Monday, November 18, 2019

Trusting His leading...

More Lessons in Trust...

You've prayed, you've asked Him to lead you, and... you still don't know which decision to make. So you pray some more... and some more... and eventually, even though you're still not sure, you have to make a decision. So you do, even though you still can't really tell which direction God is leading.

I think most of us have been there... just wishing we knew. Sometimes we feel maybe a tiny bit more peace with one direction than the other, so we hope that is God's leading. But sometimes we just pick the one that our mind thinks makes the most sense. Sometimes we have a more emotional reason.

But then, a few months or a year or two or five later on, things get rough.

So often, the temptation is to doubt yourself and the decision you've made. I've heard people say (and been tempted myself to say), "I asked God to lead me, but it seems like I still made the wrong decision." That's a natural thing to think, isn't it?

After all, when we asked God to lead us, we were thinking, "Lead us to the decision that is going to be the best."  Best decision, of course, meaning our own definition of what is best.

And we know full well that we can (and have) made wrong decisions many times.

But we asked God to lead us!  And here we are, in a dark situation, confused and discouraged and overwhelmed.

It is here, in the darkness that sometimes follows a decision we agonized over, where we find our trust tested. 

I've walked through quite a few of those dark areas in the last few years... valleys that were a direct result of decisions my husband and I prayed over.   And when I started thinking maybe we had made the wrong decision, the Holy Spirit started pointing things out.  He started prompting me to ask myself some very pointed questions.

- Is He really capable of leading me, even when I can't hear, even when I doubt, and even when I'm feeling lost?

- In other words, is He capable of leading a deaf, blind, lame, and sometimes quite oblivious person who asks Him to lead them?

- If He is not capable of leading me even then, then why would I ask Him to do it?

So then, if He is capable of leading me, then I need to trust that He will!  Or - what is often more difficult...

I need to trust that He did lead me. Even if I couldn't see, hear, or feel that leading. 

After all, Jesus said, "Ask, and you shall receive!"

But that is difficult because it forces us to face something else! 

It goes like this:

- I asked God to lead me, and I meant it. ie: I wasn't willfully running in the other direction.
- God is capable, so I must trust that He did lead me down this path.
- But this path has led to what seems like a bad situation.

Sooo.... did God do something bad?

Or is my understanding and viewpoint of this situation faulty?

Am I willing to trust that He is good, 
He knows what is really good for me and what isn't... 
and therefore, right here is where I need to be?  

That, for me, is the hard question... because sometimes my definition of "good" isn't the same as God's.

Consider Psalm 23.  All of us know it.  He is the Good Shepherd.  That is, He is good, and He is our shepherd, leading us and caring for us.  And yet, the psalm specifically says that He will in fact lead us through the valley of the shadow of death!  But it promises that even while we are there, we will fear no evil because He is with us.

To me, trusting that He is capable of leading even deaf, blind, lame, and ignorant me when I ask Him to... that decision to trust that He was leading me no matter what the result is.... that is what carries me through those difficult times. Because He is good. So if He led me or my husband or my kids into a difficult situation, then He is with us now, He knows what He's doing, and there is something totally worthwhile that is going to come of this!

When His leading resulted in a car accident that caused me to total my car on black ice and suffer PTSD, the result was that He used it to teach me how to trust Him in ways that have given me a peace I did not know existed before that car accident!

When His leading led my kids into seasons of life that tested and tried them and brought them pain, I continued to hold onto to this... we had asked Him to lead us all, He is capable, and He is good, and therefore this is part of a good plan.  And indeed my son and daughter can now tell me the good that came of it and that the good was worth the turmoil and pain.

Holding onto Him in these dark times brings such amazing peace... as I discovered in the weeks after my car accident!

Are you in a similar situation? May I encourage you to simply reach out for Him, and trust Him?  He is so very, very able to care for us!

Listen to this song if you're struggling... and let go!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Trust vs. my tongue...

More lessons in trust...

I don't remember exactly the first time He stopped me. I know He tried to stop me years and years ago, but I thought I knew better.

But I think it was a year ago or so that the Holy Spirit got more insistent.

I was talking to someone... maybe Him... about some minor situation that I don't remember the details of. I was thinking through the possibilities of what might happen... something like this: "I'm hoping it gets here in time, but I'm afraid it won't, and then..."

Why are you afraid? He asked me.

"I'm not," I replied. "It's just a phrase. It won't even matter that much if it doesn't come, and I trust You if it doesn't. I'm just thinking through what might happen. I'm not really afraid."

Then why do you so often say that you are?

That stopped me, but only for a moment. "It's just a phrase," I insisted.

But He was even more insistent. A few days later, I was talking about something else and the preparations I'd had no chance to make. "Well, I did the best I could," I said, "but I'm worried that..."

Again He interrupted. Why won't You trust Me?

"I do trust You," I again insisted.  "It's just a phrase."

If you aren't worrying, then why do you say you are?

As the weeks went by, we had many variations of the same conversation. He never gave up - quiet, calm, patient, but very, very insistent. I couldn't even think the words "I'm afraid" or "I'm worried" without Him stopping me over and over again with a simple, Do you trust Me?

I found myself completely re-examining my thought processes. Those phrases were such a part of my vocabulary and expressions that I often found myself unable to even find alternate words to express what I thought I meant... which then made me start to realize that He was right. (Of course.) If I wasn't worrying then I would have easily been able to find other words to use. If I wasn't afraid, then other words wouldn't be so hard to find.  "The mouth speaks from what fills the heart" is what Jesus said.  Was it severe worry and fear? No... but fear and worry is still what it was!

And thus, as time went by, He taught me how to turn over even all those little things to Him. He taught me to trust Him when my performance at work wasn't quite what I wanted it to be. I learned to trust Him with things like when the mail would arrive and when I would have time to make phone calls about hospital bills. He took the trust that He has been teaching me for years in the big things down to a much more detailed level.

And my peace increased.

It is positively amazing how I can now even trust Him with my own performance, actions, and abilities! Where I used to berate myself, even after putting forth whatever effort I had time and energy to do, I can now trust Him. Because let's face it... sometimes we're worn out physically, emotionally, and mentally, and we know that our best that day was not our best on other days. And sometimes we run out of time. And sometimes we run out of patience and stamina. But His grace covers those as well... thus if my heart was right, then I can trust Him with the fact that that's all I had that day! (And if my heart wasn't right, then I can make it right and trust that He will still work and move as He knows is best.)

The ability to trust in this way has been transformational in my life! If you struggle with the same things, may I encourage you to allow Him to work and set you free as well?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Trust's foundation...

Another lesson in trust...

"Is God going to answer my prayer and grant my request? The Bible says not to doubt, and others are saying that they're believing that it'll happen. But how do they know? And do they really know or do they mean that they're just hoping God will move the way they want Him to? After all, sometimes He doesn't move the way we ask.  Am I wrong if I'm honest with myself and admit that I don't know if God is going to do it or not?"

Ever been there?  I have, many times, and the confusion that results can be debilitating and make you question everything. I've at times gotten so lost in a circle of vicious questions that I can hardly find the way out. I've found myself wondering if I had enough faith or not and if my lack of faith might someone result in someone else's lack of healing or breakthrough, etc. I've wondered if faith had anything to do with why my mom died years ago from cancer, and I've wondered many similar things in the years since.

But then the Holy Spirit taught me this pivotal lesson in trust that totally changed my perspective and brought me peace. (If you want to know why I say "Holy Spirit" instead of "God," see this post.)

The Holy Spirit used two stories.

The first is in Daniel chapter three, when the angry king demanded that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego bow before his image and worship it. They refused, and their answer is very powerful and significant. They did not say, "We will worship God only, and we're believing that He is going to save us."

No. They said, "We will worship God only. We know He is able to save us from your fiery furnace. But even if He does not, we still will not serve your gods or worship your image."

According to some, this admitting that they did not know if He would do as they were asking was doubt... doubt that can stop the miracle from coming. But not only does this not happen, the Bible even refers to them as being of great faith!  (Hebrews 11:34 briefly includes them (not by name) in the list of those who were great in faith.)

The Holy Spirit used this story to show me that it is perfectly okay to not know what God will do. It does not display a lack of faith!  Sometimes He shows us what He's going to do and gives us the gift of faith to simply know.  And many times He does not.  We cannot even claim that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's faith is why they were saved from the furnace, for Hebrews 11 goes on to say that others were tortured and killed by faith. In fact, Hebrews 11 shows quite clearly that whether or not someone is saved from death is not dependent upon how much faith they have, for verse 34 says that some escaped the sword and then verse 37 says that others were put to death by the sword... and then 39 says, "And all these, (meaning both those who were put to death and those who escaped) gained approval through their faith..." So then, if some escape by their faith and others do not escape and endure by their faith... then we see that our faith and trust have to be in something other than in the answer that we want God to give.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's faith and focus was not on what God might or might not do. Their focus was on the character of God... who He is... what He is capable of... and who He was to them no matter what He chose to do or not do.

He was their God. 

They knew He was able to save them, but they didn't really care whether He did or not, because they had committed their worship to Him and Him alone... regardless of whether or not He chose to save them. 

We see the same thing in Mark 9:20-25. This chapter has many lessons on many things, but I want to focus on the part that the Holy Spirit used to teach me this lesson.

This father was really struggling with the same thing that I used to. His son was afflicted by a demon that caused him to thrash about and foam at the mouth, and so far, his son had not been healed. The father said to Jesus, "If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

Jesus saw that the man's focus was on the wrong thing.  He was focused on whether or not his son would be healed. Jesus brought his focus around by asking, "If you can? All things are possible to him who believes."

The Holy Spirit pointed out that Jesus was not asking, "Do you or don't you think I'm actually going to do it?"

See the difference? Maybe the difference isn't significant to you, but to me, it was a life-changing difference.  Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, my faith and trust shouldn't be focused on what might or might not happen. Jesus was saying, "Do you or don't you believe that I am able to do this?" Another way of putting it might be to say, "Stop thinking about whether or not I'll do what you want and instead think about who I am!"

My focus needs to be on who He is.

How did the man talking to Jesus respond? “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

The man made no pretensions at all about his faith or lack thereof. I believe his statement, "I do believe" was nothing more or less than an affirmation that Yes, he did believe that Jesus was able to do it. That much, at least, he was convinced of. Even more importantly, he did not pretend to have the ability to increase his faith on his own. He knew that not only was Jesus the One who could deliver his son, but Jesus was also the One who could help his unbelief.

And so I shifted my focus. I realized that I do not need to know what He will do to trust Him.

But I do have to know Him. 

If I was not fully convinced of His power, then I could not trust Him any more than I could trust some unknown man's ability to do anything. If I did not truly believe that He has perfect knowledge of how to use that power, then His power might be something to fear... for what if He used that power in the wrong way? And if His love was not perfect and complete and compassionate and unending, then again, how would I possible trust that His knowledge and power would be used in only the way that was best for me?

And so we see that the foundation of trust is who He is.  What He does is always the result of who He is, and my ability to trust Him is dependent upon my revelation and understanding of His nature.

If you feel like your trust is lacking, simply follow the example of the man who turned His focus to the One who is able. "Lord, show me who You are. I want to know You."

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 
24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
- Mark 9:23-24

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

At His feet...

For anyone who would like to spend some time at His feet... anyone who needs to be ministered to... just hit play, and then listen while you work, or fold laundry, or work on the car, or whatever it is you normally do by yourself in the quiet. There's not much to watch, but there is plenty to listen to... including Him.

What are You saying?
What are You doing here?
I've been clouded in my mind; come and speak Your words of life
You're not in the chaos
Or the storms all around me
Cause You're closer than my next breath
I feel You riding in the wind to call....
And sing this song...

      Don't give up now; just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward.
      You're almost there now, just keep running
      Heaven's cheering you forward.

So what are You saying?
And what are You doing in me?
You're holding out Your hand, I love the way You lead me
You're not in the lessons
That you're trying to teach me
Cause You're closer than my next breath, and I feel You riding on the wind, to call...
Oh You call..

      Don't give up now, just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward..
      You're almost there now, don't stop running!
      Heaven's cheering you forward..
      Don't give up now, just keep going
      Heaven's cheering you forward...
      You're almost there now, don't stop running!
      Heaven's cheering you forward...

      Keep the faith...

      I'll never stop believing
      I'll never stop speaking
      I'll never stop moving at the sound of your cries...

