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..
This morning I saw a picture of what life has been like lately and I wanted to share it with you. Life has been like being at sea in the middle of a storm. Like all storms, there are moments when the sea is still and moments when the waves threaten to rise up and sink the boat..and everyone on it. This image reminds me of the story in the Bible where Jesus calls Peter to walk on the water.
We all have times when we have to keep our focus.. no matter how threatening our circumstances become. The key for us is the same as it was for Peter.. Keep your eyes on the Lord and don’t be afraid. It is critical that we continue to look to Him even when the giant waves come down and break over our heads. On the calm days when the storm seems to be still..we need to breathe and thank Him for His goodness and for the reprieve.
He is our stability in the storm.. our rock and the one who is in control.. the storms cannot happen without His permission and He knows when it is time for it to move past us and time to restore the still waters. Remember the end of this passage? Jesus reached out his hand to Peter and together they climbed into the boat! Then those in the boat worshiped Him.
Lord.. you are the one who reaches for us as we lose faith and begin to fall. Our eyes are on you as you steady us and bring us safely into the boat. We need you Lord and we worship you..
If you’ve been reading my blog.. you know that my passion in life is to see God bring healing to His people. As a counselor.. there is nothing more important to me than being a part of this deep work that He is doing through the Holy Spirit. For the last year I’ve been in a season of grief and healing..yes the two often go together. When we grieve God has an opportunity to go deep into our hearts and bring up things that we might never look at under other circumstances. I would go so far as to say that without grief, the healing really isn’t complete.
When God opens a wound from the past.. there are emotions that become jarred loose and we find ourselves face to face with our losses. Every life is full of them. The older we get, the more losses we experience..it is inevitable. I have some very deep wounds from the 25 years I spent in an abusive marriage. When it was over, 14 years ago, I began to grieve and unravel my past. Recently God has been excavating some remaining emotions from that time.
He is going deep into the recesses of my heart and pulling out old memories and the feelings that are connected to them. It is a painful process and even more so since so much of it is happening in the middle of the night. I imagine because it is a time when I am quiet and not busy with life. So I am sleep deprived but looking forward to the fruit that is going to come from this season of healing. As I work with my counseling clients.. I am constantly reminded by the Lord that I am only His instrument and their healing comes from His hand.
“The wounded healer is a phenomenon that occurs between the healer and the one receiving the healing. Psychologist Carl Jung used the phrase to describe experiences in the relationship between the counselor and their patient, where the counselor would examine themselves and experience depths of their own pain, in order to probe, understand, and heal the pain of their patient. Jung expressed that the experience was entirely necessary to the healing process, as well as warned of its many dangers.”
Jesus is our wounded healer..the one who enables us to become the same for those He brings into our path.
Remember when Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well? I’m sure you know that passage in the gospel of John. He is at the well with this woman and he asks her for a drink of water. She’s surprised by his question since the Jews did not associate with Samaritans. He is not bothered by that and continues to speak with her. He captures her attention and offers her something much better than a cup of water. He says to her “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
I love this scene. Living water is such a rich image. Our hearts hunger for more.. just as hers did. She was tired of her life and her mistakes and her emptiness and He offered her the water of life. He spoke to her with love and compassion.. pouring the balm of Gilead on her wounds. Our God offers us this same living water.. He longs to fill us to overflowing. He meets us in our dry season with a fresh glass of that living water. He has a pitcher that is always full and if we need to drink and drink and drink.. He will provide all that we need.
All we can do is come to that fountain of life with empty cups and admit our need. To fall down in a heap and cry out for relief. He waits to meet us.. to saturate our souls with the real thing that comes straight from His heart to our weary soul. Fill us up Lord, we need you.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
It’s really the bigger picture. Since I am a big picture person, my heart longs for this. I’m always looking for patterns and signs that more is going on than what meets the eye. God never fails to give me what I am longing for. He is more than willing to expand our vision..to reveal things that we could never see without Him.
A key for me is being alone and being quiet. Sometimes I wake up at night and suddenly I see a situation in a new way. God is always looking for those windows in our lives that will allow Him to communicate truth to us. Our world is addicted to activity..God is not. If you look at the gospels, Jesus often found solitary places away from the crowds..time to receive from His Father. He modeled something important for us..something very counter-cultural.
The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts in a quiet voice..it doesn’t take much to miss it. At the same time He is eager to reach us..it doesn’t take much to receive from Him. Setting aside time.. with no agenda..no preconceived ideas.. an open heart..a quiet place..a willingness to wait. Try this on a regular basis and you will be surprised at how much bigger the story gets. It is an antidote to worry and anxiety. Our small stories are often filled with fear and unhappy endings. His story is filled with good desires, hope, promises, and an amazing ending!
“With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.”
That is what God has been saying to me..not in a harsh way..but in a firm way. Stay where you are and face the circumstances that you are in. Stop wishing everything would change. It seems that He knows exactly why I am in these particular circumstances and He is using them to shape me..to strengthen me..to prepare me..to make me more like Him.
My reaction to stressful times is the desire to escape..to dream of flying away to a tropical paradise where there is no pressure and no responsibility. I started dreaming about escaping as a child.. when I was unhappy at home. There were real reasons for my unhappiness..but no one told me that God was with me..so I struggled to make sense of the things that happened. Everything is different now.
I no longer live in that home..I love my life. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. Relationships are messy.. we are all complicated and each one of us has baggage. It takes courage to stay in the game..it would be easier to withdraw..to become monks..to spend all our time alone with God. That is not His plan or His way. When Jesus was here.. on earth..He spent most of his time with people..hurting people. He did take time away to recharge..we need this to. Then He returned to those who needed His touch.
The message for me is very simple..keep going..realize that the very things we face everyday are there for a purpose and a reason. God is not punishing us..abandoning us, or forgetting us. He is with us…teaching us..molding us, and caring for us.
” Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength..they will soar on wings like eagles!”
Some of us are experiencing this right now. It is always on the rise during the holiday season. At the very time of the year when we are expected to be enjoying ourselves..there is a flip side. Our struggles have not ceased..our pain is not eliminated by the holiday lights. We cannot escape our lives by overspending or overeating. We are human and our lives are not perfect..relationships are still challenging in December..there is death, loss, and illness in December. Life is life.
We are drawn into the Christmas drama this month..remembering the birth of Jesus. The nativity scene is portrayed in churches around the world. Is our view of it accurate? Not really. Mary and Joseph had nowhere to turn..she was a teenage girl pregnant under suspicious circumstances. They were not surrounded by friends and supportive family members. The baby was born in a stable..not a glamorous birthplace. There is no record of the birth. Was it long and drawn out? Did Joseph wonder if Mary was going to die.. would the baby be healthy? It is safe to assume they endured hours of uncertainty and pain. Did they wonder.. “Is God with us?”
They were people like we are and I am sure they did not go through this time perfectly. Their hearts were heavy..they grappled with fear and anxiety. Just like us they questioned Him and prayed for a safe and easy delivery. The event that we celebrate was a real time in the lives of real people. The birth of Jesus was surrounded by uncertainty and insecurity that required this famous couple to trust in their God.
Are you struggling with fear and uncertainty right now? Depression? Anxiety? You are not alone. We are all facing it in one way or another. Let’s remember how things turned out in that manger. God was with them as He is with us today. That amazing moment in history changed the world and our lives. He will meet you and take your hand and hold you as you trust Him. He is our God and He is faithful.
Remember Mary’s song
” Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl. and from now on all generations will call me blessed!”