Even When We Cannot See

MissouriArkansas barn at sunsetSEPIA

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

There are days when to be “Be still and know that HE is God!” (Psalm 46:10) is so easy.

In those times, my heart and my head agree with each other, and I almost dance with joy in experiencing both what I know and what I feel in tandem.

Certainly, I experience it when there is much to be celebrated. To lift my hands to the One from Whom all blessings flow is easy and immediate.

There are other times when what I “know” about our very good God, what I “feel,” and how I respond clash loudly! In those times, I, for all intents and purposes, choose not to be still. I don’t always ask “why” well and, I have to admit, my “why” is more like the rant of a petulant child.

But, to be in the midst of turmoil of my own or another that I love or to watch the world turn upside down in a variety of ways and yet to “be still” is not a reflection of my own strength. Rather, it is a supernatural gift of a gracious God who, in the middle of my pleading, of laying my heart bare before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, lifts my eyes and my heart to “see” Him instead of the moment. He holds and steadies this child, tenderly, even when He chooses not to calm the storm. And, in those times, He is also in the process of refining my heart.

We often have a desired outcome, an expectation for our circumstances; a way we believe is best and right.  At times, it may deal with the externals and the “haves or have nots” to which God says, “There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).  Yet, when it comes to physical illnesses, most would not argue that our requests are reasonable.  But, God’s ways, that sometimes “seem” difficult or mistaken to us, always lead to “life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19) because they are grounded in the firm foundation of His loving sovereignty that knows the end from the beginning and sees what we cannot. And, even when it doesn’t “feel” good, we can “know” it is.

All too often, I (and I think it is safe to say, “we”) “feel” – regardless of what we “know” – that for God to show His love, He must answer our requests exactly as we ask, fulfill our every desire, especially if they are “good” desires. Or, if He doesn’t, that He will immediately provide an explanation for us to see what He’s doing, not just with eyes of faith but with our physical eyes!

But it is not always the way of our Father. He says, “Trust me” even if it hurts. He says, “Trust me” even if it makes no sense. He says, “Trust me” and let me do “exceedingly and abundantly more” – not only more than we can think or ask but also more than what we can perceive with our eyes.

What the Israelites could “see” was a vast army heading in their direction to bring destruction. And yet, Moses told them to “be still” and watch God fight for them!  What? They had a clear view of the immediate danger, but they could not “see” what God had in store, how He would protect and defend them. Even so, indeed, as He did time and again, He delivered them.

The same is true for His children today; He calls us to “be still” and watch Him fight for us; even if His deliverance is, at times, hard. He calls us, often a forgetful people, to remember His faithfulness in the past so we will stand on that same promise of faithfulness in the present.

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them…Not only may you see a tiny fraction of what God is doing in your life; the part you do see may make no sense to you.” (John Piper)

The other day, as my husband and I talked about and prayed for a situation that someone we love is facing, he reminded me of Joseph, sold as a slave by his brothers yet, in time, raised to a place of prominence to be an avenue of provision and protection. Could he “see” the faithfulness of God in that moment when he was taken away? Did he “feel” the love of God in that instant? Or did he cry out with an honest groan, “Why Lord?” And, yet, as we are given a view into his life, we are able to observe his faithful obedience to God. We watch his trust in the One he knew to be the sovereign Lover of his soul. We witness God honor that one who learned to “be still” and watch the Lord fight for him. And, through His Word across generations, we now get to see many of the “whys” to God’s ways; that He allowed Joseph’s hardships so he might be a place “for such a time.” God was doing “good” long before the “good” could be seen!

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

Knowing that the Lord Himself is going before us and behind us is not a small thing nor is it a fanciful hope; it is the reality for those who are redeemed children of God, loved deeply by the One who doesn’t always give His demanding children just what we want but always gives just what we need and what will ultimately be for our good and a glory to Himself! And when what He gives is painful, He walks through the fire with us, He holds us close, and He says, “Be still and know (hold onto and experience) that I AM God.”

This side of heaven, we will not always do that well. But, by His grace, may we be found faithful, trusting, and “still” more with each day!

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Excerpt from “Even If” by Mercy Me   (Music and lyrics so often draw my heart in…as do these.  So thankful my son shared this song with me some weeks ago)!

