Poetry comes in all sizes, shapes and colours, doesn’t it? Most of us made at least a feeble attempt to write some poetry in school and perhaps studied the different types of poetry expressed through the world’s diverse cultures.
I great up singing poetry, for that’s what hymns are, and for viewing various forms of it in cards, wall hangings, books and various expressions of art.
I’m convinced my Mom’s favourite female poets were Helen Steiner Rice and Annie Johnson Flint. Here’s one of Annie Johnson Flint’s poems, which has been sung in some English speaking congregations of God’s people.
WHAT GOD HATH PROMISED
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through,
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.
This reality reflecting poem reflects the theme of the Apostle Peter’s exhortation to the Christians of the first centruy. They were suffering–surving a ‘fiery ordeal’ which I’m sure had caught them somewhat off guard. Peter, who experienced his own share of ‘fiery ordeals’ wants pastorally to settle their hearts, encourage their faith and exhort these Christians to manifest a Christ-like response through these strenuous tests. Thus he writes –
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV
Don’t be surprised – Suffering is normal! I’m not how so many ‘health, wealth & prosperity’ preachers and students miss these texts. Annie Johnson Flint nailed it when she wrote the above poem. “GOD hath NOT PROMISED….” Have you seen “Bible promises” collected in a box and sold at your local Christian bookstore or online? Have you ever sung, “Standing on the promises?” Scripture is filled with promises–but not promises of an easy life – e.g. Trust in Jesus and you’ll have perfect health, a perfect job and a perfect life.
Quite the opposite is true! “God leads His ‘dear children’ along …..some through the water, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood….” as another songwriter wrote.
We are not being singled out in our suffering. This is not strange, though it may be strenuous. It is part of God’s plan and the “all things” in which He is working for our good.
How do we face these challenges? With God’s help, with rejoicing…not because of the pain but rather the purpose that is being accomplished through prolonged hours, days, months and years. Read Annie Johnson Flint’s biography and you will ‘smell’ the aroma of Jesus Christ, through a life broken apart in God’s mysterious plan.
Thank God for those who write out of the reality of knowing God’s grace despite a grueling ‘schedule’ of suffering. If you want some edifying reading, head over to Pastor Mike’s blog at the West London Alliance Church. You’ll be enriched with this up-to-date testimony of God’s sustaining power.