Do you sometimes find yourself saying things that your parents used to say to you, only to grimace and think, “Was that me?” I know I do—a lot. One of the things I used to tell my boys all of the time was that they just needed to be patient, that whatever was happening to them at the time wasn’t the end of the world. It’s just a season. It will all work out. It’s not as bad as you think. You’re being too dramatic.
Don’t miss the forest while you’re looking at the trees.
It’s a wonder they didn’t murder me in my sleep.
And now that I’m older and my boys have left the nest, I find myself in circumstances often where I remember saying those words to them, and even to others, and then find myself thinking that things ARE that bad. There’s NO WAY this is going to work out. This ABSOLUTELY IS as bad as I think. And I’M NOT BEING DRAMATIC!!
I certainly do not intend to write another article on being patient in the midst of trials, knowing that God is at work in all of them. Christians, by and large, know that Romans 8:28 is in every one of their bibles. They know and they’ve heard that God has a plan, just as He promised in Jeremiah 29:11, and that His plan is for their good. The problem arises when that plan doesn’t feel good. The confusion manifests when that plan makes utterly no sense.
What is God thinking? He has to see that this is not good! Why would He hurt me this way?
The issue becomes almost incredulous when we live in the middle of circumstances where seeing the love of God reconciled in the things He allows to happen is just about impossible. When our marriage ends, or a loved one dies, or we lose our houses or our jobs or our children—how do we see the forest of God’s love in the middle of rotten, stinking, dark trees?
I don’t have an answer, but what I do have is the same thing that all of us have, and that’s the bible. The stories and words of God are purposeful, and at the expense of beating this bush again, let me just remind you, and me, of the story of Job.
You remember Job, right? This guy did it all correctly. He was a righteous man, and by Old Testament standards, his riches and many children and great life were a direct result of this righteous life. God had blessed him above and beyond his fellow man. Job was living large, but he did so while humbly serving his God.
Can you imagine how he felt that day when he lost everything? In one fell swoop, Job lost his fortune, his livelihood, all of his children, and finally, his health. He had no friends who sympathized or offered him compassion. His friends assumed these horrible disasters happened because of some hidden sin that needed to be confessed. Even Job’s wife turned on him.
Can you imagine how this man of God felt?
I know that most of you have probably studied, or at least read the book of Job on occasion, and you’ve also most likely labored through it.
And yet, God put it in His Word, and we know that He did so because Job demonstrated for us the endurance of a believer’s faith, even when the entire world falls down around his ankles. Mind you, Job didn’t take it quietly. He yelled—a lot. He screamed at God and at his friends, asking why and what was going on?
The trees were falling, and Job was lost in a cataclysm of endless pain, but he never denied that God was God.
Now, cut to the forest that Job didn’t see, the forest that God showed you and me at the very beginning of this story. This is the forest we would all do well to remember when our own trees block our view.
When Satan came to God and told Him that he had been traveling around the earth, what was God’s first response? Job 1:8 records the Lord as saying to Satan,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (ESV)
In essence, God looked at Satan, and His very first thought was, “Have you seen My Job? I love My Job! Did you see how awesome Job is? Look upon My son, Job!”
I don’t know about you, but the idea that God would single me out while addressing the angels and say something like, “Have you seen My Deb? I love My Deb!” is a thought I would treasure above all else.
And when Satan asked to test Job, God allowed all of those horrible things to occur because He trusted Job. God looked down upon his child, and He trusted Job so much that He allowed Satan to take everything from him but his life, and God did this because He knew that His servant, Job, would stand in his faith. God knew that He would then use the testimony of Job for all time as a witness of unswerving faith in God’s very “God-ness.”
God looked upon this man and said, “Have you seen My Job? I trust My Job so much that I will allow him to be tested so that I might use him.”
This was the forest of reality in the heavenly realm that Job didn’t see because he was surrounded by the trees of this mortal existence. However, this beautiful forest was always there, even when Job didn’t see it.
