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Gracefully Removing the Labels That Hurt

Ugly LabelIn my current Bible study class, we’re studying the topic of grace. In this past week’s lesson, we looked at the story of The Woman Caught in Adultery. You can read the story here if you are not familiar with it.

To summarize, this woman was dragged before Jesus by a group of legalistic religious leaders who were using her to trap Jesus. They wanted to know if He would enforce the letter of the law and have her stoned or deny the law and condemn Himself. They thought they’d wrangled Jesus into a no-win situation. But Jesus simply told them to let whoever among them who was without sin throw the first stone. The crowd slowly dispersed. When the woman realized that no one had condemned her, Jesus told her that He wouldn’t condemn her either. He told her to go and sin no more.

At this point in the lesson, our group leader asked us what we thought became of the woman. My imagination grabbed hold of that question, and I found myself thinking about it long after I’d gone home.

The Bible doesn’t answer this question for us. We like to hope that after an encounter like that . . . with Jesus . . . in person, the woman went away changed, happily following Jesus and living according to His Word.

Realistically, though, this woman would have had some issues to work through. The religious leaders exposed her sin to the whole community. The people hadn’t stoned her, but she bore a label anyway. Adulteress. Dead woman walking by Jesus’ mysterious grace. How did her husband and family feel about her sin? Her lover’s wife and friends? Was she welcome at the Temple? In the market? Or was she branded an outcast? Shunned?

When people receive grace from Jesus and try to change their lives as a result, people who liked the way they were often try to pull them back into sin while people who were hurt by their actions are afraid to trust them. Jesus lifts people like this woman up out of the dirt, telling them to go and sin no more, but other people continue to throw dirt at them behind His back. If they throw enough dirt, people who are trying to change are tempted to give up in despair.

Label of GraceI don’t know if this is what happened to the woman or not. I’d like to hope everyone there was changed by that encounter with Jesus that day. I’d also like to hope that, even if the crowd wasn’t changed, the woman knew Jesus forgave her and found His grace to be enough. (It is, you know. This is true.) I hope that, if this woman did find herself a Scarlet Letter outcast, she chose to leave what she no longer had anyway in order to stay close to Christ. If you are in this situation yourself, clinging to Christ is the key. Let Him strengthen, teach, and encourage you as you pray He’ll also work in the lives of those who are causing you pain. “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”James 4:8

When I consider this Bible story from the what-happened-next point of view, I realize how important it is to follow Jesus’ example of grace. As His impromptu object lesson revealed, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We find those words in Romans 3:23 followed by these, “and have been justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Justified: Just as if I’d never sinned. I learned that definition so long ago, I don’t even remember where. But it’s a perfect reminder here. When someone receives Jesus’ grace, that grace removes the sin labels. Therefore, our grace has to stop seeing those labels, labels that are no longer there. The shamed and humiliated adulteress has become the beloved daughter of our King. We need to learn to welcome her as our new sister and friend.

Since the afternoon of that Bible study, God has been working hard on me. He’s been bringing names to mind—people from the past, sometimes very long ago, whom I’ve labelled with concrete signs. The labels stick to people who’ve hurt me—or mine. I forgave but left the labels on . . . to protect myself . . . just in case. These labels don’t say things like adulteress. Instead, they say, “Dangerous! Beware.” These labels must come down. I must ask God for the grace to pray them down. I must entrust my heart to His care, and trust His work in their hearts as well.

At the same time, I’m realizing that there may be people out there I’ve hurt. Not intentionally, but maybe through a careless action, a misspoken or misinterpreted word. I’m asking God to give them grace for me—maybe even, if needed, give me the opportunity to make things right. I’m asking God to heal wounds given and received by filling all our hearts with His grace. May all the ugly labels go away.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for the grace You offer. Help us to receive it. Help us to pass it on. We’ve all sinned and fall short of Your glory, but You sent Your Son to make it right. Help us to remember the gift we’ve been given at such great cost. Help us follow Christ’s example toward us. Please make all the ugly labels go away. Help us to see each other as You do, so we can encourage each other along. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Jeremiah 29:11 in Context

Jeremiah 29-13“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” –Jeremiah 29:10-13

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse for many. I love claiming the promise that the Lord has good plans for me, plans to prosper and not harm, plans to give hope and a future. These words are comforting in times of trouble; they inspire confidence!

