I’m focusing again on my word for this year ” Rest.” It is elusive.. hard to truly find in this world. When I think about resting, I envision a place where there is no pressure.. or stress and lots of time that is not filled with responsibilities. Definitely not life on earth, is it? No, while we are here we will have trouble.. that is what the Lord has said and He said it for a reason. We cannot escape the pressures of this life.. when one lets up another seems to take its place.
For me, I just want a season where it is less intense..some space to recover from all the changes of the last decade. I am asking God for this and hoping that He agrees. Meanwhile I am taking a couple of weeks to reflect on my life.. a practice that I totally believe in. It is helpful to look back and see what has happened..especially when you are weary. Instead of feeling condemned for feeling tired and worn out.. I can have grace for myself. It is absolutely OK to need ” rest.” I know this is counter intuitive when it comes to our busy culture. but God invented rest and rested Himself. It must be important.
So I am learning to ” rest” outwardly and inwardly. To trust God when I am too exhausted to accomplish anything.. to contribute..to make a difference. He understands my limitations and all the pressure comes from my own expectations.. not from His heart.
“And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”
“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” (George Mueller)
I was reading from Streams in the Desert this morning..a devotional that I highly recommend. The entry was written by George Mueller..so I decided to look him up. I’ve read about him in the past and to be honest, his faith was always overwhelming to me. Here was a man who literally fed thousands of orphans over his lifetime without ever soliciting money or getting into debt. He prayed and trusted God with a faith that was absolutely amazing.
Until very recently.. I felt fearful of that type of faith..would God expect me to trust him the way George did? Was I going to be put to the test when it came to my own faith? Would God come through like he did for this saint that lived in the 19th century. My attitude today has changed.. I want that type of faith. Yes.. I still feel afraid of what that means, but I am willing to walk with Him believing that He will provide in the same way that he did two centuries ago. He is the same God.
For the last ten years I have been wrestling with the idolatry that was in my family growing up.. the same one that is found here in our country and all over the world. Will we worship God or money?..We can’t worship both. In order to fully follow Him with hearts that are surrendered to His purposes we have to trust Him to provide for us and to bless us with enough to do all the things He has called us to do.
With the economic downturn, the Lord is enabling us to exercise faith and readjust ourselves to His priorities. I see the blessing in this process. My husband his been unemployed for almost a year..my own faith has been tested and I have wrestled with the Lord. Yet, I have seen him provide in so many unexpected ways..He is faithful.
I want to be like George Mueller and trust God for everything.. to pray without ceasing..knowing that He will come through at exactly the right time in the perfect way. There is only one way to grow in faith..it is to trust Him when we have no power to solve our own problems. To rely on Him when He is all we have.
That is what I experienced in the last couple days..God’s unchanging grace. We are going through an unexpected trial right now ( are they ever expected!) and I had a very bad day yesterday. I felt like the grace of God was not to be found..I was left with my own raw emotions. It was not a pretty picture. Old angry feelings emerged..scenes from the past haunted me..I could not find God. I felt so alone.
Thankfully I had the presence of mind to cry out and ask God for faith and encouragement..even though I was angry at Him for allowing these circumstances. Of course He was right there and even before I went to sleep I began to sense the grace again..the encouragement and the hope that I thought was lost.
This small experience was enough to remind me that I need Him every single moment and that there is no place to go during the trial except straight to Him..even with all the anger and unbelief. He does not change. His heart is the same and He is not at the mercy of His feelings..because His love for us is much deeper than anything we understand.
I woke up this morning with a scripture that God has given me over and over again..He gave it to us at our wedding and it is a promise that I hold on to with all my heart. I hope it brings encouragement to you today.. He is our redeemer and His promises are forever.
Here it is:
“The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the Lord your God, who does these miracles for you. Never again will my people be disgraced. Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced.”
This time of year brings up lots of memories.. It’s the holiday season that seems to be the trigger. We all have memories of the past..some more difficult than others. The past is part of us..we cannot change it.
