Life is a journey. Over the years, I learned that a journey isn’t the same during each part of the journey. There are highs and lows, good times and bad times. There are moments of rejoicing, and moments of sorrow and tears. When one sets out on a journey, so often the sojourner thinks the steps have been set, the days are fixed, and there is a great picture of what will result at the end of the journey. Consider a trip to an amusement park. You know stops along the way for refreshments and bathroom visits are likely. You know that fun will be had with rides and games. You may even have an itinerary in place. In the end, you know you will leave with a collection of photos, overly hyper children overcome by sugar and fast food, and perhaps a slight case of dehydration from the heat of a sunny day.
Life isn’t like that though. No matter how much you plan, how much you think that the steps have been set in place, that the days are fixed, life does not come all beautifully packaged. Yes, each of your days is written in the Book. Yes, all of your tears are caught in His bottle. Yes, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Yes, there is a narrow path that few will choose. Yes, there is an end to the journey which culminates with the New Heaven and New Earth as we worship our King. But the journey—the journey is a journey of faith. And when you step forth in faith, you can only cling to the promises of God, lay everything down before Him, and trust that when the journey gets difficult, when the road gets hard, when people turn their backs, when eyes are opened, when jobs are lost, when health deteriorates, when the puzzle isn’t coming together like the picture on the box—that God is Sovereign, that God has everything beautifully orchestrated, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand.
As I sit here today, in the middle of turbulent part of my journey in life, I can certainly say that my mom never warned me of these days. There are days no one can prepare you for except for a life long journey filled with experiences—a journey filled with triumph and loss, pain and suffering, truth and lies. The scars of life, they sometimes feel as if they cover us completely—as if they will have the last say. But it is in the ashes, that we are reminded of God’s love for His children. We are reminded of the price that was paid. We are reminded that we will rise—that even when the days of this journey can be hard, and dark, and painful—that even when these days come—that God, in His infinite wisdom and His unfailing love, has victory. He has overcome. Now in Him, in Him we are washed. In Him, we find peace. In Him, we are made new. Over and over again. And one day, one day when our Lord returns, all will bow and confess, all will see His glory, and all things will be new.
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23 [ESV]
“Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24 [CSB]
March 7. Here it is again. I am sure I am not the only one with a day. A day is only a day in your eyes. As the world sees the day, it is very different from your vantagepoint. A day is filled with scars, with unanswered questions, with tragedy, with depth, with decisions, with memories that don’t quite add up. Today is my day.
When this day first became my day, it was a moment when my life forever changed. I had such dreams of what could be in my life; however, I found that life isn’t a Hallmark movie and what I had hoped would be my prayers answered and my white picket fence and my happily ever after became something different—something raw, uncontrollable, unsatisfactory to my plans. It was a day that began a long journey trying to process what was truth, what was the new normal, and what fears needed to be overcome to navigate the new waters. It took years to heal many of the scars, some of which went unnoticed for a long period of time. It required me to let God into the broken areas, to freely move, to reveal to me things I never wanted to see—so that He could repair—so that He could make new.
This was 2004. Every year since, I have celebrated this day. I rejoiced this day not because of what was lost and because of what I so desperately wanted to be truth back then. I rejoiced this day not because I lost my white picket fence and had to face reality. I rejoice because through the years I have been blessed to see God move again and again for my family. I have seen Him move mountains in my life. I have seen Him part waters when there was not a way to pass. He has provided me strength, comfort, and He has protected and provided for my family at every turn.
Today it was hard to celebrate. As I drove to the office knowing that this day was again another end to a season, I cried out the Lord. The brokenness and heartache that I felt back in 2004, has long since faded. I am not that same person. And the pain I felt that day is very different than the pain of today. It was strange as I was on my morning drive to consider that God knew even back in 2004, what would happen today. He knew when I was putting my hand to the plow, that this day would come.
But this day was different. In 2004, I didn’t have a real choice of anything. I had to get up off the floor, dust myself off, and press onward. It was either that or wallow for a time. But this day was a choice, a step forward that I have taken even knowing some of the brokenness that would follow. Sometimes we can see truth and we know it is truth, but we don’t want to receive it and be bold in faith. Sometimes we see truth but ask why God won’t change things so the truth could be different. Sometimes we are faced with the option of trusting God, stepping forward, letting go, and trusting that out of the brokenness He is still making all things new.
