His name was Samuel Rutherford. He wasn’t perfect but he was a man of rare love. Love that was forged in the fire.
Samuel was an extremely dedicated Scottish minister in the 1600’s. He deeply cared for those in his care, and was dearly loved by his congregation in return. But even early in his ministry he was faced with heartbreak. After being married for a short 4 years, his precious wife became very ill and after battling with the illness for 13 months, died. Shortly afterwards, two of their three children and his mother also died. He was left alone and in very ill health himself to take care of his remaining child and care for his parish.
His trials didn’t end there. A few years later he was banished from his parish and exiled far from his beloved congregation because of his faithfulness to what he believed. This was exceedingly difficult for him. If there was anything he loved to do it was to expand the beauty of his Jesus to the people in his care. Now he was separated from them and prohibited from preaching.
The political situation in Scotland changed several years later and he was allowed to continue his ministry. During this time he remarried and he and his new wife had five children. It would seem that things had finally changed for the better. But not for long. Two of his dear children died as infants. Two more died while he was away in London. Before his own death at the age of 61, all of his children from both marriages had died. I can’t even begin to imagine what his father’s heart went through.
The way he related to this life of bitter experiences is clear from his own words…
“Think it not hard if you get not your will, nor your delights in this life; God will have you to rejoice in nothing but Himself.”
And again… “they lose nothing who gain Christ."
Spurgeon later quoted from one of his letters saying,
“dear Samuel Rutherford, when he wrote to a lady who had lost, I think, seven children, congratulated her and said, “I am sure that the well-Beloved has a strong affection for your ladyship, for He will have all your heart. He has taken away all these children that there may not be a nook or corner for anybody else but Him.”
His heart was captured by the love of the infinite. He willingly confessed that he was not his own…
“Since He looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it.”
To lose all on earth was considered a very small sacrifice indeed to gain Christ. He wanted nothing but Jesus… Jesus was heaven.
“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee it would be hell; and if I could be in hell and have thee still it would be heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.
I can’t help but be struck by such a love. It makes me examine my own. Is He really all I want? Is He my heaven?
So often I seem to think I deserve things here on earth… you know, that certain things are my right and it’s not fair if I don’t have them. And then I remember… I deserve nothing. Nothing but death. But because He loved me so much, He bore that for me and gave me the greatest gift in the universe— Himself. And I dare to think I deserve something more?
Oh my soul, claim nothing as your own.
For you there is God and God alone.
And really what could be sweeter? If I lose all I count dear, I still have Him… if I am called to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He comes too… if I am asked to pour myself out for His people and receive nothing in return, He will give me Himself.
How can anything but gratitude ever formulate in my heart?
God alone! God alone!
In Your courts, oh my Lord, is my home
You are my treasure, my portion delight of my soul
My life, my salvation, my fortress
My God and my all.
I want Him to be my heaven. Nothing but Him. Because if it is, who says heaven can’t start now and increase in sweetness every time I’m called to bear a burden because in bearing it I find more of His heart?
Spurgeon again quotes Rutherford…
“…he speaks of the coals of divine wrath all falling upon the head of Christ, so that not one might fall upon His people. ‘And yet,’ saith he, ‘if one of those coals should drop from His head upon mine and did utterly consume me, yet if I felt it was a part of the coals that fell upon Him, and I was bearing it for His, and in communion with Him, I would choose it for my heaven. ‘“
Oh heart. Be still and think. Could I say that? Or do I still want things for myself?
or can I sing...
Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be,
More love oh Christ to Thee
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee.
I’m willing to learn to claim nothing as my own. I want God and God alone.
Jesus, mold our hearts so that you are all the heaven we want…
Because, after all, we are all the heaven You want.
His story hits home with this heart… maybe because I see in it a faint glimmer of myself… a glimmer of all humanity.
Robert Robinson was only a small boy when he was tragically left fatherless. He was bright and headstrong and without the guidance of a father, he found himself in ever increasing trouble. His teenage years were wild and empty. The happiness he searched for always seemed to elude him. He longed for something to fill the void inside of him and secretly hoped for an opportunity to attend George Whitfield’s meetings nearby. Too ashamed to admit his desire, he rounded up his equally degraded friends and suggested that they go and make fun of the meeting. But amid the laughing and joking of his peers, Robert’s heart was deeply touched by what he heard. For three years those truths replayed in his mind to haunt him. Love was seeking him and would not give up until He had his heart.