 It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

 I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand.

But even if You don’t.

My hope is You alone.

 …God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul. 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

 You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All my days.

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may.

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can.

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

 

A Life Well Penned

Life.

It is a story in the making.

How and by whom our story is written makes all the difference in the world.

Often, we believe we can write our own, unhindered by the counsel of others or the wisdom of God.  That is always to our detriment.

Or, as we compose our narrative, the intersection of lives causes our own to be edited; at times for the better and for our joy, at other times, to our loss, and, sometimes, both.  But our hearts are always shaped by those with whom we share the page during our lifetime.

For the follower of Christ, we know it is God who is the “Author and Perfecter of our faith,” but also the Author and Perfecter of our stories.  For some the ‘plot’ is more erratic as He seeks to woo and restore scratches on the page.  In other cases, it may be more direct with less editing necessary; but always in need of the Redeemer.

One thing we can be sure of is that, even if there are edits to our pages that come our way unexpectedly, they never take our Father by surprise.  And He intricately weaves the joy and the pain together, sometimes restoring what has been lost and sometimes gently prying our fingers from it, for a beautiful tapestry.  It is an illustration of exquisiteness, from disorder to delight.  It is as if the scribbles of a child on a page become elaborate calligraphy – extravagant beauty and clarity on our hearts – as He causes “all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) regardless of the outcome.

As God writes our stories, there are times He does so in ways we have to stop and wonder from where that part of the ‘plot’ came. But, because He is our all knowing, all loving God, we know He is working in us and preparing us for the ‘rest of the chapters.’ Some surprises are comfortable; some are not. But every ‘word’ comes from the palm of His hand; that same palm that demonstrated the greatest love, sacrificial as it was. And He will weave every circumstance for His glory and for a greater joy and good in our lives than we can even anticipate!

I love lyrics to music; they often verbalize my life story or my response to it.  Several songs draw me back to the reality of God’s ultimate, perfect control even when my life or the lives of those I love are seemingly not being written the way I would have authored them.  “The God of Every Story” by Laura Story is one of those.  He is, indeed, the God of every one of our stories and can be trusted to complete the good work He began in each of His children (Philippians 1:6).

Ultimately, I know that whether or not I always “love” the way my book is being completed, I am thankful that the One who knows me best and has already seen the end of my novel is the One who is preparing my current chapters and the ones ahead of me!

He’s the God of every story, He sees each tear that falls.

We may not understand but one thing is certain.

He is faithful, He’s a faithful God.

His ways are higher than we could ever comprehend.

When our world is shaking, He holds us in the palm of His hand…

You’re the God of every story no matter what I’m going through.

I may not understand, but You are God and I am just a man…

I’m forever trusting in Your plan.  One thing is certain;

You are faithful, You’re faithful God!

(Laura Story)

Snow Day…All Things New

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I went to bed with little expectation of seeing much of the “white stuff” when I woke up the next morning, a dusting perhaps. But God gave me a stunning surprise – the view out my window in the pre-sunrise moments looked promising. But when the morning began to shed its light on my yard and neighborhood, what I saw was total beauty!

Now for those of you to whom snow is a chore or to whom a foot or more is a daily or even a seasonal occurrence, you would laugh at what ended up being an inch and a half to two; but for those of us who rarely see snow in a winter, I was giddy for I am always in wonder of its beauty. And yes, I love a good snowball fight, a little snow cream, and my feeble attempts at making a snowman. But so many other things also flooded my mind yesterday as I saw what had transformed my yard over night and then as more blew in heavy yet softly, quietly.

Winter had taken its toll on our land and the day before yesterday it was looking rather bleak, brown and muddy with a patch of bright green where we have a garden of lettuce. But as I stood and watched the transformation, I was struck by the newness, the fresh reality that filled my vision.

It was the same acre of land – nothing had been done except that with which our awesome God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had chosen to delight us. He had gloriously crafted each snowflake and let them blow over the cold, grey day after ten days straight of frigid rain that threatened to tamp down the mood of many I came across. It was His hand that created the freshness and led to a lifting of the heart! Though it was short lived, the moment was not lost and did much to renew our spirits. It was temporary joy that brought with it, eternal perspective.

