I walked into the house and saw a box of ceramic China plates, sitting in the corner. The new owner of the house still had much to move in and unpack. As days passed, the China remained in the box. It seemed the owner had forgotten about it and would never use it again. Seemingly neglected, forgotten, and worthless – hidden away in a dark box. How long? How long would the owner forget about this treasured possession of his? Would he ever use it again?
Several more days passed on – still, he did not unpack his collection of fine China. It didn’t seem fair – why were the other items being unpacked and put to use, yet, this hand-crafted China was seemingly ignored? The owner of this new home worked long hours as a skilled artisan – a potter to be exact. You see, the fine China sitting haphazardly in a box was actually crafted by his own hands!
In times past, he used to be so proud of his creation and would display it in a cabinet. When visitors would see his workmanship represented, they would be astonished. How could he take a lump of clay and make it into such a wonderful work of art? What’s more, he would highly honor his guests by taking his works of art out of the cabinet and serve meals upon this fine China.
Nonetheless, that was how it used to be in the former house – but after the move, it seemed the China was disregarded. What made him seem to stop revering it? Had its value decreased? Why did he overlook unpacking such fine works of art which he could proudly display and put to use?
Then, I thought – before coming to any conclusions based upon assumptions, it might be helpful to ask the artisan, himself. He mused at the questioning, yet, patiently answered. A relaxed smile came upon his face and his gentle voice replied, “My hands. Look at my hands – do you think I could honestly forget about my creation after seeing my hands?” I looked at his hands and they were aged, worn, and scarred from his long hours of work as a potter. He continued, “These hands of mine remind me of my passion and love for my creation.”
Why? Why then, did he seem to forget about what he had carefully made so long ago? Why did he have a box of his hand-crafted China still sitting in a box, over in the corner of the room? I saw a tear glistening in his eye as he looked over at the box with great admiration. “It is not still in the box due to neglect, but out of my love and protection for it. I would be deeply grieved if I brought it out too soon and it got permanently damaged or broken in the shuffle. This house – I’m still repairing this house. Although it looks good on the exterior, there are many repairs that must be made on the interior before it is safe for the China to come out of the protection of the box.”
He continued, “As difficult as it is, I would much rather go days without using it, in order to keep it safe, than to bring it out too soon and it get destroyed; then, I would lose it forever.” I was amazed at his wisdom. The time he kept it preserved in the box was not a waste of time; it actually preserved the China for prolonged use later. Otherwise, it would have been irreparably broken and destroyed forever. It occurred to me that he knew best. He had never forgotten about his creation – he was merely protecting it until everything was in place. His timing proved to be perfect. He preserved it because he wanted to keep it and cherish it forever.
The Creator Cares
My mind and my spirit were soothed as I paralleled this to our Lord. God, the Father and Creator. Jesus, the Son – who is God made manifest in the flesh; and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Much like a skilled artisan crafts fine China, our Lord God created humanity. His holy word teaches that he has “covered me in my mother’s womb” and that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). We are His treasured possession. He loves us so much that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
As His treasured possessions, He looks after us; much like a caring Shepherd looks after the sheep of his fold. “The Lord is my Shepherd…” (Psalm 23:1). The Shepherd will lead us “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). Sometimes, the path in front of us seems dark, wearisome, and difficult – much like a valley of death. But, even in those times, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
And His hands – when we think of Christ’s nail-pierced hands, how foolish for us to ever believe that He would abandon His children. Just as the artisan’s aged, scarred hands reminded him of his creation, so our Savior’s hands are a testimony of His care for us. He showed the disciples His nail-pierced hands; yet He says, “… blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Think of His hands – see His hands through the eyes of faith and know that He will not forsake you.
“There are repeated anointings; there are times when God will withdraw himself and make you feel as though you are dropping into the nethermost hell. He’ll leave you alone to see if you’re gonna struggle after his anointing or you’re going to go on in your own eloquence and ability.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
When life staggers us with setback after setback – it is easy to feel that we are useless in God’s Kingdom. We feel much like the fine China – neglected in a box somewhere, merely surviving. But wait – perhaps this temporary ‘boxing’ is protecting us from becoming damaged beyond repair. There are other things in our home (our spirit) which need repair. God is doing a work in us – and we must trust His timing. If the delicate China is unboxed too early, it could easily end in disaster; perhaps even, the eternal kind. God wants us as His own to cherish forever. He knows what He is doing. He is protecting our eternal spirit from being completely destroyed forever. We can’t see things from His perspective, therefore, we trust. Isaiah 55:9 states: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my [God’s] ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Though we don’t understand, we trust.
Rest assured, when the time is right – God will use us in a great way. He has preserved us for a reason. Even those who feel they are of no use truly are. In the late Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Death of the Christian”, he so accurately stated:
“That old lady there is eighty years old. She sits in a miserable room, shivering by a handful of fire. She is kept by charity. She is poor and miserable. ‘What’s the good of her?’ says everybody: ‘she has lived too long. A few years ago she might have been of some use; but now look at her! She can scarcely eat unless her food is put into her mouth. She cannot move; and what good can she be?’ Do not you find fault with your Master’s work. He is too good a husbandman to leave his wheat in the field too long and let it shale out. Go and see her; and you will be reproved. Let her speak: she can tell you things you never knew in all your life. Or, if she does not speak at all, her silent unmurmuring serenity, her constant submission, teaches you how to bear suffering. So that there is something you can learn from her yet. Say not the old leaf hangeth too long on the tree. An insect may yet twist itself therein, and fashion it into its habitation. O say not the old sear leaf ought to have been blown off long ago. The time is coming when it shall fall gently on the soil; but it remaineth to preach to unthinking men the frailty of their lives.”
“Whenever God intends on making a man great, He will take that man and break him into pieces first.” ~Charles Spurgeon
There are times that we need to be broken and remade in the Potter’s skillful hands. But remember, when God breaks us, it is not to destroy us beyond repair – but to rebuild us to be stronger and more holy. He does not despise us in our times of brokenness. Psalm 51:17 states: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Something about our brokenness proves to God and to ourselves how desperately we need Him. Through Jesus Christ’s brokenness at Calvary, we can be made whole again. Hebrews 12:3-11 states:
“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Let us also bear in mind that not all brokenness is due to sin. Sometimes, the soul within us becomes weary. The enemy and demonic forces will oftentimes attempt to weary us. “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High…” (Daniel 7:25).
Sometimes, we feel like a piece of fine China that has been irreparably broken; however, just because we are cast down does not mean we are destroyed. Remember what the Bible says: “But we have this treasure [the Gospel] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2nd Corinthians 4:7-9).
No matter what befalls us, nothing can separate us from God’s love. He loves us through the good times and the bad. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
In conclusion, we must always remember that we are God’s cherished creation. He knows how to best take care of us. There are times in life when we don’t know what will become of us. But, we can rest assured that God will work all things together for our good. He is a responsible Heavenly Father and He will carry us, cover us, and keep us through it all.
I would like to leave you with a quote by Elisabeth Elliot. Her husband, Jim Elliot, was tragically killed while on a mission trip. Nonetheless, even then – God used this event to bring others to Christ and to lovingly receive His missionary home. In light of what happened to her husband, Elisabeth remained secure in God’s hands. She did not allow this tragedy to break her beyond repair. God upheld her and brought much comfort. Her words still ring true today for you and me. She put it like this… “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”