Worshipful Wednesday: The Source of Lasting Happiness

Psalm 34:5

“Those who look to Him for help are happy; their faces are not ashamed.” 

Proverbs 16:20

“He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.” 

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”

Happiness.  An emotion many spend a majority of their lives trying to gain, but do not realize they already obtain it.  Artificial happiness is often temporary, when the focus of that joy is on something that was never meant to provide lasting joy.  Even when someone has all of the trappings of our society, which are supposed to supply happiness, there can remain an emptiness that no earthly joy was ever meant to fill.  Ironically, children in dire poverty can have a far greater joy than children who have every luxury.

Acquiring this genuine happiness is then not found in anything on this earth, because it all fades away anyway.  God does provide happiness to us through blessings in this life, but these blessings were never meant to be our complete joy. Blessings of this life were meant to foster a love and thankfulness to our God who provides them, and ultimately to be used to glorify the Giver of our lives and all the blessings that He gives us.

Few find the true joy that a relationship with God brings.  We are easily distracted and focused on things that appeal to the flesh that we can forget the happiness that comes from a simple life hidden in Christ.  Rising up in the morning to our routine, we can rush past moments with God if we do not choose to abide in Him and let Him fill our hearts to overflowing with Himself.

If we really believed and knew the kind of joy God could give us, we would run to Him.  He longs to have us fulfilled in Him. This does not mean we will not have to endure sad moments, but it does mean we can have a joy in the midst of those times.  He is our source of joy and delighting in Him is our strength for all of life’s ups and downs.

Lord, what a good God You are, who wants to fill us with joy.  Be our joy and help us to recognize how blessed we are in You.

If this blog has blessed you, perhaps the songs from this ministry will, too.  www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep

The Surprising Favor of God

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Genesis 39:21

“But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him kindness. He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden.”

Genesis 40:8

“They told him, “We both had dreams, but there is no one to interpret them.” Joseph responded, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me.””

Genesis 40:23

“But the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph–he forgot him.”

Genesis 41:16

“Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “It is not within my power, but God will speak concerning the welfare of Pharaoh.”” 

Psalm 5:12

“For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”

God’s favor is often undetectable, given the surroundings.  Being thrown into prison probably did not seem like the favor of God.  Perhaps that is because we tend to think of favor as having no barbs attached to it.

We can fail to recognize the favor of God when he gives it, or doubt that His grace will be supplied in the future we might be fearing – until we step outside the feelings and circumstances and look for the hand of God.  It is then that we recognize He is always at work and our faith becomes tangible; no longer dependent on blessings or good vibes as a sign of favor.

I imagine that when Joseph’s fellow inmates forgot him, Joseph could have wondered if God did, too.  But the temporary suffering produced a humility and reliance on God that ended up bringing about bountiful blessings.  God’s favor was with Joseph when he was blessed materially and positionally and when he was not.  The favor of God was not dependent upon man’s definition of favor then or now.

Joseph knew where his help came from.  He knew he did not have the wisdom to help others, but he cared enough to seek God’s face on their behalf – right in the middle of his own suffering.  Joseph’s faith was tested when his earlier prophecies seemed contrived, but confidence in God’s ability to supply the answers and fulfill His promises is never misplaced.

Sometimes no matter how much positive spin we can try to give things, we have to admit that at times life is painful. Joesph was ultimately elevated and honored, everything restored to him beyond what he had before, but he was such an example of steadfastly walking with God and being content in whatever his condition.  It is the favor of God to understand the harsh realities of life and still hold onto our faith.  It is the favor of God to know that all things He will work together for the good of those who love Him – even when we do not see it.

Lord, help us to not be shallow in our devotion to You.  Help us to not focus on the distractions of life and to turn our hearts completely to you, trusting you when the chips are down and when they are up.

The Esteemed Title of a Servant

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Matthew 23:6-12

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’ 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers.9 And call no one your ‘fatheron earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Titles.  We give them to people, whether it is through labels in our own mind or our culture’s identifying someone’s position. While no one wants to be labeled derogatively, we can waste so many hours striving for a title or position, only to realize that this achievement is ultimately hay, wood and stubble.  Our serving is nothing if it is done for our own glory, but when it is done for His glory and for the edification of the believers, it is lasting and precious.