At times, we can view our lives through the same lens. Either we get caught up in the daily-ness of it all and become tyrannized by the urgent so that we miss and/or forget the truly important. Or we grow weary because of circumstances – our own choices or that of others or any number of “hard things” that come with living in a fallen world.  Our fears can weigh us down as we focus on the “what ifs” instead of looking to and embracing the God who holds all the “what ifs” in His hands; He Who knows the final outcome and has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can begin to see life in the greys instead of the rich hues hidden beneath even the mundane, the sorrow, or the fear.

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that He has made and is in the process of making all things new! We can look on situations in our lives and in the world and culture around us and grow discouraged, even fearful of the dismal perspective at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6 that, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

It is a fact; it is a promise! He who is able to “wash me (so that) I am whiter than snow!” (Psalm 51:7) is able to bring a fresh perspective, a richer view of circumstances, yes. But He is also in the process of actually making me more like Himself and of doing astounding things we cannot see.

Just as the snow fell quiet in the night and transformed my little piece of the world into a place of wonder that lasted for less than a day, our God is actively working to do the remarkable but with an eternal exclamation point!

Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Though this was written hundreds of years ago to a different people, God has not changed and He is still powerfully and lovingly at work in a world crawling with terrible situations! We don’t have to doubt that or wring our hands in fear. We work, yes. We act, indeed. We do all that He calls us to do and then we rest in Him and in the plan He is unfolding regardless of what is before our eyes.

Our winter yard is again brown and muddy for the sun returned and quickly melted away the snow. But my heart holds to the visual picture of truth that God gave me yesterday in the midst of our brief winter precipitation that will be indelibly marked upon my heart and that will be brought to mind as I view the pictures again and again.

That truth is more significant and far more eternal than a fleeting snowfall – that the everlasting God of the universe has, through the work of Jesus Christ, made me “whiter than snow” through the forgiveness of my sin and is continuing to change me for His glory and that this same God is the Lord over all aspects of my life as well as that of nations and rulers. I am given opportunities every day for fresh beginnings and a greater awareness of His love and power to make all things new!

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“I Believe; Help My Unbelief”

There have been and still are times in my life when I have had no doubt of God’s goodness and His control, but when, at the same time, my “feelings” wrestle with the truth on which I stand.

It is that paradox of Him being so very good and yet there being evil, injustice, and pain in this world – sometimes of our own making and sometimes stemming from the actions of others. Thankfully, I am reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that those feelings are from a deceitful heart and I can never trust that above the heart of the One who created me and who knows my needs and wants even better than I know them myself. Indeed, I must never trust my “feelings” over what God’s Word says is true!

Unquestionably, I cannot always see the goodness of my God in the moment as He will not be put in a box nor neatly tidy up every situation in a specified time frame. For that, I give thanks because if I could bind the God of the universe and understand every action He takes or allows, He would not be a God worthy of my all; He would be finite like me. As it is, He is not limited and He is more than worthy of my surrender.

And, yet, this infinite God is also so personal and loves His children so deeply that, while He calls for our obedience and our submission, He also understands our frailties and tenderly comforts us in those moments of life that create fear, feel stifling, or that leave us unsteady. And He is not angered by honest questions that come from a yielded heart.

In Mark 7, when the father of the ill son asked Jesus to heal him, he said, “I believe; help my unbelief.” How faithful was that! He was acknowledging that He believed Jesus was able but also admitted his own deceitful heart that was found lacking. He meekly laid out his wavering spirit before Jesus and boldly made his request.

It is the way I am learning to pray because, while I have no doubt about who my God is and what He who created me and redeemed me is able to do, I sometimes hesitate to be bold wondering if He will desire and be willing to do that which I ask. And so I ask, believing yet confessing my unbelief, and I finish with “…but, Lord, if you have better in mind for me and mine, help me to be faithful in the waiting and the answer.” Sometimes the situation changes, but I know that, ultimately, the best answer is when He changes my heart before He changes my circumstances.

God loves the fervent and heartfelt cries of a humble heart bent towards Him. Our surrender becomes the open door for Him to surprise us with joy!

Not for A Moment by Meredith Andrews

You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it’s hard
You will never leave me
After all

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me