But we often take them out of context which means we miss part of their meaning. When we look at the surrounding verses, we discover this verse is more than a promise about what God is going to do. God reveals our part—something He was waiting for from the Israelites and, therefore, may be waiting for from us, too.

These verses are part of a letter from Jeremiah, in Jerusalem, to God’s people living in exile in Babylon. The Israelites had not been faithful to God, and so He allowed other nations to conquer and rule over them. But He set a time limit on this. He told the people their exile would end after seventy years. He told them of His good plans for them then. Finally, He told them that they would pray to Him, and He would listen to them. They would seek Him and find Him when they chose to seek Him with all their heart.

It seems to me that God may have been saying, “I know it’s going to take you seventy years to get to that point—the point where you finally put me first and seek me with all your heart. So I am now making good plans for you for then.” He doesn’t invite them to pray to Him now. He simply says the day will come when they will pray to Him. He doesn’t invite them to seek Him wholeheartedly now. He only says they’ll find Him when they do. God knew it was going to take His people some time, but He was prepared to bless them abundantly when they got around to getting their hearts right. And He knew when that would happen.

From our point of view, the lesson seems so simple. We seek God wholeheartedly; He puts His good plans for us into motion. Voila! But the Israelites didn’t learn how to seek Him wholeheartedly for seventy years. And I can’t say I’ve mastered it yet. In fact, wholehearted devotion probably takes a lifetime to develop.

A lifetime.

Seventy (or eighty or a hundred or more) years!

So what are we to do?

We can start practicing now. We can start by identifying distractions to better make seeking God the primary aim of every day. What are some things you are tempted to seek with your whole heart in place of God? My list includes books, family, control, health, perfection. Am I wrong to enjoy these and want them in my life? No. Reading, enjoying time with loved ones, keeping order (to an extent), staying as healthy as I can, and doing my best are all good things–gifts from God’s hand to appreciate. I just have to be sure that they aren’t keeping me from seeking God, from discovering what He wants me to do each day, from worshiping, praying, serving, or loving Him over all else. He’s given us a lifetime of learning to put Him first, letting everything else fall into its proper place under Him.

Am I saying we have to earn the right to enjoy God’s good plans? Not really. It’s more of a parent/child thing. Imagine that you have a toddler who wants to drive the car. You look forward to the day when he will be ready and able to drive the car. You want him to enjoy that privilege. But you know your toddler isn’t ready for that good thing just yet. In fact, as a sixteen-year-old, he may not be ready for that good thing just yet—if he hasn’t shown responsibility for his own actions, concern for others, or respect for authority. You have good plans for your child’s future, but you must wait for him to mature or disaster will be the result.

God knows when the time will be right for all of His plans for us to go into effect. He’s watching for the moment—wanting it for us as much as we want it ourselves. He has good plans for us—plans that will glorify His name. Let’s practice seeking Him wholeheartedly while we wait.

Father, thank You for the assurance of Your good plans for us. The best of these is that we will grow in our knowledge of You! Help us to seek You more each day, trusting You to let everything else fall into its proper place. We love You, Lord, and long to please You. Please teach us how. Amen.

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Book Review: “It’s Good to Be Queen”

Its Good to Be QueenIt’s Good to Be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs is a book every woman should read. Told in the style of The Girl’s Still Got It, It’s Good to Be Queen is a detailed commentary disguised as a fascinating story full of practical truth women can strive to apply to life. The book is based on 1 Kings 10:1-13, the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon. Higgs takes this passage apart, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, to introduce readers to this historical queen. Sometimes she uses her imagination, but she always tells when she’s doing so. The Queen of Sheba was a real woman, and Higgs shows readers that we’ve much to learn from her. The ten chapters of the book teach traits we’re wise to develop in our lives and tell us, through the queen’s example, how we can begin to do so.

Each chapter starts with a fictionalized, personal letter from the Queen of Sheba that reads like a journal entry. This is followed by the verse or verses we’re looking at in the chapter then Higgs’ detailed commentary presented in a style that’s insightful and fun. The book ends with discussion questions, a study guide, and notes full of references to sources for further study and Bible passages to look up. Higgs has done her homework; this study is complete!

