How Can All Things Be Made Beautiful?

He has made everything beautiful in its time,” the writer of Ecclesiastes confidently asserts. But sometimes, our lives don’t feel so beautiful and we find ourselves waiting for that day in which all things will be indeed beautiful. Perhaps you find yourself wondering how, when, or even if those things in your life can ever be made beautiful.

Christine Hoover has written a new book entitled, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. In her book, she utilizes the framework on Ecclesiastes 3 to frame both our seasons of waiting and our joyful hope of what is to come.

The Beautiful Story

I particularly appreciated the underlying structure of the book where Christine takes us through the whole story of redemptive history. She looks first at God’s creation (the definition of beautiful), the marring of that beauty in the fall, the beginning on the restoration of beauty through the redemption found in Christ, and finally, the largest part of the book is devoted to our anticipation of the time of restoration and consummation, when all things will again be made beautiful. Oftentimes, in books that talk about waiting, we can lose the forest for the trees when all we focus on is our waiting. By placing our waiting within the context of the larger biblical narrative, Christine helps us to have a Godward perspective instead of an inward, selfish approach. Her book is not a simple “hang in there, life is hard, it will get better” approach. Rather, she grounds all that she writes in the whole counsel of God.

New Life seasons and beautiful
© Laura Gabel, “New LIfe Ps. 92:14”. Acrylic on canvas, 29.25 x 23. $850.

When we think of all things being made beautiful, we each bring our own presuppositions and ideas to the table. And it is often the disconnect between our ideas and our reality that cause us to chafe in the seasons of waiting. Here again, Christine offers a helpful and gentle rebuke. “In our definition, beauty means no negativity, no suffering, no longing, and no waiting. Beauty is…instant and consumable. We must be careful what we call beautiful.” (p. 58, emphasis added). Because God is the creator of all that is, He is the One who gets to define what true beauty is, and His idea is often very different from ours.

The Not-So-Beautiful Waiting

But waiting is hard, and we don’t like it. We want quick resolution, easy answers that still take our pain seriously. We search anywhere and everywhere, but often not where we need to. “Displacing the whole counsel of God, we instead search for Instagram mantras that make us feel better for the moment.” (p.81). Christine is careful not to offer such thin hope. Rather, she takes us time and time again back to the Scriptures to see how God works in all things to craft a beauty unimaginable out of those “inconsolable things” that mar the beauty of our lives. Hard things will come, some will stay a long time. But there is a greater hope and a greater beauty that awaits those who trust in Christ.

Winter with My Lover beautiful
© Laura Gabel, “Winter with My Lover”. Charcoal, 10 x 12. Private collection.

The Gospel is the ultimate story of beauty coming after waiting, pain, hurt, and death, for in it, Christ accomplished redemption for His people. Christine urges us to sink our anchor deep in that truth. “The Holy Spirit draws me back to the Word for sustenance, because in its pages are the words of life. I need the gospel of Jesus every day because I forget, because the world is noisy and distracting and, by it, my flesh is easily drawn away from joy.” (p. 166)

On the whole, I found the book to be a great reminder of how God is most often at work in the difficult places in my life, and in the lives of those around me. Yes, the waiting is hard. But it is but one piece of the greater story that God is writing. I need to be reminded of the bigger picture. Christine’s writing is honest, engaging, unpretentious and rooted in the Scriptures. I did, on occasion, find the chapter title and divisions to be a little bit unclear (in terms of matching with the content of the chapter), but what was written in the chapters was clear even if the connections were not always so obvious. I’ve known Christine for years, though we’ve never met in person. It felt as though we were having coffee together in her Virginia home while we waited very literally for Spring to begin creeping over the Blue Ridge. I appreciate her honesty, and her dogged commitment to bringing all things back to the sovereignty of God.

Beautiful Sovereignty

“God is sovereign over and active in the the unseen places—in your soul, in your relationships, in your future. God is able to make all things new and, with the broken pieces of your life, he can make something beautiful too. In face, that has been his plan all along.” (p. 41)

Catherine's Springtime beautiful

Perhaps you find yourself awash in a season of spiritual or emotional winter. You are waiting, but beauty seems out of reach. Pick up a copy of Christine’s book, read it alongside your Bible. Be encouraged to know that God is a work in your waiting. And He will, in His time, make all things beautiful.

 

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The Art of Friendship – revisited

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a book launch team for the book “Messy Beautiful Friendship”. Well, the book has launched, and now I’m “launching” my book review.

Christine Hoover, the author, is a pastor’s wife in Charlottesville, VA. In God’s providence, I was once a pastor’s wife in Virginia, and Christine and I had the chance to correspond over email. We’ve not kept in touch personally throughout the years, but I do read her blog. So, I was excited when she mentioned that she was writing a book on friendship. I was happy to sign up to be on her launch team and read her book.

