My Dear Friends,
I am writing this en route to Cambridge after a flying (literally) visit to Glasgow. The week before Christmas, I answered the phone to be told that the police and fire service had to break into our apartment in Glasgow where one of our children is living and studying. Our daughter had not misbehaved; there had been a deluge of water, the ceiling had partially collapsed and the two apartments directly below us had water dripping into them. Because no one was at home, the emergency services had no option but to break in and try and stop the flood, which they managed to do, thankfully. So, I flew up to my home city to find a somewhat derelict lounge, ruined furniture, tarpaulins everywhere and a number of sizeable holes in the ceiling.
Perhaps by now you are thinking, ‘poor Ian and Joan’. Well, yes, we were at first somewhat deflated - the mess, the thought of arranging repairs just before Christmas, our daughter and her flat mates inconvenienced, and, to top it all, our insurers told me I was not covered for ‘that kind’ of deluge (wrong kind of leaves, snow and now rain!). To be honest, my first thought was, ‘I could do without this, especially at this time of year’. My second thought, however (and oh how I wish it had been my first), was, ‘but in my God’s wise and always gracious purposes, he decreed that I couldn’t do without this’. He does all things well. Every detail in our lives is within his sovereign overruling care and purpose. He ordains all that comes to pass according to his own will and purpose (Ephesians 1:11), and does so not only for his own glory but for the good of his children.
Sometimes it takes the smallest of cross-providences to knock us off balance. Sometimes it takes the smallest of unforeseen happenings to expose how unspiritual the default of our Christian lives really is. As Christians we rejoice to confess that God works all things together for the good of those who love him. Like all Christian ministers, I love to preach on God’s wise and gracious sovereignty. But the Lord knows we need to be reminded constantly of this truth amidst the daily routines of life, and not least when these routines are rudely interrupted by collapsing ceilings and the like.
God’s sovereignty is not first a theological cudgel, it is a pastoral comfort. The God whose sovereignty is unabridged is our loving Father, our gracious Saviour, and our indwelling Helper, the Holy Spirit. His care of his own is perfect. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. He upholds and shapes and directs the cosmos to secure the everlasting good of his redeemed children - and that includes collapsed ceilings.
Growth in grace, which is what sanctification is, is all about trusting and rejoicing in the little things that daily touch our lives. My initial reaction to the news of our water damaged apartment did me little credit. I think Paul had people like me in mind when he wrote, ‘Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS, and again I say rejoice’. What is your first reaction to collapsed ceilings or their equivalent? Our God reigns. His reign is perfect. He can be trusted not to bring anything into your life that is not for your good and growth in grace.
With my love and greetings as ever