by Gloria Furman
In the middle of the night my sweet sister-in-law Sarah sent an email to the family entitled, “Better to be sleep-deprived than God-deprived.”
In her email she shared how she wanted to hold fast to Jesus in her mourning. Earlier in the day her dear friend slipped from a coma into eternity. Now her friend is with the Lord.
Sarah is right—it is better to be sleep-deprived than God-deprived. The truths of the gospel taste so sweet after you’ve just caught a whiff of the poison of death. Those whose trust is in Jesus praise him that he drank the bitter cup of the wrath of God so that we wouldn’t have to. We glory in the death of death in the death of Christ. Thank you, Jesus!
I prayed for Sarah, her friend’s family, and her church community in Germany. Throughout the day I carried with me the powerful reminder from her email of the supreme delight of knowing God.
The psalmist put it this way:
“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).
What grace—through the shedding of his blood Jesus secured for us not just one day in God’s heavenly courts. And he didn’t just rescue us from spending a mere thousand days in hell.
Jesus is our Guarantor of an eternity in the courts of the Lord whose presence is enough to satisfy us with fullness of joy in him forever (Psalm 16:11).
Fast-forward to Monday morning where my own fight for faith started before dawn.
My “alarm clock” woke me up at 4:45am. He’s hungry? No, he’s teething. No, he is hungry. No… hmm… It seems that he is not sure what he wants. He just knows he does not want to go back to sleep.
In that moment I was certain that life as I knew it was off kilter. The emotive response I groaned under my zoo-animal-breath was, “Why, Lord? I’m just so tired.”
Then a surge of hope spread through my soul. I uttered a sincere request, “Help me, Jesus.”
Then the Spirit of God brought to my mind a passage I’ve had memorized for several years. It’s the apex of a book that deals with suffering, repentance, and faith.
Granted, waking up early with a grumpy baby isn’t the epitome of suffering in this sin-ridden world, but the hope in this passage rings ever-true:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lam. 3:22-24).
I was glad for this soul-anchoring reminder. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.
I smiled to think that perhaps the baby just wanted to get a head start on enjoying God’s new mercies this morning. And he thought to bring me along for the ride.
All we have is Christ
Thankfully the guest room was empty so I took Mr Grumpypants in there. Perhaps his morning growling would have less of a chance of waking everyone else up if we sat in that dark room. (Then we could keep all of God’s mercies for ourselves until 7am.)
In the hours before the rest of the family woke up I saw another email that snapped my soul to attention. A friend had written to notify us that our brother in Christ who is in jail for his faith had just been handed a formal sentence.
For over a year we have prayed for him as he endures sleep-deprivation and other means of torture. By God’s grace his faith endures—he knows it is better to be sleep-deprived than forsake the Lord who is his portion.
The officials delayed in deciding his fate, and now he has just been sentenced to six years. But before time even began our brother’s fate was already decided. The God who is sovereign over every sparrow in the sky will work even this situation for good.
I prayed for his release, for his wife and young kids, for his church, for his guards, and for him—
- That he would remember God’s mercies and his great faithfulness.
- That his faith would be built up, he would pray in the Spirit, and he would wait for the mercy of Jesus that leads to eternal life (Jude 21).
- That as he shared abundantly in Christ’s sufferings that through Christ he would share abundantly in comfort (2 Cor. 1:5).
- That he would rejoice that his needs are secured by Christ and given by the Father according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
- That he would rest securely because no one can snatch him from Jesus’ hand (John 10:28).
Fast-forward to later in the day…
I sent my husband to the doctor to see about a staph infection that was getting worse. In the moment he walked out the door I felt like my confident faith was crumbling.
By God’s grace I can testify to God’s faithfulness to me in not letting me ultimately lose heart as Dave suffers from chronic nerve pain and our family learns to function with physical disability. As John Newton penned in Amazing Grace, “‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me home.”
I am confident of God’s grace, but so often my faith is eroded by temporary things like staph infections, traffic, broken air conditioners, runny noses, and the like.
Jesus told the weary to come to him to find rest, but sometimes I prefer to proudly drag my suitcase of worries around.
So I’m thankful for a friend who reminded me this afternoon that I can trust God with a staph infection. And that I can trust him with all of the millions of other little burdens that I have been collecting.
Jesus is able
Jesus is able to comfort us in the grief we experience when we catch a whiff of death.
Jesus is our sovereign joy in the midst of the weakness we feel when we’re called to serve beyond our strength.
Jesus is with those who are being persecuted for their faith.
And Jesus forces stuff like microscopic staph infections to submit to his glory and his good purposes in our lives.
The God who is with my sister-in-law in her grief is with our Christian brother in his jail cell. The God who gives us strength to serve others when we’re feeling our weakest is working to bolster our faith through the millions of little things that vex us.
The fight of faith is waged in the context of this physical world—death, persecution, discouragement, and disease. That’s why I love this earthy yet ethereal description of the way God helps his children:
“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty” (Deut. 33:26).
Yet in all of these earthly circumstances, our wrestling is not primarily against flesh and blood. Paul reminds us that our warfare is spiritual and that Jesus dealt the death blow to Satan when he died on the cross.
Jesus gives hope to those who are sleep-deprived for whatever reason.
When we place our faith in Jesus who died on the cross for our sin– in our place– then we will never be deprived of the all-satisfying God who rides through the heavens to our help. Because of the cross we can have the Lord as our portion every morning and forever.
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 31:24).
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gloria is from all over the US (mostly Texas). In 2008 she moved to the Middle East with her husband Dave to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have three fun kiddos under five years old. Gloria is writing a book for Crossway on grace in the mundane and enjoys serving the ladies in her community as a doula.