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Friday, July 27, 2012

Restored to Youth

I've had a lot on my mind this week.  From conversations with friends to events in my life and career, to the discovery, on Pandora, of the lyrics to "Logical" by an old group called Supertramp (this isn't really a recommendation), I found my mind wandering back to contemplate the future as I foresaw it as a preteen, looking forward.  For awhile, I guess I felt "old," but God reminded me of His promises and His future, and I felt the youthful optimism returning.

There was so much idealism then; the future had a polished gleam of promise and success. I saw myself without obstacles, working for the cause of Christ, succeeding in all that I lay my hands on. There were things I knew would complicate my life, and I recognized that I would encounter difficult people along the way, but I really had no concept of what the future would be like.  Maybe the details were foggy, but what I most wanted to see was a path traced out by God, which managed to thread its way safely through the maze of troubles.

So where am I, many years later, in reaching those goals? Where has the gleam gone, now that I've encountered a little bit of the "bitter reality" that often comes along in this life? Some of my old dreams are yet to be realized. Some of them have been discarded along the way as impracticable.  A few more didn't happen the way I planned, at all. Maybe people have gotten nastier and more personal than they were, and maybe there is more work and less play than there used to be.  Maybe life doesn't always warrant a laugh, and maybe success is fleeting.

Still, throughout my life I see the golden thread of God's plan woven into every scene, every moment of joy, and even the deepest pits of despair. It may not be a fairytale outcome so far, but it is definitely a good one.  When I give some serious thought to all of that, the old optimism comes flooding back!

 God hasn't changed. His words still hold true.  Hope hasn't gone, or even been dimmed. 

Life has dark and disappointing times, and we usually can't look forward and fully comprehend them ahead of time. I certainly didn't.  I don't want to minimize or overlook pain, but I do want to say it's not good for us to focus on it too long.  If we do, we will forget God's goodness, His kindness, His joy, and even more, His power. If you want to lose the old gleam of optimism, that's the way. Obscure the light with a few clouds.  It didn't go; we just looked away.

That's it, exactly.  In reality, troubled times are all shifting shadows that will soon perish when God scatters them with the light of His presence (Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60: 1-3; Zechariah 14: 6-7; James 1: 17). Let us not make more of pain than it is.  It is real, but so is God. It may linger, but God has been there from the beginning, and He will still be there at the end.  It sometimes seems final and life-long, but God has overcome the world, and we can, too, in Him. These are not trite sayings; they are promises that have held through many generations of testing, including my own, and maybe yours, too.  God has made a solemn promise to us that He is going to take all our troubles away and restore our youth (Psalm 103: 2-6), and I fervently believe that He doesn't lie (Numbers 23: 19).

Do you feel "old" today, perhaps because something in your life has made you feel bitter?  Take heart! What you believed as a child about God is still coming true.  It wasn't a fairytale then, and it never will be. Even if pain has since tried to steal away your hope, cling to Jesus and He will restore your spirit.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103: 2-6 NIV)