My sisters and brothers, there is a heavenly reality occurring every millisecond of every day beyond our human sight. The trees of our lives may be falling and rotting all around us, but the essence of our faith is to emulate Job’s. The essence of our faith is in knowing that God is God, and though we don’t understand His ways, we know that they are ultimately good and right. Our faith comes from knowing the forest is there, even though we only see trees.
Most especially, though, we must remember that when God chooses to bring or allow horrible things in the lives of His children, it’s not because He doesn’t love them or is punishing them. It’s because He is choosing to use them. He’s building our stories, much like He built Job’s story, so that when He has delivered us, He will use us.
I know that when tragedy hits my life, God is in heaven saying, “Do you see my Deb? I trust my Deb so much that I choose to use her. I will deliver her, and once I do, she will be a vessel used to My glory.”
That, my friends, is a forest upon which we should focus, even in the midst of these sometimes very ugly trees.
Last night, my son and I were reading through the book of Ruth together, and one verse jumped out at me that I’d never really noticed before. It was this one:
Ruth 4:11-12 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.” [ESV]
If you’ve ever had the thought in the midst of potty training, wiping noses, and cleaning messes (of the toy and more…organictype), that there has to be more to motherhood than this, you would be right. Motherhood is far more than a list of mundane, albeit necessary, tasks. Motherhood is about building up a nation; and not just any nation. Though in a sense, we are (hopefully) building up a nation of responsible citizens for whichever country we are residents of, as Christians, we are part of building a different kind of nation.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-12 that we are “a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.“ Then he goes on to tells us what our mandate is. “As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people;now you are God’s people.Onceyou received no mercy;now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”
Show others the goodness of God, live properly among our unbelieving neighbors, keep away from worldly desires that wage war… Wait a minute, war??? On second thought, let’s just stick to changing diapers shall we? Suddenly this noble calling seems rather daunting doesn’t it?
What I love about our Heavenly Father, is that He never gives instructions without first offering provision to equip us to carry them out. Israel’s entire history was a living parable of trying to carry out God’s instructions (the Law) apart from His provision. It can’t be done. This is why Christ came! Our provision is in Christ, apart from whom we can do nothing. (John 15: 4-5)If we look back at the passage from Ruth we see that the elders say, “May the Lord make the woman…”, acknowledging that it is the Lord who would do the work in Ruth, to enable her to become a builder of the house of Israel like her counterparts Rachel and Leah. Then, just a few verses earlier in 1 Peter 2:4-5, Peter says this: As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Our first step is to humbly come to Him, then as we do, He builds us up as a spritual house. So really, it is not us building our house, and ultimately this holy nation, it is the Lord. In fact, Solomon reminds us that, “unless the Lord builds the house,those who build it labor in vain”. (Psalm 127:1) Could it be that in our moments of despair, when we feel we failed to live up to this noble calling the Lord has given us as mothers, it is because we are trying to build in our own strength apart from Christ?
Proverbs offers some strong words to mothers, “The wise woman builds her house on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives,But the foolish one who lacks spiritual insight tears it down with her own hands by ignoring godly principles. ” Proverbs, 14: 1 [Amplified Version] When we are not building on Christ, and instead are building according to our own vision of what our “house” should look like, we are setting the stage for disaster. Essentially tearing down our house with our own hands! These words of Solomon’s are really an echo of Christ’s words as He closes His Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [NLT]
There is a myth floating around out there in the mommy blogsphere that we need to stop believing that we aren’t enough for our children. On the one hand, in His wisdom God chose us to be the mothers of the children we have, and we are exactly the mothers they need. However, the truth of the matter is that though we are the mothers that they need, we aren’t all they need. If we were enough, our children wouldn’t need Christ, and the truth is, they most desperately do need Him, and so do we. Apart from Christ we aren’t enough. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. There is something very powerful that happens when we come to the end of ourselves, and cry out to Christ to take over, fill in the gaps, redeem what we’ve lost or ruined, and work it out according to His purpose, for our good, the good of our children and for His glory. Once the house we’ve built on the foundation of our own wisdom and wishes crashes to the sand, we can come to Christ and humbly ask Him to help us rebuild on the bedrock foundation of His Word, on Christ Himself. Talk about a dream house designed by a Master Designer!
