This picture was taken on the day of our first neurology appointment.
I had walked a handful of friends through tragedies or hard times; but most of my own personal hurts or hards up until this point were, truthfully, consequences of sins that I had committed. There were a couple things that occurred to me that were not my own doing and absolutely heart-breaking and life-changing, but nothing like this.
This felt like a rock in my throat that I just couldn’t swallow.
Sure, I had heard the verses. The ones that talked about how we would experience trouble in this life. (John 16:33)
I had always focused on that second part, the part about taking heart and Him overcoming the world.
Furthermore, this “trouble”, if you will, was different than anything I had watched anyone I knew walk through; and much more chronic than I had anticipated my tribulation to be.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”- 1 Peter 4:12-13
Do not be surprised.
It is difficult to open the pages of my prayer journal from 2013 because the emotions are SO RAW. I can still see the tears stained onto the words; yet there is SO MUCH HOPE that He undeniably gave to me; for only God can bring hope in the midst of the hurting.
As I was attempting to flesh out the words I wanted to share for this week, I came across a simple phrase I wrote in my journal:
This is not a dead end.
At first, I had no idea what I had been trying to say, and then it hit me:
Not only was our current circumstance a part of something God was doing, something I should not be surprised at in the least (because He certainly wasn’t); it also wasn’t the end of the story.
It wasn’t a dead end.
It wasn’t even a roadblock.
It was His pathway for us and those around us to know Him more.
Sometimes, I treat God like He is my GPS- a guide to get where I’m supposed to go, that I totally trust until I start to feel like He’s taking me the wrong place. When it starts to look like I’m headed to the wilderness, I tend to want to take the wheel and head another direction.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”- Matthew 4:1
Friends, we should not be surprised that the journey God chooses for us includes some roads that look differently than we saw coming.
Because we know the destination, albiet eternity with Him, we must learn to trust Him with the direction and path He chooses to bring us there.
I believe knowing Him more deeply is the only way we can truly do this without bitterness making its way into our hearts. We must open the pages of His word and see the way He led His own through the deserts and wildernesses of their lives.
Daniel in the lion’s den.
Jonah and the whale.
Joshua as a slave.
Paul (and many others) in prison.
Jesus at the cross.
The truth of how God intentionally ordained the details of the women and men of scripture in order to accomplish His will is the same of us today.
We do not have to be surprised at the what or the how when we know the Who.
This is not a dead end.
For this week’s Personal Growth Challenge, I want you to spend the first moments of each morning saying (aloud) the characteristics of our God that are found in His Word. I have written out some, and you are welcome to use this, but I would encourage you to add your own as well:
What is true about God and what He believes about me (about you!):
He is patient and kind. He does not hold my sins against me if I am in Christ. He stands behind and in front of me. He defends me. He desires to show mercy to all. He provides all of our needs. He has a plan for us. He is our strength and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. His love endures forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and always. He can be trusted in all things. The works of His hands are faithful and just. He redeems us. He loved us first. He adopted us as children. He is our helper and upholder of our life. He is our portion and He is enough. In His presence there is fullness of joy. He will not abandon us. He is worthy of praise. He endures all things and will not give up on us. He restores and heals us. He can be compared to none. He is Creator of all things. He does not grow weary. He is the first and the last. He calls all generations. He is Love.
For the Community Growth Challenge, I would ask for you to talk through the questions found at the end of Chapter 4 of On Milk and Honey (found on page 22) with a friend or family member. The only requirement is that you would both be open and honest.
For the Pay it Forward Challenge, think of someone you know (pray about it if no one immediately comes to mind) that might be feeling like something that God has brought into their life is a dead end. Whether it is as simple as a coffee or a meal, bring them some physical nourishment this week and offer a word of encouragement to their weary heart.
For some of us, this week might hold new turns in the road that tempt us to wonder what God is up to. My prayer is that we would cling to the God who knows no mysteries and find joy and strength as we know Him more deeply. May we encourage one another to see Him in all the roads we find ourselves on; and may we rejoice in the fact that nothing is a surprise to the Author of each of our stories.
To Him be the glory.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”- Revelation 22:1-5