Embracing Sadness

embracing-sadness

It’s hard to type through tears, but I’m so happy right now, I think I can manage!

Shortly after writing my last post, I witnessed another answer to prayer. The circumstances leading up to it were painful–so painful that I cannot share the details–but the resulting joy was oh, so worth it!

Joy is often born of sadness. Think about the Chicago Cubs! Okay, maybe that’s a little shallow, but it’s a good example! They hadn’t won the World Series in over a century! That made their victory this year so much sweeter!

The joy I’m experiencing right now goes much deeper than the pleasure of seeing my team win a championship after a hundred-year drought. It came with a cost: someone died. But I believe he would say it was worth it: his brother was saved! He came to know Christ as his personal Savior.

The trials of life really are good for us. The apostle Peter reminds us of this:

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:7-8).

It seems strange to call a trial precious, but it is. Paul said repeatedly that it was the trials of life that made him strong:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

Earlier in that same letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spoke of the trouble that came to him and his team in Asia: “…we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (II Corinthians 1:8).

I love what he says next!

“But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead (verse 9).

Mary and Martha would not have known the joy of seeing their brother Lazarus raised from the dead if he had not first died.

We need not fear what God may allow in our lives. The greater the trial, the greater the opportunity for Him to show His power. The deeper the need, the deeper He goes!

And when God shows up, nothing can keep us down!

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Casting Out Fear

I’m too cheap to buy quality bookcases, so it doesn’t take much to make mine wobble. When that happens, books may fall. It’s not a common occurrence, but it certainly isn’t newsworthy… most of the time. On this particular occasion, I was pulling an album off the shelf when a small paperback tumbled into my hands.

It was a copy of Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard, sent to me anonymously when I was fifteen (and hospitalized following a car wreck). While I was intrigued by the anonymous gift, postmarked Chicago, I never read it. As I stood at my bookcase holding that book I had owned for decades, I knew nothing of its contents.

Two days earlier I had poured my heart and soul into an assignment for a Bible study at church. The question was simple: where would you like to be spiritually ten years from now? My answer came instantly: I longed to be free of the fear that was choking me, the fear that had gripped my life since childhood.

As a child, I was afraid of everything. Even the sight of dead fish at the fish market scared me!

okinawa-for-blog-post

In college, I worried about my family crashing on their way to see me.

Motherhood brought a whole new set of fears.

I hated it.

A Bible verse I memorized as a teenager continued to convict me: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18).

Perfect love casteth out fear…

How could I love God and remain so fearful? Clearly, I wasn’t putting my complete trust in Him.

When my oldest child was three days old, she choked on some medicine and nearly died. A dear friend later gave me a card with a note: “Don’t worry about Alicia. God will keep her safe for His purpose.” While I appreciated the note, I feared what that purpose might be. What if it involved pain?

I begged God to remove my fear. That assignment became the prayer of my heart: “Dear Lord, cast out my fear!”

Two days later I was holding a book that had literally dropped into my hands, a book I had owned for decades but had never read. Absentmindedly, I opened it… and read: “This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where ‘perfect love casteth out fear.’”

Wow.

I finally read that book.

That was sixteen years ago. I have shared that story several times over the years. I truly believe that God was responsible for getting that book to me initially in 1977 and for getting me to finally read it in 2000. Still, I must confess, my fear did not go away. It remained.

Then one day something happened. The thing I feared the most… happened. (Job 3:25)

I wish I could find words to express what the Lord has done in my heart since the thing happened that I most feared. But I can’t.

I’m reminded of Much-Afraid, the girl in the book. There were no shortcuts in her journey to the High Places, where “perfect love casteth out fear.” As painful as it was, she had to follow the path the Shepherd laid out for her with all its twists and turns, and months and months of desert. She often saw what seemed like excellent shortcuts, but the Shepherd said “no.” The path He laid out was perfect. It was exactly the preparation she needed to one day leap with hinds’ feet in the High Places.

