Tag Archives: Hope

Unburied Treasure

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Gen. 45:26  

‘They told him, saying, “Joseph is still alive, and indeed, he is ruler over all the lad of Egypt.” But he was stunned, for he did not believe them.’

Observe

As far as Jacob was concerned, his son Joseph was dead. Jacob hadn’t trusted God to give him Joseph in the first place; he didn’t pray for Rachel in her infertility and even chastised her for her despair. He didn’t have hope that Joseph would ever exist to begin with and he didn’t have hope that he would still be alive. Even though he didn’t know for sure that Joseph was dead, even though he’d never seen a body, he was ‘stunned,’ which literally meant that his heart was numb. He was as dead on the inside as he believed Joseph to be.

Application

I’ve come very close to accepting the death of some of my dreams, even though I haven’t seen any bodies. My heart has slowly been growing numb. When I look to the future and think about all the plans and hopes and dreams I used to have… now I see only tombstones. Little tombstones. Because my children – the ones I’ve hoped and dreamed and begged and cried for – they feel dead to me, like I’ll never get to hold them, never get to see their little smiles or kiss their fingertips… I’m slowly losing hope, just like Jacob did.

But just like Jacob, the grave I’m crying over is empty. The battle I’m fighting isn’t over. Any day, the news I’ve so longed to hear – the news I would give almost anything to hear – could come over the hill and speak life into my dreams. It isn’t over yet. God is still good. He is still on the throne. And He can still breathe life into my numb and weary heart. If I turn it over to Him. If I have the faith and the guts to fight off the numbness and choose hope again.

Prayer

Father, please keep my heart from going numb. It’s so tempting to let it grow cold to hope, so it won’t hurt me anymore. But what kind of a relationship can we have if I don’t believe in Your goodness? How can I want to grow closer to You if I think You’re working against me? Hoping in You is costly… it means opening up the wound and leaving it in Your hands, in Your charge. But where my treasure is, there my heart will be also. Please don’t let me bury my dreams, not yet. You’re really good with empty tombs, help me to trust You. Please take my most treasured dream, my children, and hold it close so that I may draw closer to you in pursuit of it. It’s in Your precious name I pray, Amen.

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How Big is a Mustard Seed?

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At church, a missionary from Guatemala shared a testimony about a construction worker who’d had an accident. The man had been repairing electrical wires on the third story of a building when he was electrocuted and flung off the roof into more wires, was electrocuted again, then fell the three stories to the pavement bellow, cracking open his skull. As the missionary and a crowd gathered round, it was agreed that the man was dead. Then the missionary prayed and the man started to sit up. Long story short, after this horrific accident that nobody had any business surviving, the man was raised from the dead.

The thing that caught my attention was the missionary’s statement. He said that after he saw the man lying on the ground, and everyone was sure he was dead (the missionary even examined the head wound and saw the man’s brains) the missionary said he had no faith the man could live. He said that he proclaimed the man dead and only prayed because he kicked into religious mode and praying is what spiritual leaders do. He said he knew the man was dead, but also knew that God can do whatever He wants.

The prayer was only thirty seconds long and even when the man started to sit up, even when he rose to his feet before the ambulance got there, the missionary and the other witnesses were convinced he wouldn’t make it to the hospital. It wasn’t until the doctors said they could find no internal damage, no broken bones, and only a minor cut on the back of his head, that the missionary could say with any confidence that the man would live.

I always expect these testimonies to have a claim of mighty faith, the huge amount of faith you need to make a miracle happen.

Turns out, God doesn’t need us to have a ‘huge amount of faith’ before He does what He wants to do.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been struggling for more faith. I’ve been recalling verses like Mat. 9:29 which says, “It shall be to you unto your faith” or Heb. 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”

I’ve been walking around under the assumption that I have to reach a certain level of faith before God will move on my behalf.

Listening to this story, however, reminded me of the father in Matt. 9:24 who said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” or the famous ‘mustard seed’ verse from Mat. 17:20. I think I’ve been going about faith the wrong way.