Finally, at 20, Robert decided he had had enough of himself and was ready to let the King of Love have his heart. Heaven rejoiced. Shortly after, he felt called to ministry and for several years was associated with the Wesleys. He was a powerful speaker and impacted many lives by his service.
But maybe the biggest thing Robert ever did was to write a simple poem to compliment one of his sermons. The poem was later set to music and became famous as the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Not only would the song change lives for centuries, but it would eventually change his own.
In his later years, Robert drifted from the God he loved. His poem had become his autobiography…
But Love was not content to leave him in himself. While on a train one day, the young woman next to him who had no clue who he was, began sharing with him the huge impact the hymn “Come Thou Fount” was having on her life. Try as he might, Robert could not make her change the subject. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he quietly responded, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who composed that him many years ago. And I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” The young woman gently quoted his own thoughts to him, “Sir, the streams of mercy are still flowing.” His heart was touched. He turned his heart back to the Love that had so tirelessly sought him and gave his heart to the only One who could truly seal it for the courts above…
Two lines of his song have been a soundtrack running through my consciousness lately…
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…
Prone to leave the God I love.”
Sometimes I think we class wandering as giving up on God completely and having a fling with the world. But what about those moments when we become consumed in our work at the expense of taking time to hear His heart? What about those mornings we just don’t feel like talking to Him, and so run off on our own? What about those times when we feel confused and hear a gentle voice saying “Come to me. Please. I just want to help you” but fight it off with the excuse that I can handle this myself? What about the times we turn to amusement and entertainment to give us joy instead of relentlessly seeking His heart? What about then? Isn’t that wandering too?
Honestly though… we don’t like to think that we might be guilty of wandering. We like to think that we are the faithful ones.That we wouldn’t dream of leaving Him. Meanwhile, an honest look at the facts proves quite otherwise.
But in avoiding the reality of the state of our own hearts, we miss the beauty of the reaction of His.
One of the most beautiful and lovable things about my Jesus is the way He loves me even when I fail Him… I don’t know how many mornings I’ve gotten up and told Him how excited I was to spend the day with Him and how I wanted to put Him first, etc, etc… and proceeded to run off into the day and be totally consumed in my tasks, only to have it dawn on me as I tumble into bed or catch a few quiet moments out in my meadow. And somehow, every time He seems to gently welcome me back with arms wide open and a little comment about how He missed me. It always melts me. I go away determined to do better. And gradually, His love and patience is changing this heart from a busy and activity centered girl, to one who knows the greatest joy is to sit at the feet of Jesus.
But so often we stop Him from transforming us because we don’t admit our own wanderings. Or if we do, we quickly shove them into the back of our mind.
I wonder if we are sometimes afraid to recognize the love and patience of our Jesus in the face of our failure because it is a heavy blow to our human pride. We like to consider ourselves deserving of love. It’s cuts at that pride to admit that on our own we are little wretches who deserve to be left alone… but are loved more deeply that we can imagine anyway.
Truth is though, that all human pride is an obstacle to really knowing His heart. We have to be willing to lay ourselves low. To recognize our failings and wanderings and look up into the eyes of deepest Love and accept that they reflect a depth of love we could never deserve.
Maybe we wander because deep down we still think we can do it on our own. But when we are willing to lay low and look up at the One who was bruised and bleeding for me-- maybe it is then that Love will transform us into hearts that wander no more.
Could it be that the very chord which binds our heart to His heart is our recognition of our frailty and His everlasting loyalty?
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me ever to adore Thee,
May I still Thy goodness prove,
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.
O, to Grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind me closer still to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart–O, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
A look at the state of things in our world is a sorry sight these days. Depression is an epidemic. A recent survey showed that two out of three americans can't call themselves happy. And we are the people blessed with more than almost any other nation... surely we should be a happy people. We have virtually everything we could want. But instead we're far from it.
And I wonder... where are the Christians who are the happiest people in the world... the Christians whose hearts are so full that they overflow with a joy that is contagious... the Christians who are living the abundant life... the Christians whose joy is a light to a dark, depressed world?
We have the promise.
"Those who in everything make God first and last and best, are the happiest people in the world..."