In our society, servants are not esteemed.  They are considered to be the lowest, and yet that is what Christ says we should seek.  Don’t get me wrong – it is not more righteous to be a blue collar worker.  God has people in positions of high and low standing – but all are to be positions of service.

Now I know this will possibly step on some toes, but the titles we give within our church walls might often be more of a hindrance than a help in the Kingdom of God.  People lost might feel they could never measure up to someone with such an important title.  But a leader who washes the feet of his sheep and serves them – that is the mightiest position of all.

What a beautiful picture it would be if not a single believer viewed themselves as greater than another.  What if we all saw that we were the same in God’s eyes, each one of us just a servant in the house of God, seeking to minister to the world and to each other?  Wow.  No longer comparing our perceived position of righteousness, but instead in humility seeing others as more important than ourselves.

For eleven years I have had the privilege of serving women in an educational co-op and for twenty-four years I have served churches through worship ministry.  In the beginning years, I poured myself out so much it was often overwhelming.  When tragedy struck my household, I continued to serve, but realize that the focus had turned to myself in my pain.  I could not continue on the same level of serving and it hurt.  Sometimes we need others to carry us and serve us, and God knows we need those seasons.  Changing our focus to others again can be difficult when we have been traumatized, but the greatest joy and recovery comes again through serving others.

Last night I had the joy of sharing songs and personal testimony with some precious women of God.  Getting started all over again in music ministry is both humbling and thrilling.  My greatest hope is that these women will know that I was the blessed one to be able to serve with the grace that God has given to me.

Lord, thank you for modeling what it means to be Your servants.  Help us to never seek a title, but instead Your glory alone.

Thoughtful Thursday: What It Means To Follow Jesus

Job 23:8-12

“If I go to the east, he is not there, and to the west, yet I do not perceive him. In the north when he is at work, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I see no trace of him. But he knows the pathway that I take; if he tested me, I would come forth like gold. My feet have followed his steps closely; I have kept to his way and have not turned asideI have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.”

1 Corinthians 11:1-2

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” 

John 10:27

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

1 Peter 2:21 

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Job says he does not see God, nor what He is doing – yet he has followed Him closely.  How is that?  How are we to follow Jesus when our experience of Him has been in faith?  Job understands – He followed God before Jesus came.  We follow God after Jesus came.  Both are in faith.  We were not there when He rose from the dead, nor when He walked among man, yet today we can hear His voice and follow Him.

His voice might not be audible to others around us, but to our souls it is clear.  God speaks to us directly to our spirit, through other people and through His word.  Sometimes it is when we least expect it and other times when we are seeking Him it seems hard to hear anything at all.  In either time, it is our will that is set to do God’s will that makes all of the difference.  When God seems silent, like Job, we can admit that we do not see His activity, but trust that He sees us completely.  Job obeyed God and he treasured His word, even when the chips were down.  That is what it means to follow God.

As a parent, I hope more than anything that my children will see that my love for God is genuine.  How will this be evident to them, that I am a follower of Jesus?  They see me seeking Him daily, but they also need to see the hands and feet of Jesus, lived out in me.  They need to see integrity and selflessness, they need to see character.  These attributes cannot be faked or put on – that would be religion – they become part of us the more time that we spend with Jesus.

When troubles come as they did for Job, people need to see in us that we are not a sunshine follower, but a follower and believer in God in all times of life.  Following Jesus includes following Him into dark valleys, trusting that He will use those places of suffering for our good.  He was acquainted with persecution and hardship, in fact He chose to walk that path.  We who follow Him must be willing to follow in all aspects of life.  When we are afraid to follow, we can ask him to give us courage and strength to do so.  Our following might not look perfect, but that is where a true follower acknowledges their faults and glorifies our perfect God in those moments.

