I have watched more baseball in the last few weeks than I have in the past ten years combined. True, I am usually reading a book or doing something else at the same time, but I think it counts. My husband’s and son’s enthusiasm for the postseason is catching and I enjoy watching them root for the same team (or commiserating together). I’m happy the Chicago Cubs have made it to the World Series and I hope they win it too.
I find it interesting how a game can change many people’s perspective on life, even if temporarily. There is a buzz to life right now, at least among Cubbies fans (and all real baseball fans). You feel it at work, the grocery store, restaurants, on social media sites, and anywhere else people are gathered. Talk of the Cubs dominates conversations for young and old alike. Allegiance is reflected in what people are wearing each day and their ring tones playing “Go, Cubs, Go”.
What causes this buzz and excitement? Hope. Hope that the Chicago Cubs baseball team can really do it - they can win the World Series.
In the midst of all this post season hub-bub I have been studying the book of Hebrews with my boys. One word that could describe this book of the Bible? Hope. Real hope. Not nail biting, “I-hope-they-can-do-it-but-I’m-not-completely-sure” kind of hope, but solid and unwavering, “I-am-fully-convinced -no-doubt-about-it” kind of hope. Hebrews has once again concreted my faith in God.
The author is unknown for Hebrews, but God is proven the perfect Chooser. This author is a poetic, historical and literary genius. Beautifully written to the Hebrew people it presents the case for Christ using evidence from the Old Testament; lining up the prophetic words and what was lived out under the old covenant to prove the case for Christ being the Messiah and High Priest of the new and better covenant.
The evidence is overwhelming, undeniable and thrilling. After several chapters of presentation and encouragement, the author writes this in chapter 10:19-23:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
I find these verses to be nearly the book of Hebrews in a nutshell. Because Jesus is the answer to all things Old Testament and because of what he did for us on the cross, ushering in the “new and living way”, we can have FULL assurance of faith and can hold fast in our hope. No wavering! Why? Because HE who promised is FAITHFUL. In other words: because God says so, that’s why!
God tells us that if he has picked us to be on his team, we win. The World Series is in the bag and we can call ourselves victorious already. Jesus Christ, putting on his jersey of flesh for a time, hit the out-of-the-park, walk-off home run that saved us. Then he went and sat down at the right hand of his Father, job done (Hebrews 10:12). That is why the Bible is full of commands to rejoice!
So… rejoice! We can possess real hope because Jesus has already crushed the Opposition. We who are on the side of Christ remain on the field until all of our teammates are fully gathered together. We eagerly await the return of our Savior to begin the victory ceremony (Hebrews 9:28). Until then we walk in full assurance that it has been accomplished. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf,” Hebrews 6:19-20a.
So, let the buzz begin. Spread the good news of what Jesus has done. Let your hope and enthusiasm be on display and affect the way you behave. Let this assurance of victory be on your lips as you encourage your team often, “…and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25b. That “Day” of His return is coming quickly. Be sure you are identifying with Christ and clothed in the Holy Spirit, not trusting in a short-sighted jersey of blue and red dust.
The Cubs may or may not win the World Series this year, I don’t know. I hope they do, but it is not something I hope in. My life’s hope is firmly in the hands of the One who has accomplished the eternal win and who has given me faith to believe that when he said, “It is finished.” He meant it.
Caskets shouldn’t come in size small. Life shouldn’t be able to end before it really begins. As our community mourns for a sweet little boy, questions surface and we find ourselves asking, “why?” Who is at the receiving end of this question? Well, God of course, the only one who has the power to allow or prevent such painful occurrences and therefore the only one adequate to provide an answer.
God tell us in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” We are not able to understand the mind of God; he is infinite and has infinite knowledge. While we only see the small portion of time that we live in at the moment, God sees all of time at once. He knows what is best because he knows every possible scenario in each of our lives.
I understand some do not believe in God. Even though the design of the universe screams intelligent order and our inborn sense of right and wrong provides us with evidence (Romans 1:19,20). If there is not an ultimate standard of good then we are a people without hope. Then there is no reason for children dying and people suffering as they do. If that is the camp you fall in then pitch your tent and sleep in it yourself.
For those who have eyes to see truth and believe in an all-powerful and loving God, our perspective is remarkably different. We are told we do not have to “grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13). But the question remains…why? Why is there so much pain in the world?