Truth is, if we don't have a joy that is deeper than any frustration, it speaks loudly that we have never truly known Love. And if we haven't, I wonder how we can be so sure that we are His followers.
Because when we really begin to grasp His love, no pain can quench the deep joy He gives. Life doesn't have to bring us sunny skies when we have the smile of His face. We don't have to have every whim gratified when we have all we could ever need in our Jesus.
One of the greatest evidences to me that my Jesus is real is the way He fills the hole in my heart like nothing else can. Even just this last week I ran off into my busy little world, happy about all the things that were going so perfectly, only to find myself stumbling along a little later trying to understand why I felt so empty. Silly girl. It's not like it's a new truth. Not even "perfect" circumstances can fill the hole He designed to fill with Himself. An hour with Him and I was more sure than ever that nothing in the world can make us sad when Jesus makes us glad-- and nothing in the world can make us truly glad if we don't have Jesus at our side.
Yet we spend so much of our lives waiting for everything to line up so we can be satisfied. As a little girl, I thought life would be so amazing when I could grow up and be a teenager. Once I got to being a teenager, I couldn't wait until I had finished high-school. When I finished high-school I eagerly anticipated finishing my associates. Once that was done, I started looking forward to finishing my Bachelors, and on and on. And I doubt I am the only one who has thought along such lines.
But why, oh why, would we put off our happiness until some future event takes place? Honestly, there will always be something we are waiting for. And if circumstances really are nothing to do with our happiness, why don't we put all of our little excuses aside and put Him first, last and best, and be the happiest people in the world?
Truth be known though, statistics don't show that we are shockingly more joyful and fulfilled than the world. Sure, we may seem to be a little better off, but why aren't physiologists blown away by the incredible joy of those who follow God? What have we missed?
Maybe the answer is really simple... Maybe we've missed Him. Maybe we have a little more knowledge than the world... and thus are a little better off. But maybe we've really missed Who it is all about, and thus there is no shocking evidence of our increased happiness.
I wonder if deep down, we've let the world alter our belief of where joy comes from. After all, we know that happiness doesn't come from circumstances... but so often we live like it does-- like we can't be happy until "such and such" changes.
Really though, life doesn't have to change one bit for us to be happy. We already have everything that our little hearts could ever long for.
We have a Friend who loves us beyond our greatest imagination of love... a Friend who will never stop gently pursuing our hearts... a Friend who will stick with us through thick and thin. It is our privilege to be with Him each second of each day for the rest of our lives. How could we not be the happiest people alive?
Maybe, instead of spending our life waiting for something to change so that we can claim happiness, we should pause and pick the flowers, capture the sunset, and melt in a Love that won't stop fighting for our heart.
Maybe living this second with Him is the only real recipe to our happiness.
And just maybe, it's the recipe to His as well.
We all have gifts we cherish. Precious family and friends, comforts and possession, dreams and plans… They give us countless moments of joy, fill up our days, and quite honestly our hearts too. We feel we have been blessed— and rightly so. This time of year often brings a fresh wave of gratitude from our hearts to the Giver…
That’s what Thanksgiving is about anyway, so we’re on the right track, yeah?
Or maybe not.
I wonder how much gratitude we would give if every gift the Giver has given was stripped away.
Sure, we may be determined that we would not curse God… we would not turn our backs…
But would we be grateful— even joyful?
Because the thing is… God is the One who is supposed to be first and foremost in our hearts. He is the One that should give us the most moments of joy and fill up our days, and our hearts.
And if we were just left with Him… we should find ourselves singing for joy that in loosing all else we can more fully embrace the greatest Gift.
But so often I find my own heart more attached to everything He has given than I am to the ultimate Gift Himself. I shrink from the thought that some of those gifts may not last forever… that seasons come and go… and so do gifts.
I look again at Job’s words— some of my favorite in all Scripture— and this time I begin to grasp a bit more what they really mean… “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
One can only say such words when Jesus is the One loved more than all else.
I remember again the story that has been burning this lesson onto my heart of late…
He was a simple preacher, dedicated to giving every ounce of himself for his Maker and the people around him. And communist Russia would test his resolve. While returning from a secret church meeting in the home of a friend, Richard is quickly taken by two police men and shoved in the back of a taxi cab. Blindfold on, he is clueless to where he is being taken, except for the nagging idea in the back of his mind. He had known this day was coming. And as soon at the blindfold is removed and he can see the dull grey concrete walls that surround him he knows he was right. He is left to wonder at the length of his sentence.
