Not For A Moment

This week has left me speechless. Our world–near and far– is so horribly broken. Sickness, death, war, and trauma abound.  None of us can say we have never hurt deeply. We are all very, very broken, and we all need a Savior. 

As a mother, I adore my son. He is precious to me, and I enjoy him simply because he is mine. Like most children, he has days that make me want to pull my hair out. Some days I fight him tooth-and-nail to listen and obey, and to understand that I love him and want good things for him.. Some days I just want to cry from sheer frustration when his strong will and my own collide.

But no matter the day we had, if my son wakes up in the middle of the night crying because he is scared, I go to him.  It doesn’t matter how frustrated I may have felt during the day. I love him fiercely, and I don’t want him to be scared. I want him to trust that I will be there when he needs me. I want him to know he is safe, loved, and that I am with him. I can’t make the sun come up, but I can be with him in the darkness. 

 I have to believe that God feels even stronger about us. We are pitiful, sinful beings that often quotescover-JPG-30distrust the God that loves us and wants good things for us. And yet He loves us with an everlasting love. In spite of our sin, our shame, and our guilt, He has has come to us in the middle of our nightmare and rescued us.

We are not alone in the darkness; our God is with us. He doesn’t always immediately take away the pain, but the morning will come. Until then, we are not alone.

About ten years ago, I was in the middle of one of the most difficult seasons of my life thus far. I was struggling with how a good God would allow me to suffer seemingly alone. Why would I want to follow a God that left me in the darkness? But my world was radically changed when God showed me what He has to say about:

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness
 and speak tenderly to her.15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
 There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
 as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“You will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ (Hosea 2:14-16)

The Lord allows us to experience difficult, trying times not to show himself as a God that will beat us  into submission, but rather to show the intimate nature of His love and compassion towards us in spite of ourselves.

It is easy in the darkest times to believe the lie that God no longer cares, that He has forsaken us, that He doesn’t love us. It is easy to believe that we are being punished. In that hard season of my life, I believed I would never be better, and I would be left to rot in the wilderness. But that season is now one of the fondest of my spiritual life because I look back and see God’s goodness, tenderness, and kindness to me in the midst of my doubts, fears, and brokenness.

God loves us fiercely. He is with us in the desert to show us His heart; to show us that when all is lost, He is constant.

Maybe you are suffering tremendously. Look to Him. He has come for us like a good father goes to his child. He loves us with a radical love that changes us. He is able to take the Valley of Achor (the valley of trouble) and make it a doorway of hope.

How have you seen God move through tragedy and pain in your own life?

If you are like me, you enjoy a good song that speaks into the heart of an issue. Here are a few I encourage you to check out:

“The Cure for Pain” by Jon Foreman

“After All (Not for a Moment)” by Meredith Andrews

“Crushed and Created” by Caitlyn Smith

“If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens

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Give Yourself Grace

I am very impatient. I struggle with processes. I want things done yesterday. I have very little quotescover-JPG-64tolerance for waiting for something to be completed when it is in my power to complete it. When I have moved from one house to another, I stayed up late, got up early, and did not stop working until boxes were unpacked, broken down, and thrown away. I like things to be settled. I like things to be neat, tidy, and completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I’m being refined day by day, but patience in imperfection is a toilsome struggle for me.

You too?

Faith and deep growth don’t work that way. We are accepted by God and called His children apart from our own efforts, good works, and best intentions. But He loves us too much to leave us unchanged. He is the Master Gardner that prunes, cuts back dead and dying (and sometimes healthy) branches of our lives so that we can grow into healthy, complete Christ followers. That process takes our entire lives. I’m grateful that He never gives up on us. He promises to finish what He started. He’s in it for the long-game with us.

Becoming a parent has so greatly affected my perception of God and myself. Parenthood is an amazing earthly shadow of what God’s love for us really is like. It is beautiful to me that my son acts like a little boy, but it’s essential that over time he grows into a man. He’s still new to this life, and it is my job to teach and train him to be a mature, responsible adult.  This is a LONG process with a lot of repetition, a lot of discipline, and a lot of humor required. While he is not perfect, or grown up yet, he is 100% my son. He has access to me, my home, where I am. I provide for him. I love him unconditionally.