Seeking to honor God with our lives and letting others see Him through us is our goal, but we are often wandering off the path and do not perceive it.  I am so grateful that God sees it all – His Holy Spirit reveals when we are off track and need reminders.  If we listen to that inner voice and choose to obey rather than just go our own way and rationalize, there is the sweetest peace and fellowship with God that beats by far following our own way.

Lord, help our lives to be hidden in You.  May our relationship with You inspires those who come behind us to know You, worship You and seek You fervently.  Your way is perfect – help us to follow You even when we do not understand.  

If the words of this blog have ministered to you, perhaps the songs I have written will, too.  Learn more at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep.  Thank you and God bless you!

Worshipful Wednesday: Joy Comes in the Morning

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Psalm 30: 2-5, 7-8, 11-12

2 O Lord my GodI cried out to you and you healed me. 3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheolyou rescued me from among those descending into the grave. 4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his; give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger lasts only a brief momentand his good favor restores one’s life. One may experience sorrow during the nightbut joy arrives in the morning. 7 O Lord, in your good favor you made me secure. Then you rejected me and I was terrified8 To you, O Lord, I cried out; I begged the Lord for mercy: 11 Then you turned my lament into dancingyou removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy. 12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silentO Lord my God, I will always give thanks to you.

Psalm 31:7; 15, 23

“I will be happy and rejoice in your faithfulness, because you notice my pain and you are aware of how distressed I am.  15 You determine my destiny!  Rescue me form the power of my enemies and those who chase me.  23 Love the LORD, all you faithful followers of his!  The LORD protects those who have integrity, but he pays back in full the one who acts arrogantly. 24 Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the LORD!”

What kind of God turns our sorrows into dancing, sets captives free and brings us joy the next morning after weeping? Jesus, our living Savior.  He promised us troubles and He promised to be our refuge in the midst of them.  It is when we are delivered from searing pain that we can rejoice like no other when that trial has ended.  Sure, we might hobble like Jacob after he wrestled and complained with God, but we will rise changed and made more in His image.

Even the sorrows which seem unending have an end, and God is there throughout and knows the end completely.  This great God, the Creator of all the earth is the One Who knows our destiny – even before the foundations of the world were established.  That is a God I want to worship.  One Who takes pain and transforms it into beauty.  He is the one who rescues us and restores our lives and offers hope to those who are willing to believe Him and hold onto His promises in faith.

How do we access this incredible joy?  Relationship.  Have we sinned?  Confess the sins before our loving God and find mercy.  Have we been sinned against?  Forgive and cast our cares on the One Who truly cares for us.  Are we trapped in a behavior that we feel we can never overcome?  Study His Word and pray that God would enable us to overcome.  I will often burst into song or weep for joy when I read of God’s goodness.  This is worship and brings us joy, too.  He has joy for us today, and the joy of the LORD is our strength and His mercies are new each and every day!  Praise God!

Lord, thank You that You hear our cry and long to answer us.  Help us to run to You and never cease bringing our cares to You.  Thank You that You notice our pain and are a compassionate, loving God.

Visit http://www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep to hear songs which minister God’s grace, as well.

How to Heal from Trauma

Psalm 107:13-16

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.”

Psalm 147:3

“He heals the brokenhearted, and bandages their wounds.”

Let the words from the Scriptures above reach down into your soul and bring healing.  Our God is able to bring us out of dark times and burst our bonds.  He is able to shatter doors of bronze and iron.  What does that mean?  He is stronger than anything in our lives and able to help us overcome what seems insurmountable.  Whatever has us shackled, whether it is the past, filled with heart breaking sorrow, or the future that we are dreading as some news threatens to steal your joy, everything is possible for we who are overcomers in Christ Jesus.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God.  Fragile enough to be harmed, but strong enough to recover.  But sometimes the hurt goes so deep and has affected us so profoundly that it appears hopeless that we will ever see real healing.

Life is hard enough without all the harm people do to other people.  Growing in responsibilities and facing all of life’s surprises is made significantly more difficult when we go through something so horrific it alters our very existence and approach in life.