This engaging book is ideal for either personal or group Bible study. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Appreciating a Good Day

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.” -2 Kings 19:14

Father, it’s been a really bad day—I mean really, really, really bad. I’m ready to move to Australia with Alexander. Or maybe Montana will do. Seriously, Lord. Everything has gone wrong. Everything! So I’m dropping everything right now and coming to You. Please turn this day around. Please let the rest of this day be good.

Didn’t you just talk with Your mom?Appreciating a Good Day

I did!

What part of everything going wrong was that?

Conflicted pause for thought.

Okay, Lord, that part was actually, pretty good. We talked about all kinds of random things and nothing of particular importance and just enjoyed each other’s company for a while. I’m really glad she called.

So not everything has gone wrong today.

Well, no. Not that. But everything else, Lord! It’s been an exceptionally hard day.

So you didn’t enjoy that lesson I taught you during quiet time?

Oh! I forgot about that! That was so good, Lord. Every passage I read emphasized a different aspect of the same thing. I love it when You orchestrate a lesson that way! I’m still processing it.

I can tell. And what did you do after that?

I ran! Five and half miles today! I think I’ve finally recovered the stamina I lost during our move.

And what did you say to me while you were running those miles?

Oh. I was listening to Mandisa’s Good Morning. My MP3 player chose it twice today! She sang, “I went to bed dreaming. You woke me up singing,” and I said, “Thank You, Lord! This truly is a good morning.”

I remember that. So this is how you define a really, really, really bad, let’s-move-to-Montana day?

Silence

Lord, I guess there’ve only been a few rough moments, and I guess I let them get to me. I’m sorry about that. Thank You for helping me to see that this day, this day You’ve given me, is good. Thanks for Your presence and Your patience. And thank You for meeting with me. As I continue on from here, help me to focus on the good—even as I muddle my way through whatever frustrations may come. I love You, Lord. Amen.


Whether we’re receiving devastating news, like Hezekiah did (Click here to read the story.), or encountering more obstacles than anticipated in a given day, it’s good to know we can stop and spread our problems out before the Lord. He’s already aware of what’s going on. He’s ready to offer assistance, wisdom, and, sometimes, a gentle nudge into a better perspective. We just have to remember to take our troubles to Him.

Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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God Reveals His Truth and Love

God Reveals His Truth and Love“Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” -1 Kings 17:24

First, Elijah showed up on her doorstep as she was preparing to make a final meal for herself and her son. She had thought her little family would eat a final meal then starve, but Elijah asked her to include him in that final meal. The last of the widow’s flour and oil lasted until the drought came to an end!

Then her son became ill and died. The woman went to Elijah to complain, asking if her son’s death was punishment for sin. Elijah didn’t answer. He just asked for the boy—and asked God to bring him back to life. (You can read the whole story here. It’s found in 1 Kings 17.)

I found it strange that this was the point where the woman came to believe that Elijah was a man of God and that God’s Word from his mouth was the truth. Why wasn’t the miracle of the flour and oil enough to convince her?

As I thought about it, I wondered if maybe she thought the only reason the flour and oil lasted was for Elijah’s sake. Maybe she saw herself and her son as coincidental, maybe just useful, beneficiaries of Elijah’s blessings.

But the resurrection of her son was personal—a gift just for her. God knew what she needed. He showed her He cared—not only for His prophets but also for lonely widows and their sons.

Father, we know You care. You see our pain and suffering. You listen to our prayers. You answer according to Your mysterious but perfect Will. You are preparing us for something better someday: eternity with You—and with no pain or suffering.

But there are many out there who don’t yet know this truth. Please reach out to them as you did to the Widow at Zarephath. Get their attention. Reveal Your love. Use us as You used Elijah. In anticipation of such, help us live and speak Your truth always. We thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Habakkuk’s Honesty

The Book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. It’s one we can read quickly, yet it contains a powerful message. This makes it one of my favorite Bible books. In a sense, it’s the journal of a man frustrated with God. It includes God’s response to him, and his response, in turn, to God. As this man wrestles his way through his issues, the journal shows him choosing to trust and to submit. It shows him finding peace in the midst of turmoil. It shows him claiming God’s strength for his role in it.

Don’t we all wrestle with God this way sometimes?