Then on those days when we struggle to remember why we are disciplining our child for the same thing a mere 5 minutes after the last incident, or why we need to love on the child who is screaming their hatred of us for forcing them to eat their beans, or why we need to explain why we don’t think that television show is a good choice even though all their friends get to watch it, the Lord offers us an answer to our why in the words of Peter. You will notice there are three little words before the instructions are given in 1 Peter 2, Peter says, “As a result”…. Then do these things. So the question is, as a result of what? As a result of the fact that we are a chosen people, a holy nation, God’s own possession. Once we had no identity as a people;now we are God’s people.Once we received no mercy;now we have received God’s mercy. In other words, it’s because of who we are in Christ, and because of all we have experienced in Him, namely His mercy, that we have every reason to carry out our mission.
I want to close by encouraging you with these thoughts. The trivial yet necessary tasks we perform each day as mothers can take on new purpose as we embrace this high calling to join the crew of Nation-builders God is assembling. Yet, as we move to answer this calling, by building our house on a foundation of godly precepts, let us remember that His grace is sufficient for us, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness; weakness that Christ our Savior, who came in flesh, is able to sympathize with. Since it is this compassionate Savior who stands before God intereceding on our behalf, let us draw near to Him with confidence and ask for mercy and find grace and help in our times of need as we attempt to follow the blueprints of the Master Foreman in this Nation-building venture.
Back in the year 2000, a movie came out staring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg called The Perfect Storm. It was an adaptation of a book written in the late 90’s, about a crew of fishermen who went from not catching any fish, to catching way more than they bargained for. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end well for the captain and his crew. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew… Hang on, different story entirely – but did you sing that last bit? You’re welcome. The theme song from Gilligan’s Island will likely be stuck on mental repeat for the rest of the day. As soon as you think it’s gone, I’m betting you’ll start wondering how it was that Ginger always remained so well put together. I mean really, her make-up was flawless and her hair was seemingly immune to humidity. When I think back to how I looked on the last camping trip with my husband, I gotta tell you, there’s a reason this girl’s no movie star. Let’s get back on point: fisherman, boat, hurricane…the perfect storm.
While I’m not an avid fisherwoman, lately my life has mirrored that movie a bit more than I would like. As 2015 came to a close, my husband got promoted at work and I took a new job which promised to be great. While in the midst of us both learning our new roles professionally, we rang in the new year. Yippee. Cue the streamers. Shortly after tossing out the old calendar and finally remembering to type 2016, I got a call from my husband that he and my 16-year-old son had been in a car accident. Arriving at the scene and seeing all the emergency lights flashing was surreal and more than a little scary. Thankfully they were okay, but our car was totaled. But the hits just kept coming – like they literally kept coming – as in a total of four car accidents in a three-month period. How is that even possible? I have no idea. A better question might be: how are we still insured?
What a tremendously inconvenient and crazy stretch! After the second accident, I found myself thinking, “Wow. Surely this is the end of it.” After the next one, a friend reminded me that bad things come in three’s, so our luck should be turning. Yeah…I’m here to tell you that as well-meaning as she may have been, the old wife that told that tale wasn’t being entirely honest. After the fourth accident, my husband and I just looked at each other speechless. Ever a fan of silver linings, I had definitely been on the lookout for something shiny that wasn’t car parts and broken glass strewn across the street. Sure enough, there was a bright side to be found! Along with my new job came a pay increase. Boom – silver lining. We had a little more income to help offset the expenses and the addition of a car payment…not to mention our new and improved insurance premium. Sigh of relief: the storm was finally calming.