Inside his cell, Richard Wurmbrand contemplates his fate. He had given himself to ministry and served with all his strength. But in the flurry of activity, it was easy to miss the depth of experience possible. His mind drifted back to the words of a friend… “there are only two kinds of Christians: those who sincerely believe in God and those who, just as sincerely, believe that they believe.” Now he would know which he was.
Richard later wrote, “Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering— would I continue to love Him?”
Years of imprisonment followed. Richard had plenty of time to answer that questions. 14 years in fact.
Over and over he was questioned for his faith, and given every incentive imaginable to give it up. But to Richard it had become more than a faith. It was his best Friend he was being asked to turn his back on. He couldn’t do that.
Torture was the result.
And in the midst of unimaginable suffering Richard was content… even incredibly joyful. He writes, “Words alone have never been able to say what man feels in the nearness of divinity. Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if i did not give it expression.” Many times during the three years he spent in solitary confinement the guards found him dancing for joy. “I did not mind if my captors thought I was mad, for I had found a beauty in Christ that I had not known before.”
During torture he had a phrase that he would repeat over and over to keep his mind from the pain… “Jesus, dear Bridegroom of my soul, I love You.”
His captors were infuriated at his commitment to God and his fellow men, and arranged for a trial. Richard was quite ill when it took place, and when asked to speak he could only think of three words to say… “I love God.”
After eight years of appalling treatment and suffering Richard was set free… but he couldn’t rest while he thought of the many prisoners who sat in darkness without hope of the Savior he loved. He began to tell God that he was willing to go back to jail if that was His will. And after a few short months he was arrested and taken.
For six more years Richard faced horrible suffering for the God he loved so much. While the men around him crumbled and lost their faith in socialism and other political positions, he stood firm. All the tactics, torture, offers, and physiological methods the communists could employ could not induce him to leave the God he loved so much… the very God who had allowed him to be separated from his wife and son for fourteen years… the God who allowed him to live years without seeing the light of the sun, or eat a square meal, or sleep in a comfortable bed… the God who allowed his dreams to be dashed, and all his possessions to be taken. The God who knew that the real source of happiness is not found in material gifts, but in the incredible gift we have of cherishing Him as our best Friend.
Richard’s words sink into me… “I knew now that I was not play-acting. I believed.”
And I wonder how we have allowed God to become anything less than our all... How we’ve become so consumed with all He gives that we miss Him.
Because so often we are like customers coming to Him and expecting Him to give us what we want.
How often do we come to Him purely for the joy of being in His presence? Just because we love Him?
The words of one of my favorite songs have been engraving themselves on my heart of late…
...What if right at midnight Jesus softly struck a match
Could that change everything, the light one flame could bring?
The deepest dark surrenders when One candle flickers brights
The same flame that in daytime would be lost in worlds of light
The night is not the enemy, for darkness tells this truth
Only One light lasts forever, only One light is truth.
God, if you have to make our world dark so that we can discern the Only One who lasts forever… do it. Our treasures are all yours. We want the true Treasure. We’re willing to face losses, prison walls, loneliness, the loss of all things save You so that the continual motto of our heart will be…
Jesus, dear Bridegroom of our souls, we love You…
...We love God.
This thanksgiving the deepest gratitude of my heart is for You. You are all. You are enough.
High King of heaven… my treasure Thou art.
*Photo credit-- Yours truly :)
Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for the Omnipotent God to look down at a world of hearts that are closed to Him…
David said it so profoundly…
“God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back… there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
It’s heartbreaking. And it’s so far from all that God longs to give His children.
The last couple months have shown me a side of God’s heart I had never grasped before…
We’ve all heard a million times that God is personal and the One who will always be there for us and I’ve always believed and loved that thought. But somehow, it’s only been lately that I’ve more fully realized what that really means for me.
This God of ours is not some nebulas being who loves us but is somewhat distant from our lives. He is not merely a Master. His love is not some vague concept that we cannot feel.
