- August 18, 2016
A new leader came to a company that had been selling drill bits for a century. When he was shown the company’s share of the diminishing “bit” market, he replied: “There is no market for bits; our market is holes. Drill bits were needed only as long as bits were the best way to make holes.” Before long, the company was making holes that were better, cleaner, safer, and cheaper – with lasers! The CEO was focusing on the ends not the means.
Let’s focus on the end too. For us to accomplish our dreams, we will need to go “through” many obstacles to the end. Through. Our word comes from Old English þurh. Among the ten other possible antecedents is the Dutch word: door. Fascinating.
“Ough” words like through vary widely in pronunciation (like: “dough,” “rough,” “thought”). Through may be confused with its cousin, “thoroughly” – as in “thoroughly a rancher” and “a rancher through and through.” A thoroughbred is a horse that has the breeding to go through life with agility, speed and spirit.
But, there is a lot we like about our single syllable word, through. What hope we have when there is a breakthrough. Bosses love it when we follow-through. We are relieved when we see through deception. And, with imagination, there is much that we may see through – even Alice’s “looking glass.”
Sometimes, through describes our limitations. When Paul was describing love to the Corinthians, he wrote: Now we see through a glass darkly (13:12).Spiritually, we may be blind or we may have developed cataracts. God help us!
As a pastor, I have found that through often speaks to people in grief. “God will help you through this sorrow.” At times, we desperately grab hold of David’s words in Psalm 23 when he tells us God walks with him “through” the valley of the shadow of death. Through.
Some of us are not achievers. We have other strengths and might assume that the power to go through grief and difficulty belongs to someone built differently. Is there an enduring courage – Hemingway’s ‘grace under pressure’ – that can sustain any of us? How could David be so confident that God would go with him through the valley of the shadow of death?
For hundreds of years, Israelites had been belting out songs that recounted a crisis – when a thundering horde of Egyptians was bearing down on runaway slaves – the Israelites – whose escape was blocked by the Red Sea. Then, the LORD turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot (Psalm 66:6). Astounding! The Hebrews wrote song after song about that great deliverance. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters (Psalm 77:19).
And, after the rescue at the Red Sea, since God went through the wilderness with them, they sang more through songs. You went out before your people, O God, when you marched through the wasteland (Psalm 68:7). The Psalmist sings: God brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert (Psalm 78:52).
And what was their response? The leader called out: Give thanks to him who led his people though the desert – and the people responded: His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1, 16).
Such history and such rejoicing may call those who are suffering to hope.
And those who are rejoicing may need to go and weep with those who weep.
I once met a sprightly older man – late 70’s, early 80’s. We had both attended a lecture. Afterwards, our conversation ran deep. As an infant, this man simultaneously contracted two serious diseases. The doctor visited his parent’s farmhouse but held out no hope. The little boy’s mother had already lost other children to disease. With deep groaning she poured out her soul in a prayer like Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 1: 10-17) – and God spared her son’s life. Like Hannah, she encouraged her son to go into the ministry. And he did. And he and his wife raised six children. And there were challenges with churches – he even had the sad duty of closing one.
Then came the great challenge of his life. After their children were raised, something broke in his wife. She became dangerous. On numerous occasions she tried to take her husband’s life. Finally, his daughter helped him make the call that led to his wife being committed to a mental hospital.
Once, after he had visited his wife, a doctor came to him with a request: “Sir, following your visits, it takes days for your wife to settle down. For her well-being and ours, we ask you not to visit your wife.”
Here was a man with a story. So, I asked: “What good has God been in all of this?” This one – who had thought much about life and recently had been thinking about the care of words – with unwavering voice replied: “God has gone with me through all of this. This is the word you need for your life – through.”
Will these words drill through the scabs, scars and calluses of your heart? Isaiah 43: 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned…. 3 For I am the LORD, your God…I love you.
God being at work in us is: faith that goes through; hope that goes through; love that goes through. What is our end? Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am also known (1 Corinthians 13:12). With Jesus, there is a way through.
Sucking out (some of) the marrow-nourishment from the bone-words with you,
PS: For further reflection: The passage above, Isaiah 43, continues: I am making a way in the desert(Hebrew: midbar) and streams in the wasteland (midbar) 21 that they may proclaim my praise. Note the Hebrew word for desert/wasteland in Isaiah 43 is midbar. The base is dabar – “word, speech.” Dabar has several prefixes. When using a form of dabar with this prefix, mid, to describe the desert, the sense apparently is: “This place is inhospitable to words; it is uninhabited – unworded; this is a place where your voice makes no difference; you are abandoned, forlorn, inarticulate.” Sometimes, our lives feel like midbar.
But, according to Isaiah, even the vast, howling, wordless desert does not overwhelm or silence the Word. Even there the Word makes a way – he makes streams. With God, there is a way through. God will not be gagged. For example, our first parents succumbed to Satan in paradise. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness! He goes through to accomplish his purpose.
The authors of the New Testament used a word that means “hyper”- endurance. As we expect, it describes Jesus. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he “hyper”- endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who “hyper”- endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2, 3).
Jesus gives us this through power.
- It describes Job (James 5:11).
- The kind of love Jesus gives us “hyper”- endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
- It “hyper”- perseveres in tribulation (Rom 12:12).
- Blessed is a man who “hyper”- perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).