If you are an avid reader like me, or you enjoy watching movies, you will likely agree that any good story has its fair share of twists and turns. Let’s be honest, in real life things would be a bit boring if entirely predictable. However, there can come a point where one waves the white flag of surrender. That moment came for me when I received word that my company lost a big account and that I was being laid off. You know when it’s really hot out and you can see what looks like a shimmering stream of water running across the road ahead? Yeah, it was like that: my silver lining turned out to be a mirage.
Are you beginning to wonder if I was clear about how things normally go, in that guest bloggers are generally expected to write something encouraging? Believe me, I am on the same page. In the midst of a world turned upside down, I debated bowing out and waiting for a time when life was moving more smoothly, making it easier to write something lighthearted and fun. But you know what? Sometimes life isn’t fun. The truth is that life is often messy and at times can be downright frustrating! So why is it that I felt I had to put off writing for another day? Probably for the same reason so many of us feel like we have to smile and give the standard, “I’m great!” during times when our insides are in knots, our hearts are broken, and the smile on our faces is painfully forced.
There’s a line in a song that says, “Everybody hurts sometimes.” I find that simple, yet profound and oh, so very true! In the Christian world, I think many of us feel that we are not allowed to have a bad day. In the midst of that rough day (or week) that something is horribly wrong if we find ourselves feeling like we can’t take one more thing; if the storm appears to be getting the better of us. If it’s true that we all hurt, as R.E.M. so eloquently proposed, then why are so many of us under the impression that we must keep our masks firmly in place? Psalm 103:14 assures us that the Lord knows our frame, that we are but dust. That tells me that while we may be able to fool our classmates or that gal at the office, the One who knows us best isn’t buying it. He knew that we were going to have struggles and that this life would bring troubled waters and during those times, His expectation isn’t for us to pretend all is well. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Furthermore, when we attempt to keep up that charade, I believe that we rob ourselves of something far greater. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we walk around dejected, bemoaning every challenge that comes our way, but rather that we reach out to others and lean on one another when we are overwhelmed.
The Bible is full of examples of how people deal with the storms that crash in on them. When Jonah disobeys, hops a boat to Tarshish and eventually winds up getting tossed overboard to calm the tempestuous sea, God saves him via the belly of the whale. When the disciples are caught in a storm with waves threatening to capsize their boat and they are overcome with fear, the Lord spoke and caused the winds to die down and the sea to calm. Jonah definitely got the messier deal there, but in both instances the Lord rescued his people when they called out to him. But what happens when we don’t get the miraculous solution to life’s dilemmas?
In Exodus, we watch Moses grow into a remarkable leader. I mean seriously, that guy did everything from receiving the ten commandments to dealing with a rather testy Pharaoh who was none too happy with what had become a substandard water supply, along with an infestation of unsightly critters, skin conditions…those plagues were no joke. Fast forward past manna from heaven and a rock springing forth with enough water to quench everyone’s thirst, and we find the people of Israel facing off against one of their greatest enemies, the Amalekites. Moses sends Joshua and his men off to battle while he stands on a hill holding the staff of God. When he held it high, the Israelites prevailed, but when he lowered his hands, the tables turned. Sheesh, no pressure there. If you’ve ever had to hold a position for any length of time, then you can imagine the feeling as the weariness set in. Did Moses pretend he was fine and just push through alone? Nope. A sage guy like Moses knew he needed to rely on the Lord and on others. Aaron and Hur got him a rock to sit on and they each took a side and held his arms up, sharing the burden until sunset.
It would be fantastic if as you read this today you find yourself perplexed, thinking: wow, I have no idea what she’s talking about – my life is an amazing anxiety-free utopia. However, in the event that you find yourself in the midst of a gale, I implore you to let your guard down and allow someone else to help shoulder the load. I’ll leave you with this: “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up his companion: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has no one to help him up…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
For any of you who know me, you are aware that I am a lover of dogs—big dogs. I grew up with a King St. Bernard named Moochie, and since then I’ve owned a black Lab, a yellow Lab, a Golden Retriever, and two Great Danes. Currently my husband and I are the proud parents of a feisty toy Yorkie named Levi and a massive 220 pound Great Dane named Hattie. We got Levi first, but he claimed my husband as his almost immediately. Shortly after, I got Hattie when she was eight weeks old, and she has been my baby ever since.
