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Archive for the ‘Trust’ Category

How do you read a story?

Novels are meant to be read page by page because the stories follow a progression, each page building on the action, tension and conflict of the page before it. That tension is important to keeping the reader engaged in the story until the end where they will see the growth and change of the character. For most people, skipping around or to reading the ending first would spoil the story.

As a young reader, I developed a bad habit. Whenever I reached a point where the tensions began to mount too high for me, I skipped to the end. I had to be sure the hero or heroine would be ok before I could continue. It didn’t seem to dampen my enthusiasm for the story, but rather it enabled me to cope better with the mounting tension. After reading the ending, the rest of the story became a giant flash back, enabling me to see how the characters arrived at the end. I saw details I might otherwise have missed  in the rush to get to that breath of relief at the end.

Unfortunately for us, the story of our lives isn’t like that. God seldom offers us the chance to see how things will end ahead of time. There is no easing of tension in the middle of the action. We have to learn to trust him THROUGH the tension and conflict without being able to see the resolution.

But he does make ways to help us understand and cope with the tension that is causing us to grow and change. Sometimes in the midst of our trials, he will bring others across our paths who have gone through similar experiences. As they share their stories with us, we see a glimmer of hope  that we can and will make it through. Those “mentors” may come in the form of a Bible character or a counselor. It may be an ordinary person who has survived extraordinary circumstances.

God also gives us hindsight to help us through our difficult places. The older we get, the more we can look back on our own Christian walk and see how the previous chapters of our story have worked out. We can see how God orchestrated the events of our lives to make us who we have become. These flashbacks help to remind us of his love and power to keep, heal,  deliver and comfort us through the remainder of the journey. He allows us to see how we’ve grown and changed along the way. It’s one important reason to keep a journal rather than trusting our memory alone.

Best of all, he walks with us,holding our hand or carrying us when we can’t cope with the tension of our lives. It’s a lot like the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness – their circumstances weren’t comfortable or easy, but they always had God’s Spirit with them in the form of the cloud by day and fire by night as well as his provision – the manna. He offers us the same hope that we will eventually come to the Promised Land at the end of the wilderness journey. The Lord will always be with us in the middle of our life story.

We will get through by learning to walk with him in the present, to watch for the help he sends along the way  and to trust him with the outcome. After all, He is a masterful author.

Can you cite some examples of how God has walked with you in the middle of trying circumstances?

 

 

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The pain we have not grieved over will always stand between us and life.
Dr. Rachel Naomi Reman

 

At first glance, the Book of Ruth is a beautiful story of love and loyalty. But when I began to dig further, I found a rich source of life lessons for dealing with emotional hurts.

As Dr. Reman’s quote suggests, unresolved grief can lead to other problems including depression.  Perhaps it was the sheer volume of Naomi’s grief – moving away from friends and family, then losing her husband and two sons in a foreign land – that caused her to lapse into such a deep depression. We know she was depressed because she tells her friends to call her “bitter” (Mara) when she finally returns to Bethlehem.

Because Naomi felt responsible for her two daughters-in-law, she may not have allowed herself to fully grieve the lthCAJAZKZFoss of her  sons. Her depression may have escalated into anxiety and desperation causing her to push the girls  back to their own families – to ensure that they would have a future and to relieve herself of the burden of responsibility.

When Ruth refused to go back, the weight of responsibility for the young woman’s welfare must have hung even more heavily around  Naomi’s shoulders. She truly loved Ruth and wanted only the best for her, but in her depressed state of mind, Naomi couldn’t even imagine a solution. She became anxious and  desperate grasping at any small hope for a future for Ruth.

The Lord was orchestrating events for the two women in response to Ruth’s faith. He pointed her to the fields of Boaz, a perfect candidate to become the kinsman redeemer, a provision of Jewish law which ensured the care of widows and allowed the deceased family to retain their inheritance. But in Naomi’s depression she was unable to trust the Lord. When she realized Boaz could be a potential savior for herself and Ruth, she saw a glimmer of hope. But as time dragged on and Boaz didn’t follow through, Naomi became desperate and took matters into her own hands. She prostituted her daughter-in-law, hoping nature would take its course which would  force Boaz to “do what was right” by the women.

Because Ruth’s marriage to Boaz was part of God’s plan, there was no need for Naomi’s anxious and desperate measures. It would have worked out in God’s time with or without Naomi’s help.

God is in control of our lives as his daughters. Can you think of any times where you felt so desperate for something that you took matters into your own hands? What lessons have you learned about peace, rest and trust from these experiences?

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tears-depressionAll of us will experience grief in our lives – through losses like homes or jobs or in other ways. We will all experience the pain of losing someone dear to us. Death is a fact of life.  For some, if left untreated, their grief will morph into serious depression. That’s where we find Naomi in  Ruth 1:19-22.

