from God includes being a poor example in how we correct, undermine, or denigrate their life, behavior or personality, as well as, leading them into addiction, prostitution or numerous other degrading behaviors. 

So, we have a conundrum; do we allow our culture to define what is right and wrong? Do we allow scripture to define it?  Do we just do whatever seems right to us at the time?  My thought is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As thinking,  believing adults, we need to question whether our heart and actions hurt or undermine another person. As you may have heard, whenever possible, it is better to be kind than to be right.

Scripture to Live By

Following are a few scriptures that remind us to implement kindness in our lives. The principles they express are universally accepted by the 5 major world religions.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col 3:12-14)
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

I have heard people redefine who their neighbors are to fit their biases.  However, if we look at the context of this verse, we find that the neighbors of Jesus’ time included Romans,  Greeks, other Gentiles, Sadducees, Pharisees, Samaritans and those of various peoples who were often present in Israel. Our ‘neighbors’ are everyone.

More thoughts related to this topic can be found at these links:

Are You Smart Enough to Judge Others?

Who are Your Neighbors

Relevant Scripture

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy,” (Acts 2: 17–18)

2 intersecting hearts like puzzle

God’s Love-A Rhapsody of Particulars/Spiritual Meditations

How many ways does God love you? There are so many, is it possible for you to count them?  In Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem, “How do I Love Thee?.”  she speaks of a deep and everlasting love.  Much of her sonnet could be written by God to us or by us to God.  Yet it only scratches the surface of God’s love for you.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
 I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
 My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
 For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
 I love thee to the level of every day’s 
 Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
 I love thee freely, as men strive for right. 
 I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
 I love thee with the passion put to use 
 In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. 
 I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
 With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, 
 Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, 
 I shall but love thee better after death. 

My friend Dr. Frank Leeds III shares an enlightening explanation of the multitude of ways that God loves us as unveiled in the Old Testament. You may never have realized what he reveals but you will surely recognize it.


The Universal Elohim & the Particular Hashem

We have all heard the admonition to love. To love one another. To love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We have all heard definitions of love. What I wish to share with you is what I have learned about God’s love from the Hebrew Scriptures in general and the Torah in particular. It is Rabbinic thinking at its best and most profound to my understanding of the Scriptures.

I wish to use two words that are common in philosophy and are not new to us. They are ‘Universals’ and ‘Particulars’. Please bear with me. When the Bible speaks of the Hebrew word ‘God’ it uses a variety of terms which have different conditions. For example, is uses the term ‘Elohim’ when it refers to the understanding of the Lord as universal. A universal is something that applies to everyone, and equally. An example might be that “The sun shines on the Just and the Unjust alike.” Another example would be Justice. Justice is a Universal. It needs to be applied equally to all people. Whatever your age, sex, nationally, race, etc. “Justice is justice”. Getting a good deal because you are friends with the judge is not justice. It is a perversion of justice.

Hebrew uses another word to refer to God – Hashem. This is God of the particular. It is God being selective. Here we will apply these two concepts, the universal and the particular, to God’s love for us.

Princess Diana Received Only One Kind of Love

Let me give you an example of Universal and Particular love. My wife and I recently watched the TV series entitled “The Crown.” It was about the Royal Family of Great Britain. A great show. I loved it. When it got to Princess Diana, the word ‘love’ can be split into two different kinds. One is universal, the other is particular. Wherever she went in the world, and she did travel extensively, she was universally loved. Everyone in the world seemed to love the princess and at her funeral service she was known as the ‘People’s Princess’.

But she was void of being loved in the ‘particular’ sense of the word. The father of her children did not love her. When she was home, besides her young children, no one cared how she felt. No one appreciated her. No one seemed to care. She was an object to be used, not a person to love. Do you see the difference in these two kinds of love?

