Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Necessary Fire of Affliction

And when you begin to see that person (someone you love and desire to know Christ deeply) in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. 

We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.”
~(From tomorrow's Oswald Chambers devotional)

"The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 30:29-30

Recently I have been watching as someone I love struggles. I know that this person needs to go through this. They can't go around it. I hate to see him struggle...I hate to see him hurt...but I know it is necessary. It is the fire of affliction that will bring him closer to Christ. I want him to hear the bridegroom's voice.

I've wanted to take away this person's pain. I've wished I could share some of it in order to lessen his burden, but would that be best? I think of my own fire of affliction and know that it was the best thing I could have gone through. It was the trial that ultimately made me surrender to the will of God. I must step back and allow the Lord to work in this person I love. 

When learning to trust the Lord with all of your heart, you must go through a time when it is difficult to trust. It is a time when you ask, "Lord, where are you?" When you think you can't possibly survive the pain...the loss, the brokenness. That is when you get to the end of yourself and throw yourself at his feet in total surrender.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

I've been struggling with this one all of my life. Trusting him. And once I get past a rough part...there is another challenge to face. Fire. Quicksand. Flood. Desert. Okay...not literally. I've never faced any of those. I just like figurative speech. I have a thing for analogies and metaphors. 

I finally came to the conclusion that life is not about living happily and comfortably after. It is not about meeting someone special, falling in love, getting a good education and career, buying a house, having a family, saving for a comfortable retirement....And then when you are old, and good and ready to die, you do...but in your sleep without any pain or suffering. It is really about learning to trust the Lord in everything. It is also learning to love those around you.

We all know that life isn't wrapped neatly in beautiful packages and tied with bows. Sometimes when a package is opened, we don't like what we see, we say, "What is this, Lord? I didn't want this one. Can I exchange it for something better?" It reminds me of that old show we used to watch when we were kids. The Price is Right. There were always three doors to choose from. You never knew if you would end up on a cruise in the Bahamas and a brand new sports car or the dud gift-like a lifetime supply of frozen peas. Should you choose door number one? Door number two? Or door number three? There was always a mixture of anticipation and trepidation when we watched contestants make their choice. But...don't get me wrong. I don't think that the Lord is really back stage chuckling at our disappointments. 

If everything fell exactly into place in my life...what would cause me to feel a need for the Lord? Nothing, that's what! I'd have it all together. Life is challenging. We meet new challenges all the time. Jamie and I are facing some of our own. Is this anything unique to the human experience? No. Worldwide, we have that in common with people everywhere facing challenges. There is nothing new under the sun. That is what Solomon wrote in his old age. He had a lifetime to draw wisdom from. I'm getting smarter as the years roll by, but that is not always a consolation.

One consistent truth has come back again and again. "Everything is going to be all right." We've always been taken care of. We always have enough to eat, clothing to wear and money to pay the bills. Even in the face of death- yes...that has happened too. My brother when I was only 16, my father and my mother. In the face of illness...things are going to be all right. In the face of setbacks....things are going to be all right. 

"Because He lives, I can face the future. Because He Lives, all fear is Gone....Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives." I can hear my father singing this in my memory and it is reassuring. My parents were great people of faith and I will be forever grateful for the examples they were to me.