As I neared the office, and continued to seek comfort in Him, knowing that after today, so much of what was a huge part of my life is going to be changed, even seeing glimpses of those changes these past few weeks, Lauren Daigle’s song “Trust in You,” began to play. The lyrics reminded me of the battles over the years, reminded me of how things often make little sense when I’m faced with a road to take. It was in that car ride to work that I could continue to do what I’ve done each year on March 7th—celebrate Him! Not everyone will understand what I feel on this day. Not everyone will know all the hours of prayer leading up to this day. Not everyone will be excited for this day.
Even still, I rejoice. I rejoice in knowing that God is still God. I rejoice in knowing that He has a great plan, beautifully orchestrated. I rejoice in knowing that He is still Lord of my life, my Savior and King. I rejoice in knowing that He will still see me through these murky waters. Long ago, He gave me this calling to preach His Word. Following in faithful obedience to this calling led me up to this very day, and this very decision. As 1 Timothy 4:16 says, I must keep watch on my life and keep watch on my teaching and then in doing these things, may the hearers be saved. May I continue to be faithful to His calling upon my life. The Word will go out as He leads!
As this day, March 7thslowly ends, I question my verse for this season. The verse, 1 Chronicles 4:10, speaks of blessing and enlarging the ministry—praying that there would be no pain or harm allowed. None of these words make sense to me today. This doesn’t seem like the season I’m currently navigating; it seems like polar opposite. But so often, we do not know what He has planned. That is why it is called faith.
This is not a devotion. This is not a sermon. This is not a Bible study. This is not a poem. This is my day. This is my heart. This is my reality. May this testimony point to the One who is greater than I, to a Father who has never left my side, a Savior who paid something I could never pay, the Spirit who continues to reveal to me that I have a lot of growing yet needed.
Look to Him. Draw near to Him and watch how everything changes!
Advent Week 1 – My Redeemer Lives: A Painful Providence – 12-3-17
INTRO: Holiday season is often a time of…. Pain / Suffering / Grief / Loneliness
PROVIDENCE: “To provide” – God directs all things toward His purpose—God is preserving and governing all things
RUTH – MY REDEEMER LIVES
Advent – the Coming of Jesus… Through RUTH, we can be reminded… a baby is coming through Ruth’s suffering that will lead to Jesus Christ Who will redeem the world!
We all can relate to Ruth and Naomi, to their loss, their pain… and we can be reminded of the hope and the joy that comes from Jesus alone!
During Advent, let us celebrate the birth of our Savior and boldly declare to everyone – My Redeemer Lives!
SUFFERING OF RUTH
Ruth 1:13… The Lord’s hand turned against me
Ruth 1:20-21….. the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty….. the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?
Was she really full?
YOU HAVE NO FULLNESS APART FROM GOD
Elimelech name means “My God is King,” yet they didn’t live like He is King. Left Bethlehem (“House of Bread”) during famine.
Matthew 2:6 – And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.” [HCSB]
Ephesians 3:19– May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. [NLT]
Colossians 1:17– He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [NIV]
Hebrews 1:3– And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. [NASB]
YOU ARE NEVER OUTSIDE OF THE CARE OF GOD
Matthew 10:29– Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. [NIV]
Proverbs 19:21– Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. [ESV]
Ephesians 1:11– In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose ofHim who works all things according to the counsel of His will [ESV]
YOUR “BAD” IS USED FOR GOOD
Acts 4:27-28– For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place. [HCSB]
We see that most evil act of all – killing Jesus on the Cross – is most loving act of God
Romans 8:28– And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [ESV]
YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETURN TO GOD
Ruth and Naomi respond to the painful providence by seeking refuge in God
Acts 17:26-28– From one man He created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him–though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist.As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ [NLT]
Jesus will meet you where you are!
C.S. Lewis (Problem of Pain) said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Only through pain in Christ will pain have purpose
Psalm 119:25– My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your word! [ESV]
Psalm 63:8– My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. [ESV]
Romans 11:36– For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. [NIV]
Suffering is never on our to-do list. We don’t leave our homes in the morning saying, “I really hope I suffer today.” We are not looking for opportunities to suffer. We run from suffering and when we undergo suffering, it is painful and we usually appreciate when it ends.
Paul writes of the privilege of suffering. The privilege of suffering. This is a phrase that sounds like an oxymoron, but if you are in Christ, then you realize that Christ Jesus promises suffering would come. As His representatives, it’s guaranteed. It’s going to happen. It is a privilege because He has allowed us to be His representatives. It is a privilege because in the suffering we grow deeper in Christ. We grow in our love of God and others. We grow in our revelation of God.