Particular Love is Selective

Let me give you another example. Are you married or have ever been married? If you are, or were, you were either chosen or selected by someone to be the special person in their life. Or you were the one who chose or selected someone else to be the special person in your life. Marriage in not universal. One does not marry everyone [although I have some friends that seem to be trying that]. Marriage is particular. It is by design a limiting process. One narrows the choice down in order to love.

Look at the biblical story of Jacob, we see he had two wives. One he chose to marry but his first wife was forced on him by his father-in-law. He second wife, was the first wife’s younger sister. As per the father, it was important that the older sister marry first, therefore Jacob ended up with two wives. The older one Leah and the younger one Rachel. The story also makes it clear that he loved both of them…but…he loved Rachel more. He married Leah out of a ‘universal’ ethical standard. He married Rachel out of the ‘particular of love’.

People tell me the same about being on Facebook. A person has a 1,000 Facebook Friends, but may have no one that really cares one way or the other about them. It is one thing to have a thousand friends, it is another to be blessed with one good friend.

As Jacob’s story develops, he fathers a dozen sons but only one, Joseph, is Rachel’s child. Jacob loves his sons, but Joseph is his favorite. People are often quick to say, “one should not have a favorite child” but that is a distraction to the story. The fact remains, Joseph was his favorite son. He was the favorite for two reasons: He was the son of his old age and he was the son of the wife Rachel whom he loved the most.

Now, if we look at the Song of Solomon, you will notice that the lover notices everything about his loved one. He notices her hair, her eyes, her ears, her neck, etc. Because the lover loves, he notices all things about his loved one. He can recite a Rhapsody of Particulars about his her.

Many years ago, when I was managing a large hospital, one of my elderly board members after a meeting said it was time to go home and “to look his wife over”. That made absolutely no sense to me so I said to him “what does that mean, is she ill?” “Oh no” he said, “I thought I told you the story. When I was a young man about your age, one night a week I played poker with my friends. After one night of playing, poker and having a little too much to drink, I walked into our apartment and said to my wife, who was sitting in a chair, that I was tired and going straight to bed. Shortly thereafter, I received a woman’s scorn that I never want to go through again.

While I was out with the boys, she had fallen and broken her leg. After a visit to the hospital, an ambulance brought her home and she was sitting in a chair with a big cast on her leg, which I failed to notice. So, after that event, as soon as I get home, the first think I do is to check her out! I suggest you do likewise.” I tell you that story because particular love ‘checks her out.’

Our Relationship With God is Particular Love

Our relation to the Lord, and the Lord’s relation to us, is not universal, it is particular. The Lord is interested in “YOU” not merely mankind. How interested in you is the Lord? How checked out are you? The Bible tells us that even the ‘hairs on your head are numbered” which is a metaphor saying God knows all about you. What I am trying to explain in all this is that the love of God is not a floating fog, but a very focused laser that is focused on you.

Appreciating God’s Universal Love

Likewise, our love for the Lord needs to take notice of all that we see and to notice the Lord’s handiwork in all of life, the sunrise in the morning, the food that we eat, the medical experiences that enrich our lives,  etc., etc., and etc., to the sunsets that kiss us goodnight.

Lives Full of God’s Universal and Particular Love

My wife and I have recently moved. It was a move just around the corner. In the first home we saw the sun sets, and now we see the sun rises. And in-between these two universals, we carry with us God’s Rhapsody of Particulars. I now carry my blessings like a bouquet of flowers, ever increasing in gratitude for the way my life has been blessed and that list gets longer and longer, wider and wider, deeper and deeper…and I hope your life is that way too. My hair may have turned gray. My ears do not hear as well. I just had eye surgery to help me see better. The body is falling apart. But the Rhapsody of my blessing is stronger every day.

I hope I have conveyed to you a little of the difference between God’s love as universal and God’s love as a particular. How does our Lord love you? Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

Relevant Scripture

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matt 5:44-46)

The story of Jacob and his wives and children (Gen 29-30)

Solomon’s Song of Songs