Last week we talked about how God is still working on us. We are a never ending work in progress. And instead of being hard on ourselves over the faults we have difficulty ridding ourselves of, we should use that opportunity to lean on Him even more.
We often have difficulty letting go of the things which have hurt us; whether they have deeply saddened us or angered us, that which has made us feel deeply, often stays with us, even if we don't want it to.
Today, in my daily devotional, I read some of Lamentations, which by its very definition, is about grief and sadness. It is understood that the book of Lamentations is a collection of songs written to express grief and suffering after experiencing the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, at the hands of the Babylonians. These are people of faith, crying out to God, putting their sadness and suffering into words, as they question why God would allow such a city to fall.
Yet, even these passionate expressions of deep grief, are not without hope.
The highlighted verse is often what Christians will quote. It is the hope that we hear of most frequently, and understandable so, but how much more might we relate to these people of the Bible, knowing that they struggled with the same doubts and sorrow that we do today? Here are the prior 21 verses:
I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand
again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh
and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of
he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,
he dragged me from the path and
and left me without help.
He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart
with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my
they mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs
and given me gall to drink.
He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the
I remember my affliction and my
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
~Lamentations 3:1-21 NIV
There are 21 verses, before this often quoted verse; verses of doubt, bitterness, crying, blaming, despair, and yet, yet, there was hope. In my youth, I found this confusing, even contradictory.
How can someone seemingly blame God for their suffering, and still find hope in Him?
But this is real. That is real life. This is not hypocrisy. This is human emotion. We often express our sadness not only with this world, and the suffering around us, but with a God we cannot fully understand; wondering how He can allow suffering such as this, to happen.
God has actually shown us how normal this is! He has shown us that lamenting over our broken, suffering world is quite biblical. But because of God's great love, it need not consume us. Express your grief, your sadness, your misgivings and doubts. Cry them all out to Him; pour them onto paper. He knows them anyway!
Then remind yourself of the hope you still have in Him. Remind yourself of His blessings, big and small. Take comfort in His word; even the laments. They were included in His scriptures for a reason! Know that you are not alone in your emotions.
Bad things happen.
There are no disqualifiers here. They don't just happen to good people. They don't avoid bad people. They just happen.
They happen because we live in an imperfect world. They happen because this is not Heaven. This is not our permanent home. Imagine if bad things didn't happen at all, ever. How would we ever appreciate the good? How would we learn to rely on God? Why would we even look toward Heaven if we had it so good on earth?
God never promises us that bad things wouldn't happen. In fact, the Bible repeatedly warns us of hard times, and tries to teach us how to prepare for them.
One of my favorite songs in Sunday school as a child, was The Wise Man Built His House, based off the above verse. The song came complete with fun hand motions and everything, but an even more valuable lesson.
The storm was not diverted away from the wise man. The storm came to both the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The storm hit them both. The only difference was that the wise man was better prepared with a stronger foundation.
Life is hard. Bad things happen...to everyone. This lesson is not only about how some bad situations are avoidable by making wise decisions, but also about preparing our foundation.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. ~Matthew 7:25
The storm still comes, with its dark clouds of sadness and difficult winds of change. You will still feel it sweep through, but you will not be broken. With God as your Rock, your Foundation, prepared with His Word, you will not fall.
Recently I began two different devotionals on my YouVersion App. They are each about completely different topics, which I feel hold constant relevance in my life. One covers the impact of evangelism, and the other talks about fear. As a woman of faith, I'd like to tell you that these two don't intersect at all, but what I found while reading these two completely different devotionals, about completely different areas of faith, is that they not only intersect. They full on collide with each other.
Not only do I still deal with fear as a Christian, but I deal with fear about my faith. Probably not in the way you might think. I don't know about you, but I am constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. When involved in conversation with people who don't share my faith, I struggle with fear so much, that I have a difficult time articulating my faith; why I believe what I believe, or why it is important to me. There is a very good reason I have taking to writing throughout my life. Public speaking is not my gift. I am awkward. I stumble upon my words, and tend to repeat myself a lot. If I have to talk about something that is not heavily rehearsed (like to the point of memorization), I tend to sound like a blundering idiot.