Even as I write this, her massive head is lying in my lap. I do love her so.
However, just given the plethora of animals I’ve owned myself, it’s a proven fact that most of us outlive our pets, which means that as pet owners, chances are that each of us has had to say good-bye to them at one time or another. This morning a dear friend of mine wrote me to ask for prayers because she and her children are going to have to say good-bye to their sweet dog. It’s heartbreaking, and for those of us who have gone through such a horrible process, their deaths are painfully hard.
More than once I’ve had women ask me if we will see our pets again in heaven. This is such a good and important question. Our pets are a part of our families; so naturally, we want to know if we will get to see them again. I believe that we will. As a matter of fact, I believe that the bible clearly supports that we will. I believe with my entire heart (and based on much biblical research) that I will be surrounded with my big babies for eternity, along with all of my believing family and friends. If you are a Christian and have had pets you have had to bid farewell to on this earth, then I also believe that you will see them again in heaven.
Wonderfully, I’m not alone in this belief. Many theologians agree with me and have written excellent resources on just this subject. Why, even John Wesley wrote the following when speaking of our pets:
“Something better remains after death for these poor creatures …
that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption,
and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”
(Wesley, John, The Works of Reverend John Wesley, A.M. Vol 2 of 7,
Forgotten Books, 1912, p. 56)
John Piper wrote the following poem when speaking of eternity:
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
(Piper, John, “Glorified,” http://www.desiringgod.org/poems/glorified)
How can Mr. Wesley and Mr. Piper and countless other acclaimed and well-known theologians make such a claim?
First of all, I think it important to point out that Christ did not die for our pets, at least not in the way He died for mankind. People are made in the image of God. Christians are partakers in His divine glory and have been redeemed by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our sins have been forgiven by this act of propitiation. Animals are not people, so they don’t need a redeemer in the same way.
However, having said that, I also think that Jesus did die for animals in an indirect sense. According to Romans 8, we know that Christ’s death for humanity purchased redemption for everything created, since everything created was brought down due to the sin of mankind. Romans 8:21-23 tells us,
The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV, emphasis added)
These verses indicate that our resurrection and the redemption of our bodies bought by the sacrificial blood of Jesus will extend to all creation. What Paul is saying is that on the New Earth after our resurrection, the animals who once suffered because of the fall of man and the “groanings of the earth” will be joined with us for all eternity, enjoying the glorious redemption of perfection brought to us in eternity with our Lord.
There are so many passages that speak to God both bringing judgment and blessings on men and animals because of man’s sins and respectively, because of God’s grace. (Exodus 9:22-25; Jeremiah 7:20; 21:16; Ezekiel 14:12-13, 17; Deuteronomy 7:13-14; 28:1-4)
Likewise, John the Baptist testified in Luke 3:6, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The Greek word here translated as “flesh” is sarx, which is inclusive of all flesh, not exclusive to just mean mankind. “All flesh” includes animals. In essence, then, this great prophet was saying that mankind and animals will see the coming redemptive earth.
One of my favorites, though, is how the psalmist exclaims the relationship between God and His created in Psalm 104. In verse 24 of that psalm, the psalmist sings, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Then he goes on to talk about the animals and all created life—sea creatures, birds, mammals—exclaiming how all are fed and cared for by their Creator. But then in verses 29 he says, “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” To which he follows in verse 30 with, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” To “renew the face of the ground” is to re-create. The psalmist is crying out that God will also renew the animals when He redeems the Created, which fully makes sense!