Let me highlight a few verses that especially speak to me:

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” –Habakkuk 1:2

Wow! David’s psalms are often used to show us how honest we can be with God. But listen to Habakkuk! He’s throwing a temper tantrum! “Lord, I’ve waited long enough! It’s time for you to act! I demand justice now! Where are you and why haven’t you done something about this intolerable situation?” While we do need to fear God, we don’t have to fear turning our honest emotions and questions over to Him. As we initiate the conversation, God can help us see Truth and trust in Him.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” –Habakkuk 2:14

This is a promise! Someday, the whole earth will know God and His glory. He will saturate our world completely, covering it as water covers the sea. For this reason, we must pray now that unbelievers will allow God to open their eyes to His Presence before this awesome day. Once God reveals Himself to the world, it will be too late for those who refused to see Him before He came.

“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” –Habakkuk 2:20

This verse takes my very breath away—every time I read it. Can’t you just picture that glorious, holy Temple with the whole world around it, frozen, waiting, knowing that God is preparing to act, anticipating His appearance and the sudden transformation that will come with it? Pause for a moment. Reflect on that.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” –Habakkuk 3:2

Two chapters ago, Habakkuk was demanding action and justice, but here he recognizes God’s wrath and asks for mercy. We must do the same. Though we’re anxious for God to return and set everything right that’s gone wrong with this world, once He does, there’s no mercy for those who don’t believe. God’s patience equals salvation for some. Though He hates sin and longs to pour His wrath out on it, His waiting is an act of mercy.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” –Habakkuk 3:17-18

What a perfect statement of trust! Habakkuk has come back to a place of patience, trusting in God though times are hard. We see a similar statement in Job 13:15: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” When we become impatient for God to act on our behalf, praying these verses helps us stand in confidence.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” –Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk not only learns to wait patiently, trusting in God’s timing, that God is doing what’s best for all, but Habakkuk also learns to claim God’s strength to help him endure and to help him accomplish whatever God has for him to do, to go on the heights, enjoying fellowship with God and doing great things for Him.

To summarize, Habakkuk communicates honestly, sees purpose in God’s patience, prays that that purpose will be accomplished, submits to God’s timing (even if it means Habakkuk’s suffering), and claims strength to endure to eventually enjoy the ultimate victory—to go on the heights with God.

Lord, please help us to do the same—to endure while we wait that you can show mercy to others. Give us Your strength that we can serve You faithfully through all the trials that come our way. You are in Your holy Temple—the whole world waits. We long to join You there on the heights some glorious day—when You say it’s time. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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That the Fully Committed Will Stay Strong

Parachute Prayer Post“And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” -1 Kings 8:61

After Solomon built and dedicated God’s Temple, he spoke to the people. 1 Kings 8:61 records some of his words. When I read the first phrase of this verse, I started to pray for people I know who aren’t fully committed to the Lord. But then I read the last phrase. Solomon wasn’t urging the people to become committed to the Lord; he wanted them to stay that way. That little phrase, as at this time, reminded me, once again, that while it’s important to pray for the one lost sheep to be found (Luke 15:1-7), it’s also important to pray for the 99 who are safely in the fold.

And Solomon’s own life proves this. Just three chapters later, we read of Solomon’s downfall and death. This king who urged God’s people to remain faithful did not. Tragically, his choices set a series of events in motion that led the whole nation to fall. Likewise, when strong Christians falter, they tend to take others down with them. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When our enemy gets hold of someone influential, he’s especially thrilled. It’s his opportunity to take a whole herd. For everyone’s sake, we must pray that those who are committed to God will find the strength in Him to stay that way.

Because Solomon was a king and because Christians are God’s “chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), let’s let symbols of royalty be our prompt to pray. When we see crowns, thrones, scepters, news of one royal family or another, let’s ask God to strengthen those who are fully committed to Him. May their hearts remain that way for their good, for the good of God’s Kingdom, and for God’s glory. Amen.


For more prayer prompts, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

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Asking the Source Who Can and Cares

Purple and Blue“. . . and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’” -1 Kings 3:5

The story of King Solomon asking God for wisdom has always intrigued me. What an offer! God actually appeared to the new king in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon, in turn, asked for the one thing he needed most to be a successful king: wisdom.

A new thought jumped out at me as I read the story through this most recent time. God wants us all to ask Him for what we want. Our desires matter to Him. This matters to me.