The Jesus I serve passionately loves me with all His heart. The thought of loosing me is so hard for Him that He would rather come to earth and give His life than watch me slip away. He’s always there for me during the day to check in and see how I’m doing. He always has an encouraging word to speak when I’m down. When I fall, He picks me back up and holds my hand. All night long He watches me sleep, eagerly awaiting the moment I wake up, so we can be together again.
And I just can’t help myself falling in love with this Jesus. He is so tangible… so personal.
It’s not a matter of trying to want to spend time with Him. I just can’t wait for it.
Nothing in the world is as sweet as the time when I can leave behind all the distractions of my day and go out to my meadow below the ridge behind our house and just be with Him. It’s not an obligation now, it’s a privilege. I want to open my heart completely to this God. To tell Him absolutely everything about me. I want to give Him total access to the deepest corners of my heart.
I want Him to look down from heaven and find my heart open to Him… all day. Every day.
And I realize more and more that all He really wants is our hearts. I mean, everything is His. He owns all... except what He wants most-- the hearts of His children.
My heart burns to give Him more. I wish I had a thousand lives to lay on the altar for Him.
But nothing puts a bigger smile on His face than when we offer Him our little wounded, dirty, broken hearts.
And this whole thing about Christianity… it’s not about trying to do all the right things and be the good people. It’s about falling deeply in love with the Jesus who it’s all about.
Christianity is not merely a matter of the mind, but a matter of the heart.
And when we open our heart up to Him, He changes it, draws it close, and makes it like His. We may not feel any closer to Him today than we did yesterday, but we can know that though we may not see, He is working. One day it will all be clear, and we’ll marvel at a grace that is as far beyond our highest dreams as heaven is above earth.
This Jesus has had you in His heart for all eternity. And when the day came for you to be born, He had the biggest smile on His face that you can imagine. The day had finally come. From now on, He could lavish His love on you, and begin the journey of winning your heart.
And all through your life, He's been on that journey. Everyday He tries to show us in a hundred little ways how deep His love is. But so often we keep our heart closed and our face turned.
He's been running after us all our lives, trying to show that He loves with all His heart and that you are the most important thing to Him in the world.
Maybe it's time to just stop running from Him, and fall in His arms and live the rest of our lives in adoration for the God who wouldn't stop seeking us, even when we were ungrateful hard hearted wretches who thought we were fine on our own.
Because this Jesus? Life is a million times sweeter with Him.
*Photo credits-- Hannah Rayne
Sometimes I wonder when we transitioned from the carefreeness of childhood to the rushed and hurried lives we live as teens and adults. It seems like every year we get busier... we say we have more to get done, and yet somehow we're always still behind.
For years I'd been one of the people who had an everlasting "to do" list, or so it felt. I had high aspirations of what I wanted to get done, and when I wanted it done by. When I was in grade school that meant I was always trying to see how soon I could have the school year done. I even remember writing myself out a whole schedule of how I was going to get 7th grade done in four months. But for some reason, I always felt behind. I could never get it all done... and often, that really frustrated me.
And then, last year I found myself too sick to do anything for months on end. All my "to do" lists had to be laid down. And now, on the other side of my illness, I found my incessant drive to get to that "to do" list a little dampened. At first I worried that I was loosing my ambition. I'm now realizing that God had a lot more in mind.
I mean, when did we stop seeing life as a journey and start thinking it was a race to see who can get to the end first?
When did we stop recognizing the treasure of now?
And more importantly, how did our "to do" lists become so important that we feel too busy to give God our best?
I've told myself the lie a million times... "I don't have time."
But then, when was the last time you heard a little child complaining of a lack of time? And don't we have the same twenty four hours as them?
Maybe it's a matter of priorities. Of not being so controlled by that "to do" list. Maybe it's about figuring out what really matters.
Because really, we only have one life to live. And I don't want to spend it constantly rushing to the next thing.
I think we all intuitively know that God should be the very top of our priority list... But how many of us really live like He is?
As one of my favorite quotes states...
" God gave us time. And who has time for God? Which makes no sense."
If my God is the one I think He is... the One who breathes out stars... who speaks mountains into existence... how can I think that He will fit into the tiny spaces of my day that I squeeze out for Him? How can it do Him justice?
And how can I think that I will know His presence when all I give Him is a fleeting thought here and there?
So yeah, I've started seeing time in a new way. The work will never go away, but this moment will.
Not to say that the work is not important... but to say that God in this moment is more important than the work will ever be.
