post

When Praying Is All You Can Do

Note: I originally posted these thoughts at Wildflower Thinking. As I was preparing this week’s The Conversation Begins post, though, I remembered this post from 2009. These thoughts provide a foundation for the post I’m working on, so I’m posting them here for you now.


Praying Is BigFor the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering a phrase that most of us use. I’ve even used it myself, but I’m questioning whether it’s true. It may be very true, but lately it seems wrong to me.

The phrase is: All we can do is pray.

It seems to me that if prayer is talking to the God Who created the universe and all that is in it, the all-mighty, all-powerful, for-Whom-nothing-is-impossible God of everything, that prayer is doing something pretty big. God raised people from the dead. God fed thousands of people with only a few pieces of bread and fish. God pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth in order to pay His taxes.

And so I would say that prayer is not a last resort. It’s should be the first thing we do whenever we need help—and, in reality, considering how much power an all-powerful God has, it’s probably all we need to do. We give Him our problems; He doesn’t need our help.

Imagine a little kid facing a big school bully. He knows the bully is bigger than him and will win, but he also knows his big brother is bigger than that bully. Would the kid face the bully alone? Or would he get help from the one who can spare him some pain?

I’m raising boys, so I know they don’t always go for the logical answer there, but, then again, neither do we. We put up our little fists and try to fix the situation alone while God quietly waits for us to pray. Then, when we’ve exhausted ourselves with the effort, we sit back and tell God that the situation seems pretty hopeless, but He’s welcome to give fixing it a try. If God is God and has all the power to do anything, that seems like living backward to me.

Prayer is not our last resort. Prayer is our best first move. It’s the most effective action we can take.

On the other hand, sometimes we do pray first. Then we do what we can do—as we should. God may use us to answer our own prayers, so we should do what we can. Yet sometimes we use up all our ideas and exhaust all our resources until finally we know that praying really is all we can do.

But even then, even when we reach that point, there’s more going on than just prayer.

Paul said, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I think he must have been writing about just such a situation. As we wait for God to act, we joyfully anticipate whatever He will do, knowing without a doubt that is it God Who will do it, and that He will get all the glory, honor, and praise as He deserves. We joyfully hope for the best because God is in charge, and He loves us.

As we patiently wait for Him to act, we learn that God’s timing is perfect and that His plans may be different than ours. Have you ever prayed, like I have, “Lord, we’re running out of time here. If You’re going to do something, You’d better do it now. Really, Lord, now. Now would be really good.” But only God knows when the timing is right; deadlines mean nothing to Him for He can work around them easily. Or we may see a perfect opportunity for God to fix everything in one fell swoop. So we tell Him about it, then sit back and watch to see Him work. But His plans aren’t ours, so He doesn’t do what we suggest. He’s working on a bigger, more perfect picture than we can see or imagine. So we patiently wait some more, knowing God is truly in charge. Yet while we wait, we faithfully pray—and we grow ever closer to God.

I leave you today with two thoughts:

  • Prayer is not meant to be only a last resort–always pray first, then pray all the way through.
  • When prayer is a last resort, when it’s truly all that we can do, know God is at work. Trust Him as you faithfully and continually pray.
post

The Conversation Begins: Worship

Psalm 34-3Worship. Praise. Adoration. Acknowledging the greatness of God and declaring our love for Him. This is what He created us to do! What’s more, doing so reminds us of our place and helps us to keep everything else in its place. Only God is worthy to be over all—always! Everyone else, everything else, must be of less importance than Him. Worship helps us to remember this.

But as a form of prayer, worship hasn’t always come easy for me. Sitting down with God to tell Him how amazing He is often feels like a contrived activity. I can make a list of words that describe God, believe with all my heart that these words belong to Him, and present the list as a prayer, but somehow, for me, this always seems to lack something. God deserves so much more!

Of course, no word in the human language will ever be enough for God, so perhaps I’m experiencing the limitations of language and becoming frustrated with them. But David didn’t seem to have this problem. His worship psalms have inspired countless numbers of lovers of God.

