God Grieves With Us

When tragedy strikes, it is sometimes hard to see God. We wonder where He was when the terrible times transpired.

He knew.

He cried with us.

We are assured in the Psalms that He holds every tear we cry in His hand. He is not only catching and collecting our tears, He is catching and collecting us.

When we feel our hearts shattering and our faith falling; He’s there to comfort us with a peace than passes understanding.

When our minds can’t comprehend the countless calamities nor understand the world in which we live: He’s holding us.

We do not have a high priest who doesn’t know what we endure, how heavy our hearts feel, or how some days we really just want to give up, because He does.

He knows.

He loves us.

He wants to hold and comfort us.

He desires that our knee-jerk reaction to calamity is we come running, crying, even yelling to Him. We can be open and honest with our feelings. We can ask why. We can cry out to Him saying, “Please get me through this moment.”

And the next.

And the next.

We do not hold a faith dear to make an easy life. Instead we hold our faith dear because we could not possibly do life any other way.

This world is tough, torturous, and terrible at times. God can still be seen in the midst of even those moments too. He’s often quiet in the chaos, allowing us the opportunity to choose to seek Him, or be overwhelmed by the events.

He never pushes in. He allows us to choose when to break out.

As our hearts are breaking, allow yourself to feel the emotions. Choose how you will spend that pent-up energy those emotions elicit.

Sometimes I cry out in fear and anger.

Sometimes I pull myself together and go for a run.

Sometimes I collapse in a heap and allow the Holy Spirit to wash over me as I pour out my heart in incomplete sentences, mumbled words and scattered thoughts. And that’s OK. Because even when we don’t know exactly what to pray for, we are promised that the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with words and groans on our behalf.

It’s ok when we can’t comprehend what is happening. God doesn’t expect us to understand it all. We are human. We are not God.

But God is. And, in the words of Lysa TerKeurst, He is good at being God.

He wants to comfort us.

I pray wherever you are today, whatever your day holds, you feel His presence, His comfort, and His love.

And, if you can, would you please join me in praying for His peace which passes understanding to descend on our world, our hearts, and in our minds.

Lord God, Thank You for being God. You know more that we will ever know. You see Your plans. Plans which are good. You may not have authored current pain, but You promise to bring us through it. Please help me to trust You in the hard times. Carry me through waters which my heart balks at crossing. Please remind me of Your characteristics and of Your promises. Thank you for always being there. You know, even when I may never know nor understand. Please help me to see You in today and to reflect You to others how are so desperately hurting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Promised Acceptance

Sandra sank to the floor near her bed in exhausted desperation.

The irony of the spot hit her full on. Years ago, as a child, she would kneel here before bed, conversing with God, just as Mama taught her.

But Mama died. Sandra hadn’t spoken to God since. After years of silence, she cried out to Him but heard no reply.

She was seventeen.

She was pregnant.

She was utterly alone.

God, where did it all go wrong?

All her plans for the future were futile.

Her life would never be the same.

She would never be the same.

Mama would be so disappointed in her. “Don’t let your mistakes define you,” Mama’s words ran through her mind, “instead let the fulfillment of God’s promises define your life.”

As a child she couldn’t comprehend what Mama meant. But now, she pondered…

God, do You still have plans for me, even now? Do You still love me?”

Of course, my child.

“Lord, I’m so sorry for my disobedience, my sin. I want to turn things around, Oh Lord, help me turn things around.”

Six years later, that single mom was waving good-bye to a , blue-eyed, blond haired, excited kindergartener at the bus stop.

As that big yellow bus pulled away with her precious daughter she thought again of her mama’s wise words.

She had not’ let her mistakes define her. She had graduated high school, than beauty school. She had found her way back to God, into His word. She had allowed her heart to soften and grow her childhood faith.

She loved her little girl fiercely. She prayed with her, read the Children’s Bible with her, and took her to church. Her own faith grew as she shared God’s word with her daughter.

It had certainly not been easy, but she had not allowed her mistakes to define her or to rule what she did with her life.

Instead, broken-hearted, soul shattered, she’d held those tattered pieces of her presence in an open hand before the Lord, trusted Him, and relied on Him to carry her back to the good path He had for her.

And He had.

He had redeemed her. He didn’t look at her with contempt or resurrect her sin-stained past when she talked to Him. He saw her heart, a heart cleansed by Jesus and beating for her Heavenly Father.

Each of us has something, or maybe a few somethings, we are ashamed of.

But hiding it, not talking to God about it, pretending it’s not there isn’t the answer.

You see, those negative things we bury deep inside refuse to remain hidden.

Those fragments form a growing shape.

