If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..
So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us. The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.
I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.
Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..
Today is the second day of September and we are having a big heat wave here in the bay area. I know it has happened before, but it is rare for us to get temperatures over 100 all over the area. We are spoiled because of the temperate climate here.. very few extremes. It is easy to be comfortable in this area since our lifestyle allows us to see so much beauty and we rarely face disasters like they are facing right now in Texas. The flooding we have been watching all week is a reminder that things can change in an instant. No matter how much we try to be in control of our lives, we are not able to predict the future. It seems to me that the Lord continues to remind us of His sovereignty through natural disasters and personal tragedies.
More and more of my conversations seem to center around trials and tests that people are facing. Even here in our county.. things are changing. With so many people moving to the bay area over the last 10 years.. our highways are crowded and there is litter everywhere. Our quiet protected area is not so quiet or protected. People are struggling here with finances, health, and family problems. In order to live here.. there are not enough jobs and the housing situation is unbelievable.. who can afford to be here? I know we can’t.. but God has us here and He continues to confirm that. Our family is here and we support one another. My husband has lived here since he was born and I have been in this area for 50 years.. Yes we are getting older every day:) Many of our friends are gone, they have either moved away or passed away.. it is a bit lonely at times. Aging is challenging in a youth oriented culture and unfortunately the church is the same way. We have found ourselves feeling left behind and in some cases cast aside.
The good news is that these experiences do not define us. Our identity is in the Lord and He continues to affirm our worth and value. Because of the challenges we face.. I am more confident that it is not what I do, or who I know or what people think that defines me. I am His and that is what matters. Our circumstances continually change.. tomorrow it could be snowing here and Texas may experience a heat wave that dries up the land quickly. Tomorrow could bring a scary diagnosis for us or someone we love.. or tomorrow someone may be healed right in front of us.. reminding us of who is in control.. every day.. every single hour. We are not alone or forgotten..we are never abandoned or cast off. He remembers us.. comforts us.. holds us as we lean into Him in these times.
Father.. I pray for everyone reading this that they may experience more of you as this day unfolds. I pray for your spirit to be poured out on us as we cling to you in these trying times. We long to draw closer to your heart.. teach us how to do that.. protect us and guide us each day as we trust you.
The last few weeks have been a great reminder of the way God works in our lives. We often wait for things hoping that what we long for will happen. I am a great believer in “longing’. After all it is our longing that draws us near to the Lord and it was His longing for us that led to creation and all that followed. So..as we long for things..we may start to hear things that bring discouragement. We may believe that God has said no.. when in truth He has not. We may find ourselves tested.. when nothing is happening or even worse when things are all happening in the wrong way.. do we trust God? In my life I have seen this testing happen over and over again.. as though the enemy works overtime to bring discouragement while the Lord is working behind the scenes on our behalf. We have to make some pretty important choices.
Will we trust in the goodness of God when everything around us says that is not true? Will we believe that He knows the desire of our hearts when everything is taking way too long? Can we walk in faith when we have no sight? I believe the answer to all of these questions needs to be yes. If we are followers then we follow in His steps no matter what our circumstances and we trust that Romans 8:28 is true every single day of our lives. The older I get the more I have the more memories I have of God’s sovereignty over every difficult circumstance and the easier it is to believe that He will continue to provide and deliver as I wait on Him and do not give up.. That in itself is a huge!
I am thinking of you as I write this.. wondering if you are struggling the same way I do when I cannot see ahead… the uncertainty causes anxiety and worry. I doubt if I will ever totally overcome in this area, but I have memories and that is helping. I remember learning how people often give up right before the blessing.. so I won’t give up. I remember how the Bible talks about perseverance and how there are so many examples of God coming through at the last minute and rescuing His people. I have many memories of that in my own life..He has been there for me over and over again. So I want this post to bring you hope..we cannot live without hope and we cannot live the abundant life without our God. Trust in Him.. wait on Him..remind yourself of every single time He has come for you and know that He will do that again and again.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
My blog is 7 years old today. I remember when I started it.. I really did not know what a blog was or if I could write anything that people would want to read. So here we are way down the road.. and I am still writing.. and there are some of you who benefit from what I share.. I am thankful to the Lord for providing me with the words and ideas for the last 7 years.