Like many women, I’m a born people pleaser. My family has started calling me on this. When they ask me what I want to do, I’ll usually say, “You choose.” They’ll get frustrated and insist I choose. They want to know what I want. But what I want is for them to be happy. It’s nice to know they want the same for me.

God wants us to tell Him what we want, too. He loves us and wants to give us good things. If we ask for something unwise, He’ll say, “No,” unless saying, “Yes,” will teach us something. Life is a training ground for eternity, after all. God utilizes opportunities to train and discipline. Asking for something unwise may give Him such an opportunity.

Which leads me to a follow-up thought that came from reflecting on this passage. While verse 5 is the most intriguing, verse 4 sets the stage:

“The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.”

Solomon was at Gibeon when God appeared to him in a dream—after Solomon had offered a thousand burnt offerings. Solomon the brand new king was desperately seeking God’s favor. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He wanted to lead God’s people well. He wanted God’s blessing on his work.

This progression of events says to me that if we want God’s blessing, assistance, and favor in our lives, if we want Him to ask us what we want, we need to spend time in His Presence seeking such.

Don’t get me wrong. We can’t earn anything from God. Everything He gives comes by grace. But He created us to enjoy a loving relationship with Him. When we seek Him, He responds. He listens to our hearts. He gives us what we need.

Solomon was wise before God gave him great wisdom. To find what he needed, He went straight to the Source and stayed to receive the answer he wanted more than anything. His example here is one we’re wise to follow each day.

Father, thank You for caring about our desires. Above all, we want more of You! Call us into Your Presence often. Help us to ask for the things we need to serve You well wherever we are, whatever roles we fill. We love You, Lord. Amen.

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Devising Ways to Restore Relationship

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” -2 Samuel 14:14

2 Samuel 14-14This verse from 2 Samuel appears in the middle of the account of one of the greatest tragedies of King David’s life. His son Absalom had murdered David’s other son Amnon to avenge David’s daughter Tamar. Then Absalom had fled to Geshur where he stayed for three years. Second Samuel 13:39 tells us that David longed to go to Absalom but refused to do so. The verse above was spoken by a woman sent to David by Joab, David’s nephew and the commander of his army, who wanted to help David restore the relationship with his son. Unfortunately, though David chose to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem, he still refused to meet with him face to face. Absalom became bitter, tried to steal the kingdom from David, and was murdered by Joab.

I wonder how things would have been different had David welcomed his son home with open arms . . . or at least with a little face time at the day’s equivalent of Starbuck’s.

We can’t be too hard on David, though. We don’t know what Absalom was like before Amnon assaulted Tamar. He may have been rebellious and threatening from the start. And murder is a serious offense. If David wasn’t comfortable allowing a murderer, even his own son, to live under his roof, near his wives and other children, I’m not sure we can fault him for that. Still the ultimate outcome was tragic. Absalom’s death broke David’s heart.

I love the insights of verse 14, however. This verse is all about God and His relationship with us—an example the woman encouraged David to follow regarding his son—one we can follow regarding close family members or friends who wound us. Let’s look at this verse more closely:

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.” We have wronged God, and we can’t fix it any more than we can pick up water once it’s spilled on the ground. What’s done is done. The consequence of death is inevitable.

Or is it? Keep reading:

“But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.”

God is God. What He wants will be. He wants relationship. He won’t force us into a relationship with Him because He wants us to come to Him because we want to. Yet He made a way to make relationship possible again.

I love that this verse was written long before Jesus came. He Is the way that God devised to save us from the consequences of our sin, to restore relationship. But the woman who spoke to David did not know about Him. She must have had great faith in God, in His mercy, and in His love and faithfulness. Maybe she was referring to the then-existing sacrificial system. Maybe she had noticed God’s work in the lives of people around her, His drawing them to Him. Whatever she was referring to, she knew our God wants relationship with His people and works to make it possible in spite of our sin.

This is why it’s so important for us to forgive those who have wronged us. Yes. We need to protect ourselves from further harm, and we have that right. Yet, as far as it is possible, we must strive to restore relationship. We must prayerfully devise appropriate ways to reach out with forgiveness and in hopes of fellowship even if all we can do is call or send a message once in a while to let the person know they’re still in our thoughts, we still care.