Truly, the Creator could very well intend to make new animals when He redeems the earth, but that doesn’t follow either with His character as a loving and generous Lord or His clear intention to renew that which was already created. Besides, He created us with spirits that have the propensity to be emotionally fed by our pets. We love them, not in place of humans, but in addition to our human relationships. Our pets bring us companionship and joy and unadulterated love. They are committed to us in our darkest and most profoundly sad moments, and they are there to pounce around in unwavering joy when we are exploding in happiness. God did that! And He does nothing accidentally!
Therefore, since we can see that the bible plainly states that both mankind and animals will be renewed in the New Earth, and we also know that God gave us some animals to be special to us purposefully in His great love, doesn’t it follow that our kind and loving Father will bring those relationships into our eternity? I believe with everything in me that this is the truth. My sweet, enormous, ridiculously silly Hattie will be with me in paradise, along with Levi and Moochie and Harley and Champ and Charlie and Chelsea. I’ll see them all there, and I believe you will see your beloved animals, too.
We serve a God of love who purposefully gave us both human and animal relationships to enjoy on this earth. Jesus will return and renew all of creation that “groans” under the curse of sin, and that includes our wonderful pets. So love them now, knowing that good-bye is only temporary. You will see them again.
How awesome to be loved by so great a God as our God!!
And how wonderful to know that this big love will be with me in paradise!!!
**One of my favorite resources when teaching on heaven and the truths the bible proclaims is the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I can’t recommend this book enough for those who are struggling with what to believe about the hereafter and how it accords with the Word of God.
Dr. Deb Waterbury is the President and CEO of Love Everlasting Ministries. In her desire to spread the truth that all Christian women share an intimate relationship with Christ as their Bridegroom while “Breaking the Barriers of Isolation” that often plagues these same women, Dr. Waterbury travels extensively, both nationally and abroad, leading conferences and teaching seminars at every opportunity. She has a special heart for the people of Africa, devoting much of her year to speaking in several countries there. Dr. Waterbury also spends a great deal of her time writing both curriculum for study in the areas of her passion as well as allegorical novels representing the believer’s journey in realizing her position as the chosen bride of Jesus Christ. Her series, The Painted Window Trilogy, has changed the lives of countless women as they come to that beautiful understanding of the truth of their relationship with Christ. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Jeff.
Have you ever met one of those people who is the epitome of freedom? They don’t care what other people think and don’t seem to be phased by what happens to them, but continue to go forward with almost reckless abandon? I’m not one of those people. I would like to be, but I am far from their level of freedom. I have a comfort zone, a routine, to which I have grown accustomed and like to maintain. Interestingly enough, the most free people I know are those who are very close to God, intimately tuned into his voice, and actively seeking his face. The most free people I know have trusted God through good and bad, displaying an awe-inspiring amount of faith. Trusting God is great in theory, until he asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. So, what do you do when his direction or instruction flies in the face of your instincts?
All of our favorite Bible characters navigated through this same internal struggle. Let’s look at Moses. God told him that he would be used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What a ridiculous notion! Then, after they had been rescued from their oppressors, God sustained his people through miracles as they wandered about in the desert. God’s instructions to Moses were ridiculous, but he obeyed, why? It wasn’t because he was being forced or coerced into submission. Moses obeyed because he knew God. He knew His voice and character, making obedience a no-brainer. So why do we struggle so often with following God’s instructions?
I want you to think about a time when God has told you to do something. It could be going and speaking to someone, forgiving someone who hurt you, quitting something or starting something new, or a thousand other things. Do you have yours in mind? I have mine. Now, how does that instruction or direction make you feel? Now, that’s a strange question coming from me, I’m not one to talk about feelings often, but I’m learning that there’s value to this type of self-assessment. I think two of the main responses can be: fear or freedom. I think your reaction depends wholly on your perspective. Let me say it another way, your response to obedience reveals your view of God.
