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Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't Just Hang in There...Hang on to God

This month has been overwhelming at times, full of emotional highs and lows of a great variety. I predicted it would be a kind of wild ride, and I was right. It is hard to try to form all of that into meaningful words for my readers, so I think I'll just stick to one lesson I have learned (or perhaps, have relearned) this month.

It started with a radio show I tuned in to on my drive home from a training session at my new job. The DJ was sharing how God does not require us to "tough it out" when things in our lives completely knock us off balance, but rather, God often emphasizes how He wants us to lean on Him in the hard times.

The DJ specifically spoke out against a common misquote of 1 Corinthians 4: 13. This verse says, "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." He (and I) had heard this verse quoted without the mention of temptation, as a way of saying, "God won't give you anything you can't handle in this life, so if you are buckling under the load, toughen up."

It is Okay to Be Broken Before God
But anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or discovered that their spouse was cheating on them, or maybe has just been suffering from extreme stress due to a crowded schedule, may have reason to say that this teaching is a bunch of malarkey.  You know what? It really is.

Sometimes things come along that we can't handle. It's not that we don't try to--no one likes to feel weak or broken--but sometimes, it is just beyond our ability to endure. Why is this such a novel thought? There is nothing in the Bible that says that only tough, superhuman people need apply for the position of Christ follower!  In fact, we serve a God who meets us in our weakness instead of only supporting us in our strengths (Psalm 73: 21-28), and who teaches us and comforts us to make us strong, rather than expecting instant perfection and nerves of steel (2 Corinthians 12:9; Proverbs 3: 5-6). It is okay with our God if we admit defeat and ask Him to intervene on our behalf or to give us peace and reassurance (1 Peter 5: 6Isaiah 37).  It is okay with Him if we hand our problem over to Him and let Him take over the worrying and the grief for awhile, while we try to get some sleep, or make dinner, or finish our homework (1 Peter 5: 7).

In fact, He volunteered for the job!  He volunteered because He loves us and feels compassion for us.

The bottom line is that we aren't supposed to "stick it out," because in doing that, we are holding ourselves up by our own strength, which is very limited, instead of leaning on God's infinite strength. God is actually the only one in control. He is the only one who can bring healing, the only one who can give guidance about the future, the only one who can bring peace, and the only one who can lead us out of the dire situations in which we find ourselves. It is folly to try to "be strong," but great wisdom to be broken before God, so that He can heal us.  In fact, He promised to heal us, so we should go to Him today.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When God Thunders from Heaven, Everything Changes

The past few months have been strange ones...come to think of it, 2013 as a whole has been full of unexpected changes. Sometimes those changes were bittersweet. My friendship circle was rearranged as people have moved away and others have been added to my life; my neighborhood was rearranged by a devastating tornado that hit my hometown; my daily routine was rearranged by the sudden departure of my beloved dog at the beginning of the year; and my plans for the future of my novel trilogy project have been temporarily stalled out after several rejections (but, as the famous line goes, I have not yet begun to fight).

Add to that the part-time job I'm starting tomorrow and I think you get the picture. It has been a dizzying sort of year for me. Frankly, I don't know if I've reached the end of the roller-coaster ride at this point or if it's still climbing one last big slope. What I do know is that God is somehow at the helm of all of this.

I can't help but reread my prophetic words in my very first post of the year with a little wistfulness: "The new year is going to be a time of completion, of finishing projects I've begun, of following through and turning plans into action, particularly the plans God has for my life. Believe me, I have a lot of things to get done this year."

I see clearly now that what I had in mind when I penned those words was far too small.  I knew that where I was then, from a spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial standpoint, was not a place where I could linger and thrive, and I had asked God for some help. Still, somehow, I was only thinking of washing the windows and adding a new coat of paint and maybe some hedges, while God was rolling back clouds, moving mountains, and picking up the chainsaw and the sledgehammer.

I'm not complaining, although I felt like it at first. What is now taking shape is something beautiful, with space to grow and live, and a new horizon, with many of the old threats and fears removed from their shadowy nooks where they had bothered me for years. Sure, there is loss, and I have accepted that, but as David wrote in the Psalms, "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me," (Psalm 18: 19 NIV).

David was, of course, talking about the field of war and prophetically speaking from Christ's perspective, but the point still works for this part of my life, and perhaps for my readers, too. When a Christian asks God for rescue (no matter what variety of trouble he or she is dealing with at the time), God moves to respond, with fury and seriousness, either tossing aside obstacles or ripping us out of them. It can be a stunning process, but it's still what we needed.

Leading up to verse 19 in Psalms 18 (which you really must read in its entirety), we see just how seriously God takes the call. From the moment He hears our request, His reactions range from getting furiously angry on our behalf (verses 7 and 8), to "part[ing] the heavens and c[oming] down," (verse 9), to "thunder[ing] from Heaven," that is, shouting (verse 13), and many other definite actions. The bottom line is that God takes it very seriously and acts immediately (even if we can't see everything He is doing) when we say, "Something has to change. I need help!"

I believe what I've been describing as "2013 so far" is the clouds parting and the earth shaking as God moves me somewhere, out of the familiar (but rather unlivable) circumstances and into something I know will be better. Maybe that strikes a chord with someone out there. Sure, change can hurt, but I still believe it is for the best. It's too soon to tell where I'm going, but I believe God is there, and I take comfort in that.

Question: Have you seen God changing things in your life recently? Can you find the good in your new circumstances? I welcome you to share your thoughts below.