Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for May, 2014

Can I Say “Congratulations”?

ImagePhoto Credit: Kristen W Learn

“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12: 15 (NIV)

I don’t mean to boast, but I am tender-hearted. My friends know I cry easily when they share their pain with me and I am quick to hug or give a comforting touch when sorrow hits. So I have “mourn with those who mourn” pretty well covered. But that is the second half of the Paul’s command to the Romans; the first part is “rejoice with those who rejoice”.

Harder to do – for me, especially when my friend’s joy comes from a source that I am not sharing – like a big pay raise, a house renovation, a new car, a wonderful trip or vacation.   Remember what it feels like when a friend has a baby and you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, a friend marries when your love life is fraught with difficulty or is non-existent or when facebook photos come through of that smiling couple taking a tour of Italian wineries?

We have different blessings and achievements, not cookie cutter lives following a formula for fame and fortune.

“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s successes.” Oscar Wilde

This “very fine nature” that Mr. Wilde touts is the goal. My study bible text note declares that “identification with others in their joys and in their sorrows is a Christian’s privilege and responsibility”. We are pushed to get out of our own self-centered thinking and connect to another person’s joy.

Taking this high road loosens up our hearts and actually feels good. Others find more freedom to enjoy their successes and blessings. When I “rejoiced” with a friend not too long ago about a cruise her husband wanted to take her on, it freed her up to look forward to it and not feel guilty for her good fortune.

I want my friends to celebrate with me, too, in true mutual friendship.

And I yearn to trust that my Heavenly Father hasn’t forgotten me when I don’t receive the same blessings as others. He is the one who gives bread, not stones, and fish, not snakes.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Matthew 7: 9-11 (NIV)

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Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

“He shielded and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.  The Lord alone led him;” Deuteronomy 32:10-11 NIV

Are you familiar with P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, “Are You My Mother?”:  The newly hatched bird emerges to an empty nest and begins a prolonged search for his mother, asking extremely unlikely candidates, “Are you my mother?”, until his own mom returns to his nest with a worm and his heart is filled with a rush of recognition and affection.

I want to point out the parallel between mother love and God’s heart for us.  He is like a mother in his protective, compassionate, and intense emotionally-connected nature. When his protective nature is described using the analogy of a mother eagle who “stirs up its nest” and pushes the fledglings out to fly, we are not shown a God who leaves and flies away as the babies tumble earthward. Instead, in this Scripture, the mother eagle spreads her wings and carries the young eagles on them.  Our motherly instinct is to allow our kids to grow and be stretched, but we do not leave them.  Our hearts, our prayers, and our help remain entirely present for them.

When my son married, my mom’s heart expanded to include his new wife and stretched, with acute pain, to accept his independence, yet at the same time, I am intensely connected to his well-being, and that of his new family.

In addition, we, as moms, feel for our kids when they have physical or emotional pain: injuries, sickness, heartbreaks, or disappointments, God feels for us as well. “Jesus wept” (John 11:23), often used as an example of the shortest verse in the Bible, represents the loving sympathy of God for those two sisters who lost their beloved brother Lazarus.

Our Heavenly Father is depicted as a mother who wants to gather us up under his wings like a mother hen (Matthew 23:37).  The Lord is “compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8 NIV)  This truth is echoed in Psalm 145, and 86. We can trust this warm, protective love of God and “like a weaned child” can rest upon his breast in trust and contentment. (Psalm 131:2 NIV)  Let’s open our hearts to be mothered by God.

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