The Bible says that God is love, it’s not that he can love or he loves well, but he is the very definition of love. The Bible also says that perfect Love casts out all fear, meaning that fear cannot exist in the same space as perfect love. When a frightening directive is given by God and your focus is on the directive and yourself (i.e. a selfish perspective), the natural result is fear. But when you focus on the one giving the command, it can be a freeing experience.
Most of the time, I take the selfish road, as I am a very selfish individual. But the interesting thing is that this perspective always leads to my detriment. By focusing on myself and how God’s word effects me it causes me to operate in a place of fear. But, when I change my perspective and focus on God, my response changes. When I know that God loves me and is always looking out for me I can trust that his directions are indeed good. I can know that He wants good things for me and will work things together for my benefit and not to my destruction.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I know that God is good. Every time I have entered into a period of transition or stepped into something scary, God has pulled through and, despite all the bumps in the road, I’ve come out better on the other side. And I believe he will do the same for you. If you’re frighted by that next step He’s telling you to take, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to react with fear, but you can’t stay there. When fear begins to creep in, whispering in your ear to run away or hide, change your perspective and focus on the One who is speaking to you and leading you.
I’m not writing this because I have mastered this or because I have this all figured out. I’m writing this because I’m in the middle of it right now. What God is telling me to do scares me and I have to daily, sometimes hourly, shift my focus to the Lord and off my situation. I’m asking you to join me on this faith walk as we continue to move toward God and away from ourselves.
A simple shift in perspective can change everything. I’m willing to humble myself and change my thinking, are you?
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. She currently works a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. More importantly, she wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
Sarah’s Blog: workinprogressblog.co
I can almost say for certain that there is someone in your life that is abrasive, irritating, competitive, judgemental, controlling, annoying or just plain mean. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. You cringe at the thought of just being in their presence.
It might be a colleague, a family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school, maybe someone at the gym or all of the above. Wherever you are, inevitably there they are.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, you round the corner and THERE THEY ARE! Alarms are going off inside your head! You try desperately to contain your panic, but it’s hard when you instinctively want to turn and run! Instead, you awkwardly manage to expel a series of words that don’t quite sound the same way you thought they would in your head. You feel like a babbling idiot and by the expression on their face they are in agreement.
A sad truth in all of this, is that it isn’t just the colleague, the family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school or even the person at the gym. It’s us… Christian women at church on Sunday morning, at our bible study, in our small group, even at our children’s youth group functions.
Why is this? One reason… Satan! He wants nothing more than for us to focus on his deception and by this creating a division within us; distracting us from the opportunity to see the beauty of Christ in others and in ourselves. Whether we are the cause or the effect of the irritation we focus on the negative in either scenario. We fail to understand the purpose of the irritation and discomfort. If somehow we could just learn to respond in grace, truth, love and total acceptance of one another we would find peace.
As I ponder this, I am reminded of one of God’s amazing creatures the oyster, and the beautiful pearl that He designed for it to create. By definition, pearls form out of the oyster’s natural reaction to protect itself from the irritant. As the sand or parasite works it’s way into the oyster, it’s defense is to coat the irritant with a substance called nacre (the brilliant substance that gives pearls their beauty, luster, strength and resilience). This nacre is deposited layer upon layer as a protective barrier until a lustrous pearl is formed.
It is only in Jesus that we will find this natural beauty within us.
It cannot be cultured or imitated. The process takes time but understanding the value of what it will produce helps us to look to Jesus. Remember that:
In all things the greatest of these is love.
What Satan intends for evil, God intends for good… and it is miraculously happening at the same time. Hold tight to this, believe it and trust in Him.
We have the choice to respond in defense and avoidance of the irritation of others or embrace and accept the opportunity to see the beautiful pearl that can only be produced when we allow the Holy Spirit to be our protective barrier that not only coats and protects us but transforms our irritation into a strong, brilliantly beautiful pearl that is genuine and unique.Complete with the capacity to respond in grace, truth and love; and gives us the ability to find
the peace and acceptance that each of us so badly longs for.