Naomi had lost everything. She lost contact with her extended family and support system when she travelled to Moab with her beloved husband Elimelech during the severe famine in Bethlehem. She lost her permanent home, replacing it with a nomad’s tent.  But, she grieved her losses and carried on with her life. She was able to cope because she still had her husband and sons.

While in Moab, her husband died. Once again, Naomi grieved her loss. She felt the loneliness of losing a spouse, partner and best friend. She wept and probably wailed as was the custom of her people. But Naomi was able to cope because she still had her two sons and hope for a future generation to carry on their family name. Her family still could be part of the promised Messianic line to come and her sons could once again possess the lands of their father when the famine was over.

But when both of her sons died without fathering sons, Naomi lost her ability to cope. Life became too dismal, too hopeless as she slipped from grief into the black pit of depression. She would have to sell her family’s holdings in Bethlehem because there were no sons to manage them. There was no one to take care of her in her old age.

As she traveled back to her extended family and support system in Bethlehem, she was too numb to feel the support everyone offered her. She admitted her depression, instructing her friends to call her “bitter” rather than “pleasant” as her name implied. With what little emotional energy she had left, she blamed God for her circumstances and curled up into a ball, waiting to die. No doubt she wondered often what she had done to make God so angry with her that he would take away everything that mattered to her.

Naomi’s story has a happy ending though. She got through her depression. Through the Bible narration, we see the Lord  at work in the background of Naomi’s story the whole time, orchestrating the events of her life to help her grieve while providing and caring for her. God made a way for Ruth to gather food for her mother-in-law. Ruth’s faith, love and prayers supported Naomi, especially when she couldn’t pray for herself.

As the story unfolds, Ruth marries Boaz and later through the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, a son is born.This child is a significant part of Naomi’s healing because at last she felt like God cared for her again. She let go of her anger at God and was able to trust him – understanding that he wasn’t angry with her.

Her story helps us to understand that we’re not totally alone as we go through our grieving process. No matter how deep our pain or extensive our loss, the Lord is always there working in the background  circumstances and events of our lives to help us grow into stronger, mature believers. Even when we cannot see him, he’s helping us, gently guiding us along the path to healing. In the end, Naomi’s hope is restored as God’s plan comes together.

We have the additional advantage of seeing into Naomi’s future – the Bible tells us that her grandson was indeed part of the Messianic line, an ancestor to Jesus. Wow! What a wonderful message to boost our hope as we go through difficult grief and depression.

Have you ever experienced loss like Naomi and given up hope? How did you cope? How did the Lord and others help you to heal?

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“So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us,”        Hebrews 12:1 CJB

Why does it feel like we never get anywhere when we’re trying to make changes in our lives? Probably because we always seem to take 2 steps backward for each step forward.

Lot’s wife in Genesis 19 is a great example of this. She hated living in the country so she persuaded her husband to move to the city of Sodom. After all, her husband was a wealthy man with flocks and herds. His servants could care for the critters and she could live the life of luxury she wanted.

City life wasn’t perfect either, but she overlooked the problems because she had the life she wanted. Until two angels came with a message to leave the city so God could destroy it. Lot’s family would be saved with one condition – don’t look back.

But even though she wanted to live;  even though she held her husband’s hand and fled from the coming destruction, the lure of her dream life beckoned to her. All her hopes and dreams were back in the city. Fear of the unknown future and feelings of overwhelming loss stared her in the face.  Even as she was pulled forward, she planted her feet in the ground and resisted the forward pull. Then she’d stumble and try to regain her footing, only to resist again. Finally, the forward motion against the grief in her heart hurt too bad. She gave in and actually looked back at what she’d left behind and she lost her life because of it.

Often, we know what God wants for us. We know the right things to do and how to do them. But  there is this resistance to our forward movement, pulling us two steps back for every step we struggle to take forward. We stumble and feel like we’re not making any headway. The past may not be perfect, but it feels safe because we know what to expect. And so we eventually give up the forward struggle for change.

Realistically, change will never be a straight line forward. It will be this up and down, back and forward kind of motion. But the key is to make forward progress – to take two steps forward and only one step back to reach our goals:

  • Acknowledge the resistance to forward movement in our lives. No, I don’t mean to look back on  the past and mourn for it like Lot’s wife. But we do need to recognize the effect of the past on our lives, so we can consciously find ways to  push forward against it.
  • Be willing fail. In our forward motion to grow and change, we will fail at times. Cultivate an attitude to get up and keep going to say, “OK, that didn’t work, let’s try something new.”
  • Set our eyes on the goal. That way, even if we fall down, we’re still pushing forward and will eventually make visible progress. Each time we push forward against the inertia of the backward pull, we’re strengthening our resolve to move forward.
  • Most important, hold the hand of the One who can help you make the changes you need to make in your life. That way, even if you resist, he can help you make forward progress.

