And When You Have Done All…Stand

Recently, I found something that I wrote several years ago in the midst of some very difficult situations facing our family at the time.  In light of heartache and loss in our family once again, the tragedies so rampant in the news this week, and pain within many dear friends’ families, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as generations before, in need of truth and actual hope.  That one hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty of our sin but also from its power, our guilt, our fear, our pain, and our limitations.  It is not always a physical freedom, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.

What has caused me to face sorrow without despair is the knowledge of and my relationship to the One who holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and my good; not always “good” as we define it but as it is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that sift as only He can.  For He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!

His Word upholds me because it is not just “nice little sayings”  that can be framed and hung on a wall to make me feel good for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows me to hobble along.  It is rock solid truth on which I can “hang” my very life and which causes me to walk steadfast, to stand and, when I have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ.

We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just for us and, when our steps are trembling, our God Who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady as He reminds us of His very good and precious promises.  (2 Peter 1:4)

Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping that lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady as Gracia Burnham remembers and relates below:

How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?

‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well. “On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately.“Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. “We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.

Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’

We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).“One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.)“ ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”?’ (Ephesians 1:3)

We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’

(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year.  I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

Delight and Desires

Longings.  Sometimes the intensity of them brings tears and great anxiety.  We long for their fulfillment, but most of all, we long for rest.

A hunger for relationship or the restoration of a broken one.  A desire to see physical healing.  A deep yearning to be parents or, as parents, to get past or at least hold on and thrive in the “grunge” moments; or at our deepest longing, to see our children “walking in the truth.”  Or it could be for a situation to be more comfortable, a new job, a different home, a move.  Sometimes our longings are for things temporal and sometimes for things eternal; each bring their own angst until we lay them down before our God Who sees.  He is not unaware of them; He knows us better than we know ourselves so we can honestly pour them out before the One who so loves us and takes vast joy in fulfilling our desires according to His good will for His glory and our greatest good!

Psalm 37:4 reminds us, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  So often I have heard and myself been tempted to shape that as a “gimme” promise – that if I will delight in the Lord, follow Him well, “do” for Him, and give Him great praise then He will meet my every need according to MY wishes!  Oh, even writing that makes my heart cringe because, in that line of thinking, I am demanding that God do what I ask and fulfill every desire of my heart regardless of His will or the consequences.  I am implying, in a sense, that my wisdom exceeds His.  As I look back on my life, how thankful I am that He withheld many of the then “desires of my heart” for a greater outcome I had not yet known!  His protection and His greater good for and deeper knowledge of me than I have of myself has time and again proven to be my true satisfaction!

Often we miss the nugget of truth within that verse.  For, if we truly delight ourselves in the Lord, we and our desires will be changed.  If we are growing in our knowledge and love for the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have His grace and peace and our greatest joy will be His desires for us.

No doubt there are times we humble ourselves before the Lord, we lay our requests before Him, and He says, “Yes, I will answer just as you ask; I will give you that desire exactly as you requested right now!”  At times, His answer may be almost identical to our longing; at other times, He fulfills it in a different way than we imagined and answers with a “Yes, but better!” or a “Wait, my child.”  And still other times, as we grow in our enjoyment of Him, He changes us and causes our wants to match His.  Indeed, there we find that our delight and our desires are one with His and we stand amazed at how He has given us His heart and brought us to rest in that!

And, yet there are situations that  require a submitted heart in the midst of circumstances that will never make sense this side of heaven.  We will have questions that are not answered and issues  that may remain burdensome.  It is at those times that we cry out for the Lord to give us a trusting heart in spite of what we see, feel, and experience.

Sometimes we will relax and never again strive for that which we once held so dear, but then there are other times we will have to lay it on the altar again and again, even daily, as a sacrifice of praise and allow Him to bring that peace that comes from delighting in His desires and timing for us.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2