Emotional turmoil brought on by traumatic events is not an easy fix.  We can see easily enough wounds wrought on the surface, whether it is a scraped knee or a more serious physical injury, but the wounds to the heart and the human spirit are not so easily discerned or healed.  How does one heal from abuse?  A sudden death?  A diagnosis that is too hard to bear?

Jesus.  Yes, I know – it is the answer everyone says in Sunday school class when they don’t know the answer.  Ironically enough, He is the answer.  What does it mean to give someone Jesus?  It means running to His Word and searching for comfort there.  It means that people who have been traumatized just want to be understood.  We do not just want meals or wise words thrown at us.  We need someone to weep with us and help us to see that God does have a hope and a future. We need someone to climb down in the pit with us and help us find a new way of functioning; acknowledging the sorrow but then asking God with us for wisdom and for His solution as well as practical helps.

I write today as one who has endured a lot of significant trauma in my life and seen God’s healing hand in my life.  I write as someone who wants to help other people I love dearly and people I do not know receive this same healing.  Facing the trauma takes bravery and honesty.  We have to expose the lies.  We are not the only one.  Part of trauma’s potent blow is that we feel isolated, strange, different because we have suffered something that we do not want to utter. No one else wants to hear about it, either.  Choosing to not believe the lies that are encompassing us about as we try to grab onto some hope that we will not always be “damaged” is nothing short of miraculous.

Sometimes the only trust we can have is in the fact that God is good and that He keeps His promises.  Even believing this truth is challenging when we are myopic and our view is clouded by our pain.

Believing that we are not defined by our deepest sorrow takes faith.  It means taking God at His word.  Despite the fact that our suffering has affected us in such negative ways, the only label we need bear is “child of God”.  Not “victim”, not “strange”, but “beloved” and “cherished” and “healed” by a God Who loves us.

When we do not have the strength to muster to proclaim that we have overcome and we no longer have it in us to keep going, that place which seems like an end is a new beginning.  At the end of ourselves, we can only look to Jesus.  Like the woman who grabbed the cloak of Jesus in desperation, we need to come to that end of trying to make it on our own and admit our need of Him to heal us.  We are not strong enough or wise enough to heal on our own,  but our God Who made us is.

Lord, there are so many hurting people and my heart breaks for each one.  I know You are enough – help me to be Your hands and feet and to bring healing to your children through Your Word and Your holy Spirit.  Help all victims to arise as victors in Christ; give us strength and heal us from the deepest place of our wounds and show Yourself as Almighty God.  Nothing is too difficult for You, our Jehovah Rapha.

Thoughtful Thursday: Popularity’s Demise

Job 19:17-19; 25-27

17 My breath is repulsive to my wifeI am loathsome to my brothers. 18 Even youngsters have scorned me; when I get up, they scoff at me. 19 All my closest friends detest me; and those whom I love have turned against me. 25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer livesand that as the last he will stand upon the earth26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God27 whom I will see for myself, and whom my own eyes will beholdand not another.  My heart grows faint within me.

Job 20:5-11, 15, 26-29

20:5 “The elation of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. 6 Even though his stature reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds7 he will perish forever, like his own excrement; those who used to see him will say, ‘Where is he?’ 8 Like a dream he flies away, never again to be found, and like a vision of the night he is put to flight9 People who had seen him will not see him againand the place where he was will recognize him no longer10 His sons must recompense the poorhis own hands must return his wealth11 His bones were full of his youthful vigor, but that vigor will lie down with him in the dust. 15 The wealth that he consumed he vomits up, God will make him throw it out of his stomach. 26 Total darkness waits to receive his treasures; a fire which has not been kindled will consume him and devour what is left in his tent27 The heavens reveal his iniquitythe earth rises up against him28 A flood will carry off his houserushing waters on the day of God’s wrath29 Such is the lot God allots the wicked,and the heritage of his appointment from God.”

The here and now is powerful.  Our senses are keenly aware of our current joys and sufferings.  The status we hold before men contributes to our condition, unless we catch a glimpse of God.

