I’ve had some rainy afternoons, perfect for reading, during this past week. I found an old favorite of mine at the thrift store in town and I was eager to dive in. Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall has truly surprised me this week. Ideas that I thought so revolutionary and radical—like God is Good, He’s better than you Think by Bill Johnson or Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, were preceded by the wife of U.S Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall in faith. Published in 1961, Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall is a radical exploration of the goodness of God in the midst of human suffering. Early in the book, she writes: “A few years ago there were those who said that the atom could not be split. The atom has been split. Why should we not go forward in the same spirit to explore the spiritual world where lies the answer to a greater riddle—the riddle of the nature of man and his relation to the universe? This spiritual world is a real world. There is terrain there still to be discovered; peaks yet to be scaled; new truth to be mined; in short, the spiritual atom to be split.” (p. 14)
Her earnest and thorough pursuit of God have reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s language in Ephesians 3:8 “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” The truth and beauty in Christ are unfathomable riches—boundless, endless, unsearchable—and yet we will gladly spend our lives plumbing those depths!
Marshall asks the question, in watching Jesus, what did His disciples learn about God? She answers, “Jesus acted as if there was never any question of the Father’s willingness to supply all needs—even such material ones as appeasing hunger. God was concerned about men’s bodies along with their souls: Divine love delighted in dispelling pain, in restoring sanity, in straightening crooked limbs and opening blind eyes, even in banishing premature death. Jesus said that in heaven there was an instant readiness to forgive and great joy over finding the lost.” (p. 32) She goes on to say, “The gospels make it clear that to Jesus the Father is all-loving, is of the essence of love, cannot help loving. Moreover, this love includes the attributes of love known to all of us—good will, unselfishness, consideration, justice, wanting only good things for us, desiring our happiness. It is not a love dependent on our earning it. God is “for us” first, last, and always. By every word and action, by all the force of His personality, Christ sought to tell us that the Father is always nearer, mightier, freer to help us than we can imagine.” (p.33)
“By every word and action, by all the force of His personality, Christ sought to tell us that the Father is always nearer, mightier, freer to help us than we can imagine.” My friend, let that sink in for a moment. Where do you need God’s nearness? How do you need His help? In studying the words and actions of Christ, we find that God is more than willing to come alongside of us. In listening for His voice in prayer, we discover the goodness God has for us.
As we reflect on the love of God this week, here’s a good word to ponder, memorize, meditate on: “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9) All His works! How do we enter in to the kind of relationship with God where we experience His tender mercies as our reality? How to Enter In will be next week’s blog.
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