As I look back over the past three years since the thing I feared came upon me, I see God like I’ve never seen Him before.

He has shown me that He is greater than my greatest fear.

He has reminded me that there is no substitute for time spent in His presence. There is no substitute for time spent in His Word and in prayer.

He makes all things beautiful in His time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

His is perfect love. HE is perfect love… and He has cast out all my fear.

God’s Got This!

Stephanie WebberThe disciples tried to turn her away.

Small wonder. She ruined their plans for a nice, quiet evening (Mark 7:24-25). It didn’t help that she was a foreigner… and a woman.

Still, the woman persisted. She didn’t care that everyone was annoyed with her. She wasn’t bothered by the criticism directed at her. She wasn’t even deterred by the disciples’ blatant insistence that Jesus kick her out of the house (Matthew 15:23).

Why? That Canaanite woman was a mother.

And her child was suffering.

So she was suffering.

“Have mercy on me!” she cried out to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t answer. He seemed to ignore her. That’s when the disciples piped in: “Send her away! Her wailing is driving us crazy!”

Jesus clearly had to do something. His response to the woman seemed cold: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

I love the woman’s response to that and the exchange that followed:

“Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Matthew 15:25-28).

One thing I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t simply list the miracles Jesus performed. It gives the “back story.” It records the conversation.

Much could be said about the woman’s great faith and refusal to believe that Jesus was unkind, despite His harsh words. Much has been said about her incredible response to His dog analogy.

What I love is Jesus’ choice of words. After commending the woman for her great faith, He granted her request with these words: “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”

The person Jesus healed was not the woman but her daughter. Still, He said, “Be it unto thee…” Jesus healed the daughter in response to the mother’s prayer and faith. According to His own words, the answer was for the mother. He gave it to her. He understood the mother’s love for her daughter. To bless her child was to bless her.

We can trust God with our children. The Bible is full of promises to parents. It is also full of commands to trust and fear not! God is trustworthy! He knows we love our children more than we love ourselves. When we commit them to Him, He can take even messes and turn them into something useful… for their good and His glory. Even when outward circumstances are awful, He can give “peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). The peace of God is not a delusion. It’s real… and it passes all understanding.

Nothing drives a mother to her knees quite like concern for her child.

But that’s good. There’s no better place to be.

Note: I would like to thank Stephanie S. Webber, my friend and former student, for the “featured image” of her son. I fell in love with it when she posted it on Facebook awhile ago, and it became the inspiration for this post.

Letting It Go

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

My mind was racing… spinning… out of control. That was my problem–I had no control. No control over anything. Not anymore. (As if I ever did!)

Seriously, I should have seen this coming. My entire life has been a series of divinely appointed detours. In fact, decades ago I discovered a verse that has come to mind many times since:

“Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

Still, as I walked that crooked path, I could see God’s hand in it. I could sense His presence and rejoice in what He was accomplishing.

But now…

Wow.

I see problems that I desperately want to fix. So, of course, I try to fix them! That’s when they get worse. I make them worse.

But that’s okay… God doesn’t want me to fix everything. He wants me to trust Him.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on the couch, pouring my heart out to God, when a familiar verse popped into my head:

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

That verse had been a comfort to me many times over the years, but on this particular occasion, I found myself curious about something.

What did He mean by “be still”? Did He simply mean to be silent? I walked over to my bookshelf, pulled out my trusty Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, and looked it up. Right smack in the middle of several Hebrew and Greek words that are all translated as still was the little Hebrew word raphah. It is translated still in only one verse: Psalm 46:10.

Raphah:  To cause to fall, let go

Wow!

Let it go!

LET. IT. GO.

I have never been so struck by the meaning of a word.

What could I do? I dropped it. I caused it to fall. I let it go.

So what’s next?

“Be still….. and know that I am God.

It’s time to let go… and let God work.