Well the simple answer is sin. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, creation’s first couple. They thumbed their noses at God and decided they wanted to be their own masters. They ate the fruit and the curse came down (Genesis 3) and we have been suffering for it ever since. Sin continuous to wreak havoc in human hearts today. We are a world that has thumbed our collective noses at God and have declared ourselves to be masters of our own hearts. So evil runs rampant on this earth and causes pain, suffering, and death. Sin is the easy answer to the “why?” question.
The hard answer is this: God allows hurt because he loves us. If we belong to God, he will use whatever he decides is necessary to make us more like his son, Jesus. To purify our hearts and cause us to be closer to him. Closer to God in Christlikeness is always the direction we need to be moving in. It is the best thing for us because it is there that we find truth, peace, joy and all things good.
We live to bring glory to God, that is our purpose for breathing. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” (Romans 11:36). Therefore, God has written our lives in such a way that he will be magnified through the events that take place in them. So even in pain, we can be fully confident that God is in control and has a purpose for the pain. Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This verse should bring great comfort for those that are his.
Now for those who do not believe (or if you are one of the many who are faking it), God may use painful times to draw you to him; he may allow you to be sent to your knees begging for a Savior. In that there is mercy, for if God really is God and our only hope, then the most loving thing he can do for us is to make us know him even at the cost of great pain. Then you can experience true comfort as one of his children.
Christians have hope like no one else can because we understand that life does not end here on earth. Sin came into the world through humans, but God, in order to display his great grace gave up his only son to save us from the death of sin. He allowed Jesus to die on a cross to pay for the sin we are not able to pay for. Through his sacrifice we are able to have a relationship with God and spend eternity with him after this life is over. In this there is great hope - Jesus did not stay dead, he destroyed death and lives forever. He made a way for us to do the same if only we have faith and believe. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
If anyone understands the pain of a son dying it is God. The only arms safer for a precious child than his mother’s are those of God himself. Though we mourn for a time here on earth, we trust a God who knows all things and has divine purpose in all he does. We look forward to a day when our tears are wiped away and the joy pours in as we spend our days in the perfect presence of our Savior.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 1 Peter 5:10 and Romans 8:18
Slam me down and spin me around. Keep me centered. We have been singing a song in church lately that has the line, “Center my life on your name.” Being the pottery nut that I am, the same image pops into my mind every time.
When you are sitting at a potter’s wheel the first thing you have to do is take your lump of clay and center it on the wheel. You do that by shaping it into a ball and then slamming it down on the very center of the wheel. If you miss you must pick it back up, shape it and slam it back down. You have to do this until you get it right. No shortcuts.
Only after you have your portion of clay in the middle of your wheel can you then begin the spinning and go on with the process of molding it and creating something beautiful.
What happens if you don’t get the clay centered and try to move forward with an off-centered lump? Nothing good and nothing beautiful. You will fight it, trying to get the clay centered and to a place where it will be workable. It will eventually be so off-kilter that it will turn into an ugly mess and possibly fly off the wheel all together (I know this from experience).
Our lives in the same way need to be centered on Christ. It is a perfectly simple visual. If we stay centered (if we are in God’s Word, fellowshipping with other believers, praying, praising), we are shapeable, malleable, and able to be formed into a vessel of good purpose. We will be drawn vertically upward stretching ourselves toward Godly beauty under the perfect hands of the Potter.
I did not invent this sweet analogy, God did. “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8.
With God as our potter what can we do as the clay? Be still and know that he is God. We are to remain on the wheel, centered and in his capable hands. Always moving and active yet only in the way that he guides us. Not trying to move in our own direction so that the gracious Potter must pick us up and slam us back down again (for our own good). Not trying to harden ourselves and be resistant under his loving hand. Don’t be ignorant or stubborn clay.
“You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” Isaiah 29:16
Sound ridiculous to think of clay talking back to the potter? Yep, sure does! But we do it all the time. We question God’s plan for us, we doubt his intentions, we complain about our form and our seemingly unexciting purpose. We tell him, “Hands off! I can do it myself.” We need to stop sassing back and instead trust him and let him have his way. He is perfect remember, we are not.
Be malleable so he can do his work, growing you up, shaping you to hold more and more of him. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
When centrifugal force starts to pull against us, when we feel the pain and frustration that comes when we flail and come undone in life. Our prayer should be for God to please pick us up and slam us back into the place where we can once again flourish under his care. Difficult? Yes. Painful? Possibly. But oh so worth it. So much better than finding yourself thrown off and left to dry out, all because you did not trust the Potter.
Ladies, let this be your prayer today: “God, do whatever is necessary to center my life upon you that I may be made into something beautiful and can be filled with the treasures of your goodness all for your glory.”
Peyton finally agreed to go on a waterslide with Troy and me at the indoor water park last week. As we ascended the ever climbing stairs, his grip on the railing tightened. I could see the doubts rising in his mind; this was hard work for him. By the time we reached the top, with only a few groups ahead of us, Peyton began to crumble. The tears started and his head shook as he announced that he had changed his mind. He was not going on this ridiculously dangerous and potentially deadly slide (yes, he is my dramatic one). He planned to walk back down the steps and meet us at the end; preferring safety over risk.
At that point I did what every other practical and loving mom would do. I looked him in the eye, told him he was not going to die and that he better shape up because I planned to plant his bottom in that raft whether he wanted to go or not. Peyton, having been mothered like this before and having had plenty of past experiences similar to this one, said okay and took a deep breath, still trembling but resigned to his potentially dismal fate.
Am I mean? Yes, I can be. I can be pushy, persistent, and downright bossy. Have you not heard me telling you to read your Bible with your pencil?? As we all tend to be, I am hardest on those I love the most. I most often correct and discipline my children (you’re welcome). I most often rebuke and instruct those that I mentor and disciple. I love them way too much not to.
This is not being mean, though it can feel that way at times (and if I do it incorrectly it is mean and sinful). Done biblically, it is loving. Scripture is designed to train us and for us to train others, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16.
I didn't force Peyton up those stairs and down that slide because I am a bully mom or wanted to torture him. I did it because I love him (and we used it for biblical training later). I have been his mom for 11 years, I know him very well. He needs to be pushed to grow; he needs to know what it feels like to fear and to overcome (moms, don’t shelter your children from all fear). I knew he could handle it and that it would be good for him.
It is quite easy to see where I am going with this one. We need some pushing in life. We need pushed toward things we would never do on our own. God will often give us a nice shove once in a while to get us to grow. We also need to push ourselves more than we do. Just as in exercise we have to lift more or run farther or faster to gain improvement. In our spiritual life (which is much more important, see 1 Tim. 4:8) we need to go deeper with God and put in the effort to get closer to God and to see more of him.
If we were already perfect and as Christ-like as we could get we wouldn’t need any pushing. However, as Paul said in Philippians 3: 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul needed to keep working, “pressing on” in order to become more perfect like Jesus. If Paul wasn’t there I know I’m not there yet. He was still pushing. He was still, “straining forward to what lies ahead” and pressing “on toward the goal” verses 13 and 14 respectively. Do the hard work it takes to strain and press on, study the Word intently, reach out to difficult people with the gospel, give sacrificially.
In other words, allow your Heavenly Parent, who loves you very much and knows you better than you know yourself, send you up some stairs and toss you down some scary waterslides for your own good. Better yet, go with joy, keeping your trusting eyes on Dad. Rejoice in the ride and see where he takes you and how it grows you. Always, always closer to Him.
Peyton survived the treacherous family rafting waterslide, we barely got wet. Seriously, on a scale of danger from 1-10 it would have been a two. Peyton was so psyched that he was jumping up and down, pumping his skinny arms in the air and asking to go again. Which we did, happily, again and again. He even ventured on the slightly more dangerous family rafting waterslide (maybe a three). He overcame and had grown in courage.
Ladies, time to buck up, climb the stairs and get wet. Follow God where he leads, trusting in his sovereign goodness and mastery over the plans of your life. Push and get pushed and grow in God.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. This was the verse a group of ladies and I were focusing on during our weekly Bible study in the park just a few weeks ago. An awesome verse everyone should commit to memory.
One of my final questions to these godly women that day was, “If you honestly exercised full trust in the Lord, what might your life look like? What radical things might God call you to?” There was silence, then some hesitant answers of sharing Christ with others, correcting blasphemies, and getting serious about teaching their children about God. I repeated myself, sure they didn’t understand what I was getting at, “Think big! If you had enough faith, what might you do that would require full dependence on God?” More silence and a few responses similar to the first ones.
