Saturday, May 31, 2014

(Pt. 2) When we really don't understand what God is up to......

"If you follow Jesus you'll have a good/successful/fruitful/prosperous/blessed life here on the earth."  A line that we in the Western world have caught and swallowed hook, line, and sinker.  Oh, maybe not consciously, we may not admit it out loud, but we somehow unconsciously think that as followers of Jesus that this is what is in store for us.  Wasn't that what we signed up for?  And I say this in a whisper, isn't it on some level of our hearts what we think we deserve for trying to live a 'good' life????

All of this is true (except the deserve part).  God has a plan for us, He wants what's best for us.  But what He calls 'good' doesn't necessary line up with what WE think that should look like.  Just like a child who wants that big treat this instant, but who is told 'no' to by the parent who is more concerned for their health than their light and momentary 'happiness.'

Years ago in my YWAM days, people on a team that I was part of prayed for me beforehand asking God to give them scriptures, etc, to encourage me.  But when they presented them I was a bit baffled.  Separately they all gave me verses like, "For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling, he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock." (Ps. 27:5)  Scriptures about trials and trouble.  Not something 'encouraging' at first glance.

One of the girls also told me that she had a picture in her mind of me.  That at that point I was a butterfly fluttering around, but that God wanted me to make me into an eagle. What?  I have to admit to being slightly offended by that at the time!

I smiled sweetly and thanked them, but walked away feeling more confused than encouraged.  A number of years after I re-read in my journal the things that they said, and they were spot-on-correct with what I needed to hear at the time.  It was right before my first trip ever to India, a trip where I really saw poverty and injustice for the first time and it rocked the foundations of my world.

"But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Is. 40:31

Eagles handle storms a lot better than butterflies.  Now I want to be an eagle and soar on His wings of strength.

I have many, many blessings in my life.  Things that I know are given by His hand.  Right now I live in a comfortable home, surrounded by family who love me.  My husband still makes me weak at the knees. The autumn sunlight is streaming in and when I glance out the window I can see the beautiful, blue Pacific.  In the background is the swish, swish of my dishwasher; something that I haven't had for ages until recently and definitely appreciate.  My yummy coffee in my cute cup that makes me smile sits close by my laptop.  I am blessed, truly blessed, body and soul.

I could also give you a version of my current life that would seem far less restful, enjoyable, or attractive.  We all could!  Hopefully we choose to try to focus on the good, but the rest is there as well (and we shouldn't just ignore it).  And we shouldn't be surprised at all.  Not in a world where 21-27 million people, some of them Believers, live in slavery at this very moment; where people lie, cheat, use, abuse, scorn and reject each other.

An online friend from a group of American internationals that I've been part of for years just heard that her adult son was found dead in the USA.  She and her family have lived and served in Asia for years and they are still in recovery mode from the kidnapping and later return of their daughter there last year.  This is someone who lives their life as a sacrifice for Him.  

Too much for one family to bear.  Good people who definitely don't deserve this.

Is. 43:12 says;
"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, 
you will not be burned up'
the flames will not consume you"

'Go through', 'walk through'.  It will happen.  The imperfect world affects us all.

Jennifer Rothschild knows about difficulties in life.  Blind since her teens she writes in her book God is Just Not Fair, "We may have the right to be angry, but I would rather focus on our responsibility to be reverent.  God is kind and just and deserves our respect, not our resentment.  When we give him the honor he deserves by expressing our gratitude, we are the ones to receive peace and life......But I have found the reason.  I am not angry with God because I need him too much....I can be blind with God, but there is no way I can be blind without him."  

Oh, how I know that I need Him.  Desperately need Him.  Can I get an 'amen'?

Gratitude and worship, focus on God Himself instead of the difficulties in our lives. 

When Job's world fell apart his friends tried to offer pathetic explanations.  In the case of enormous tragedy any explanation is pathetic. When Job defended himself and asked God, "Why?" instead of providing answers, God pointed to Who He is instead.

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"
Job 38:4

God goes on to remind Job not only of His power and might, but of His careful planning, nurturing, and provision for life on Earth.  His character............

Worthy of our worship and gratitude.  When we can't understand why, we can look at the Character of the One who has shown His love in innumerable ways and holds our every breath in His hands.

"Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, 
for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord."
Ps. 89:15

Situations that take us beyond what we can handle on our own are a call to worship, a call to look up, something that makes us run to the Throne Room and to the light of His presence.  They show us that He is the only hope, the only peace, the only real refuge.

In the light of His presence.  What a fantastic place to live!  

And even if we sometimes don't understand what He's up to-----He is faithful.

"Praise the Lord, my soul, .......who redeems your life from the pit."
Ps. 103:2,4

He has already redeemed us through His death on the cross.  Who better to redeem us out of the trials that we face today?  And what better hand to walk us through the 'valley of the shadow', whatever that looks like to us?

His character is this, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does." Ps. 145:17

And He never changes. So while trials come, and not to be a doomsayer but they will, we can walk through them in Him.  We can 'consider it joy' (James 1:2) because trials teach us to walk closer and closer to the Light.  The, by far, BEST place to be.

Photo credit Harriet Thayre

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