Maybe true ambition is not how much I can get done in this little life, but how much of God's presence I can recognize... how much of the almighty God I can know.
So I'll stop to see the sunrise... to head for the woods in the crisp morning air to tell Him good morning ... to pause for a lingering look at the bouquet of flowers in the kitchen... to write a line or two in my journal of gratitude for a God who's always there...
Because I can have as much of Him or as little of Him as I choose.
There is no limit.
Sidenote... I'm taking a plunge in this whole perspective of time and will be making time to update my blog far more regularly. So keep an eye out for much more frequent posts. :)
*Photo credit-- Hannah Rayne
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY, SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.
-Sir Ernest Shackleton-
Quite a proposal. What would inspire a person to sign on to such a trip? What motive could possibly make a man want to leave his home and family for that? What if he did never come home? Could it be worth it?
Love does away with fear. In this case love of adventure...
Another quote comes to mind... this one from a famous astronaut.
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life." Virgil (Gus) Grissom
And later he and two friends did give their lives. While testing the Apollo 1, a fire broke out in the capsule and all three men died.
Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee before the fire.
What could have motivated them to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
Yet again we find love. In this case, not only love of adventure but love for conquest.
And it makes me think... What would motivate us to endure long months of complete darkness? What would give us the courage to live a life of constant danger? What would we deem a worthy cause for which to expend our life?
And the same answer strikes again. Love. This time capitalized.
Because that add was not just something written to inspire men to join an adventure to the South Pole. Someone much greater asks for similar courage.
And if hundreds of men could apply for that because of their love of adventure, shouldn't hundreds of Christians be willing to face the same for love of their Master?
If three men were willing to give their lives for the conquest of space, shouldn't we be willing to give our lives for the conquest of something much greater?
Shouldn't we be willing to face hardship this year?
Sometimes God uses hardship as the very means of our growth. And I say that with more confidence than ever before...
Dec. 31 2012
Lord, I want a year of growth-- if that means a hard year-- let it be a hard year. Take me out of my comfort zone. Send me trials. All I want is the year of greatest growth in you that I've ever had. That will make it my best year so far.
Little did I know what I was asking for...
After various trials and several months of fighting an unknown illness, and then being diagnosed with Lyme disease in August, I have a little more idea.The seven months of sickness and pain have been God's answer to my prayer in the above journal entry. And yet I wouldn't have that prayer unsaid, or those seven months "unlived" for anything. I can truly say that hardship was my greatest blessing.
Fast forward to another journal entry a year later...
Dec 31, 2013
...Though I now know more than ever before the heart definition of pain, I know also the heart definition of upholding Love. I may have known personally what it is like to be utterly weak, but I have also known the amazing power of sustaining grace. I might have known disappointments and confusion but it was only so that I might now truly know trust. I may have experienced darkness, but it was only so that I could now appreciate more the one true Light.
I now see my greatest struggles as my greatest blessings. Hardship is not our enemy. It is a gift the Master allows that we may be strengthened to fight our real enemy.
This year, I'm excited to see what new things He has in store. I know my Jesus doeth all things well. I praise Him that the last few weeks have marked improvements in my health, and the beginning of a slow, but sure, recovery.
And for the record, Lord, I am willing to endure hardship for You this year. I deem You worthy of risking my life.
After all, didn't You deem me worthy of risking Yours?
Just imagine with me what it's like to be God... I mean, really. Enter into the heart of it-- His heart. His is more than just a position of power.
You have invested your own flesh and blood in humanity, and you deeply love them. Your mind is filled with ways to bring them happiness. You are constantly planning good gifts to give them. You have their good in mind, in all you do. You forever look for ways to express your love to them. They are the apple of your eye, and your life is bound up with theirs.
But they seem not to notice you. They are consumed with their little this and that. They go through a day, sometimes without even acknowledging your existence. Sometimes they do better and say a few words to you in the morning, but that's all. Or they come to you with their list of things they want done, and when you answer their prayers, they mutter a hasty thanks, or none at all. And if you don't answer their prayers right away because you know better, they complain that you don't hear, or care. Their eyes are focused on all they don't have, and they miss the multiple gifts you give them each day. They blame their pain on you, and say that you don't understand.
You see and feel all this keenly. And it breaks your tender heart.
