An excerpt from the devotional she passed along…”Paul Miller writes, ‘People of faith live in the desert. Like Abraham, they are aware of the reality of their circumstances, but are fixed on hope. Paul describes how “in hope (Abraham) believed against hope.” (Romans 4:18). The desert life sanctifies you. The desert becomes a window to the heart of God…The best gift of the desert is God’s presence.’
A note from me: This is right. A “desert” experience is vacant and uncomfortable for a reason. We don’t have visual things to distract us…or “to do” items other than survival…And we realize that it is impossible to survive for very long on our own without supernatural provision.
Do you know what the Chapel lesson I planned to teach my preschoolers today is? Thankfulness. Being thankful when the sky is blue and she sun is shining and the birds are singing. Being thankful for all of the wonderful and beautiful things in our life that we can see. And also being thankful when we can’t see it…because we KNOW that very soon the sky will be blue again and the sun will be shining again and the birds will be singing again. It is being watchful and noticing all of the often over-looked gifts that we may not notice when everything looks good…
It is not being Doubting Thomas who had to touch the Savior…but being a disciple that believes without seeing.
Before last night I was in the desert. I had been the wilting and prickly wall-flower at a desert pity party…arms-crossed in the corner…a party of my own creation.
I thought I was the only one present. Me and me alone. Crying crocodile tears about some pain that was undistinguishable… other than it hurt.
But I was wrong. I was not the only one at my pity party. I am never alone.
Yesterday and this past week were days of growing pains. Growing pains hurt. Some important revelations were given to me…some gifts of insight if you will, that I would not have noticed if I had not been feeling alone in my desert. Some realities moved from my head to my heart yesterday. It is one thing to know something” to be true” in your intellect and quite another to KNOW it to be true in your soul.
First, we only have one Savior. We want a person that we can touch to fix things that are broken or fix circumstances that are painful for us. But people can’t do that. They can help. They can support and encourage…lend and ear and say a prayer. They can take us physically where we need to go…feed us a meal…pay a late bill…wipe our forehead…watch our child…hold our hand. But they can not get us where we need to go…they can not fill us with sustenance that will satisfy a hungry soul. They can not heal our broken heart or remove bitterness, anger or disappointment.
It is impossible for them to shoulder such a heavy burden. Even if we wanted to, we would never succeed in being that person for another. We cannot be a savior and we can not expect anyone else to be our savior.
In fact we are not only NOT promised an easy life…we are actually promised just the opposite.
Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We are also promised that we will never be alone. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6.
God will not put us in any situation that is more than we can deal with…in His strength…with His assistance! There are MANY situations that WE can’t handle. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.
Friends, as my friend and pastor said yesterday, “Why does God permit things to come our way that makes us down?” and the answer…If we had it all, if we were totally content and satisfied being right where we are…then why would we need to learn? Need to grow? Why would we need the Lord? The devil doesn’t want us to be unhappy and uncomfortable! The devil wants to lull us into a love of our toys and our trinkets and our small superficial existence. Knowledge is painful. Ignorance is bliss. If our life is perfectly perfect then I strangely do not say, “good for you!” I say…”hhhhhmmmm.”
My pastor also said…”Why do people want to be around you?”
Well, in my wall-flower state nobody would want to be around me…mostly myself. So it really made me take notice when he said that people want to be around other people who love God. When we love God that is what makes us attractive.
I believe that. Completely and whole-heartedly.
And the final thing that he said that literally pierced my heart was that WE ARE MADE to PRAISE the Lord. We can thank God for good things that have happened…but to “Praise the Lord” is a faith proposition. It is when we say, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out…I can’t see how…but I thank you in advance …because even though I don’t know how, I believe that You will…that You will work it all out.”
“We are made for Faith. We are made for Belief. When we Praise God…when we look at things unknown and unseen but have confidence and trust in God’s Sovereignty of the Best outcome…God makes things change.”
God raises us up when we are down through other people…like my friend…like my Pastor…like my family. But none of those people can save. None of those people can make radical changes…for us or for themselves.
The Israelite people in Samuel treated God like He was a rabbits foot or a lucky charm. They treated God like he was a god. God can not be coerced to do our bidding. God wants to bless us… but sometimes what we think we want or need is not for The Best. We might want things for the wrong reasons. To receive what we want under these circumstance might be a curse instead of a blessing.
The Israelites mistakenly thought that God would bless them in victory if they took the Ark of the Covenant out to the battlefield when they fought the philistines…as if they could summon God’s “magic” at their will.
We do that.
We say… God, take this burden, this doubt, this guilt, this sin, this anger, this fear, this unforgiveness, this hardship, this illness, this affliction… Take this from me, Lord!”
But why would He take “it” if we are not willing to lift a finger or a foot…to take that next step and lay it at his feet? Do we really want rid of our hardships so badly if we expect him to pop in like the butler to remove our crumbed on plate?
Take it from us? God has given us the choice… Yes, from the very beginning that has been our biggest gift and our biggest burden.
He could easily take everything that is not perfect and make our lives perfect… And He will one day. But right now we have to understand that we must trust Him when things are not perfect. Yes, he could easily make everything easy for us. So why doesn’t He?Because He loves us too much. He wants us to grow. He wants us to learn…and the most important lesson is that we need Him. Desperately. All other good things and all other loving people in our lives are blessings for sure…but the only One that we NEED is Him.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
We have to sometimes be stripped down to desolation…to be in the desert…so that we can see Him. So that we can KNOW who He is.He and He alone is our Savior.But he is not a puppet-master. He does not want to make us love Him. He wants us to choose to love Him.
And He wants us to understand the joy that can be ours if we choose well.
Who are we to be chosen for a relationship with Him?That is what we are made for! What an honor. An UNBELIEVABLE honor…but I believe it.
“Why does God permit things to come our way that makes us down?… That is where God lifts us UP from.
“Can we lift a finger to help our self? “Do this for me God! Take this from me. God! Now! I need help!”Do we really expect to get our way when we order others around? I don’t know how many times I have told my children that I am happy to do things for them when the ask nicely… But not when they demand their way. Think about the difference in the scene. “God… Do this. You said whatever I asked you would do! ” Or…” God. I need You. I can’t do this on my own and I know it. I don’t want this. I trust you. I am giving this to you to deal with because I trust you. And As Jesus is my example I want to say, “not my will, but your will be done. ”
You are sovereign, God. You can make any mess turn out for your glory. Even the mess of me.
Let this be your reminder to me, Lord…”Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16
Praise to you, O Christ.