That shape festers until one day it can’t be contained any more, and like lit fireworks, those emotions come bursting forth in an explosion few are likely to forget, least of all the one who lived through the shameful exclamation demanding an explanation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter what we have done, we can approach God. Like Sandra, we can come before Him broken-hearted, soul shattered, and honestly admit, ‘I have no business being here, but here I am, in a huge mess and I don’t know how to get out. Please change me.’

He can, and if we ask, He will.

He certainly can move heaven and earth!

Dear Heavenly Father, You search me and know me. Please reveal to me anything I’m bottling up or pushing down. Please give me the courage I need to come to You and to find any help necessary. Thank You for the promise of Your faithful love, in Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

A Time For Rest

Living in the Midwest, we experience all four seasons. Spring is my favorite season, with everything “greening up”, and buds bursting forth into bloom with a wide array of color following the stark black and white of winter.

Each season has its own work, and own perks. In spring, many people, including myself, plant gardens and test a hand for a “green thumb.” We relish in the warming rays of afternoon sun, and start venturing outside a bit on the weekends.

Summer is filled with barbecuing, picnics, bike rides, and hiking.  School’s out and busy afternoon activities are in. I often find myself  chauffeuring and chaperoning our daughters and their friends.

Autumn is harvest time which means our annual apple-picking trip and an afternoon of making homemade applesauce. It also means back-to-school and back to studying. The colors of autumn are a vibrant promise that winter won’t last forever and that we will see God’s creation grow and bloom again.

Winter has its perks with the anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. The days are shorter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and after the holidays, I find myself sitting quite a bit more that usual. I have learned to enjoy this season of rest.

While the snowflakes fall lazily from the sky, and the temperatures dip at a threatening speed, I have learned to enjoy winter. I still arise early, before the sun says “hello”, and quietly process Scripture before the fire.

God designed us to rest. I don’t know about you, but that is something I have needed to make myself learn. Raised in this fast-paced American culture where busyness in condoned and applauded, I needed to take time for both the Lord, and my thoughts.

I love Psalm 46:10 , “Be still and know, I am God.” However, that is not a practice I have mastered. Some might remind me it’s just my stage of life, or that one day I will have plenty of time to be still and contemplate spiritual truths.

But I have found I don’t want to wait for life to slow down, I must make the time now.

As I contemplate the new calendar every year, I see winter as a gift from God. Having previously declared it my least favorite season in years past, I have found a new affinity for it. The weather and lack of light encourages me to settle into my home earlier in the day, not venturing out as much in the evening. When home, my life often feels quieter, not rushed, and less scheduled. Maybe, God intended for me to realize I can spend time with Him and learn from Him, even during this busy time of life.

As I glanced out at the winter landscape, I used to feel confined indoors, with little to brighten the day. Now I see those cold, cold days as a perfect time to start a delectable dish in the crock pot, bake something in the warm oven, and sit before the fire, snuggled with my favorite people and puppy!

God can speak to us through anything. Even the weather, even the seasons. Even as we experience them time and time again.

How do you slow yourself down to listen for Him?

 

Fix Your Eyes

Our adorable puppy has perfectly illustrated another truth: once you’ve fixed your eyes on something, it is possible to not be distracted from it.

As Minna proceeds throughout her day, many mesmerizing motions captivate her: the flash of a shiny pan drawn from the cupboard, the swish of the curtain drawn across the sliding door, and the sway of long coats as girls rush out the door to school.

She notices everything.

But there is one thing she absolutely refuses to turn away from: the lit flashlight.

What began as a desperate attempt at occupying our rambunctious Rottie has quickly progressed to become her favorite activity.

She will lead us to the drawer she knows contains it.

She’ll nose under the cushion under which we try to conceal it.

And, this gentle girl gets assertive when she hears the ‘click’ of that delightful device turning off. She actually runs over and places her paws on it, as if attempting to turn it back on.

When the light is shining, her eyes track it. Whether its tracking racing movements or patiently watching as it simply sets on one spot.

Loud noises, the tantalizing aroma of cooking beef, or the sound of her favorite people’s voices can not distract her concentration from that light.

We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:2 to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Most of us might agree it’s easy to become distracted from Christ.

It’s easy to prioritize a work deadline,  ill family members, or sometimes, even a dirty floor.

While thing in this world need some of our attention, it’s the peace of Christ and the assurance we have in Him that should reign in us. I know I am often missing that peace as I try to accomplish everything captivating me.

How can I experience that peace?

We need to not only  take the time for Jesus, but make the time for Jesus.

Like Minna with the flashlight, I need to fix my eyes on Jesus, never allowing my gaze to wander.

Thank you Minna, for reminding us to stay focused on the Light!

He Hears The Counting

Twelve years.

Have you ever prayed for God to intervene for twelve years? Or, like me, are you tempted to stop praying after only a few years, or even just a few months?