Granted, there are times when even that is not possible. The person, like Absalom, may be dangerous (physically, mentally, or emotionally) or may be uninterested in further contact. If that’s the case, our responsibility is to forgive, pray when God brings the person to mind, and move on. But when we can work toward mending a relationship, we offer the one who hurt us a great gift, and we receive an even greater gift from God in return as He uses our actions to make us more like Christ, His Son.

David refused to welcome Absalom home, but God has devised the perfect way to invite His banished children to enjoy a forever relationship with Him. Not all accept the invitation, but it’s there just the same. We thank Him when we follow His example and reach out with forgiveness.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” –Romans 12:18

Father, I’ll thank You forever for sending Jesus to make it possible for me and for all who want to to enjoy life with You! When others wrong me, help me to remember what You’ve done. Give me the desire to forgive and, if there is a way, reveal my part in restoring a healthy relationship. Amen.

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Stumbling in the Dark

Finding Home“He inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’
The Lord answered him, ‘Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” -1 Samuel 23:2

I felt a bit frustrated when I read these words. David asked God a question and got a direct answer! A few verses later, he asked again, because his men didn’t quite trust God the way David did, and God answered directly again. He made it very clear that He wanted David to save the people of Keilah.

But how unfair! I’ve asked God for direct answers, for absolute clarity. Which book project should I focus on? Should I continue to self-publish or try the traditional route? Which house should we rent in our next location?

Mike and I agonized over that last one for weeks. I kept hoping that God would make the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood glow for us or something.

He didn’t.

We researched. We prayed. We made a decision. We’re moving forward by faith.

By faith. As opposed to hearing an audible voice or seeing a neon sign glow or even having a deep peace within.

Sometimes God is silent.

When the movers came to pack up our stuff for this move, a three-day process, we continued to live in the house. On the first day, one of the packers grabbed all of the night lights and packed them together in one box. I admire her organizational skills. I probably would have done the same thing.

Problem is, I tend to be a bit of an insomniac (my husband would tell you that’s a bit of an understatement), and I’ve learned that when I wake up in the night, getting up and taking a quick lap around the house helps me fall back to sleep more quickly than lying in bed staring into nothingness.

Have you ever tried to take a lap around your house . . . full of boxes . . . in the dark . . . without even any night lights? It’s kind of like living by faith. It was a bit of a problem that first night.

Stumbling in the DarkSo you can understand why reading these verses frustrated me. Sometimes I would really like it if God would answer me verbally. I’m not asking for great illumination . . . a night light would be enough. But He continues to let me stumble through the dark. I asked Him about this. How I am supposed to know the right path to take when God refuses to speak up?

The thought came to me, no audible voice, just a thought in my head that could have been my own or placed there by God’s Spirit – I believe the latter but have no proof, that maybe it isn’t always about finding the “right” path, that maybe it doesn’t matter to God which project I pursue first or which house I choose to live in. He knows what the outcome will be either way and how to lead me based on whatever decision I make. Maybe living by faith, prayerfully making decisions that matter, is more about prayerfully making the decision, seeking to do what I believe God wants me to do, and trusting Him come what may. It’s stumbling through the dark, trusting God to gently nudge the “more than I can handle” troubles out of my way – or to gently nudge me toward safety or even through whatever peril He allows. It’s talking to Him and listening for answers and doing my best for Him, knowing He’s doing what’s best for me and those around me as I do.

It’s a harder way to live, but maybe it strengthens me. I know it keeps me talking to God, and I know that’s a good thing.

Interestingly enough, as I continued to read through 1 Samuel 23, I discovered that after David and his men rescued the people of Keilah, they heard that Saul was coming to town. David asked God what to do. God told him that the people of Keilah were going to turn him over to Saul to protect themselves. (Nice, people. Real nice.)

So even after God gave David clear instructions, David ran into trouble. And God knew he would and steered David safely away. I guess even clear answers, should God choose to give them, are no guarantee that things will go the way we want them to. But either way, we can know God sees what’s coming and watches out for us. It was His Will that David rescue the people of Keilah. It was His Will that David live to be king. His purposes were accomplished then, as they will be today. That is something we can believe!

Father, I’m doing my best, and I believe You’re leading me – even when You refuse to do so audibly or even by granting me absolute certainty. Thank You for Your Presence. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for teaching me to live by faith. Amen.


For more lessons from moving, I invite you to read my book on this topic, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway.