Saturday, May 18, 2013

Treasures Hidden in the Darkness

What satisfies you?

The world insists we cannot be satisfied unless our circumstances meet our desires and expectations.

It is the work and nature of unbelief to belittle and limit the fullness of Christ in the eye of the soul. It…conceals and locks up Christ’s treasure and fullness…There is a rich, a glorious, and an overflowing fullness of all good treasured up in Christ for poor sinners, and his grace abundantly exceeds both our wants and sins.
~Edward Pearse, c. 1673

Doesn't that just make you hungry to know more of Christ?  Where is this abundant feast?  How can we dig in?  We need to be fed and fulfilled. The world beats on our souls with doubt until we don't even look for much from God, and we spiritually stagger from day to day, barely sustained on crusts of bread and a bit of thin gruel. I long for more, I hunger for more...I'm learning like a newborn to demand more.

Some days I slip down memory lane, and remember the days when Dave worked at church—they seem so far away now. Echoing in my mind I hear, “Grandma, this is our new pastor. He likes kids!” This was high praise for Dave, coming from a sixth-grader who had just met him a few minutes before. Dave spent a lot of time with that sixth-grader, Steve, and the other junior high students. They used power tools together to build shelving, a cabinet to store puppets, and games for the kids’ “carnival” nights. “If they build the games, they’ll take better care of them—and of church property,” Dave reasoned. He always had willing helpers to run the games for the little kids.

The boys were so excited. “We get to use those?” they asked in wonderment as Dave pulled out the drill and jigsaw. “Tools are loud and dirty, everything a boy could want!” Dave told me. He dovetailed his life into theirs with the skill of a pastor-craftsman. Their best products were not wood and paint, but character quality built over time and with loving workmanship.
That is the life we’re supposed to be living, not this hellish roller-coaster of confusion and pain. God, this is insane! Why did you take it all away? Where is the man you gave to me? You let me have him for a glimpse, you taunt me with moments, and then steal him away again. What about our lives didn’t please you that you thought robbing this man—and the world—of Dave’s joy to minister would somehow be better?
Do you hear the doubt, the unbelief in my thoughts? God robbed us, taunts us. God wasn’t pleased with us. The pull of the road to bitterness is wide, strong, rational—and blind to God. And the treasures that God holds out to us in suffering are locked up tight. Where is the key to unlocking them?

Pastor Cliff, who counseled me the first three years of Dave’s disability, handed me the key in Romans 12. “Be willing.” Willing to go through whatever God puts in our path.

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will…
~ Romans 12:1-2

If life just happens to us, then we are victims. But God holds out to us a great honor. We are not victims if we lay down our lives, if we walk willingly with God on whatever path he has for us, even if that path is filled with pain that we can’t escape.

When we lay down our lives, God is not our adversary, but our Leader who goes before us. He is the Friend who walks with us, the Father who lovingly carries the pieces of our broken hearts, the Beloved Bridegroom who suffers with us—and the Comforter who brings us peace.

“And I will give you treasures
hidden in the darkness—
secret riches.
I will do this so you may know
that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel,
the one who calls you by name.

~Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) 

He is calling you by name. Waiting, with rich food for your soul, longing to give you secret riches of his grace, mercy, and sustenance. Praying you will be fed and encouraged by him today as you look to him.

Excerpted from Invisible Illness, Visible God, Day 10. Available now.

Monday, May 6, 2013

God Gives More Than We Can Handle

Ever feel like God has given you more than you can handle?  You're in good company...and God offers us real hope:
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, who raises the dead.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9
“God won’t give you more than you can bear,” is a popular Christian sentiment, meant to encourage the person who is suffering or experiencing some trial. Yet when your world is falling apart, it does not encourage; it brings uncertainties and a sense of failure—after all, if we can’t handle what we’re facing, what does that say about our faith and our God?

To me this thought both denies reality and waters down God’s power in our lives. It encourages us to be stronger on our own, and to believe there is something wrong with our faith or we could handle our pains better.

The reality is, there are often things in this life that are so awful, terrible, complicated, overwhelming, or painful that they are, indeed, beyond what we can endure. Paul, famous for his joy in the midst of suffering, the man who sang in prison after being beaten, admitted the hardships that he and his companions bore were far beyond their ability to endure, and despaired. Sometimes we will too.

We can stop striving to be spiritual giants who can bear anything "with God's help." Help is for the hard times only, for getting past that rough spot until we can do it on our own again. We were not made to handle things on our own. Relying on God doesn't ever end. It's a continual, daily process of relinquishing self to God. It's continual communion with him.