We ended in prayer and went our separate ways. I found myself frustrated, why didn’t they get it? Why couldn’t they trust God in BIG ways, just grab onto a dream and imagine how God could work everything out? I wanted answers like, “I would quit my job and enter full time ministry,” or “I would open my home up to all those in need and begin a ministry of hospitality,” or “I would pack my family up and head to another country as missionaries!” Yes, me and my big dreams, but those weren’t the answers I heard that day.
It wasn’t long before God began convicting me of a wrong attitude. I could feel the Spirit nudging at me. I then came across a quote in a book I was reading from Oswald Chambers:
“The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. ‘Jesus took a towel… and began to wash the disciples’ feet.’”
That was enough to bring tears to my eyes, God had my attention. I had assumed an attitude of thinking my “big works” would please God more than any small scale act I could do.
Yes, Jesus did many awesome signs and wonders while on earth and we love to read about them and point them out to others. We quickly forget all the seemingly little ways Jesus was fully obedient to his Father God. Along with washing the disciples’ feet (even Judas’) he: had compassion on the needy, spoke encouragement, told stories to demonstrate God’s goodness, taught and prayed for his friends, played with children, suffered, went to church (temple), endured insults, forgave his enemies, and ate with friends. All Jesus did was for the glory of God; he is our perfect example in the “large and small” of our lives.
I read on… “There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task. Routine is God’s way of saving us between our times of inspiration. Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling minutes, but learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God… The tiniest detail in which I obey has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I do my duty, not for duty’s sake, but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience the whole superb grace of God is mine through the Atonement!” Oswald Chambers
Even our small acts of obedience, done out of trust in our Lord, are filled with the full power of God’s grace. A heart set on living in servitude to him is what God desires; obedience is obedience.
Lord, forgive me for making the all too common error of thinking you are more pleased with the world-changing evangelist than the community changing, obedient woman who shares Christ with others, will not tolerate your name used in vain, and is intent on training up her children in your word! These daily, routine acts of obedience train our hearts to trust him more and cause us to live out his written word.
It reminds of the interaction between the Lord and Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13, “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him…”
I want to be wherever God is leading me, whether that is in the earthquakes of the big callings in life or the low whispers of the small. I enCOURAGE you to trust in the Lord with all of your heart for every size task he puts before you.
Mothers are on my heart this week. I have been praying for and ministering to several moms recently who are struggling in a variety of ways. Grown children, little babies and all ages in between. These children seem to have the strings of our hearts tightly in their fists, pulling and tugging away at us. I want to remind you today that although we love our children very much our hearts still belong fully to God. The strings belong in his hands and we praise him for that; he is still in control!
Below is a Psalm that I shared with one of the mothers and I want to share it with you today as well. I hope it brings you encouragement. If you are struggling and feel as if things are crumbling around you, remember that you are fully secure in the arms of God. He rules the mountains and the oceans; he can certainly rule your heart. Allow him to calm it and be your help.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Even though there may be uncertainty and difficulties surrounding you, you will not be moved out from under his care. If God dwells in the midst of you; you dwell within the fortress of the Almighty. Moms, I enCOURAGE you to find comfort in the steadfast words of God today.
Ladies, please let me know if you have ever experienced one of these days (if you haven’t just keep quiet). I sat down at the computer to write a blog but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the bathroom but only got halfway done. I better get that done, but I should shower first. After I showered I remembered I needed to switch the clothes in the washer to the dryer. I get to the laundry room and realize I never started the washer because it wasn’t a full load yet. So I went to the boys’ room to get dirty cloths and see that I still needed to hang up the clean clothes I left there earlier. After finishing, I remembered I really had to get that blog done. So I sat down at the computer but forgot my Bible. As I went to grab it I saw cleaning supplies left out and remembered that I had started to clean the… wait a minute…
So here I sit, feeling like I have been running crazy today and I still have only a half clean bathroom (which may be better than a half dirty bathroom depending on how you see things), a washer full of dirty clothes and a blog still needing done.
Some days I wonder… is this how it starts? That slow decline of brain functioning they talk about on the radio? Where is that Sudoku book I had around here? When is the last time I did a crossword puzzle? OR… has all my Diet Pepsi drinking finally caught up to me? Did the aspartame turn my brain to Swiss cheese like Tristan Miles always told me it would?
Its scatter brained days like this that keep me truly thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that has everything under control. He never forgets to feed the sparrows, stock the snow reserves or cue the sun for its rising. Nothing is beyond his capabilities or grasp. God always accomplishes what he sets out to do each and every day. There is nothing left at the end of his “to do list” ever.