I suppose many folks like to avoid the book of Job.  While it is painful to read of his suffering and God’s hand in it, the book of Job has become an incredible comfort to me.  Here we see the comparison of a righteous man, suffering greatly and quite unpopular, to a wicked person who is popular and prospering.  Talk about afflicted.  Job is covered head to toe with sores, his children are no more, his wife suggests he curse God and die – and gee whiz, even Job’s breath stinks.  If we were to be honest, we probably would not want to hang out with him, either, and toast marshmallows.

Job is honest about his condition.  He does not sugar coat it and say shallow religious statements.  He is transparent and genuine – sometimes folks do not like that.  It is far easier to condemn someone who is stricken – they must have some blame for their punishment, right?

But in the midst of that very dark place, Job rises from the ashes and proclaims that his greatest joy is his hope in God.  He will see him.  He is confident of this.  He might not understand why God allowed all this turmoil, but he recognizes that this temporary suffering will one day end.  The lack of discomfort is not his joy – sure, he will not mind being restored, but it is finally seeing His God in his flesh, that gives him the strength to walk through the dark valleys.

Who is this God that Job looks to?  His Redeemer.  The One who takes terrible situations and redeems them.  Job knew this suffering was not all for naught – it would be redeemed.  The temporary pleasure of being popular could never compare to an eternity of reward in His majestic presence.

Contrast this picture with the wicked one who is popular, wealthy and seemingly does not know suffering in this world. What will this temporary popularity give him?  Eternal suffering.  It seems popularity is not all it is cracked up to be.  It does not hold, however, that all righteous people will be unpopular and poor.  If God wants to grant favor or increase our position for His glory, ultimately any fame we would have on this earth is His alone.

We all will have troubles in this world – Jesus promised that.  Times of enjoying popularity and of scorn.  He chose unpopularity to save our souls.  Wow, what a reward.  For today’s generation, popularity is held by the number of likes they get when they post a picture or a statement.  Scores of people are just trying to get more people to follow them – for what?Does more numbers truly equal popularity?  But if we do have people engaged in our lives, listening to our message, may we not shrink back from proclaiming Christ even when it might not be well liked on our social media.  It might not be popular to take a righteous stand, but we will be in good company with those servants of God who were faithful to dispense God’s truth despite being unpopular – Noah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Jesus.

Success in the world’s eyes is not the same in God’s.  As we pursue to be faithful to God, we may not be liked by man.  Job did ultimately see God’s favor again and the fiery trials ended.  But, his greatest joy was not the end of pain, but the hope of one day casting his crowns at the feet of Jesus, overcome with joy in His presence when His Redeemer removed all of the sorrows that plagued him and turned them into gold.

Lord, help us to trust you when we feel unloved or stricken.  Help us to focus on the gift we have in You rather than the sorrows or joys in the present.  May we trust you when life hurts and choose to delight in You, not the gifts this world may offer.

Worshipful Wednesday: What We Wear in His Presence

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Psalm 29:2

“Acknowledge the majesty of the LORD’s reputation! Worship the LORD in holy attire!”

1 Timothy 2:9

“Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing,”

1 Corinthians 6:20

“For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.”

Deuteronomy 22:5

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor should a man dress up in women’s clothing, for anyone who does this is offensive to the LORD your God.”

Revelation 19:8

She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen” (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints).

The church has become not just relevant today, but casual and cool.  The uniform can include ripped jeans or revealing clothing, and it’s all fine before our forgiving, accepting God.  Or is it?  If I were to go before a King, how would I dress? How is this applied before a King in Whose presence we are in continually?

I fear that this post today can be taken as legalism or liberality.  Yes, I like to examine both sides of an issue.  There is liberty in Christ, but what do we use that freedom for?  There is forgiveness, but do we abuse that lavish gift by not recognizing the magnitude of such a sacrifice?  The application of this principle of modesty is multiple and varied across denominations.  Some espouse that a woman must wear a head covering or specify the exact articles of clothing that are mandated or approved, while others think it is permissible to dress to be “hot”.  Some clothing specifications are what man requires and some standards are needed by organizations – but what does God require?

