I cannot remember who first told me that.. but I imagine it was over 30 years ago. I did not understand it the way I do now:) God is at work in every circumstance and will use every single experience for good. Yes, I had trouble with that one ( Romans 8:28) at first, but now.. it is very real to me. Every difficult and challenging trial I’ve experienced has been training for times when I can sit with another person and encourage them.. the reason? The more hard things you go through in life.. the more you have to offer others who are hurting. When people come to me for counseling I often say ” you really cannot shock me because of all the life experiences I have lived through” usually that turns out to be true. God does not waste anything.. He uses it all to help us understand and help others.
It feels really good to realize once again that He is always training me to be more understanding and compassionate. He is preparing me to see into the next broken heart that sits in front of me and needs healing. How does He accomplish that? I am not sure.. I do know that He stretches me and finds those places that need changing and as I agree with Him.. He begins a deeper work of transformation.. It is awesome.
I don’t know about you.. but I want the full measure of life that God has for me ( John 10:10) and I realize that often comes through trials and tests. Somehow we don’t learn as easily when things are going smoothly..in reality that is rare in the life of a Believer. No.. it is not all trials and suffering, but we are never promised an easy life here. What we do have is His promise to be with us.. His Spirit to guide us and strength for the journey.
So if things are difficult right now.. remember He is doing something deep inside your heart.. preparing you for the day when you will share what you have learned with another person.. when you will encourage someone who has a broken heart or is struggling with pain and suffering . You will become a source of life to them.. bringing hope and healing.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
This is one of my very favorite scriptures ( from Isaiah 61) Jesus read this in the temple in the book of Luke.. It describes perfectly what He came to do and what He allows us to do with Him.. Amazing!
A conversation I had with a friend this morning made me think deeply about choices. We have so many of them in this world. Everyday we are choosing without even knowing it. The Lord gave us free will and He gave us a mind. Both of these enable us to choose.. He seems to be very in favor of that or He would not have created us with the ability to choose so freely. I realize that there are people who think we should choose everything that feels good with no regard for anyone else.. I am definitely not in that camp. Then there are those who believe if you do not choose what I choose.. then something is very wrong with you.. not in that camp either. Choices are very serious and they are messy.
What prompted this blog post was the realization that we may have more choices than we realize.. maybe we feel like if we don’t choose wisely right now.. this could be our last chance. While I realize that there are grave consequences to choices made lightly without careful prayer and seeking God’s best.. I also know we are serve a God of second chances. third chances etc. Basically we cannot run out of chances with Him. So how do we navigate this road which often feels like it is full of potholes? I can’t claim to have all the answers.. but I do know that we live in a world where the Lord is constantly redeeming things. I also know that so many of the heroes of the Bible did really unbelievable things.. in fact if we were in charge we might say to them.. ” that is it.. no more chances.” Fortunately we are not in charge and that is not how God sees things.. He does not run out of grace and mercy.. even we take a wrong turn He will steer us back in the right direction.
So choosing is an awesome responsibility .. God knows that through our choices we will see Him more clearly.. even the bad choices. He knows that we will learn to seek Him more deeply as we choose.. if we desire to follow Him throughout our lives and He does not have a list of consequences we can read before we decide. Choices are deeply entrenched into our life.. we are walking by faith and not by sight. Choices tell the Lord we trust Him even if everyone around us thinks we are crazy.. Choices knit us to Him in a way that rules and regulations never will. We are given freedom.. lots of it.
Really the only thing we can do is pray and seek Him and ask Him to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Then we can shut out of the voices of well-meaning people or how- to books and leap ahead in the direction that is right for us. Once we realize that if we fall He will catch us.. We can ask for courage and turn away from fear as we move forward..
I hope this year is one filled with hope for you as we move into 2017.. may you choose wisely as you follow our amazing God.
If you wander from the right path, either to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “You should go this way. Here is the right way.” ( Isaiah 30:21)
Yes.. 2016 was one of the most challenging years yet. I believe that there were some very big lessons that God was teaching me during the trek through the wilderness and I hope they stick..that is always the tricky part. Probably the most important thing for me was actually realizing how much I wanted my own way and how little that had to do with what God was interested in. Yes.. He is very focused on us but not on giving us all the things that we think we should have. It was startling to realize how my own vision for my life was so ingrained in my thinking.. so this year has been a season of letting go..grieving disappointments.. and allowing Him to get to the root of my desires so He could yank them out and replace them with a deeper longing for Him.. Still in process.
I discovered that I had pride that was hidden deep in my heart..that my longing for the things of this world was very much alive.. that I actually don’t look at much from an eternal perspective.. and that I crave things that I see all around me . Living in a very affluent area is the catalyst for seeing the depth of those desires. It is normal here for people to have nice homes, new cars, and many vacations. . Without realizing it those things have gotten under my skin and I found myself thinking.. well, doesn’t everyone else have them? Why would God bless them and not me.. Pretty dangerous territory.. especially if you linger there.
The cure for that is the news.. Syria, Afghanistan, and many other places where people literally have nothing. we are all rich here and I am convicted of being very selfish and ungrateful. What about the pockets of poverty all over this country?.. people without homes, jobs, or hope.. people doing drugs and wondering how their kids will ever have a better life when they can hardly survive.. I am convicted of being shallow and self-centered. Thank you Lord for showing me the dark places in my heart.. What about those who have lost loved ones too soon? Their grief is so deep and so painful.. how could I ever forget that? I know grief and I help people with it.. yet I stand convicted of being self focused and lacking compassion.. Keep digging Lord.
I think you are getting the picture. The wilderness is our school.. it is our gift. Without the dark times and the struggles.. we won’t grow in our faith or learn to trust or be thankful.. He knows what He is doing and yes.. it hurts..yes we want it to stop. So as I grieve the loss of so many things that are never going to happen because it is too late.. and tomorrow as I enter the last year of my sixth decade here on earth.. I praise the Lord for all the suffering.. all the challenges and all the ways that He loves me enough to change me despite my resistance. I am not expecting 2017 to be an easy year.. none of them have been.. but I am expecting God to be working around me and in me.. I trust Him as much as I am capable of doing and rest in knowing that He is faithful even when we are not.
Happy New Year! May the Lord of Glory fill you to overflowing with His goodness and mercy.!!!
This afternoon I came across this post from a year ago today on Facebook. I read it and thought.. that is amazing it is more true for me now than it was then and I actually understand why I wrote in a much deeper way. So.. I thought I would post it again and share it with you.. the scripture on the bottom is the same one God gave me this morning. The post is titled ” God waits for us”
Throughout the years that I have been writing on this blog.. the theme of waiting has emerged over and over again. Waiting is difficult and we struggle with it as we move through this life. This morning I sensed the Lord showing me that He waits for us more than we realize.
Since He has a plan for our lives that is better than anything we could dream up or imagine..He has to wait for us to be willing to follow Him. We have our own plans and dreams and it is difficult for us to surrender those to Him. After all.. our plans will bring us happiness and security. We imagine ourselves with the things that will fulfill us and take away the emptiness. God is after more than that.
He imagines us whole and filled with joy.. He sees us as complete and fulfilled in Him. We look everywhere else..afraid that He is not going to be there for us.. that He may fail us or forget us. He waits patiently as we try to make our dreams come true. He watches us and cares for us as we resist His plan. He allows us to suffer and struggle.. knowing that eventually we will turn to Him.
He sees us.. He knows us.. He is with us and He is for us. We are His. He is the good shepherd who tenderly cares for each of his sheep. He seeks us when we are lost and cares for us when we are wounded. He waits for us to follow Him to safety. He leads us to green pastures and still waters. His love for us is unfailing and everlasting. He pursues us..holding out His Hands and asking us to trust Him in all things.. will we trust Him with hearts? Will we follow Him when the path is not clear.. and all we can see is the next step? He is waiting..
