“Why don’t people prize and pursue the pearl of wisdom above everything else? The reason is that the gaining of wisdom requires the total sacrifice of our single most precious possession: ourselves. More specifically, what is required is the surrender of our wills. To gain wisdom we must part with the very thing which, to part with, means our annihilation. And we must do this not fatalistically, not in grim resignation, but with the joyful abandonment of faith. It is no good praying, ‘Thy will be done’ if all we mean by it is, ‘Lord, I know You are going to go ahead and do whatever You want anyway, whether I like it or not.’ No; if the Lord’s will is really going to be done on earth, let us add our approval to it. For our approval is, in a sense, the essential missing ingredient, the one thing that is lacking to make the Lord’s will complete.” – Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job, emphasis mine
Ouch. Those words above have been stinging me to the core this week. After all, it is one thing to believe that God’s will is going to come into fruition; that what will be will be. However, it is a whole new thing altogether to be authentically joyful about that plan. We are always quick to say that are feelings are just feelings; and that belief is bigger than our emotions. While I know this to be true in my head, my heart also whispers the truth that if I truly believed that God’s plans and the way He was laying out my life was best-if it was sewn into my soul in the truest way possible- would I not be happy about the blueprints of our life at all times and in all things? Grace.
Friends, this I know to be true: the filter of grace over the filter of pain can only be used when we ask and pray, fervently, for the ability to see God and His goodness in all things. This is never going to come naturally to us on this side of heaven. It is something that is going to have to be fought for, especially in seasons of intense suffering. And, let’s be honest: when I say “seasons of intense suffering” what I really mean is, “seasons of faith-growing or faith wounding”. In the moments where the pain and hurt take our breath away, where it seems as if we are receiving one blow after another, there are only two options: we are going to trust God more, lean harder into His breast, or we are going to curse His name. It may not feel that dramatic in our minds, but when we are choosing to look to the temporary or the human to ease our hurts, what we are really doing is spitting in the face of the God who has promised us that while His ways are not our own, they are good. The God who has assured us that while there will be tribulations on this earth, He is a stranger not to one, and He is working in all things.
“At present we do not see everything subject to man. But we see Jesus…”- Hebrews 2:8-9
Is that enough? No, really. Is seeing Jesus in this moment, in these hards, is it enough? My Sunday School answer is yes; yet from the Lord I am aware I can hide no thing, and there are corners of my being that struggle with confidence in His “enoughness”. These past two weeks have been beyond challenging. They have been emotionally draining, and have brought more questions than answers. Our sweet Bailey Grace has begun to show signs of a new medical issue, and it brought us to the lab again yesterday. More tests, more unknown, more discomfort. If I’m honest, it’s nauseating to watch my daughter when she is in this new “state”. Her eyes, they roll upward. Her hands brought to her mouth without consciousness, her jaw locked open despite her intentional desire to do otherwise. Her fever spiked high for no black and white reason. And still, as we sat in the waiting room yesterday, in the midst of the chaos her little body was displaying, she (attempted) to look in my direction and give me a smile. Tears stung my eyes, and truthfully, her smile made me feel more angry than not. My inner dialogue shouted, “Lord, look at her. Look at this joy that she is mustering up in the midst of this mystery You have allowed. Why, God. Why?”
By faith, not by sight. We live by this. By faith- we see Jesus. By faith- we determine that it is enough, and we wait in anticipation for our emotions to line up with the promises we are trusting to be true.
In this season, my faith muscles are being stretched unlike anything I could imagine. He is assuring me in the depths of who I am that, “For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then- face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”- 1 Corinthians 13:12. Fully known. You, me, Ally, Bailey Grace. Fully known. A mystery to man yet intimately designed by our Creator. And, before we get upset with Him, before we spit yet again in His face, what has He promised us?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”- Ephesians 1:3
“…in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33
Spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Tribulation in this world. If anything, He has promised us that troubles will come much more than this prosperity gospel that is rampant around us. Yet along with that claim- God equally assures us that He has overcome this world in that we live. He has promised us blessing on top of blessing on top of blessing in the heavenly realms. Faith beyond sight.
So, we pray. We pray in our distress. We pray in our doubt. We pray in our weakness. We pray in our hurt. We pray in our confusion. We pray in our frustration. We pray- not truly understanding-and not expecting to “get” this God who is so “other”- but simply leaning into the goodness of who our faith knows He is. As David so eloquently words it in Psalm 37 (verse 3), we feed on His faithfulness.
Friends, faith is choosing to not know anything but the Father’s voice. Faith is choosing, despite any circumstance or any hardship, to say, “Yes” to God’s purposes and God’s plans… and to strive to find joy in His choices. Faith is choosing to believe that God is always working (John 5:17) and that in Christ, we are able to stand (1 Corinthians 15:1). And, as He is teaching me in the here and now, faith is struggling to find true, authentic joy in the very things He is doing, knowing that His ways and His decisions are truly good and wholly perfect. In your today, what is faith asking you to say, “yes” to? What is God calling you to joyfully abandon in order to step into His perfect purposes? Where are you struggling to find joy when God has called you to do so? These questions are not easy, and at times, feel impossible. Yet God. As He whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pain (C.S. Lewis), He reminds us that He is with us and His strength is made perfect in the middle of sheer weakness. May we look to Him to give us joy, bubbling up and overflowing from a heart that seeks His face.
“For You cause my lamp to be lighted and to shine; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.”- Psalm 18:28
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.”- Habakkuk 3:17-19