Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for November, 2013

How Do I Face This?

Photo Credit: Miroslav Petrasko

Photo Credit: Miroslav Petrasko

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8: 28 (NIV)

I was twenty-six years old when I got married.  My plan for kids was to work full-time for exactly two years then start a family.

Having trouble conceiving was nowhere in my frame of reference, so I was emotionally blind-sided when it happened. Add to that being far from friends and family when we began going to specialists and taking tests.

The result of all the anxious medical effort was “undefined infertility” and no guarantee if or when we could have a baby.

My yearning for a child burned like fire.  How could I feel that horrible?  No one ever told me about this! For months, I followed my inner city pastor’s wife down the aisle of the church to the prayer altar after services.  She always passed my pew with streaks of tears down her face.  If she – a church leader- wore her heart on her sleeve, so could I.

My inner world was one quivering cry of doubt and despair.  I had no trust in the outcome.  I held onto one tiny scrap of faith that God was good and wasn’t punishing me.

There is no way around any mountain of suffering.  Honestly, even now, my trust in God is mostly based on what He has already done, not what He will do, but He still acts on my behalf even with that “little faith”.

Now that is a good God – one who doesn’t hold back mercy or help until we are wise, strong or filled with faith.

Years later, I did become pregnant and we had a beautiful baby boy. Two lovely girls followed.  “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children” Psalm 113:9.

I am blessed with the gifts of my children. They certainly didn’t come as a result of my faith-filled prayers, spiritual surrender, or organized plans.  God gave them to me, pure and simple, and I am profoundly grateful.

Where Are You, God? Hide and Seek

Photo Credit: Laura Smith

Photo Credit: Laura Smith

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7, 8 New International Version)

I remember playing “hide and seek” as a little girl in my grandparents’ three-story house by the Atlantic Ocean.  “Hillcrest” rested on a rise overlooking the southern Maine coast with its rocky promontories.  This magical house boasted a wrap-around porch,  two staircases, an ancient kitchen, a shadowy attic, and plenty of beds to hide under with its eleven bedrooms.

My cousins and I played a version of the game called “sardines” which required one person to hide and all the rest to spread out looking for the hiding place and then cram in with the hider as secretly as possible until only one lonely searching child remained who then “lost” the game.

Searching and not finding – it didn’t feel good, especially as the game progressed and there was no longer anybody to keep me company. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus makes us the promise that if we seek him, we will find him?

Musician David Crowder in his song “Deliver Me”, draws us another picture – we hide and God searches for us:  “All of my life, I’ve been in hiding, wishing there was someone just like you.  Now that you’re here, now that I’ve found you, I know that you’re the wonderful Maker.” (David Crowder Band, “Illuminate”, 2003)

Almost all of the summers of my formative teen years I stayed with my grandparents and had ample opportunity to seek God in the breathtaking beauty of the rocky bluffs that overlooked the ocean.  I found a natural seat carved by wind and waves and spent hours hidden from view in the rocks, gazing out at the sea and seeking to connect with the Almighty.  High tide splashed the seat with cold salt spray and low tide uncovered endless sand stretching away to the ocean’s edge below my perch.

A few years ago, God brought to mind a mental picture of my teenage self on that rocky love seat. He gently asked me if I realized where He had been as I sought his comfort and guidance during those vigils. He wasn’t hovering far out over the ocean or looking down on me from the sky, Jesus was sitting right next to me, warmly pressed up to my side. “Do you see?  I was that close to you all that time you were lonely and seeking me.  And I am still right here, closer than any friend!”

We are not engaged in a perpetual game of hide and seek, or a cosmic swimming lesson; God does not continually move farther away as we swim toward Him.

This is an ancient and binding promise: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  (Deuteronomy 4:29 New International Version)

 

Do I Need Some Solitude?

Photo Credit: Dhoomakethu!!

Photo Credit: Dhoomakethu!!

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…” (Matthew 24: 22, 23 New International Version)

Jesus was alone, but not lonely.  He knew his desperate need to be away from his disciples, the crowds, his enemies, his teaching, his healing.  He actively sent everyone away and walked up to a place of solitude to spend time alone with his Father.

As Mrs. Charles E. Cowman wrote in her 1939 devotional, “The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.”  (Streams in the Desert)

In my life in suburban America, I don’t often hike a mountain to commune with God, yet, daily places of solitude are readily available to me – spaces and times when family and work do not distract.  I have learned to stop moving, stop doing and sit still, but once I am physically alone and paused, I still have the challenge of sending away another type of “crowd” – my thoughts.

Inevitably, I come to that outward silence – no people, no pets, no television, no computer – and my inward noise starts up.  My brain whirls with things I must do, worries about unsolved problems, and even thoughts of self-doubt or self-recrimination.  I certainly can’t hear the voice of my Heavenly Father with all that mental company, so I am learning to forcibly put aside these distractions – scribbling my “to do” thoughts down on a scratch pad I keep next to me and off-loading the worries and doubts as quickly as possible in prayer. Then I listen.

The wonder of silence inside and out!

“I love the lonely creative hours with God!”  Madame Guyon

My most dramatic listening moment came many years ago when I was faced with a fork in the road – stay in the U.S. or move to Israel.  When I finally stopped asking for advice, talking about the decision, and thinking in circles about the pros and cons, I waited a long time with quieted mind and surroundings.  God spoke audibly to me. “Stay!” he said, and I obeyed and discovered the truth of poet Robert Frost’s words:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Andrew Murray pleads with us:

“Would that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God. Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!” (excerpt from Streams in the Dessert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

God and me.

Me and God.

Holy solitude.

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