Saturday, February 11, 2017

Winter's Lessons & Spring's Hope

Image by Valerie Smith using a kit from:  "The Daily Digi"

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 42: Today, I am grateful for winter's lessons and spring's hope. 

I woke up today, knowing that "suffering" was going to be a part of today's gratitude spot. I thought I might rather stay in bed, but I knew that was not an option. So, I began to pray. 

I am reading two books right now. One is Love Does by Bob Goff.  Funny how God uses other people's words to speak His truth into our lives. Bob is cracking me up and making me think. This was the perfect quote to begin a conversation on suffering. 

I used to think I could shape the circumstances around me, but now I know Jesus uses circumstances to shape me. - Bob Goff, Love Does

Job was on my mind. Job's name came up last night, as we discussed boys and girls Biblical names with the kids in an animated, opinion full discussion. Frankly... nobody wants to sign a kid up for Job's path by naming someone after him. 

How many "Jobs" do you know? Even though, the end is pretty amazing. That middle section scares the bejeebers right out of us. 

Then, I remembered Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Moses, Nehemiah, David, Paul, Esther, Ruth, Rahab and so many more who had seasons of suffering. It is the surrender to the wild ride and seeking his face in the darkest, longest nights that prefaces the dawn. Coming out of the dark and into the light is an amazing space. 

What do these people have in common with Job? They... in their broken places... bowed to a sovereign God and said "not my will but thine be done." Not easy... but life changing like nothing else I have known. In their moments of broken surrender...they found rest.  

They discovered restoration. 

Our God can not ignore our brokenness when we are his. He longs to quench our deepest needs. The scriptures are coming faster than I can type. Please be patient as I try to get them to come together in a way that  makes sense. Ask if it doesn't. 

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. -Psalm 42:1

"Am I thirsty for your Lord?" is a prayer I need to pray. I want to be thirsty. 
"Do I trust you with my brokenness or try to fix it on my own? Be my glue Lord."  

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  -Psalm 34:18

The Lord promises..."I am with you." He grants courage in the very moment it is needed. But not always before. Let's look to the boys in the book of Daniel:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18(NLT)

Shad, Shach and Benny didn't wake up that morning ready to sign up for the fiery furnace. I am sure they prayed they would not be faced with THAT trial (Daniel somehow did... probably in charge of something at the palace). But, the crisis moment came...

"We want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty... we will not bow down" 

When it came to bend or burn... they chose burn. Yikes! The king thought them crazy... but in the end... it was Nebuchadnezzar, the great king, who would bow in worship to the one true God. 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. -Galations 6:7 (NIV)

God will not be mocked. He is with us in the winters... and out of that experience comes new life. Some can be faithful from the beginning. Most of us... we need a winter to remember who he is. Out of our need comes the desire to know him better. When we know him... deeply, intimately... we can really embrace Joshua's and Paul's words:

"Choose you this day whom you will serve."-Joshua
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Paul (Philippians 1:21)

Suffering and trials shape us. But in Him, we can't really loose. Some clay... like me... is more stubborn and difficult to mold. That's okay. He loves a challenge. He does not compare us to others (we do that on our own). He is patient and not easily angered. He doesn't keep a record of the sins we cover with the blood of Jesus when we ask forgiveness. 

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,(K) it is not easily angered,(L) it keeps no record of wrongs.(M) -1 Corinthians 13:5 
(I am leaving the links to the cross references... they are a magnifying glass into the heart of God's unfailing love and the truth of this passage.)

Our God IS LOVE. 

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:8

There is a difference between knowing who he is and knowing him. When we know him... we know peace. We taste satisfaction. It is real... even in the midst of a suffering winter's song.  

No God; no peace. Know God; know peace. 

My favorite Job passage:
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. -Job 13:15

This life will have it's share of trials. Satan has not yet been put in his proper place, but his time is getting shorter. What if we are the generation that sees Christ's return? We must stay the course. 

Can I defend my ways to his face? His blood covers my sins. He is my advocate before the Father on judgement day. But on that day... and I shudder a bit at this reality... he may ask:
"How did act out your love for me each and every day? Whom did you serve?" 

"How did you obey my commandment to love others? Tell me more." 

There is no "pleading the 5th". He already knows the answer. 
How I long to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I don't feel very "good". Faithful... is a adjective to describe fidelity. Do I cheat on God with worldly things? Sometimes. To be counted amongst the faithful... "Oh I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in." (Earworm is singing his heart out Louis Armstrong style.)

Press on, weary one. Hope springs eternal, because the Lord knows the heart. He will know the sincere seekers and they find him. 

Today, I am grateful for winter's lessons and spring's hope. 

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