“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you…” ( Isaiah 30:18 KJV)
My last post was a month ago. I wrote on endurance because that was the word that God gave me and it was the process I was in.. learning to endure. I am still in this situation that requires endurance… and since I wrote about it, I experienced the need for it at a deeper level. That is often the way it is.. we can be aware of something that God is teaching us and before we know it.. we are forced to go deeper into the process. So what comes after endurance? I am not sure but my best guess is more endurance..perseverance..trust…faith…longing…doubting..hoping..returning to Him over and over again as things continue to be difficult.
The biggest challenge to me is my own negative thinking.. will God really come through? or will things continue to move in a bad direction.?. in reality sometimes things do get worse before they get better. In the past I have experienced that.. a period when it seems like all is lost and then suddenly God does something unexpected and changes things.. often this happens at what appears to be the last minute.. Who really understands God’s timing anyway? If you were to ask me about my circumstances.. I would say that the last minute has already happened. Apparently that is only my perception and not God’s. He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see and when we feel like we cannot continue.. He enables us to move ahead and to persevere.. in His strength, not our own. He is working deeply in our character.. making us more like Him and removing those things that prevent us from staying on the path.
All of this leads me to believe that we really don’t understand the ways of God. His plan is a mystery and so is His timing. We are to wait and pray and trust even when it seems like all is lost.. I have to admit that I used to think that my most difficult days were behind me.. that this season of my life would be easier than the things that happened when I was younger.. I know better now.. the word easy is not in the Bible and He does not promise us an easy life.. But we are promised an abundant life.. Now there is food for thought.. We are to live fully in the kingdom of God here knowing that someday we will see more clearly.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way in the Message:
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”…….. John 10:10
This is the word that the Lord gave me this morning as I sat down to write this post. I looked it up and here is what I found.
The fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
The ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina:
That definition fits.. the ability to continue or last despite weariness and stress.. I am experiencing that right now. God has chosen to leave me in a difficult situation for a long time. There have been many years of struggle.. things that I longed for have not happened yet. He has not rescued me, but He has provided for me during this season. His provision has been amazing and His blessings have been wonderful.. yet I am tired and longing for a rest.
His promise is not that we won’t have trouble but that He will be with us as we walk through our troubles. His gift to us is His spirit that strengthens us and fills us when we are broken and empty. He renews our strength and brings unexpected encouragement so we never forget His presence. I am so grateful for those amazing things that He does. Eventually He brings deliverance.. but how that will come and when is His business. So what are we to do in the meantime?
For me.. I only hear one thing” Be still and know that I am God.” These are His words..remember that He is our security and our sufficiency. We may not know anything about the future or make sense of our circumstances, but we can know that God is the same..He never changes.. He is faithful and He will keep all of His promises to us as we trust Him. I love this passage from 2 Chronicles chapter 20..
“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Help us all to remember these words Lord as we continue to faithfully follow you..
It is really springtime again.. I never feel quite sure until May appears..than I feel safe saying winter is over! We came back from a long weekend away this afternoon and as we looked up we saw beautiful fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky.. the fields along the highway were a vivid green dotted with patches of yellow wild mustard. I could see the Lord’s handiwork all around me.. it was very comforting. God’s love for us revealed in creation.
It was a weekend of reminders for me. We went to a very special wedding.. one that was full of amazing surprises.. I could see God’s fingerprints all over this union. He brought these two people together and it was clear that His love drew them to one another. He was transforming their lives and it flowed over each of us watching the ceremony…we stood in awe of His redeeming work. I had a similar experience at another family gathering last December.. as I looked around the room I could see how the hand of the Lord had been at work healing broken lives and relationships. His hand of redemption on our family.
God is at work even when we can’t see a single thing He is doing. Suddenly He allows us a glimpse into the lives He is restoring.. a glimpse of His healing touch. Spring is like that for me.. all winter long I wonder how I will make it through my least favorite season.. too many hours inside waiting for the weather to warm up… too many grey skies.. short days and long nights.. Suddenly the season changes and I realize He has been working in the dark.. behind the scenes.. getting things ready for the new things that He is going to reveal.. Spring is here.. winter is over.. Hope is renewed!