      I'll never stop dreaming
      I'll never stop singing
      I'll never stop dancing over you My child...

So what are You saying
And what are You doing in me?
Cause you're holding out Your hand; I love the way You lead me.
It's not in the lessons
That You're trying to teach me
Cause even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading
So even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading.
So even when I can't see, it's Your love that does the leading.

Don't give up now, just keep going
Heaven's cheering you forward..
You're almost there now, don't stop running!
Heaven's cheering you forward..
Don't give up now, just keep going
Heaven's cheering you forward...
You're almost there now, don't stop running!
Heaven's cheering you forward...

Keep the faith...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Trusting in the disappointments...

After years of almost silence on this blog, God has finally given me the words to start writing again. If you haven't already, please read "A Habit of Trust."  I shared the culmination of these lessons in trust and the testimony of what God has done.

I have so much to share... so many little lessons... and I wasn't sure where to start! So of course I asked the Holy Spirit to show me, and I trust that He is leading me to start here.

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Life throws disappointments at us sometimes, doesn't it? Maybe "sometimes" is understating it, though. We hope that something's going to happen... and it doesn't. And then, when it happens often enough, we lose hope. We just start to assume the worst.

I'm what some people call an incurable optimist. The glass is not always half full, it's half full of something good... even if it's just plain water!

And yet, I have this phrase that I used to say whenever my hopes were dashed. I'd say, "Well that sucks!"  Or maybe sometimes instead I'd say, "That totally stinks!"

This little lesson started during one of the many job huts that one of my kids were doing. Or maybe all of them. My kids are currently 22, 21, and 18, so we've had a lot of job hunts over the last handful of years. They're at the age where they need to be working, but jobs are hard to get because their application looks so much like everybody else's, and they're young. I'm sure some of you can relate!

I don't actually remember which of them was job hunting when God taught me this little (but pivotal) lesson in trust. I just remember how frustrated we were at how many "Now hiring" signs were out there... how many people claimed that their company would hire anybody who was willing to show up to work... yet my responsible, eager-to-work child could submit application after application after application and never get any calls... even from locations that continued to advertise that they needed people!

So in one particular situation, a call for an interview was received, and our hopes rose... only to be dashed when they gave the job to someone else.

"That sucks!" I said emphatically.

Why? said the Holy Spirit.

"I wanted him to get that job!" I responded.

But you prayed that he would get the job IF it would be a good job for him. 

My thoughts and exclamations ground to a halt.

The Holy Spirit continued, Do you trust that I know better than you do about what jobs are good for your children? My children?

"Well of course You know better," I responded.

And do you believe that I am capable of making sure that their next job is the one that they need?

"Of course you are capable. You're God!"

Then why are you saying that My decision on this job sucks?

I was rather speechless as I began to realize that my simple statement of disappointment was rooted in pride rather than trust. Because even though I said I only wanted my kids to get jobs that were good for them...  even though I knew that God could see into the future and knew if a particular job would actually be good for them or not... when it came right down to it, my feelings and reactions showed me that I actually thought I knew better.

Think about it.

There had been two possibilities. 1) A job offer. 2) No job offer and the job search would continue.

I asked God for option 1 only if the job would be good for my child.

God chose option 2.

I then said that option 2 - God's choice - sucked.

, . ~ * ~ . , . ~ * ~ . , . ~ * ~ . , . ~ * ~ . , . ~ * ~ . ,

I didn't learn that lesson the first time. I had been in such a habit of saying that things "sucked" (forgive me if you find that vulgar), that as the job searches continued for different children, the Holy Spirit had to continue to stop me, right when the words were on the tip of my tongue. He's applied the lesson in other areas of my life as well, as other disappointments have arise. He still has to stop me sometimes.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that His simple challenge required me to think more deeply about how powerful I really believe He is. How much I really think He is in control.

Was the lack of job offer His decision? Or was it merely because a hiring manager was unable to see my child's potential? Or was it because my child had said something wrong in the interview? Or was there merely someone else better qualified?

How much do we really control our own destiny? How much do my kids control their own destinies? That's part of the question too, isn't it?