The above verse always made me a little nervous. Is it a requirement? No, I wouldn't call it that. We are told that our deeds are not what get us into Heaven, but rather just the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.
But yet, shouldn't our acceptance of Jesus into our hearts and lives move us toward this? I believe so. Then why am I still so scared to speak to people about Jesus?
This is where another verse, about a separate topic, collided for me this morning.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Like a breaking wave, this hit me, and washed over me today. I don't have to be a blundering idiot. I need not speak at all. I thought back on the people who have had the greatest impact on my life and my walk with Christ. It had next to nothing to do with what they said. It had everything to do with their actions.
For my 18th birthday, my older sister risked looking uncool, and without saying a word handed me a present. I opened it to find a Quest Study Bible. She wrote inside the cover, encouraging words and verses she had turned to in difficult times. That one, simple gesture, had and still has one of the greatest impacts on my life.
This is just one, clear example, but there are so many like this. Actions speak louder than words is such a cliche, and yet we are so often much more impacted by people who do not speak about their faith, but show us about their faith. And I am not talking about the social media, 'look what I did," posts. Not that we can't talk about our faith on social media, but the greatest impact you can have on people isn't in what you say, or even write; it is in what you do. How are you serving? How are you walking in your faith? Even, or especially when, you think no one's watching. In the quiet of your own room, how are you praying for the hearts and lives of the people you love?
The interesting thing here, is that this verse from Exodus is directly related to people being shown the power of God; not talked to about Him. Moses had great concerns about leading people. He even expressed to God that he was not eloquent, and he was slow of speech and tongue (Exodus 4:10). Here in Exodus 14, he now finds himself with a large group of doubting and fearful people. Trapped between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, Moses needed to act in faith! Surrounded by people lacking faith, he needed to stand firm. So Moses heeded God's Word, he raised his staff, and he showed the Israelites the power of his God, the power of faith.
Yes, go and make disciples of nations, but know that God will fight for you; you need only to be still.
The shot goes up. She turns. Making contact with her opponent, she lowers to the ground, ready to jump, anticipating just how the ball is going to bounce off the rim. She jumps for the rebound, grabbing at the ball with one hand. As she pulls the ball toward her, before her feet even hit the floor, she knows which way she must turn to avoid the defender, which hand she should use to dribble the ball out of there, and which of her teammates have already taken off down the floor.
She turns, dribbling the ball low to the ground with long, quick strides.
Her eyes are only on the rim ahead, but she still sees two teammates up ahead; one to the right, and one to the left.
Two defenders are up ahead too, back pedaling as she approaches.
The defender on the left commits to her, thinking she is heading for the basket. Having waited for just this moment, without even turning her head, she releases the ball with one arm, for a long pass to her teammate for a layup. The basket gives her team their first lead all game, and the other coach calls a time out.
Everything there took place in about 5 seconds. It happened more quickly than you were able to read the words, yet those were the thoughts, and the rationale behind her every move; my every move. That is a very familiar story to me from my playing days.
My husband would tell you that my super power is point guard vision. We joke that when it is activated, I can weave in and out of traffic, anticipating cars that will turn, or slow me down, and avoiding them, and red lights. On the weeks we drive separately to church, I, in my mini van, can beat him in his manual transmission Elantra, home on pure instinct and anticipation of what the other drivers might do.
It occurred to me while my husband was driving us to church this Sunday, all together in the van this time, just how beneficial this type of vision can be in our daily lives and relationships...if we will only turn it on.
We all have goals. We all have aspirations. We are all trying to get somewhere in this life. But when we do it with blinders on, we miss out on the rest. We miss out on the journey. We miss our teammates.