Establishing specific rules of clothing can be heaping false righteousness onto what God’s standards are.  I have been there – admittedly, I felt self-righteous when I used to wear my gunny/potato sack dresses.  Add to that the nerdy clogs to go with the dress and bingo – I was holy!  Well, the outward might have been perceived as holy by some people’s standards, but the judgmental attitude toward others might not have been so holy.

Don’t get me wrong – God does have a standard for clothing.  The Scriptures above testify to it.  The principles are spelled out, but we can add or subtract to those principles and attempt to condone our decisions in what we wear by either utilizing the “Legalistic” or the “freedom in Christ” doctrines.  We can think we have a right to dress in a worldly way or the opposite extreme – that we must dress like a monk, and miss the point entirely.  The righteous person avoids all extremes.

What we wear matters to God, because often underneath our decisions of what we wear is a heart issue.  It is not the outward that God looks on, but the inner man.  More than our daily choices, He wants our hearts surrendered to Him. When we make our clothing a matter of focusing merely on the outward and become judgmental of others, who in faith wear jeans, for instance, we are no longer operating in grace.  We have made clothing our righteousness.  Each one of us answers to God alone in our decisions in this life.  Yes, every deed, every word, every motive will be weighed by Him alone.

What are we to wear then?  Common sense and a sensitive heart to the LORD consider how to promote purity.  Style is irrelevant to ensuring our undergarments remain underneath our attire and our private parts are, well, kept private.  When in doubt, don’t.  Pray about it – yes, even small matters can pose a stumbling block to others.  Can we let go of the need to wear something ungodly when our pride, seeking attention or fitting in are obviously the motivations?  If we go before Him honestly, He will lead us.  Will we follow?  He who is faithful in small matters will be faithful with much.

When we come before a Holy God, Who is the King of kings, more than our clothing we should wear gratitude and praise for our King and rise above the culture’s emphasis on the outward. In fact, even choosing what we wear is worship when we acknowledge Him and dress in a way to please Him.

Ultimately, we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and want to honor Him.  If we are His ambassadors, we want to dress in a way that displays him to the world.  Different, maybe, but I do not want to cheapen His majesty.  We are arrayed in the most beautiful covering of all – Christ.

Lord, may our actions and decisions within this culture we live in always be about glorifying You.  May we speak, act and dress in a manner worthy of You.

I’m Not Bitter

Ruth 1:20

“But she replied to them, “Don’t call me ‘Naomi’! Call me ‘Mara’ because the Sovereign One has treated me very harshly.  I left here full, but the LORD has caused me to return empty-handed. Why do you call me ‘Naomi,’ seeing that the LORD has opposed me, and the Sovereign One has caused me to suffer?””

Psalm 119:75

“I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

This verse from Psalms still gives me an inner joy I cannot adequately describe.  Why, in the moments following a miscarriage, would I feel the most loved by my God, as I knelt and wept, reading this verse aloud?  Like a rose, life is beautiful, but it can be filled with thorns and thistles which prick us with throbbing pain and sorrows. While no one sees trials or tribulations as a blessing at first, taking a step back might grant a more accurate understanding of what is really transpiring.

I can identify with Naomi in the verse from the book of Ruth, above.  When one tragedy follows another, it is easy to feel forgotten.  When confronted with loss, we have a choice.  Though Naomi was blessed with a faithful daughter-in-law, she chose to focus on her loss.  Though she had previously been blessed, she chose to focus on her current status.  Don’t we all do that?  We feel we deserve blessings but are angry, hurt and doubt God when those blessings are seemingly removed.

What hurt Naomi most was that she knew her God – that He knew all; He was sovereign.  Yet she accused him of poor character – of being harsh and of being the source of her suffering.  The reality is that her God was loving her through it all, through a selfless servant.  God was for her – not against her.  The pain blinded her understanding and the blessings were not in the form she wanted, so her perception and decision was that God did not care.

This God who numbers the hair on our heads and our every tear is not a God Who does not notice our suffering.  He is the one Who bore it Himself, because He could not bear to be without us.  He is the One Who cares so much for our character that He allows pain in, knowing that the beauty made in the crucible is far superior than the shallow goal of living a perfectly comfortable life.