Today, in whatever comes your way, embrace suffering. Thank God for the opportunity. Remember, it is a privilege.
“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” – Philippians 1:29 [NLT]
Suffering is not fun, hence the reason it is called suffering. Suffering is when you are undergoing pain or hardship. It’s surely not fun. But Peter tells us to “be very glad.” Throughout the Bible we read that we should rejoice in our suffering. When we are insulted because of the name of Jesus, we are considered blessed (v. 14).
When we suffer, Peter says we are “partners with Christ in His suffering.” As we press forward, we are reminded that we “should serve with the strength God supplies” (v. 11 NIV). We shouldn’t be surprised when we have fiery trials (v. 12). Jesus told us it was guaranteed (John 15:20).
Paul told Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). Continue to live a godly life in Jesus. Rest in the confidence that comes from living in the Lord, and remember that blessed is he who is persecuted. One day, we “will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.” Eternity we will have with Him.
“Instead, be very glad–for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.” – 1 Peter 4:13 [NLT]
Does God ever give you more than you can handle? That is something people debate often. Many times I hear that God will never give you more than you can handle. This is often said when we are going through something tough in life like a loss of loved one, a painful illness, or an employment layoff. As we suffer and look to friends with our tear-stained faces, we hear the somewhat comforting words, “God never gives us more than we can handle. You’ll get through this.”
When I hear these words, I consider 2 Corinthians 1:8, where it says that the people were “crushed and overwhelmed beyond… ability to endure.” They were suffering. They believed they would not live through it. I consider Job, who lost it all—family, financial resources, health. Could you handle this? Would this be more than you could handle? I know some were not able to make it through. I know some who could not take it anymore. Why do we think we should be able to face all of this, that we can handle anything thrown our way? It is not that easy. We shortchange ourselves believing it is that easy. Instead, cling to the Father.
The Bible does not say that God will not give you more than you can handle. The truth is this world is a dark place and you may find yourself drowning and unable to cope. What the Bible does says is that God “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” In 1 Corinthians, it says that God “will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This is talking about temptation, not about pain and suffering. This is saying that when we are tempted, there’s always a way to not succumb to the temptation. We saw this demonstrated. While Jesus was in the Wilderness, He responded with the Word of God when faced with each temptation.
Today, you may be facing something very difficult. You may not think you can make it through it. Whether it is too much to handle or just getting the best of you, know that you have a Heavenly Father Who is the Comforter. Cling to Him. Remind yourself of His promises. Surround yourself with those strong in the faith and be in continuous prayer. This great burden is temporary my friends.
“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.” – 2 Corinthians 1:8 [NLT]
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 [ESV]
Yesterday I attended a family picnic and I got ketchup in my hair. My uncle made me a cheeseburger and I topped it with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup. The wind was crazy. I believe what happened was ketchup dripped to my plate and the plate flew into my hair. I remember having to catch it a few times. When that ketchup was in my hair, I could not stop messing with my hair. It became my primary focus. I wanted so badly to get it out of my hair, though I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there I would have been none the wiser.
When we have problems in life we do the same thing too often. We know about the problem and we focus on the problem. We continue to think about the problem. We continue to consider the need to fix the problem. It almost becomes an obsession. If the problem is small, we spend our time figuring out how we will resolve the issue. If it is a bigger issue or something we do not have the means to fix alone, we continue to look at the problem as an impossible hurdle and depression sets in soon after. Sometimes we make ourselves sick as we continue to fixate on our current circumstances.
Just as I should not have been so focused on the ketchup in my hair (it was only a little ketchup and there is a thing called shampoo), we cannot be problem focused. We have a God Who is a God of the impossible. Our focus, whether we have no pressing problems or we are buried knee deep in problems, should always be on God. When He is our focus, when He is first in our life, then our circumstances, our struggles, our problems won’t control us, depress us, or weaken us. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” Do you know what is so awesome about that verse? The word keep is “natsar” which means “to watch” or “guard.” The word for peace is “Shalom,” which means “completeness” or “peace.” The word for perfect is also “Shalom.” This verse says if we are fixed on God, if we trust in Him, we will be kept (watched, guarded) so that we are in completeness and peace.