So have many modern hymns and praise songs. I was standing next to a new acquaintance at an event that included a time of worship recently. She leaned over and whispered, “I just love singing! These songs are prayers to God.” She was so right.

This is probably why when my words feel inadequate, I turn to the Psalms or turn on my favorite worship music. I hear those words, take them in, voice them myself, and add prayers of my own to them as I sing. I have a few books of written prayers that help me in the same way. The original words may not be my own, but when I consider the words carefully, then express the thoughts to God in my own way, sincerely from my heart, I can’t help but worship God. Music and written prayers are helpful tools when we allow them to prompt prayers of our own.

I’m coming to realize, however, that worship can go even deeper than that. This morning, I read Isaiah 64:8, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This analogy is perfect for what I’ve been coming to understand. The clay exists for the potter’s use. It has no say in what the potter does with it. The potter takes it as it is and molds it into something beautiful. Then its beauty reveals the potter’s skill.

When we strive to live every moment of our lives in submission to God, making ourselves totally available for His purposes, then all of life becomes a form of worship. Our lives begin to reveal the majesty and worthiness of God. His work in us shows through our lives, effectively demonstrating His ability, His nature, and His character for the world we encounter to see. Under His authority, everything we do becomes a genuine act of worship.

Living this way isn’t easy; we want to live our way. But our God deserves no less than our belief that His purpose for us is better than anything we can imagine for ourselves. When we truly want to worship, we place our lives in His capable hands.

Father, You deserve all worship, all glory, all adoration and praise. Please help us to surrender our lives to You daily, knowing that the result will be better than anything we ever could think up on our own. You are worthy of our trust. Your decisions are the best. You love us more than we love ourselves. Make us over in Your image for the glory of Your name. Please use us as You will. Amen.

post

Book Review: “Glory Days”

Glory DaysMax Lucado’s new book, Glory Days, takes us through the Book of Joshua with courage and determination and God right by our side. I loved this book! It’s a quick read, but it’s full of knowledge and wisdom we Christians need. Someday I’m going to read it again, slowly, taking my time on all the questions for reflection included at the end of the book. For now, I’m savoring truths about Joshua and Caleb (my favorite as presented through Lucado’s eyes) and Rahab and several modern-day Promised Land dwellers whom Lucado introduces to his readers in this book.

Lucado starts out by explaining how we have three choices for our existence now: slavery to sin, free from sin but wandering in the wilderness, dwelling in the Promised Land. He then goes on to show us how we can experience that Promised Land life right now. Most chapters start with a Bible story from Joshua, some with a modern experience that parallels the Bible story in some way leading into that story. Then, as he reaches the end of the story, Lucado quickly switches, showing how we face similar challenges and can respond triumphantly by trusting in God to show us the way and to fight for us in order to glorify His name through us for all the world to see.

My words are not enough to express how highly I think of this book. Just know I recommend you read it! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

post

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.

post

Trusting God with the Moment That Matters Most

Moment That Matters“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” –John 4:39-42

One of my college professors used to say that faith is more caught than taught. I saw this in action when my children were little. As a mom who loved Jesus, I looked forward to the day when I could pray with my children, leading them to invite Him into their hearts, knowing they were saved and walking heavenward with me.

It didn’t happen quite that way. We took our boys to church—that was a given, us being a ministry family. But we would have done that anyway. We studied the Bible together. My husband and I shared our testimonies. We prayed with our boys regularly. As my oldest son entered fourth grade, though, that longed-for moment had not yet come . . . his decision to give his life to Jesus . . . at least as far as I knew.

Then he brought home an essay he’d written for school. He was attending a private Christian school at the time, and his teacher had asked the kids to write their testimonies. Justin told how he’d been alone in his room when he decided to invite Jesus into his heart. He’d prayed all by himself. And I knew from both his character and the words he’d written, that his young faith was absolutely real.