The month of March is significant in many ways.. my dad died 10 years ago this month and I got married on March 30th..15 years ago.. to the love of my life after waiting many years to meet him:) God is so good. My son-in-law’s birthday in March as well. It is a significant time for me.. endings and new beginnings. They always go together.. often things need to end so that new things can begin and it can be painful while it is happening. Steve and I are in a new season right now and the transition has been challenging. After 7 years of job disappointments for both of us and a long period of unemployment.. we are finally in a more stable place. The things I hoped for during that time have not happened.. but God has been sovereign over all of it. He has taken care of us and provided for us during this long pruning season. I look forward to the fruit that will come from this time.
The road of life is unpredictable and uncertain.. we hope for stability and the ability to see way down the road and know we will be safe.. that is natural for us. The truth is this life is not going to provide that.. our certainty and safety is only in the Lord.. not in our circumstances. He leads us and we follow.. knowing that He is ahead preparing things is very reassuring… we are in His hands and He will never forget us. In our world that is shaking daily.. where all the news is bad and frightening.. we have our God and our real life is in His kingdom.. Someday we will experience it fully and the things of this world will fade away.. Right now we can only live a day at a time.. or maybe an hour at a time.. trusting that He is with us and for us!
” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
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..
Remembering the important things…I consider it an essential part of the life of a Believer. It is related to reflecting but more intentional.. When I am feeling insecure and fearful there is nothing that helps me more than remembering the goodness of God. We all have history with Him. If we sit down and allow ourselves to look back on all the times He has rescued us.. all the ways He has surprised us.. all the important moments in life when suddenly God was present with us.. in trials and in joyful times. Lately I have been taking the time to remember.. probably because yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the day I met my husband. I often tell the story of how it happened.. people enjoy hearing it and I love telling it. It is a reminder of how God orchestrates things perfectly and how He has a plan unfolding.
In reality we can never know the future.. but sometimes we are able to plan and look ahead.. other times we cannot make plans and looking ahead can feel like falling off the edge of a cliff. These are times to reflect on the past.. remember when you felt like you could not go another step? You made it through and even though it seemed impossible you are here and life continues to unfold one day at a time. God’s faithfulness shines through as we step back and look at the bigger picture of our lives. He was present with us at every critical juncture.. He has stepped in repeatedly to save us from harm .. we may not even be aware of His protection over our lives.. He picks up the pieces and makes beautiful things that are beyond our wildest imagination. I have seen this in my life and I know He is at work in yours doing the exact same thing.
Do you have some time to be still.. to remember? I hope so because life is too short to just keep pushing forward. We need to stop and reflect.. to find a quiet place to look at all He has done and to be encouraged that He has not changed and He will continue to come for us and be in the midst of all the hard things we may be facing. God’s love for us is our safe haven in these times.. we need to take refuge in Him.. knowing that He will never fail us.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17)
As a result of my commitment to Lent, I have been doing more Bible reading than I was doing previously. I have a plan that I am following so that is helping. As I read everyday and do a little art in my Lent journal.. God is revealing things to me. I sense that He is answering questions that I did not realize I had..opening up scripture in new ways. This should hardly be news to me since I have been a Bible reader for the last 38 years, but there have been seasons where I could not open it up and I felt dried up and lost. This short season has changed all that.. my spirit is being renewed by focusing on the Lord, His word, my art and desiring to change some bad habits and patterns that keep me from trusting Him fully. My faith feels stronger.. I have more hope and there are some answers to prayer that I believe are coming.
One of the passages that God used during this last week, was from the last chapter of John.. you know the one, where Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection and says ” Come and have breakfast.” I have always enjoyed the down to earth flavor of that passage. He fried fish for them.. no sermon.. just food and fellowship. In this same chapter He asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Peter gets a little annoyed but says yes every time. What is this all about? Some people see it linked to Peter’s denial of Jesus.. since that happened three times. I can see that possibility, but I see much more. Jesus answered Peter three times.. He told Peter to feed His lambs, take care of His sheep and feed His sheep. Some translations say tend or shepherd my sheep. What does this mean? For me it means that if I love the Lord I am going to care for, encourage, and comfort His people. There can be no excuse for not doing this including disillusionment, cynicism, and old wounds. It was a word I needed to hear. Anyone who attends church and interacts with other believers long enough will have reasons for pulling away and licking their wounds. Yet if I am understanding this passage correctly, we don’t have that option. “IF YOU LOVE ME…Feed my sheep!” Wow.. I got it Lord and thanks for making it so clear:)
So grateful for a God that reveals Himself through the scriptures and that cares enough about us to communicate with each one of His sheep in a personal way.