I am reading a great book called “A Grace Revealed” by Gerald Sittser. I found a book written by him 13 years ago when I was widowed and drowning in a sea of grief. the book was called ” A Grief Disguised.” In this first book he shared about his journey through grief after losing his mother,wife, and daughter in a car accident. He and three other children survived. My loss seemed insignificant compared to what happened to him.
It has been over 20 years since that accident and he recently remarried. His children are grown now and he is able to look at what happened from a greater distance. There is a chapter in this new book called Redemptive memory. I want to share a quote with you..it is powerful.
“It starts with redemptive memory, which enables us to remember the past differently..not as an ideal to which we would like to return or as a regret we would like to reverse, but as one chapter in a larger redemptive story we can continue to live out in the present moment. God is in the past however ideal or horrible: He rules over the past, as it is, to work redemption. He makes all things serve His redemptive purpose. There is no Golden Age to which we must return, no hellish experience that consigns us to a lesser life. There is only one God writing His story, a story of redemption…Nothing is beyond the reach of God’s grace and power. We can therefore trust that God will use the past to work redemption in our lives, which frees us to trust Him and obey Him in the current circumstances of our lives.”
So take heart..your life story is part of God’s work on the earth. He is at work in your life today no matter what has happened in the past. He has written a larger story that is more wonderful than anything we can imagine..no one is left out.
God has promised us that He will deliver showers of blessings.. in His time. We are only in the parched land for so long..there will be a time when we see the clouds on the horizon and the rains will come. He will renew our strength and increase our faith as we wait.
I love the promises of God. They are the foundation that we stand on throughout our lives. His words bring encouragement and hope. Without those words, our journey would be much more difficult. ” Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” What a wonderful promise.. like water to a parched soul.
Words bring life..words are important..words remind us of His goodness. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Keep your eye on the horizon and soon you will see the tiny little cloud that comes before the rain.. the rain that will shower down blessings on your life..you will be flooded with the joy of the Lord as you receive all that He has prepared for you.
“I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.”
The love that God has for us is “true love.” We often refer to it as unconditional love. But do we really know how to receive it? Growing up in a family where there were unspoken conditions and God’s love was never mentioned.. I have struggled to embrace this love that He offers. Without realizing how deep it has gone, I have always performed for Him.
In some way.. I am re-creating the same dynamics that existed in my childhood. My parents were very successful, both held doctorates and earned quite a bit of money. They were intelligent intellectuals.. thinkers. I was not and knew I could never be what they were. So.. I was the “perfect” daughter.. the one that excelled in school and tried never to bring them any pain.
Once I began to follow God and nurture a relationship with Him, the same pattern emerged. I worked in ministry, tried to be a perfect mom and wife, keep the house just right and basically performed for Him. The ministry experiences were messy and so was our home. I married an addict and was far from the perfect Mom.
God’s love was such a mystery to me.. I think deep down I felt that I had to keep performing or He would soon give up on me. I raised the bar higher and higher until I almost collapsed..
God has me in a healing season..helping me to receive the “true love” that only He can deliver. I can’t perform the way I once did.. I am beginning to realize that this is a blessing for me. I know now that I may never “do” some of the things I dreamed I would do. God is OK with that.. in fact He is behind that whole idea. I can almost hear Him saying ” I love you with an everlasting love.. I created you and my love for you is not based on anything you ever say or do”
“God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!”
I have been experiencing many of these in the last year or so. Here’s what it looks like. I have a deep longing to move forward..to do something new..to follow God in a greater way. The next thing I know I get a glimpse of what this might look like and I begin walking toward what looks like a new destination. On the way to that place I start to realize that something is wrong. My passion and vision begin to fade and I know that it is another false start..I stop and wonder why it keeps happening.
Yesterday God began to shine His light into this process. He showed me that all my intentions were good..that the ideas were good and that my desire was good. So what was going wrong? Have you figured it out yet? Suddenly I knew what I was doing..trying to find my own way..directing my own steps..relying on my ideas and plans. He intervened to remind me that this is not the abundant life. My plans are not bad..they are not sinful..they are not evil..they are not the same as His. Don’t miss that last sentence. We can settle for something good when God has something absolutely better for us if we wait.