That’s probably when I first realized that God works differently in different people and that Jesus doesn’t enter people’s hearts when they say a few prescribed words. He brings salvation when they believe that He does. Each individual knows when that moment comes, whether another leads them directly to it or not.

Not that we didn’t lead our children to it. Like the Samaritan Woman in Luke 4, we told our children what we’d experienced, what we believed. But like the people of the woman’s community, our children had to hang out with Jesus for a while in order to decide they believed for themselves. This is something all people must do! I still love the sweet sentiment of a mother or father praying with their children to lead them to Christ, but it’s that moment of belief in a person’s heart that’s really the most beautiful thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t tell others about Jesus, instead leaving them to find Him for themselves? Absolutely not! The Samaritan Woman couldn’t help herself; Jesus had told her everything she’d ever done! We can’t help ourselves either. If we walk and talk with Him daily, Jesus will amaze us on a daily basis! And so, we tell. Who He Is. What He has done. How we experience Him. What we’re learning from His Word. We live it; we talk it. It’s what we do!

Then we pray. We pray that people who hear our stories will invite Jesus to hang out with them for a while, so they can get to know Him, too.

And then we trust that the God Who has done so much for us, the One Who told the Samaritan Woman everything she’d ever done, will speak to our children, our friends, our acquaintances, too. We may not be there for the moment of belief, but the One Who matters will be, and He Is faithful to save.

Jesus, help us to live what we believe. Give us opportunities to show and to tell. Then help us to trust as we pray. You’ve invited everyone into Your Kingdom. Now You’re waiting for everyone who will to accept that invitation. Please wait patiently. There are many yet to be saved. We thank You, Lord, for speaking to each heart—through us and all around us. Use our lives as You will to honor Your name. Amen.

post

The Roundabout Straight Way

Finding Home“He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”Psalm 107:7-8

Psalm 107 starts with a call to thank God for what He has done and a command to testify. I especially love verse 2: “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies” (NLT). The Psalm goes on to do just that—to speak out and tell. The rest of Psalm 107 is a collection of testimonies about what God has done to redeem His people.

The psalmist starts this collection of testimonies with a summary of the Israelites’ forty-year journey through the wilderness, ending this section of the Psalm by thanking God for leading His people to a place where they could settle at last. This is what I’m focusing on today. I find it interesting that the psalmist tells us the Israelites’ wandered for forty years yet also says God led them by a straight way. How can both be true?

Where Janet Has LivedHere is what I think: if I look at a map with each location my husband and I have lived in marked with a green dot and lines showing movement from place to place to place, I see what looks like a tangled mess of wandering. But when I remember each place, I know God led us straight there. Deliberately. With clear intent (sometimes only revealed to me in hindsight, if at all). I also know that had we skipped any of these places—and the experiences we gained in each—we wouldn’t really be where we are today. And we wouldn’t be able to go where we’re headed tomorrow. From His unique vantage point, God sees the only straight way.

In other words, what looks straight on a map, physically, may not be the most direct route in the spiritual, emotional, mental realm. Physically, I could have traveled straight from California to Texas without experiencing any of the places where I lived in between, but I wouldn’t have experienced Texas in the same way—and the people I know now wouldn’t have met the person I am today. God led me where I am and made me who I am by leading me straight here—in the perfect, roundabout way.

He did the same thing for the Israelites.

He’s doing the same thing for you—whether you move often or are currently living in the same place you’ve known all your life.

God defines point A and point B differently than we do. Who we are becoming and how we influence the people we meet along the way are more important to Him than travel between two dots we can see on a map.

So what does this information mean to you and me?

1. We know that God is preparing us and the people around us now to settle in His heavenly kingdom forever. So we can trust that He’ll use every stop along the way as part of this process. We may not know what He’s doing or why, but because of Who God Is and what He knows, we can gratefully accept the opportunity to learn and serve in each place.

2. We can view each place, even if we know it’s temporary, as a place to settle, do just that, and be thankful. The Israelites settled in the Promised Land, but only temporarily. God moved them again because they still had a lot to learn. He’s in the business of preparing His people for the ultimate Promised Land. He has lessons to teach and character to develop. He leads us where He must, so we can grow closer to Him.

