PAIN IN HIS PLAN

I’ve struggled with this post. I even deleted it after I posted it once. I worried that it was too whiny. But it’s honest, and I know I can’t be the only Christian out there who has felt this way. And I know that God can use times like this to draw us closer to him. So here goes….

The last month has been a lesson for me in trusting God and God only. My husband had been unemployed for over two months and had failed to qualify for unemployment benefits yet. I was out of of options and found myself in a situation that I absolutely could not manipulate, adjust or change at all. And I felt I had no one to turn to because I wanted to honor my husband and not shame him, but he was quite frankly contributing to my sense of helplessness. That left me alone with God to be my comfort and help. Which is fine, except that I really needed to hear someone tell me everything would be fine.

So I prayed for my husband to overcome whatever was holding him back from doing what he needed to do for his family. I prayed for myself to have peace and patience while I waited. I prayed for God to make a way. I was holding out hope that not only would my husband finally get qualified for unemployment benefits, but that we would receive the lost weeks of benefits as well. I knew God could make a way, and I hoped that He would be abundant since our resources were thinning out quickly. (It’s comforting to have money as a back-up plan, isn’t it? But God was weaning me from depending on anything but Him, it seemed.)

Well, God didn’t show off with abundance; it was more like daily bread. My husband got approved for unemployment, but only for that week going forward.

I struggled with this for over a week. Knowing that I had no control over the situation, I had trusted my husband to do what he could. Now I love him dearly, but in this moment, he wasn’t really hadn’t been a source of comfort. For two months, he allowed the situation to deteriorate. I had continued to put my trust in a God who promised He could redeem situations. When He gave sufficiency instead of abundance, I felt let down. I felt like God didn’t want to do what I knew He could do for me. I questioned His love for me. I had needed to see His power, His blessing, His unquestionable presence. I desperately needed to know that He would take care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself and I didn’t have anyone else I could rely on, and I felt He had done only what He absolutely had to in order to be faithful.

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But, His provision had been sufficient. The next need was for full-time employment for my husband. Again, God answered with sufficiency. He will start a part-time job with no benefits in a week.

Through all of this, I’ve asked God to help me see things the way He sees them – me, our resources, my family, our situations, Himself. I believe He’s doing that, but it’s painful. God’s showing me that his grace is sufficient, and that “sufficient” isn’t a bad thing. But more significantly, He’s knocking down the support beams I built myself in order to make room for the support beams I believe He wants to provide – stronger and more dependable, more eternal. But demolition is painful and scary.

afb1629838ea1fc4119011f85ba367eaAll the support I’ve depended on throughout my life has been shaky with a poor foundation, but I’ve clung to it desperately because it is all I’ve had. My trust in others has been tenuous at best. My trust in an intangible God who shows grace always and anyway? There’s the challenge. But what an amazing foundation to build my faith on if I can only hold on during the necessary demolition!

 

DO I DOUBT GOD?

This morning I spoke to a woman who has a teenaged boy with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I told her I’d pray for her family. For the son’s health, for wisdom and compassion for all who care for him. For peace for the family. And I am trusting God to do this.

I’m trusting the same God who I felt – in the deepest part of my spirit – had failed me last week.

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So what kind of God do I trust in? The kind who will love me less than He loves someone else? Do I trust in a changeable God, a stingy God, a God without compassion? Do I trust in a God who is interested in my wellbeing only when it suits him? Do I trust in a God who denies me because He is frustrated with me?

His word says He is none of these things.

Is God changeable? No. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken and will not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) He cannot change.

So is God unloving and insensitive to my needs? No. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

Then did I not have enough faith in God? No. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) He will never leave me nor forsake me, in spite of my failings.

Do I believe in a God who is clueless about what I need? No. “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.'” God is in my past, my present and my future now. He knows what I need.

So did God just choose to deny me what I prayed for out of spite? No. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1) God gives his children good things, and I am a child of God.

So I must believe that the same God to whom I am praying for this woman and her family is the same God in whom I put my trust last week and in whom I will continue to trust. It is in this that I choose to trust: “So that by two unchangeable things, in which it impossible for God to lie, we who have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)

After all…a587dfe1aa37c3066e70b2f27b4d032e

 

 

 

WHO IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT?

I’ve figured out why it’s so hard to sit in the passenger seat when my teenage daughter practices driving. I have no control, and that leaves me vulnerable. I can give her gentle suggestions, or I can grab the dashboard and gasp as if my life were in imminant danger (which was my mother’s personal favorite!), but I can’t control Maggie. Ultimately, I have to accept that she is doing the driving and I am not.

Brene’ Brown is all about being vulnerable, and her message is very liberating.

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Which, I suppose, makes me pretty courageous!