In Mark 5:25 we meet a woman who had suffered with a  bleeding condition for twelve years. Not only did she suffer physically, but socially and emotionally as well.

Because of the bleeding, she was considered “ceremonially unclean.” During this time, others were not to even touch her.

No warm hugs. No comforting pats. No grasping of hands.

Imagine life without the comfort and camaraderie of physical touch.

Now imagine it for twelve years. Did she even still feel connected to people?

Imagine growing up in faith, trained in all the preparation for worship for the Sabbath. In fact, helping with this was an honorable rite of passage. But bleeding bans participation from this, for twelve years.

Did she still feel connected to God? The God who could halt this horrible condition. Year after year there seemed no change.

What was her life like? She wasn’t allowed close proximity with people. She wasn’t welcome in worship. Was her life a recipe for depression?

As we read further into Mark we learn “she had suffered a great deal under the care of doctors and had spent all she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse.”

Her little girl dreams weren’t realized.

She couldn’t marry.

She didn’t have children; could not imagine such joy.

Instead, she was an outcast. An untouchable. Nothing left to try, nothing left to do.

No hope.

Then she heard about Jesus.

She was determined to just touch his clothes. (A violation of her status for sure!) A risk she was willing to take because she believed He could heal her. “And when she touched his cloak, her bleeding immediately stopped.”

He had healed her!

After twelve years, God finally fulfilled her faith-based request.

After twelve years, her suffering stopped.

After twelve years she could once again share in humanity’s daily life.

Amazingly, she didn’t give up after year one, year five, or even year eleven.

Verse 34 tells us Jesus’ sweet words to her, “Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

God never left her throughout her suffering. He saw her. He heard her. And, He determined the hour He would halt her misery.

We may not understand why God doesn’t seem to intervene early on or in our time frame. But we can trust He knows. He sees. He hears. And He will not allow us to suffer one second more than necessary.

 

 

Missing the Mark

Instant replay caused him to instantly recoil.

Ah, the director’s right! In that scene, he’d missed his mark. The taped “X” seemed to suddenly glow as he felt his face flush.

How could this have happened?

He knew. Although he’d rehearsed it a dozen times, he’d taken his eyes off the mark. He’d assumed his mind knew where to lead his feet. He was so confident, he never even looked.

Now the director needed to reshoot the entire scene, all because the lead actor missed his mark. He knew that the end result of not being completely on his mark meant the cameras couldn’t catch him in complete focus. The strength of the story might be lost. Not only the story lines blur but the actors themselves are often unseen or distorted.

Living as a Christian can be difficult, especially when we take our eyes off the mark: Jesus.  Lines of right and wrong can become blurred or distorted when we take our eyes off Christ. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how to live life, with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Thankfully God doesn’t record our errors so adamantly and rematch our actions so blatantly.  Unlike a TV director, He doesn’t often employ the instant replay either.

Instead of lashing out at His children He redeems what they’ve done.

Romans 8:28 promises us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to 
His purpose.” (NIV)

He doesn’t need us to redo decisions in life to make everything turn out right. While we need to carefully consider our choices and fully expect consequences when we choose folly, God promises to weave good into everything, even the not-so-good things.

He doesn’t highlight when we missed the mark. Instead, He extends mercy and grace, and yes, even blesses our mess. He uses our choices to create a marvelous testimony that He indeed is Lord of all.

No worries?

“Daddy, do we have enough money?” asked the sweet seven-year-old when she heard of her father’s job loss.

“You don’t need to worry about that; Daddy will take care of everything,” he replied, rubbing her shoulder. Giving him a quick hug, she bounded off to play with her dolls.

When was the last time your worries and  concerns were so easily relieved? Once anxiety grips us, it can be difficult to disentangle its claws from our minds and our hearts.

God tells us nothing should make us anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

Instead, He’s telling us what to do with our concerns: Pray about them. Bring them to God joyfully and with thanksgiving.

When a burden of the heart disturbs our sleep, disrupts our days and consumes our consciousness, we honestly don’t need to deal with it alone.

We should give it to God. Joyfully give it to Him. With thanksgiving give it to Him. Because He will take care of it and it does not need to burden us any longer.

Sometimes, we are like the little girl worrying about her family’s financial plight. Sometimes, we take on things that are just way beyond us. Our heavenly Father has it all worked out. Will we relinquish it to Him?

He wants us to allow Him to handle it, and for us to run off and do whatever He’s given us to do. He doesn’t want us burdened and consumed with His work.

When we allow Him to lift our burdens, we experience first-hand His promise of the next verse, “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike what the world has offered us, we are promised peace.

Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety?

A Step Further: Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety? If you are like me, there are times it’s just hard to let go. I carry something to Him, then take it back seconds later. I bring it to Him again, and later my mind works overtime, trying to figure it out.