All of these reminders add up to one thing. We live in His kingdom by waiting on Him..living fully in the present and trusting Him to unfold His perfect plan for us. It sounds simple but it is truly challenging..especially in a world that continually reinforces the idea that we are masters of our own destiny. I want the absolute best that God has to offer and if that means waiting and waiting and waiting than so be it. His ways are deeper and richer than anything I could ever dream up in my most creative moments. After all He is the one who set the heavens in place and He is the one who created us in His image. He is our rescuer and our deliver..His grace is beyond measure.
“God has made everthing beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so , people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
That’s where we are..being held by Him. It doesn’t always feel like that..we forget it..or maybe we don’t believe it. God could not be that focused on me..He is so big and there are so many of us..yes it is unbelievable. He is able to know each of us intimately and to remember the details of our lives individually..how is that possible? We will never truly understand..it is part of the mystery. He is infinite and we are finite.
He is our creator..provider..refuge..sanctuary..father..mother..friend…our safe place. There is so much that we cannot comprehend..God is not in a box..He is larger than our imaginations. We try so hard to interpret and understand Him..in reality we see “through a glass darkly.” The holiness of God..the trinity..His sovereignty..omniscence..providence..all of it is amazing and we must live in the tension of not fully comprehending our God.
He never promises us full understanding. He tells us to live a life of faith..based on believing what He tells us and knowing He is for us. Our human minds can be like a plague..always analyzing and trying to guess His next move. His ways are not our ways..do we really get that? We can make idols of our ideas and interpretations..He breaks through those to reveal Himself as different from any of these preconceived ideas.
One thing we can know is His heart..it is for us. We are His. We belong to Him. He loves us and He pours out His grace into our lives. He is sufficient. We are in the palm of His hand.
” See! I will not forget you… I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”
This is a question I need to keep asking myself. As we go through the motions of daily life..what really matters? Our culture says accomplishing things matters..the church says serving matters. Where do we go to find the answer? To God. He says He really matters..His ways..His plans..His direction for our lives..His truth..His larger story..His promises..His character..these are really matter.
This is absolutely essential to us as believers. We can always find something to do..someone to care for..a mission..a cause..a job. Yet..it is all meaningless unless God is in it with us. How do we know if He is? We have to pray and wait..yes wait..waiting is the key..seeking and waiting and asking. It is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural to wait. All around us we are hear the message of our society..get going..move on.. hurry up..do more..don’t waste another minute..time is short..now..now..now. The drum is beating faster and faster..messages are flying around the world from one electronic device to another.
God says “wait on me..trust me..remember me..look for me..cling to me..slow down..make time for me.” A totally different message. He wants to interrupt our lives with His grace..His love and His encouragement. He wants to teach us about Himself. His heart longs for more of us and we are the ones that need more of Him! Let’s agree to grapple with this together..to start waking up each morning and asking ourselves ” what really matters?” listening for the voice of God.
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”
Some of us have trouble with this. We find it easier to give than receive..you always hear people say that it is better to give than receive…yet receiving is very important. Everything we experience from God has to do with this..He is continually giving to us..giving freely..giving extravagantly. We need to know how to receive all that He has for us if we are going to live life with Him and for Him.
For me..it all has to do with grace. His amazing grace that is poured out to us..His followers..His people..His children. He gives us Himself over and over..He also gives us gifts. We may overlook them because they are disguised as trials. We find ourselves in a difficult circumstance and we wonder how things will ever work out. We are taken by surprise..unprepared..suddenly everything is moving in a new direction. God has changed our course.
He is looking out for us..protecting us..standing in the gap for us..catching us. His gifts for us may come in unusual packages. We don’t recognize them and wonder if He really has our best interest at heart. He is teaching us to trust Him..to receive from Him the way He chooses to give to us. He is guiding us on the path of life..helping us recognize His fingerprints every time we are caught by surprise.
The best response to a difficult circumstance may be ” I wonder what God is up to?” It helps us focus on His goodness and His sovereignty..to trust His timing and to remember His faithfulness. It prepares us to receive all that He has for us !
“For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”