 I don’t think it’s quite as important how much faith I have, so much as what, or rather Who, my faith is in.

I can have a huge amount faith in my ability to fly, but when I take a swan dive off a cliff, I’m gonna splat, no matter my amount of faith. To think that if I achieve a high amount of faith, God will answer my prayers is both manipulative and arrogant.

It’s as though God has risen from His throne and is anxiously pacing back and forth, hoping I can pull together the needed amount of faith in time for Him to help. Or that if I reach a certain quota, God will have no choice but to give me a miracle.

Of course, strengthening our faith in Him is important because it means we will trust Him with more of our lives and put Him first more often, therefore growing closer to Him. But He doesn’t need us to have a certain amount of faith before He shows up in our lives. In fact, without the grace of God, we wouldn’t have any faith anyways, so it’s really God’s show from beginning to end.

If my faith is in God, then who’s responsibility is it to act? His. If I’m thinking that I need a certain level of faith, then I’m really putting my trust and belief in myself, convinced that God needs my help. But God is God, and He has ultimate authority regardless of how much I believe that. What really matters is that I believe in Him, trust in Him, and rely on Him to do what He knows is best.

I can move mountains even with faith the size of a mustard seed. Why? Because I’m not actually moving the mountain. God is.

I need to stop stressing and focusing on how much faith I do or don’t have, and start focusing on Who I’ve put my faith in.

God doesn’t need my help, my advice, or my permission. He doesn’t need me to believe that He is God in order for Him to be God. He will have His way with or without my faith. But He is loving and gracious and enables me to trust Him. He lets me focus on Him. This is a precious gift that I need to just accept and rest in.

He is God and He will work according to His good will. And even if His good will differs from my good will, I know I’ll be alright, “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2 Tim. 1:12.

(Originally published 9/9/13)


Even When

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I’ve recently learned something about faith: it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. At least, mine isn’t. Let me explain.

As many of you know, 3.5 months ago my husband and I moved across country. Reason being, we felt God telling us to. We had no friends, no job prospects, and a rapidly dwindling savings.

But hey, that’s the perfect recipe for adventure, right?

I thought I was prepared for what God would do in our lives; I thought I had a pretty good idea of what He had planned.

Haha, silly Leah.

As I shared last month, what I thought was a beautiful representation of a faithful Christ follower turned out to be something very insincere. With this revelation came a clue as to what God was up to, supposedly confirming what I had suspected all along.

I decided that everything we were going through was God’s way of strengthening my faith. This was the crux of the matter. It had to be.

So I surrendered myself to the lesson but, as is my wont, more so I could learn it and be done. I thought that we were stuck in unemployment because my faith wasn’t strong enough so I focused on faith strengthening exercises so we could get un-stuck.

And when Hubby completed not one but two very promising job interviews, I thought my new plan was working. They even said to him, and I quote, “We’ll call you with next steps.”

But they didn’t call. Not that day, not the next one. By day three, I was done. I felt like I was riding a roller coaster and was sick to my stomach from the hopeful-disappointed-hopeful up and down motions.

So what did I do? I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I called my mommy and cried to her over the phone about my wussy faith.

It was while I was sitting on our front steps, pouring my whiny heart out, that Hubby stuck his head out the front door to tell me that he had just received the job offer.

Ah the irony. Here I am convinced that God will move only when my faith is strong enough – my very own brand of name-it-claim-it – and He waits until my very weakest moment.

The conclusion I’ve drawn from this? It’s not my faith that moves mountains, it’s God’s faithfulness.

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

2 Tim. 2:13

All that to say; PRAISE REPORT! God has given us a job! My thanks to all of you who kept us in your prayers =)

He is faithful!


When Everything Goes Wrong for the Right Reasons: Part 1

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(Originally published 8/21/13) 

If you have ever tried to walk in God’s will for more than a couple of minutes, you’ll know firsthand that it is hard. I’m talking really hard. Sometimes doing what you believe God is telling you to do can feel like swimming against the tide.

