Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
As Adam and Eve looked back on the Garden of Eden, their physical removal from the Garden was a visual reminder of their break in their relationship with God. Despite their dismal circumstances, God had a different ending in mind. He did not forsake His creation.
God’s affection for us is revealed through His presence. He heard Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. He sustained David as he waited to become king while being ruthlessly pursued by King Saul. God positioned Queen Esther to save His people from annihilation.
The God of the Garden became the God of Gethsemane, sacrificing everything for our salvation. Jesus does not run or recoil from our weakness, pain, or brokenness. He took our sin upon Himself and beckons us to come. Even in the midst of our darkest days, God is with us. Nothing can separate us from Him and His love.
We learn that “the Lord was with Joseph” in slavery, and then in prison. In other words, God is not just in the garden anymore—he shows up even in the most painful and difficult places. That’s good news for anyone in trouble, and a hint of the Good News to come. John Ortberg
The Piercing Question
Do you love Me? —John 21:17
Peter’s response to this piercing question is considerably different from the bold defiance he exhibited only a few days before when he declared, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35; also see Matthew 26:33-34). Our natural individuality, or our natural self, boldly speaks out and declares its feelings. But the true love within our inner spiritual self can be discovered only by experiencing the hurt of this question of Jesus Christ. Peter loved Jesus in the way any natural man loves a good person. Yet that is nothing but emotional love. It may reach deeply into our natural self, but it never penetrates to the spirit of a person. True love never simply declares itself. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men [that is, confesses his love by everything he does, not merely by his words], him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8).
Unless we are experiencing the hurt of facing every deception about ourselves, we have hindered the work of the Word of God in our lives. The Word of God inflicts hurt on us more than sin ever could, because sin dulls our senses. But this question of the Lord intensifies our sensitivities to the point that this hurt produced by Jesus is the most exquisite pain conceivable. It hurts not only on the natural level, but also on the deeper spiritual level. “For the Word of God is living and powerful…, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…”— to the point that no deception can remain (Hebrews 4:12). When the Lord asks us this question, it is impossible to think and respond properly, because when the Lord speaks directly to us, the pain is too intense. It causes such a tremendous hurt that any part of our life which may be out of line with His will can feel the pain. There is never any mistaking the pain of the Lord’s Word by His children, but the moment that pain is felt is the very moment at which God reveals His truth to us.
There is nothing, naturally speaking, that makes us lose heart quicker than decay—the decay of bodily beauty, of natural life, of friendship, of associations, all these things make a man lose heart; but Paul says when we are trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not find us discouraged, light comes through them. The Place of Help, 1032 L