I praise God that he is forever perfect and his goodness never ends. God never changes. What comfort I take in that! He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is no need for God to change, you can’t improve on perfection. You can never add to or take away from it; otherwise it would not have been perfect in the first place.
The word I love to read in the Bible is “steadfast”. It appears 219 times in the ESV Bible according to my search on biblegateway.com. 132 of those times are in the Psalms, which is where I have been reading it morning after morning as I study that book of the Bible.
202 times out of the 219 it is connected to the word “love”. Here are a few instances:
Psalms 63:3, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
Psalms 59:16, “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
Psalms 100:8, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
My heart rejoices every time I come across that word. I love serving a God that is steadfast. I looked up the definition and here are the words I found: firmly loyal, constant, unswerving, fixed, unchanging, and unmovable. How awesome is that? Yes! Those words describe my God and his love for me! Woo Hoo!
So on days like this when I feel a little out of sorts and wonder about the soundness of my mind, I breathe deep and praise a God that is constant and unmovable. He doesn’t experience forgetfulness or have senior moments. He never doubts, worries or struggles. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3). This does not tire him or wear him out even a little. He is fully and eternally sufficient to handle all he plans to do. That includes loving you with his steadfast, unswerving, fixed and unchanging love. He had it written down 219 times so you would understand it.
I must wrap this blog up now (just remembered I turned my hot iron on two hours ago to do my hair). Ladies, take comfort in knowing no matter how crazy or scattered we feel, we serve a God that is infinitely secure. He is deep and still, perfect and unchanging. He is steadfast. I enCOURAGE you to place your scattered mind and heart in his hands today. Trust in him to be your rock and solid footing always!
Yep, that would be me. Now before you start to think this is just another blog on trusting in God to be our strength when we are weak, keep reading. You are wrong. Although it is true, God is our strength when we are weak, that is not my point today.
A couple weeks ago I was struggling to like myself even a little. I felt like a failure at all I put my hands to: this blog, my Bible study, counseling, housekeeping, eating right, child rearing…do I need to go on? The word that kept running through my mind was “inadequate”. The only thing I felt good at was failing. Yes, picture Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh but looking like me. Ever find yourself there? Oh, bother… where did my tail go?
So I have experienced these occasional states of “woe is me” before, I knew what I needed… ice cream with a big spoon, cosmic brownies and HGTV… no? No, I have tried that route before; I know it leads to feeling worse in every way.
I was well aware that I needed God and to hear from his Word. I read through chapters like Psalms 9, 16, 18 and 139, Hebrews 13, Philippians 4, 2 Corinthians 12, the list goes on. After soaking in God’s mighty Word did my rotten feelings lift and was my joy restored? No. They didn’t and it wasn’t. I still felt like my miserable self.
How can this be? Isn’t God’s Word all powerful and uplifting? Yes, it is. Aren’t God’s promises always reliable and rock solid? Yes they are. Isn’t God supposed to be our refuge and shelter? Yes, he is.
Here is the truth. My feelings, good or bad, do not heighten or lesson the Word of God. I have walked with God long enough to trust him no matter how my physical body feels. I cling to his promises more than I cling to my emotions of the moment.
Am I really inadequate? Well… yes. But I don’t put my trust in me and my ability to succeed or fail, I trust in a God that is more than adequate in every way possible.
This is what God wants from us and the lesson he wanted me to understand that week. Our obedience to what he calls us to is not dependent on how we feel or what we are going through. We read and trust God’s Word because we have faith in the one it is all about, Jesus Christ.
I don’t read my Bible just to feel good and I don’t stop when I don’t feel good. I read it because it contains the words of life and truth. Like Peter said to Jesus when the huge crowd deserted him after the difficult teaching he gave, Jesus turns to Peter and asks “Do you want to go away too?” Here is his response: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.
Why would I look anywhere else? Only God’s Words have the power to save me. I knew all that I read was doing a work in my heart even if I could not feel it at that moment. Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
I have kicked old Eeyore to the curb; God has graciously and patiently restored my ability to identify in him. No matter how wonderful or rotten I feel, I will always trust in the goodness of God. Like David I will proclaim Psalms 13:5&6, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Nothing happens by chance, there is no such thing as good luck, bad luck or coincidences, and there is purpose in everything. These are what comfort me late on Friday night as I watch smoke roll out of the building that was once our family business. God is in this. He has a plan… for my husband, for the business, for the city, and for me.