3. As we settle in each temporary place, we can joyfully anticipate that final place. Wherever God leads us in this world, Heaven is straight ahead.

Father, thank You for leading us by the straight way, according to Your perfect point of view, to a place where we can settle. We’re following with confidence. Prepare us for Heaven and use us to help others get there, too. We love You, Lord! Amen.

post

Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

post

We Follow the One We Choose to Trust

We Follow Who We TrustA few years ago I did a series at Wildflower Thinking called The New Spice Rack Recipes. My brother had learned that salt was my seasoning of choice and decided to correct that by buying me a new spice rack for my birthday. I decided to take the hint and determined to find at least one new recipe every month that featured one of the spices from my new spice rack. The series ran until I’d used each spice at least once.

The series came to an end, but my cooking adventures did not. Since then, our family has had to give up soy and gluten, and I’ve had to learn a whole new way to cook. But the spice rack project prepared me for this adventure. I’m not a great chef, but I can no longer say I’m not a good cook. I’ve been practicing and learning to enjoy the process, too. In fact, I suspect my earlier cooking issues came from being impatient, from trying to hurry the science up. (And if you don’t believe that cooking is a science, then you haven’t really learned to cook.)

For Christmas this past year, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a new cookbook called The Gluten-Free Table by Jilly Lagasse and Jessie Lagasse Swanson, aka Emeril’s daughters. I’ll confess, it intimidates me. I’ve only tried one of the recipes so far—but it was so good! Pan-fried Flounder with Lemon Garlic Butter. It totally takes the healthy out of gluten-free! That’s probably why it’s such a hit in our house.

I made this recipe the other day. The sisters excel at step-by-step instructions. (Something I’ll need to remember as I boldly attempt some more of their creations.) But as I was following these instructions, I found myself revising them. I’d see a simpler way to get from one step to another—less mess, fewer dishes. I’d wonder why they included the extra steps. Then I’d figure there probably was a perfectly good reason, but since I couldn’t ask them, I’d do things my way. The recipe came out fine, but I can’t help but wonder if following the recipe exactly would have made a difference—would have made it even better! What do these sisters know that I don’t? (Probably, quite a lot!) I may never know, however, because the fish turned out really good, and I had less mess to clean up. (Remember that theory of my earlier cooking issues? Evidently I’m still a work in progress.)


Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Earlier Jesus had called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). They did. He called Matthew to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). He did. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). This man did not. Finally, Jesus called anyone who wants to to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23). The choice is ours.

This decision to follow Jesus, however, isn’t just a one-time choice. We choose to follow Jesus, then we choose to keep following Him. Just as I had to choose to follow the Lagasse sisters’ step-by-step instructions or not as I worked my way through their recipe, we have to choose to follow Jesus’ leading moment-by-moment, every day, as we work our way through life. Some people in the Bible followed Jesus, then turned back when the journey got rough (John 6:66). There will be times when our journey gets rough, when our journey gets messy, when we think we see a simpler way. In these times, we’ll choose to follow—or not. And life may become easier for a time if we do not, but, unlike with the flounder recipe, in the end we won’t get the desired result unless we follow Jesus and do everything His way.

Earlier I mentioned that as I was preparing the pan-fried flounder, I often wondered why the Lagasse sisters told me to do some things. I don’t know them personally, so I couldn’t ask. It’s similar with Jesus. I do have a personal relationship with Him, and He doesn’t mind if I ask why. But He doesn’t always choose to answer this question. I think this is because He is teaching us to trust. We show our trust, we practice our trust, when we choose to follow Him no matter what. And in the end, this is healthy for us.

Jesus loves us. He wants what’s best for us. He’s continuing the work He has begun in our lives. Let’s cooperate. Let’s follow. Let’s trust.

Jesus, thank You for being perfectly trustworthy. Please help us to follow You faithfully each day.

Disclosure

post

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.

post

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.