God knows us. He knows our minds are willing, yet our flesh is weak. He knows when we want to give something over to Him, yet, seemingly can’t.

He also provided for that.

When we feel like we can’t let go, He is willing to meet us there and supply what we need. Whatever it is we need, right there in that moment, He will supply it, if we ask. And, He’ll meet us in the next moment, and the next. Eventually it won’t be so difficult.

If you find Philippians 4:6-7 challenging to live, please feel free to ask for prayer in the comments below. My team and I will lift you in prayer.

Committed To Christ

“I truly believe in Jesus, I just want to wait to be baptized,” she quietly confided, “I want to make sure I understand what I’m promising.”

I stared in amazement at this twelve-year-old girl.

I knew she believed. She truly studied her own Bible and her life mirrored a heart on fire for Christ.

At twelve, she “got it.” Faith is not a feeling.

Faith is a commitment.

She knew Jesus was committed to her. Now, she wanted a chance to read through the Bible so she knew how she should commit herself to Him.

Luke 14:33 instructs each of us to give forethought to our faith. “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say goodbye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.”

That does not necessarily mean we need to literally get rid of all our material possessions, although we could. It does mean nothing else can occupy the greatest portion of our heart and mind.

Christ comes first. Always.

Is that easy?

No.

But with Christ, it’s doable.

As that sweet girl learned many years ago, before her baptism, it is possible to investigate and understand what Jesus wants from us.

He wants us to give some forethought to our commitment to Him.

And He wants us to realize we can count on Him to help us stay committed to our faith throughout our lifetime.

 

Expecting Great Things

Do you expect great things from yourself?

Many of us don’t.

We might assume the great callings go to the super talented, super intelligent, and super positive people. Surely I don’t have a great calling on my life.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that idea is just plain wrong. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

We are God’s masterpieces. He created us as beautiful beings with a precious purpose. And, He created us to do good works. He calls us to do good things.

We each have a distinct, unique purpose. God doesn’t need anything from us. But if we fulfill our calling, He will bless our work, and in turn, bless those around us.

The maker of the pacemaker, which keeps a human heart beating and working properly to prolong and preserve life, was probably super excited when he created the initial model. Imagine how he might have handled it ever so gently, turning it carefully in his hands.

Now imagine when he witnessed it working inside a patient. When that pacemaker did what it was created to do. It preserved life. It enhanced the quality of life for that patient and that patient’s family. Can you imagine the celebration?

I’m sure the excitement the pacemaker developer experienced is just a tip of the iceberg of the joy God expresses over His children who are using this gifts He planted inside each one of us. When we do whatever He created us to, we are glorifying the one who created the masterpiece of you and me.

Hundreds of thousands of patients each year receive a pacemaker – and they also receive a new lease on life. Countless families can enjoy more holidays, more everydays, because of the pacemaker doing what it was created to do.

What if you and I stopped assuming someone else could do our calling better? What if we stopped assuming ‘I am not talented enough?’ What if we simply did what we were created to do?

Imagine the beauty that would overtake the world. Maybe, just maybe, our headlines would be positive, pretty messages filled with hope and love. We would have much more to celebrate on holidays, on everyday. We would know that deep down satisfaction of doing what God created us to do. What if…?

You Are His Masterpiece, Part I

The above picture was painted by one of my daughters. I am the delighted and proud mother of several talented artists. One daughter in particular must paint to relieve stress and quiet her soul after a season of busyness.

Watching her take a blank canvas and deftly apply color to create a picture depicting beauty, depth of feeling and a sense of wonderment is truly inspiring. She seemingly adds a little of this, and some of that, and voila! She has created a masterpiece!

Do you think of yourself as God’s handiwork? I usually do not. Yet, God fearfully and wonderfully knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs, (Psalm 139:14 ) Just as an artist carefully considers which colors to combine; God also thoughtfully takes talents from His storehouse and doles them out generously to His children.

We are His created masterpieces.

Do you, like I, ever feel the need to demurely reject that title?

Ephesians 2:10 instructs us on how we ought to view ourselves,”we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just as I am so awestruck and proud of what my daughters create, God looks at us the same way. Isn’t that fact just mind-blowing? God looks at us with pride!

That alone should boost our self-esteem!

When we downplay our gifts and talents we are downplaying God’s goodness. We are effectively telling Him, “It’s nothing.”

While we don’t wish to sound arrogant, we can politely say “Thank you.” At least in American culture that is socially acceptable. Then we can take the focus off us and our gifts and highlight the giver of that gift: God.

You are God’s masterpiece. He delights in His work, and He certainly delights in you! Relish in that revelation! Because He certainly treasures you and me!