I hurt to write these words, for so many are going through or have gone through horrific burdens and trials, and I desperately want you to know those sorrows are real, and never trivialized by God with a pat religious statement.  Truly, I will never be the same as I was before the greatest sorrow of my life, but then, the compassion birthed through the catalyst of grief is far greater.  He walked through suffering, as well.  He knows what severe trials can do to us emotionally, physically and spiritually and wants to be the One we run to in those moments.

Whatever affliction that is allowed into our lives, it can never be compared with another person’s.  The severity of hardships can range from uncomfortable to debilitating, but in the midst there is a grace supplied – do we perceive it?  It might be a blessing hidden; someone like Ruth that God brings into our lives.  She was a comfort to Naomi, though a foreigner and a Moabite, she ended up being grafted into Christ’s lineage and blessing Naomi abundantly.  Or maybe God’s provision is Himself and His Word that we have to cling to with our whole being.

When our expectations are calibrated with the biblical humility of deserving nothing before a Holy God, we then are surprised we have any blessing at all.  Even greater than a temporary happiness on earth is the all-consuming joy of knowing our Maker and knowing that we will enjoy fellowship in His presence for all eternity.  Though life can be arduous we can choose delight in God instead of opting for regrets or bitterness.  Avoiding the thorns is not the goal, but embracing the beauty within affliction is.

Oh, Lord, You notice us and are aware of every sorrow we bear.  Thank You that You are the God who sees.  Help us to find our joy completely in you and grant us faith and strength to walk in that joy when circumstances would seek to rob us of contentment in You.  Be glorified in our sorrows and blessings.

Manic Monday: Trusting God in Your Calling

Photo Credits: amayesing-life.blogspot.com

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Genesis 32:9-12

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordanbut now I have become two camps. 11 Rescue meI pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children.12 But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’”

Jacob had fled his past troubles years prior to God calling him to go back from whence he came.  At first blush, he was walking in obedience when he did what his parents expected and left his household to marry a believer. Truthfully, his momma wanted her son protected from the older brother who had threatened to kill him for his deceit and cunning.  Isn’t that like us all?  We want to be right with God, but sometimes try to achieve that position by placating our mistakes with an instance of obedience.  Perhaps the right we do will outweigh the wrong.

Jacob wrestled toward the calling of God on his life, tried to make it happen in his own timing and way.  Jacob’s striving backfired big time, yet God was not going to retract that calling.  He uses imperfect people and His calling is irrevocable. Thank God for His faithfulness, despite our mess ups.

A calling is a funny thing.  Burning inside us is this relentless urging, and yet we are so fallible, we doubt that this calling is really from God.  It is the stepping out that confirms the calling.  It is in the authentic moments of acknowledged weakness that our calling is strengthened.  It is in our frailty and failings that God is glorified, if in those moments we fall prostrate at His feet and take no pride in what He is accomplishing in and through us.

We were never chosen because we are all that.  We were never chosen to be esteemed or to receive glory.  We were chosen in His sovereignty and for His purposes.  We may never understand why.  Facing our failures is what enables us to see God’s purposes and plans for our lives fulfilled.  That is what Jacob did, shaking in his boots (ok, maybe sandals), he went to face the one he had offended – because God said so.  God was positioning Jacob (now Israel), where he wanted him to be.

Sometimes we want God’s calling to be comfortable, but instead sometimes He has us ministering before an unappreciative people, or encountering many roadblocks or discouragements along the way.  Jacob understands.  But in the midst of all the turmoil and drama, he became Israel.  He answered the call and God was glorified by imperfect Jacob, scrappy and daring, but in the end a follower of the one true God.  His pride became humility, His hope became God’s promises and His greatest joy was God.  He was not defined by his failures, but by the great God He followed and who called Him.

Lord, help us to not focus on the calling, but on You, the One Who calls us.  When we are discouraged or doubt Your ability to use us, help us to be obedient and to never tire of seeking your glory in our lives.