How do people live when they don’t understand this? When they feel that life is random? To feel as if their lives hinge on whether good or bad luck comes their way. That is no way to live; that is not the abundant life we are promised in John 10:10. If our life paths are left up in the air depending on what decisions we make and what luck we have then God is a liar. Psalms 139:16 - Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
This is not just pretty poetry; these are the words of Mighty Creator God through his servant David. He has written out every day of your life even before he formed you. Let the immensity of this hit you in the face. If you ever feel as if God does not know (and love) you, read the entirety of Psalms 139. Your feet do not walk a path by chance. If this is news to you don’t despair, it is something that has taken me years to grasp, and I still struggle with it.
So what is God’s plan in burning down our family business? The business that was started 44 years ago, built with hard work, is all my husband has ever known and provides for our family? I don’t know. I don’t need to know, I just need to trust that God knows. And really, that is everything to me. Maybe God wants to rebuild the business even better, maybe he wants to sever our dependence on something other than him, maybe God desires more of our attention. Maybe all of these things. One thing I’m sure of is that our prayers have become richer, our faith in Christ more sure, and our love for others deeper. The blessings are abounding already.
Had things been different and life been lost in this fire, God would still be good. We would still praise him. I like to picture our praise rising up to God just like the smoke from the fire. In Old Testament times, sacrificial offerings would be burned on an alter and the aroma that arose from this pleased the Lord (Numbers 29:2). I want my praise to do the same. I want God to burn away anything in my life that detracts me from him. I leave it all on the table.
God knew long ago that this fire would take place and that our lives would experience a shift. He also knows exactly how he plans to use this for his glory and I look so forward to that. Having dealt with tragedy in the past (more severe than this) I am honestly filled with excitement in anticipation of what God will do through this. I plan to be a part of it and wouldn’t miss it for the world. His love for us is overwhelming.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31, 32.
If you were in the midst of a struggle with deep loneliness and I told you I could relate because I experienced two weeks of loneliness, would that hold much weight with you? Probably not. What if instead, I told you that I experienced years of loneliness and can easily remember the pain and the times I cried out to God begging him to send just one good friend into my life. Does that change things? I believe it does.
I dealt with loneliness in my life during a time when I was living on my own, raising my son, and working very hard to get through nursing school and work a part time job. I was surrounded by others and stayed very busy, but I did not have even one close friend. It was a painful time in many ways and I just couldn’t understand why God was allowing it; especially for what seemed like such a long time.
However, it was during those years that I dug deep into God. I had been a believer for a while and trusted that God knew my struggles and would provide for me (even if I didn’t appreciate his time table). I read his Word and held tight to his promises, like God being a “Father of the fatherless” in Psalm 68:5 and the comforting words of “I will never leave you or forsake you.” in Hebrews 12:5. Did I still struggle with anger and bitterness? You bet, but even then God was patient and faithful.
I now look back and nearly explode with thanksgiving in what I see God was doing in my life at that time. I praise him for giving me tools I never would have had if that time had been easy and without burdens. I can relate to so many more women now than ever before. Not just with loneliness but a slew of other difficulties too. I received real life experiences that equipped me to battle alongside other women today.
It has taken me years to admit to the depth of loneliness I experienced during that time, but as I pursue a ministry of transparency, I am finding that so many women are able to relate to my experience. I can minister to them because God led me through this fire early on in life. He let me go through years of pain so that I would remember it well. So that I can now hug a hurting woman and say to her, “I know how you feel, let me tell you what God did in my life.” God speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 -
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
What about you? What afflictions has God allowed in your life in order for you to better minister to others? Are you dealing with a chronic illness, a troubled marriage, or a difficult child? Do you feel like the situation will never end? This may be hard to grasp now, but God WILL use this for good in your life and very likely for the good of others too. Dig deep into him during this time and be determined to cling to Christ no matter what, knowing that you will receive comfort from him as promised above.
My life looks much different than it did back then, but I am so thankful for what God allowed and how he is faithful in using everything for my good and more importantly for his glory. I can now understand how what one day seems like such a heavy burden can later be seen as a gift. Don’t waste the gifts God is giving you right now. Use whatever is causing you pain to drive you toward Christ and turn what the Enemy planned for your harm into good. Maybe you know the pain of cancer, losing a child, or depression. God has allowed you to know this pain for a reason, don’t waste it.