Because after all, who was it that gave them life in the first place? Who is it that gives them breath every second of their day? Who is it that wakes them up every morning to begin a new day? Who is it that has given them every good and perfect gift? Who is it that paints a sunset for them every evening, and that causes it to rise again every morning? Who is it who is there for them twenty-four seven?
Jesus. The answer to every question.
And though He has all the power in the universe... Though everything that lives and moves has their being in Him... There is one thing He wants more than anything else. And we often deprive Him of it.
He wants us to look up, and say two simple words... and mean them.
Words that would be music in Jesus' ear more than all the orchestras on earth... And you can whisper them right now.
It's for more than one day a year. We know that in praising God we are blessed (and that right there is a far underestimated fact.) But have you ever thought that it blesses Jesus too?
By embracing the little gifts, and thanking Him for all He has given instead at looking at all we don't have, we bring the joy back into our own lives, and more importantly, into the heart of Jesus.
Because if it was just you and Jesus on this planet, and His love language was words of affirmation... How would He be doing? Would He have received any from you today?
Take a moment to stop, look up, and whisper those two words in His ear.
It will make His day.
There's something special and sacred about moments out in the fresh air with the Creator. It rejuvenates lagging courage, and inspires weary hearts.
I have long loved my quiet moments outside with Him. But in the turmoil of the last few months I had temporarily forgotten it's blessing.
He's reminded me. And I am grateful.
It's not in the flurry of activity, or the life of ceaseless labor that the greatest blessings are found.
In recognizing each little gift He sends, and taking the time to thank Him.
In stopping to feel His presence and appreciate His love.
In accepting pain as a medium for His greatest blessings, and learning the sweet peace and joy of full surrender.
In embracing the privilege of this moment and the things we may learn in it, whether or not it suits our fancy.
In quiet moments with Him.
"The one thing needed above all others today is that we shall go apart with our Lord, and sit at His feet in the sacred privacy of His blessed presence. Oh, for the lost art of meditation! Oh, for the culture of the secret place! Oh, for the tonic of waiting upon God!"
It was a simple thought, but one packed with power. My brother was telling me that he had been contemplating the other morning how water can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still-- how we can only produce an accurate reflection when perfectly still.
That thought really struck a cord with me. The depth of it's meaning is something I'm still trying to get my mind around. Just as the restless water produces a distorted reflection, we produce a distorted reflection of our Maker when we allow the storms of life to shake our trust, or when we become so frazzled by the business of life that we lose sight of Him. It's no accident we are told to "be still" and know that He is God.
A complete reflection of our Jesus can only shine from the heart that is perfectly still.
That rules out anxiety, which is really just a lack of trust.
It rules out the all-consuming business that leaves no time for Him.
It completely dispenses with frustration of any kind.
Instead this reflection requires trust. The kind that believes in the heart of it's Savior, even when it doesn't understand.
It asks us to be willing to accept His plans instead of our own, without having a "grown up tantrum." We've all seen the little child's version, but do we ever consider that sometimes we throw grown up "internal" tantrums when God says no? This summer has given me plenty of opportunity for them (like even this afternoon when I found out there are only four more GED testing dates this year at the "local" college before the new GED comes out, and two of them are on Sabbath, and one we are likely traveling, and the other will probably be booked by the time I get the necessary papers. :)) But I'm learning that real peace is found in giving Him the pen. I had definite aims and deadlines, ones that I'd prayed about and thought were right for the last few months. But sometimes He knows we need the gentle push towards deeper surrender and reliance on Him that disappointed plans will bring. And then, we can either struggle or surrender. But the restless water caused by the struggle reflects the Image poorly.
This reflecting Him... It calls for time daily to come apart and learn of His heart. Only the individual who knows the Master can reflect Him...
It asks us to be still. So still that not only the world-- but also our Maker-- can see His face perfectly reflected in us. It's the kind of stillness that only comes through trust.
*Be all at rest and let not your heart be rippled,
For tiny wavelets mar the image fair,
Which the still pool reflects of heaven's glory.
And thus the image He would have you bear.
*Streams in the Desert
Photos taken at NJFC
Credits: father :)
20. Lover of Jesus. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Servant. Fan of the kitchen. Graduate of Masters of Biblical Counseling.
Follow this Blog
Follow Me on Google+
Hands Open. Heart Full.