I appreciate Christine’s uninhibited style of writing. She is honest about her failures and humble about her success. Most importantly, she grounds all of what she has to say not in her own experience, but in the Scriptures. If we are to discover what real friendship is, as Christians, we must look to what the Bible says friendship ought to be.

As someone who has moved six times in my 13 years of marriage, I know how challenging it can be to make friends. Even finding a casual acquaintance can be intimidating – especially for those of us who are more introverted in nature. But finding deep, lasting, godly, life giving friendship? Sometimes that seems like an impossibility.

friendship

What is Friendship?

Christine looks at some of our misconceptions about what friendship is and then lays out a biblical vision for true friendship. She posits that we often find ourselves dissatisfied with our current friendships because we don’t have an accurate understanding from the Bible of what friendship should be. She says:

When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can. I want God to give me good friends, and when he has, I’ve been prone to shove him aside for the attention, wisdom, and companionship of those friends, despite knowing that they were intended as gifts rather than replacements. People are not fillers for a present God, and God is not a placeholder for future friends. (Messy Beautiful Friendship, p. 38)

All too often, I find that to be true. I’d rather have the “perfect” friendship here and not rely upon the eternal friendship I have with Christ. I want to see friendship as a gift from God. But the challenge to me is not to love the gift more than I love the Giver.

friendship

Threats to Friendship

She also then examines some of the threats to developing deep and lasting friendships. In her final sections she offers some practical wisdom and insightful challenges to us as we seek out friendships that honor Christ. I especially appreciated her chapter entitled “Faithful Wounds” about speaking the truth in love. Unfortunately, our culture has adopted the idea that to love someone means you never disagree with them, and thus would never have a need to confront them. However, the Bible teaches that “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.” (Prov. 27:5) It is precisely because we love our friends that we will confront them when we see them wandering from the truth.

I highly recommend Christine’s book. Even if you are a person who makes friends easily, it can be a helpful reminder of what biblical friendship is. The book is a quick and relatively easy read. She even includes some discussion questions in the back of the book. I think the book quite readily lends itself to being a selection for a ladies book club.

friendship

As I am facing yet another move, I find myself grieving the leaving of my current friends and feeling anxious about making new ones. What a comfort to know that I already have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Tell me a story of one of your dear friends. Or share a picture of you with your friends! I’m always encouraged by hearing how God has blessed you. And if you happen to pick up a copy of Christine’s book, let me know what you think.

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The Art of Friendship

Webster defines friendship as “the state of being friends”. Unless we are clear on what a friend is, that definition is not particularly helpful. Webster here provides a more helpful definition of “one who is attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion“. So we can say that friendship then is the state of being attached to another by affection or esteem; having favored companions.

Think for a moment about the friendships in your life – what affection or esteem attaches you to those individuals? What is it that links our lives with the lives of others? Paul Cézanne painted a series of paintings called “The Card Players” that visually explores some of these connections.

 

art of friendship

Here, we see two gentlemen engrossed in a card game. There is no money on the table, thus indicating that they are not gambling but are simply engaged in a friendly game of cards. The background is ill-defined, perhaps because it doesn’t matter where they are, or perhaps to further place these men in the spotlight of the painting.

In other works in the series, the crowd of men grows:

art of friendship

And in one, even a child is included:

art of friendship

In all of these paintings, the card players themselves are the focus. How long have they gathered to play cards? Why do they gather to play cards? Cézanne used local farmhands, some of whom worked on his family farm, as his models for these paintings (and numerous sketches that were completed prior to the paintings. The relationships between these men may have been little more than co-workers, yet here we see them spending time together, sharing a mutual affection for cards. So is this friendship?

I often hear folks make a distinction between “friends” and “acquaintances”, in order to clarify that simply knowing a person and being in proximity to them does not guarantee a friendship exists. As someone who has moved several times in my married life, I definitely agree that just knowing people doesn’t mean I have a friendship with them. I might even play cards with them, but friendship, that requires something more – more time, more effort, more risk.

What is Friendship?

I was recently invited to be part of a launch team for a new book by Christine Hoover entitled Messy Beautiful Friendship. I’ve only just begun reading the book and I’m excited to see what she has to say. She begins with crafting a new definition of friendship – one that requires us to let go of our assumptions that friendship is really just about me and finding people with whom I “click.” But what if friendship wasn’t about me and what I gain from it? What if developing friendships was more like creating art – more about the process and the delight of the recipient and less about my own needs and insecurities? Can we even conceive of what that might look like?

The book just released on the 18th of April, and I’m eagerly trying to finish it. Stay tuned for another post once I’m done. In the meantime, tell me about some of your most treasured friendships – what is it that makes them so valuable?

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