We are, in the same way, fully accepted into the Lord’s home as His children once we have authentically placed our faith in Christ. But as a perfect Father, He teaches us, He disciplines us when necessary, He loves us, and ultimately He changes us to be like Him. He reaches deep into the pit of our heart and starts to root out weeds that choke out His spirit from within us so that our work may be increasingly fruitful and abundant, and our hearts and lives more and more healed and set free.

Miles J. Stanford has a fantastic book about Spiritual growth called The Green Letters. In it, Stanford states that, “many [believers] feel they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead.” He goes on to quote A.H. Strong: “When God wants to make an oak, He takes an hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.”  Growth and progress take time.

We are wonderful works in progress. What a liberating opportunity to be set free from our expectations of immediate perfection in ourselves and in others. God is working, shaping, deepening, strengthening, pruning, and creating healthy, fruitful followers. Give yourself the grace to be where you are, and allow the Lord to have His way with shaping you more and more over time.

 

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

Step Wisely

We have spent the last five weeks exploring what it means to be truly happy; to be deeply content and at peace. Most everything we have discussed has had nothing to do with circumstances, but instead has focused on our own hearts and the real issues that cut us to the core. We cannot separate authentic happiness from our hearts being set free by the Living God.

There are so many things that we could discuss this final week that fall under the “So You Want To Be Happy” umbrella. As I considered what would be most fitting to discuss today, I couldn’t help but consider how satisfying it is when I see my son starting to make wise choices based on what he is being taught at home.

If you have children, you most likely want your children to grow into wise adults. You take the job of “parent” seriously, and you want to teach your kids right from wrong, how to succeed, and many lessons that you have learned along the way. When you witness your kids choosing the right things you have taught them (speaking kindly, telling the truth, and choosing wisdom over foolishness for example), I am sure that you swell up with pride.

Our true, lasting, deep-seated happiness can only come when we are rooted in relationship with God. When we accept the love of God that has shown to us in Jesus, we are immediately accepted as His children, no matter what. Our good-standing with God is dependent only upon our faith in who He is and the work He has accomplished.

You love your kids no matter what. They could act out terribly on any given day, but they are still your kids. You desire for them to be healthy, and to become wise. God calls us His children, and He desires the same for us. He delights in us as His children. He actively teaches us right from wrong, and how to walk wisely. He desires for us to live healthy, wise lives.

In the book of 1 Kings we see God tell Solomon, David’s son,  and a man who loved the Lord, to ask what He should give to Solomon. I’d probably ask for some kind of super power like flying (I am not a huge fan of airplanes, and would rather just take myself places), or maybe even the ability to pause the world around me to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee when everything gets to crazy and out of control. But Solomon was different. Solomon asked for supernatural understanding and wisdom in order to govern God’s people well.

Whoa. Puts my petty requests to shame.

You and I have the amazing gift of being able to glean from Solomon’s God-given, supernatural wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings primarily written by Solomon to his son(there are a few additional contributing authors as well). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Proverbs. I cannot tell you the amount of trouble that I have been safely steered away from as a direct result of studying the wisdom found in this treasure of a book.

Just today a situation came up that could have really blown up. I felt personally attacked, misunderstood, and I really (really) wanted to fight back. But after years of reading Proverbs regularly, I instantly thought, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city (Proverbs 16:32),” and then, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12). ” I talked myself down, and was able to step back to make the decision to forgive, give the benefit of the doubt, and stop conflict before it started (over something silly, might I add).

Our health as growing people depends upon our willingness to receive and embrace wisdom in all areas of our life. So today’s challenge to you is to take the next 31 days and read one chapter of Proverbs everyday. Proverbs is a very approachable book, whether you have studied a Bible for years, or whether you haven’t even purchased a Bible yet. As you read, underline portions that really speak to your areas of struggle, and when you encounter moments in your day-to-day living that irritate you or challenge you, recall what you’ve been reading and choose a different path.

Step wisely. Walk in the wisdom, and reap the fruit of peace that comes with knowing you are choosing healthy living according to the supernatural, God-given wisdom taught in His word.

I’m curious: have you ever acted foolishly? What did it cost you? Or have you ever chosen wisdom over your impulses? How did that turn out?

 

Run Hard. Love Strong.

~Haley~