Sometimes, vulnerability is the unavoidable spinning of your car on an icy road as you draw closer to another car.  You have no control and you have no idea how things will end. Nothing you say or do will avoid the collision. Sometimes it’s just trusting someone, which allows you some amount of control as you determine how much you trust them and what you trust them with. It’s honestly hard for me to say which is more frightening.

When it comes to letting Maggie drive, I’ve narrowed everything down to one rule: Don’t freak out mom! Don’t follow so close, drive so fast or do anything to freak out mom. Essentially, that translates to “Give mom peace while you’re driving.”

It’s the same hope I have in God. It’s my prayer that God won’t do anything to scare me or make me insecure, but that he’ll lead me in peace. But that has a lot to do with me, though. I know that in Christ I have a Good Shepherd who loves me, in whom I can put my trust. He leads me beside the still waters to calm me. I know his voice, and I know that he will keep me safe from predators – whether they’re literal or figurative. But I have the responsibility to believe this truth. If I don’t trust in Him, it doesn’t matter how gentle He is with me if I’m going to freak out regardless of the situation. When I choose to worry, I lose confidence in Him.steering wheel

I have to be confident in this: God has promised to take care of all things that concern me, and He does it because He loves me. I can trust Him to be in the driver’s seat – even if I get a little nervous sitting in the passenger seat.

He loves you, too! So much so that He’s invited us to cast all our cares and anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So go ahead and give it a shot! You might be surprised at what can happen if you’re willing to trust Christ in the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN GOD?

I wish my faith in God was more consistent. I struggle with putting my confidence in Him because I can’t seem to separate how I see Him and how I see other people.

When you’re in relationship with people, you need to trust them. And people can be so disappointing. We’re not perfect, we’re often selfish, and I think disappointment can be expected. But what do you do when you’re disappointed in God?

It seems so wrong to admit that I’m disappointed in my heavenly Father, but I am. I’ve been trusting Him to come through in spite of the failure of anyone else. I’ve believed that He could redeem what’s been lost. I’ve tried to trust that He could not only meet my needs, but exceed them. Yesterday, I was relieved to learn that He met my needs, but that was it.

I’ve been at a low point, needing to see God work in my life. I’ve prayed fervently for even a small hint that I could count on Him to take care of me when I felt no one else was. That’s the way it should work, right? Even if the world fails you, you can trust in God when you’re His child?

Consistently, His word tells us to take heart and be confident in Him. We’re told that He will never leave us or forsake us. Then why do I feel so disappointed in Him?

I think my disappointment comes from having a different idea of what I need than God has.

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds me that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

This requires me to make a shift from trusting in what God can do to trusting in who God is. For me, the two have been the same. If God loved me, I reasoned, He wouldn’t let me be uncomfortable, scared or depressed. He would meet the needs I believe I have – namely, financial.

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The needs I see for myself are physical – food, shelter, employment, clothing. I see bills that need to be paid. But God’s thoughts and plans are higher and longer-term than ours. My thoughts are also far more self-focused. I don’t know what His plans are, but I’m certain they’re far more extensive than mine. They may even require my discouragement in order to get me where He needs me to be – as opposed to where I want to be.

I also need to change how I see myself. I’ve been so focused on how entitled I was. And because I felt entitled, I was disappointed. I can’t let disappointment define me or someone else. God hasn’t called me to pass judgment or to sentence someone else for disappointing me. He has called me to have a heart after His own, one that requires love and forgiveness. And it requires that I trust in His plan even when I don’t understand it or it doesn’t seem to serve my needs.

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WHO FORGOT THE BREAD?!

I can’t tell you how I got there, but I ended up looking at Matthew 16. Take a look:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Now, here’s what I came away with: These disciples had lived with Jesus – at his side, day and night, day after day. They’d listened to His personal, intimate teachings, as well as the parables He’d shared with his audiences. And with each of His lessons, He was training and instructing the men who would carry on his ministry after His death. He wanted them to be prepared.

And they thought Jesus was worried that they hadn’t brought bread along for the trip!

He had to remind him of the miracles he’d just performed by providing enough bread to feed about 9,000 people (and their families), with leftovers. Those miracles displayed His ability to not only meet a need, but to do it in abundance. He wasn’t worried about having enough bread!

I can almost imagine Jesus thinking, “Seriously?!” But that’s all the further the disciples could see.

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These were the men who would carry on his ministry. The time for Him to leave them was growing closer by the hour. No wonder Jesus prayed for them! No wonder he sent the Holy Spirit to help them.

No wonder we have a hard time “getting” the message. Jesus was patient with His disciples, though. Patient and compassionate. And He’s just as patient and compassionate with us as we work to understand what He’s trying to tell us or what He’s trying to do in our lives.

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Jesus knows it can be difficult to understand him sometimes. As he was washing the feet of His disciples, they were taken aback. Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV) I think it’s safe to say that this is a constant state for most of us – we don’t understand now, but later we will.