I will admit I am forgetful. As a crutch, I use my Google calendar to remind me of everything both at work and at home. I make a grocery list to remember what food to buy, and then cannot even remember the list. I kept losing my prayer lists; my prayer list is now on my phone. If I don’t write something down, it is likely it will be lost in my memory bank. I would not call it a memory bank – it’s more like a black hole.
This morning while I was on the usual walk with my dogs, I soon realized as we changed directions that I forgot my sunglasses. The whole way home I was squinting because my oversensitive eyes could not face the beautiful morning light. I even grumbled a bit considering the headache that might follow as a result. All because I forgot my sunglasses.
What a surprise when I got home only to realize my sunglasses were in my pocket. I had my sunglasses the entire time!! The sunglasses I own are magnetic and when I grabbed for my keys, they unbeknownst to me followed along. I spent all that time wishing for the solution, when it was right with me. Sadly, that is how many of us are in life from time to time. God has the answer but we look elsewhere. God has provided what is needed but we are too blind to see (2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19). God has a perfect plan but we only see the struggles, the pain, the heartache. God is with us through it all but we so often feel alone (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5). My friends, let us open our eyes. Let us look at what He has blessed us with and embrace what He has for us. Let us remind ourselves of what He has done, what He has said He will do, Who He is, and His promise to never leave. We each have all we need to accomplish what God has called us to do in life!
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” – Psalm 33:4-5 [NIV]
Tonight as I walked the dogs, I proceeded down a street I walk every day. As I continued forward, I heard the sound of a drill sergeant from what I imagined. I couldn’t make out the words because it was in the distance, but I envisioned the scenes I had seen again and again in movies. When I got closer, I noticed the all-familiar face of a soldier I spoke to in passing many times.
As this soldier sat on his porch swing, he looked forward, staring at the flags before him—the American flag and the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread On Me”). He shouted orders as he stared until he saw the dogs and I approaching. Then he apologized and confided that he got papers today—a red one and a white one. These papers are not what you are probably thinking; they were divorce papers. We spoke for a bit. He was somewhat incoherent. My dog was getting antsy due to an approaching dog so I told him to “hang in there” and continued walking. He returned to his shouting. I felt great sadness.
I ended up crossing the street and passing by again. We again spoke briefly. I told him to “take care.” I started praying for him as I journeyed onward. A short distance ahead were police—two police officers speaking with a neighbor. In little time they made their way up to this man. I continued to pray as sorrow began to weigh me down. Why did I not stay longer to speak with him? Why did I not pray with him? So tonight I pray, I pray for this man who knew I didn’t understand. He said it numerous times during his incoherent mumbling. But I know a God Who understands. He understands even the groans when we cannot speak. He understands all the hurt, all the pain, all the temptations, all the struggles. He understands it all. Sometimes I cannot understand but I’m thankful He always does. Sometimes I cannot find the right words, but He always has a Perfect Word. And I’m thankful that the weight I felt from the burden of sorrow I can give to Him and rest in His promises.
Please pray for this soldier. I don’t know his name. But God does.
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” – Hebrews 4:14-16 [MSG]
I have a medical condition that can make some days nearly unbearable. The pain and fatigue can cause me to not be so pleasant to be around. I try hard to keep myself in the Word and to fix my eyes on Christ, because it is very easy for me to get frustrated and act out in anger when I am not feeling very well.
God’s Word says that God Himself is slow to anger. The Bible says that we can be angry but that we should not sin because of our anger. We are not to react in anger when things are not flowing smoothly. The other morning my knee hurt, my back hurt. I was tired because the pain kept me up half the night. I was trying to work. The printer was not working properly. I reacted. I reacted in anger. I smacked the printer. I yelled. Doing that got me even more angry and frustrated. I wanted to take that printer and toss it across the back yard. Others likely heard me yelling at my printer and that wasn’t a great example.
Thankfully I calmed down. I recognized that I was going down a bad path and I took a break. I fixed my eyes on Jesus and turned on some worship music. I started to sing along. The lyrics reminded me of God’s Word. The lyrics reminded me of His promises. The anger started to disappear. My pain no longer seemed as intense. I was worshiping Him. I was feeling the peace that only He can give. Each day we are given many opportunities. We control our reactions to the circumstances and situations in our lives. We can choose anger, worry, fear, hate—or we can choose love, joy, compassion, courage, peace. We can choose to do it alone or we can choose Jesus.
“BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” – Ephesians 4:26-27 [NASB]