We’re not alone in this life’s journey. All those who’ve gone before are cheering us on, urging us  keep moving forward, to live a victorious life in Christ!

Help me Lord to keep moving forward with my eyes on you until I reach the goal:  a life pleasing to you. Amen.

 

 

 

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And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. – Luke 6:19

Imagine the scene: A celebrity is coming to your town. Everyone gathers at the place of his expected arrival to see him. He steps out of the limo and people edge closer to the barriers, hoping for a glimpse at him, hoping to  touch him or receive a recognition from him. It’s almost as if some of his fame, his money or his greatness will rub off on them if they can just get close enough…

In spite of all the fans, all the crowds that press close to  touch him, a celebrity leads a pretty lonely life. There are few people he can trust enough to let into his intimate inner circle. Who can he tell his deepest feelings to without fear of seeing a best-seller on the stands in 6 months proclaiming all those secrets to the world? Who will still remain close to him when the media recognition fades and he isn’t a public icon anymore?

Things haven’t changed much in the 2000 years since Jesus walked the earth. He was a celebrity of the day – a great teacher who traveled the countryside expounding on the scriptures, healing and feeding people. Word of mouth preceded him so that when he arrived in a town, crowds gathered around him, calling out to him and pressing in to get as close as possible to this great man.

But the problem was that many people only sought him for what they could receive from him.They wanted to feel Christ’s power, to see his miracles first-hand – maybe eve to receive one for themselves. If he was the Messiah, he could deliver them from the tyranny of Rome and set up his kingdom here on earth. And if they could just get close enough to him, they could have a piece of the power, wealth and prestige of his kingdom.

They didn’t care about building a  deep and lasting relationship with him. We know that because the minute the tide of public opinion turned on Christ, all but his closest followers vanished.

God created us with a need for intimacy – especially intimacy with him, to enjoy his presence forever and to glorify him. He wants us to know his power and to see his glory. But more than that he wants us to know his loving heart, to know his ways and not just his acts.

Father, help me to seek your very heart each day, deeply and intimately,  creating such a solid bond between us that even the hard times cannot  shake my love for you.

 

 

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“In heaven and on earth. There are no secret places where you can hide from me.”        Jeremiah 23:24 CEV

“Peek-a-boo!”

The infant giggle of my eight-month-old granddaughter, Lily, melts my heart and I play the hiding game again. Popping just out of sight behind a newspaper, then popping back into her line of vision, her giggle erupts again and again.

To some it’s just a cute baby game, but in reality, it’s an important developmental milestone for an infant  called object permanence – the idea that even though they can’t see an object, it’s still there. It’s a basic building block of memory and trust for a child to learn that even if mommy goes out of the room, she’ll be back.

New Christians (and even some of us older ones!) go through a similar stage in our spiritual development as we learn to trust our heavenly Father. It’s that feeling we get when  we pray and our prayers don’t seem to be reaching him. Or when we’re going through a difficult experience and we lose sight of him in the crisis. We feel like God’s just not there, even though his word assures us of his constant vigilant presence.

But it also works another way – when we try to hide secret thoughts, actions or attitudes from our heavenly Father. We seem to think that  because we don’t voice those thoughts, burying them in the depths of our hearts,  that God can’t see them and he’ll forget they’re present in our lives.

Silly us! Not only is God always watching, his light illuminates the darkest parts of our hidden hearts, exposing the very things we seek to hide from him because of shame or fear of retribution.

Father, help  me to live secure in the knowledge that you are always there and strengthen my trust muscles so that I can live openly and honestly before you, without covering up. Amen.

 

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“ADONAI will guard you against all harm; he will guard your life.  ADONAI will guard your coming and going from now on and forever.”        Psalm 121:7-8 CJB

If you had to evacuate your home quickly because of an impending disaster, what would you take with you?

Of course, it would depend on the amount of time you had to get out, but for most people it’s a no-brainer. they would take those who mean the most to them – their family members. Then if there were time, they might try to take important papers or things like photos with great sentimental value which couldn’t be replaced.

Everyone would probably have a different list of priorities, but one thing would be the same – the things they would try to take with them would be the things they value most because of their relationship, their cost, their usefulness or the memories they hold.

God (Adonai – interpreted as master, owner, or father) guards those things which he values highly as well. Whether we accept it or not, we are of great value to God. He paid an extremely expensive price to redeem our  souls. It just makes sense to trust him to guard our hearts, our lives and our daily walk.

AMEN!

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