I was supposed to post on Monday, forgive me :) As always, I think of you often and about our late night chats... We are all praying for you a lot, too.
My friend Oswald wrote this for March 19th and I thought about you: "Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason... one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world... The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character..a life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagle's wings, but it is a life of day-in and day-out consitency; a life of walking without fainting" (Isaiah 40:31). Amen!
I am so glad he said it is not a life of understanding and reason.. because I am so frustrated when I can't explain away certain things in my life. Things like... suffering are not to be fully understood in this life. I love 1 Cor. 13 because God is not yet done, "Now we know in part.. and we see in part.." but when we see Jesus, it will all make sense... everything will finally come together, but until then we have to walk in faith.. believing all things happen for a greater plan, whether we know what that is or not. One day he will right all wrongs and bring justice. And I hate the thought of living in the consequences of horrific events without ever being able to say what it produced or what good came from it.. but I have got to understand that God's 'wonderful plan' is wonderful from His perspective, and not from mine. Ok and... too, Jesus never really promises peace in the sense of no more struggling and suffering in this world. HE was lonely. But he does offer Himself.. if we go to Him for other things he might send us away empty handed.. but when we go to Him for Himself, He will always fill our deepest hunger. I may have already shared that, but that hs really been on my heart.
I titled this Isaiah because God has taught me a lot through Isaiah the past two months. This week there were a few chunks that stood out to me...
"The path of the righteous is level; O upright one, you make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you" (26:7-9).
"Lord, you established peace for us, all that we have accomplished you have done for us" (26:12).
"Lord, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer. As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O Lord" (26:16-17).
I really love the first verse and this second chunk of verses.. about yearning for God, and it makes me think about how much of my life and desires are just longings for Christ and wanting to be filled with Him.. whether I acknowledge it or not, all of my desires for joy and companionship and success are really for Christ (in one way or another). I feel well acquainted with the last verse about barely whispering a prayer. I don't know if I ever knew, until recently, what it would be like to be speechless and to be so... I don't know, rocked, that I could barely whisper a prayer.. and while I know that the hurt and grief that brought me here are evil and awful... I am grateful for the intimacy with Christ, even though I can hardly say a word to Him.
I really like this chunk in chapter 28 (v. 27-29):
"Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin; caraway is beaten with a rod, and cummin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it, his horses do not grind it. All this comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom."
I like that because we all face threshing. Some are rolled over, some are beaten with a rod, others with a stick.. but the grain and cummin has to be beaten before it can be made useful... but it is not threshed forever. We are all afflicted and beaten down but not in the same ways. About this passage Matthew Henry writes, "The Lord on occasion threatens, corrects, spares... Afflictions are God's threshing instruments, to loosen us from the world, to part between us and our chaff, and to prepare us for use. God will proportion them to our strength; they shall be no heavier than there is need..." I am grateful for that, that God really does know what we can bear. I heard a quote a while ago that said something like.. "The harder the training, the greater the champion." I hope that's true for Jesus too.
I have thought a lot about the idea of having joy in the middle of our suffering. Paul talks a lot about it.. I am thinking a lot about James too, where it says to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of any kind... and when I first read that (like 4 years ago) I remember thinking.. that is so stupid (chalk it up to being a baby Christian with a raging temper :D), how dare anyone tell me that I am to rejoice because of pain and suffering and trials? But as I have grown and my temper has dissipated, I have seen that God doesn't call all evil things good- he sees pain and hurt and evil for what it is and calls it such.. and enters into our pain. But the trials are the setting for our greatest opportunities for joy.. like experiencing God's comfort and Him meeting us in the middle of it- Romans 8 says God promises to work out all things for our redemptive good in the end.. and in Hebrews where it says that "for the joy set before Him... Christ endured the cross."
It says Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. There was no joy in the cross-it brought pain and agony and death. It wasn't for the joy of the cross that Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified.. but because of the joy set before Him... the saving of many souls. Sidenote- utnil recently I had never really thought much about, or understood why Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" on the cross.. I just didn't get it, and thought.. man, I mean.. He KNEW that was what he was coming to earth for.. Wouldn't that make God mad that Jesus is saying he forsook Him? But someone explained to me that on the cross, at that exact moment.. Jesus LITERALLY became sin for us, and God took out all his wrath and hatred and anger toward sin out on Jesus. I still don't fully understand it, but whoa!
I also thought of Joseph, who tells his brothers (roughly), "What you intended for evil... God intended for good." Without God in my story there is just no redemption.
In Romans 5 it talks about how Christians will have pain and suffer like everyone else.. it is just as real and heartbreaking and deep.. but how we face suffering is different. God allows us to see through the suffering and to know that our pain is NOT without meaning- and in that we can rejoice.
Wow, I wrote a novel. Hah I am sorry! But I read this today and hope it blesses you too:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus... the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.. for just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our bodies, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.. We do not want you to be uniformed brothers, about the hardships we suffered... we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God" (2 Cor. 1:3-8).
Miss you more than you know, and praying God gives you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.
"Come until me whoever you are to who I am through whatever terrors the dark holds for you" (Buechner).
Ok one more quote... this is from Hinds Feet in High Places... this is the Shephered (God) talking:
"There is absolutely no experience, however terrible, or heartbreaking or unjust, or cruel, or evil, which you can meet in the course of your earthly life, that can harm you if you will but let Me teach you how to accept it with joy; and react to it triumphantly as I did myself, with love and forgiveness and with willingness to bear the results of wrong done by others. Every trial, every test, every difficulty and seemingly wrong experience through which you may have to pass, is only another opportunity granted to you of conquering an evil thing and bringing out of it something to the lasting praise and glory of God. You sons and daughters of Adam, in all your suffering and sorrow, are the most privileged of all beings, for you are to be perfected through suffering and to become the sons and daughters of God with His power to overcome evil with good."