Right now, God’s doing some things in my life that I really don’t understand. I want so desperately to trust Him because He says He loves me and has a good plan for me, but it’s really hard to hold onto that sometimes! It can be a little scary to wait on God.

It’s my prayer that those of us who are confused and/or discouraged trust in God to get us through our trials, that we will believe in His goodness and His timing – especially when we don’t know what He’s doing. I pray that while we wait, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and fill us with peace, wisdom and confidence in our Lord. Amen.

I’M WITH HIM

I’ve decided to change the name of my blog now that I have a clearer idea of what I want it to focus on. “My Train of Thought” was pretty general. I want the focus of my blog to be my relationship with God through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. I want to look at what life can be like as a child of God, and I have been meditating on what that means.

I’m finding that my relationship with God and any “entitlement” I have as His child comes down to this: it wouldn’t be possible without Christ. Unless I believed that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV), I would have no relationship with God, no access to my heavenly Father.

Jesus is my mediator, my bridge, my intercessor. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. The only way I can approach the throne of God is with Jesus. Because of Jesus, I can not only approach the throne of God, but do so boldly! I’ve done nothing and can do nothing on my own to deserve it, but all I need to do is point to Christ Himself and say, “I’m with Him.” And I know that if anyone asks, Jesus will smile and nod. “Yes,” He’ll say. “She’s with me. I paid the price for her.”

What’s more, I know that He’s with me.

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DROWNING IN DOUBT

I’m so glad the Gospel includes the disciples.  Especially Peter.

I had a “Peter” week last week, and what a roller coaster it was! My last post was bold and brave. The next evening, I cried in doubt and insecurity. Where I had been confident of God’s provision, I became anxious. Where I had felt strong, I became insecure.

Long after my work-week bedtime, I stayed up crying, frustrated with God and His timing. Long-story, short, our family is struggling financially. My husband has been unemployed for a little over two months and his unemployment funds haven’t been released to him yet. We’ve been relying on what little retirement funds he had to pay bills that were already mounting heavily for us. We have no savings. His retirement is the last of our financial resources, and finding employment suited for my husband has become a challenge.

I’ve been trusting God to help us,  believing that He will provide. I would love to say I have a steadfast faith, but I don’t yet. Although I’ve found that I’m far more resilient than I have been in the past.

So Wednesday I stepped out of the boat in faith. I decided to focus on Jesus and trust in his word to see us through this trial. I wouldn’t focus on my circumstances. My faith was strong, and I wanted to be used mightily by God to encourage other children of God to be strong, too. By Thursday night, I was frustrated and, honestly, a bit angry with God.

I had been trusting that not only would our needs be met. I even dared to believe that we might actually experience abundance. Now, I was simply hoping that we would get the unemployment funds that my husband was entitled to. What kind of God withholds what little is owed to us? Where’s the victory in that? How does our lacking provide a testimony to His greatness? Why wasn’t my faithfulness being rewarded? Does God even care?

And as I sat in the dark of my living room, crying, doubting God, I began to sink into despair just as Peter sank into the sea when he looked out on the intimidating waves. ‘This is ridiculous,’ I decided. ‘Who was I to think I could step out in faith and not drown? Look at all that surrounds me!’

Fortunately, Christ is patient with our doubt. He is patient and compassionate when we act like Peter. Peter was the first to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, the messiah. He was bold and outspoken. He stepped out in faith and then sank. He vowed to never deny Christ, then denied him three times. He defended his Lord with a sword only to learn that Jesus didn’t approve of his methods. He believed in Christ’s divinity and then heard, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’

But! But Jesus knew Peter’s heart and saw his potential. In Luke 22, we find Christ understanding Peter in ways that Peter doesn’t even see himself:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (31 – 34)

What I love about this passage is not just that Jesus knows that Peter will fail him, but that he knows that Peter will “turn back” and strengthen his brothers. He knows that Peter will repent and return. And He knows that upon his return, Peter will be strong enough in his convictions and faith that he will encourage and strengthen his brothers. After he denies him. He doesn’t count Peter out for failing Him; he counts on Peter’s return.

I think our great Intercessor knows that we will fail Him. He knows we’ll step out in faith, only to step back in fear and self-preservation. He also knows that we have the potential to develop resilience and come back to Him stronger. And he never stops loving us. He always welcomes us back with compassion and forgiveness.

I think if Peter had had a second opportunity to walk to Jesus on top of turbulent waves, he would have given it another shot. I also think he would have started sinking again – although not as soon as he did the first time. So today I pick myself up, dry my tears and humbly repent and return to my Savior – still wet from the water, but a bit stronger in my faith as Christ reaches out to pull me up saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 31)

And, like Peter, I am returning to my blog to encourage you to not give up faith. It is my prayer that each time we fail, we repent and return stronger in our faith. I pray that we allow God to work through our weaknesses and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, empower us to soldier on. Jesus is there to immediately reach out His hand to catch us. We have only to call out to Him.