Most if not all of us believe that we do have the freedom to make personal choices. We can choose not to prepare for an interview and then mess it up more than we would have if we had prepared. That hiring manager can choose which person to give the job to.  She could even choose to give the job to her friend's daughter instead of the most qualified applicant. Right?

But if we look in the Bible, we see that God has a way of orchestrating circumstances so that His will is accomplished. Look at Joseph's story. God determined early on in his life that he would be over his brothers, and for whatever reason, God chose to tell him this through a dream. Joseph then screwed up and his pride angered his brothers. His brothers then screwed up and sold him into slavery. Joseph wound up the servant of an unscrupulous woman who manipulated circumstances so he was thrown into prison.

And yet, what God had decided was eventually still accomplished. Not only was it accomplished, but Joseph was prepared for the task God had for him along the way.

Might it have been accomplished more smoothly and less painfully for Joseph if he hadn't bragged to his brothers? Yes... but that's an alternate timeline we'll never know. Would it have been a "better" timeline? That is a question that tests our trust as well, for how could we possibly see into the future to know what is better in the long run and what is not? Very often, life's struggles and disappointments and trials are what make us better, stronger, more innovated, more wise, etc.

How about David's story? God had Samuel anoint him as king of Israel. Somewhere along the line, Saul found out, according to 1 Samuel 23:17. Saul didn't like it, and he did everything in his power to kill David.  But what God had decided would happen could not be stopped.

Isaiah 55:10-11 is where God states emphatically that this is so:
“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth and make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
It's like the Mississippi river. This map shows the many twists and turns that it has taken over the centuries as various things affected it and tried to stop it here or there. And yet, it still carries water from my little town in Central Ohio, all the way down hundreds and hundreds of miles until that water reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

So when I'm thinking about these disappointments in the job hunt, the questions I must ask myself are these.

Do I believe that God is capable of giving my kids favor when they interview for the job that He knows they need, so that the hiring manager overlooks any mistakes they make in the interview and sees that they are hardworking and quick learners?

Yes, I do. I believe He is powerful enough to do that.

Am I willing to trust that God really does know what is best for them? Even if it means an extended job hunt? Even if it means a job with challenges that tempt my kids to say that their job sucks?

Yes, I am, for I know that a young person getting an easy, good-paying job can actually be quite bad for them in the long run. I have no way of knowing how every single possible job out there, with its working environment, current and future bosses, commute, coworkers, job duties, and every other factor will affect my kids. I don't want them to get a good-paying job that sounds good but that turns out to be with a boss who will tear them down emotionally. Nor do I want them to get a job with a boss who overlooks so much and would go so easy on them that they'd lose their good work ethic. Nor do I want... well, you see that the list of potential reasons that could make a job "good" or "bad" is far too long and involved for anyone to really know the sum total in advance.

But God knows it all. He not only knows every day of the future in any potential job, He also knows exactly how my child would respond to each challenge that would arise in that job. He knows how they would grow and change in that job position. He knows what skills they would learn and the future those skills would prepare them for.

And He loves them even more than I do. And I gave them back to Him before they were born.

And so I chose to trust Him and change my response. I encouraged my kids to ask God to lead them, and when each new job application was turned down, I chose to respond with, "That must not be the right job for you. Thank You, Father, that You are in control and that You love my kids and know what is best." And when the only job my daughter could get paid less than minimum wage, I responded with, "Well, there must be something else about this job that will make it good for you, other than the money."

And as my response changed, my peace increased.

Months have passed, and I can see God's hand in the jobs that each of them have... and that is another lesson that I will soon share.

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Are you struggling to deal with disappointments in your life? Are you struggling with frustration and turmoil in your soul over it?  I encourage you to trust the One who knows what is truly good and what isn't anywhere near as good as it looks. I encourage you to trust that He knows how the challenge you are facing will shape you and strengthen you and teach You to trust Him and receive strength from Him. The lesson holds true even for big disappointments and painful things, for learning to trust Him with the most painful struggles in my life has taught me beautiful and powerful things that are well worth the pain I went through.

He does know what we need, and His sufficiency is always there. And the more we trust, the more we position ourselves to receive His sufficiency.

For I know the thoughts and plans 
I have for you declares the Lord. 
Plans for welfare and not for calamity, 
to give you a future and a hope. 
- Jer 29:11
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