An adrenaline rushed 5 seconds can heighten all of your senses into feeling everything around you, and yet, so much of our lives we are trying to move as fast as we can, while tuning everything out. On the roads, we are in too big of a hurry to let other drivers in. We use excuses like, "Well, he didn't use his turn signal!" or "He knew that lane was ending this whole time!" In reality, we are all trying to get to the same goal; our jobs, our homes, our commitments, and we want to arrive there safely. That's the main goal; not the destination, but rather our health along the way. We tend to have blinders on to the rest of the world, as though our final outcome is all that matters.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as Children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
We are children of the light. We have been called out of darkness! Yet, by the example we still set, we often remain blinded in so many ways.
The girl in the story above saw the goal. She wanted a basket badly. She never lost her focus on that rim, but she didn't shut her teammates out of her line of vision on her way. She knew exactly where they were, and exactly when to give them the ball in the best position for them to be successful.
We are all on a different path to the final destination. We can attempt our daily lives one on one, us against the world, with our eyes fixed on the end goal, or we can broaden our view, activate our peripheral vision, and see the teammates around us. Don't close yourself up in darkness, unwilling to fully experience the journey. In your hurry, you will not only miss out on the opportunity of relationships, but you will be turning off a light that others might really need to see their own path too.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
If God's Word is the light, and we are called to live as children of light, let's make sure that light shines on more than just our own path.
As 2017 drew to a close, I knew that there were some things I had to change about my business. I was burnt out. I had planned new content on my blog twice a week, nearly all year long. I had a new pattern release or recipe almost every single week, along with my weekly Monday Messages. It would have been a lot for anyone, but for a mom with four children; two of which are still home, it was way too much.
I was expecting too much of myself, and at what cost? My children saw a lot of the back of my head as I worked on patterns and blogs on the computer. Admittedly, not all of my patterns were the quality I would have liked, and my food photography for my recipes really needed more work.
When I began planning for 2018, I found a happy planner by me & my BIG ideas which said, "grace upon Grace," on the cover, and had so many perfect Bible verses for me on this journey, found throughout the pages. I decided then and there that my word for the new year would be GRACE.
Little did I know just how much of it I would need.
Three weeks into January, I had fallen so far behind, that I hadn't produced any new patterns or recipes since well before Christmas, and I didn't have any ready to go any time soon. My husband was laid up in bed for weeks with his back injury. Scenes of the stomach bug in this house resembled that of an exorcism, and I was struggling with my emotions, missing my crochet, and stressing about actual, real, upcoming deadlines.
Many things in this house were ruined during the course of this time. We literally had to order a new couch, and we may need a new dryer, and to add insult to injury, the final vomiting episode came down right on my "grace upon Grace," perfect-for-me, happy planner.
I know. Here we are on week three of you guys hearing about how lousy this month has been for my family, but I do hope you get my intended purpose for these messages.
Because it isn't about me.
I am weak. I am a human being, with struggles, and anger, and sin. I share my stories with you so that you may know just how heavily I rely on Him...even when I don't, even when I turn my face from Him in anger, even when I cry out in doubt and fear, even when I forget to trust Him....He is there.
Do you remember being a teenager and being so angry with your parents you never wanted to speak to them again? Do you remember slamming doors in their faces? Maybe you even told them you hated them, or wrote that thought in your journal. Maybe they did something, "for your own good," that you couldn't fully understand at that time in your life.
But when you needed them, they were there. You still slept in their house, ate the food they provided, and wore the clothes they bought.
I had been angry with God over my husband's pain and inability to work, over the kids' sickness, over the vet bills and expensive things needing replacing, over the pain I've been seeing in the world, but I still ate of His food, clothed in His provisions. Even in my anger, He sent us blessings in the form of loving family, church family, and friends.
HIS power is made PERFECT in weakness.
His GRACE is sufficient.
I bought myself a new planner, one which will be kept carefully away from any future vomiting children, and I've wrapped myself in His grace.
Whatever it is that you're striving for, whatever it may be that you feel has been keeping you down, wrap yourself in His grace. It is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
Want the Monday Message sent to your inbox each week? Sign up here!