I guess it depends on whose hands the hammer is in. If you put a hammer in the hands of our little grandson and turn him loose, you are not going to like the results. He’s probably going to do some damage with that thing! But I’ve watched that same kind of hammer do some really good things in the hands of some skilled workmen-of which I am not one. At our home, at our office, I’ve seen a hammer used to build some things that are really useful. That same hammer in a child’s hands, though … look out! Suffering, pain, hardship, heartache – those are some of life’s hammers.
You may feel like one of those hammers has been beating on you lately. What you may not realize is who’s holding that hammer – and what He’s trying to do with it.
It was something the prophet Jonah figured out in the belly of a great fish. You remember the story – Jonah had been called by God to deliver God’s message to the evil city of Nineveh.Jonah didn’t want to.He tried to run from God – actually a whimsical thought if you consider it for very long – by getting on a ship to a faraway place. A violent storm engulfed that ship, endangering the lives of everybody on board. Jonah knew that storm was for him, and he urged the sailors to throw him overboard so they could be saved. As he hit the water, he was scooped up and swallowed by what the Bible calls a “great fish.” Miraculously preserved in the belly of that beast, Jonah “prayed to the Lord his God,” the Bible says. His prayer is perceptive – and it’s our word for today from the Word of God in Jonah 2, beginning with verse 2. “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave, I called for help, and You listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep (notice-not the sailors, but You, Lord), into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all Your waves and breakers swept over me.” Notice here, Jonah looks beyond what people did to him and what the weather did to Him and he sees that those were just hammers in God’s hand – not to destroy him but to build him into what he needed to be.
The hammer that hits us in our life can either break us or build us. If we will turn to God when we’re getting hit, looking for His purposes and His message, that hammer can build us into something we never were before.If we don’t turn to God when we feel the hammer blows, we’ll get the pain but not the point. Ultimately, the suffering that we face is not from those people, or that condition, or the economy, or that situation that seems to be hurting us – it has either been sent by God or allowed by God,and He loves you enough to have His Son die for you.
Like Jonah, God may be using your storm to bring you back to some promises you made to God – promises you haven’t kept. You told Him you’d go “anywhere” for Him, but you haven’t. You made promises about your priorities (remember?), your family, your giving, your service to Him – but you’ve drifted from those promises. Maybe you told God you would abandon some sinful ways, but your repentance has lapsed – you’re drifting back to the old you.
But God is pounding on you with His loving hammer, trying to use this storm to wake you up and bring you back. It’s taking this pounding to get your attention. C.S.Lewis had it right: “God whispers in our pleasure, but He shouts in our pain.” These hits are, in the words of Psalm 148:8, “stormy winds that do His bidding.” Their purpose is not to hurt you, but to heal you – not to wreck you, but to restore you. The storm isn’t to blow you away – it’s to blow you into God’s arms!
* Ron Hutchcraft