My husband and I believe there is a calling on our lives to write books that glorify God. Much of our first three and a half months of marriage has been spent in front of our computers, typing away and trying to find agents and publishers. So far, we have very little to show for our work. We have even questioned whether we heard God right. I’m sure we are not alone in our almost automatic assumption that if we do not seem to prosper, it’s because we have misheard God and He is not in it with us.

But I’m actually coming to believe that trials and adversities mean the stark opposite. If we are truly walking according to God’s will and striving to glorify Him, than satan can’t be too happy about it. He won’t want us to succeed in this; he won’t want us to accomplish what the Lord has set us to accomplish and he won’t want God glorified, even a little. So it makes sense that he would send his minions to oppose us at every turn.

If you never have the opportunity to read C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Screwtape Letters,’ I highly recommend that you read even just a snippet of it. The book is about a demon who is writing letters of advice to his nephew on how to trip up and discourage the human his nephew has been ‘assigned.’ It’s a real eye-opener to the weapons of the enemy.

2 Cor. 10:3-4, 1 Pet. 5:8-9, Eph. 6:11-12, and many more verses make it clear that we are involved in spiritual warfare. The devil does not want you to walk in victory and he will hinder you and plague your every step. He will show you your faults, others’ faults, and everything that is going wrong. He will do his best to blind you to all the blessings in your life and all the little ways God is loving and encouraging you.

One of the main things he will try to belittle is your perseverance. We humans are impatient creatures and satan will use that. When we start to think we did something wrong because life isn’t adhering to our time line, the devil will pounce on that and agree with us wholeheartedly. He will grow those feelings of angst in the hopes that we will give up and leave God’s will in favor of trying things out on our own.

Satan will also try to distract us with this shiny, pretty world of his. He’ll point out all the new toys and all the rainbows we ‘should’ be chasing. He’ll try to fool us into thinking this world is it, and distract us from the truth of eternity. When we buy into these lies and chase after the things of this world it won’t take long at all for us to grow discouraged because earth’s treasures will never be enough to satisfy.

So really, hard times can be a very good sign that you are on the right track and getting under the enemy’s skin. Honestly, if we’re not ticking him off and starting a fight, we’re probably doing something wrong. We need to be vigilant during the rough patches. We need to be able to recognize the lies of satan so we can rebuke him in Jesus’ name and press on towards the goal.


An Addendum to Hope

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The other week I posted about how the Lord has called me to wait with hopeful expectation. And I’ve been trying, honest. This week has had a lot more joy and peace in it than last week did. I’ve been claiming more of the Lords promises, I’ve been watching more carefully for the snares of the enemy, and I’ve been praying a lot more.

But I’m still waiting. And something is still not quite right.

You know when you have a nagging worry or doubt in the back of your mind? Almost like you’re being stalked by something, but you’re too afraid of it to actually turn around and face it?

Yep, me too. And for me, it’s my husband’s job search.

There hasn’t been any word yet and it’s been throwing off my peace and joy vibes. Every time the thought hits me that we are still unemployed, it feels like this painful little dig. And, in an effort to remain positive, I’ve been pushing the thought away as soon as it surfaces.

So over all it’s been a better week, but the other day on my prayer walk I was just telling the Lord that I didn’t like that about my life. Everything else has been going well, I have contentment in so many other areas, but this one thought is like a black hole, a worry that’s sucking my peace and joy right out of me.

And that’s when I figured out what hopeful expectation really means in this situation.

Placing my hope in God means that my worries become happy thoughts.

It means that instead of fretting about what hasn’t happened and what will happen, that I should be so excited about what God has planned, whatever that may be.

It’s like when you’re watching a magic trick. You don’t know what will happen in a seemingly hopeless situation (i.e. a man has just vanished into thin air and there’s no possible way he can return) but you have faith in the magician to amaze you with his trick. You know you couldn’t do anything with the situation, but you trust that the finale will be mind-blowing.

It should be that way with waiting on God. I shouldn’t settle for slightly cloudy skies with a chance of rain. God wants me basking in His sunlight!

So from now on, whenever I feel that pesky doubt, that paper tiger, stalking me, I’m going to turn around and confront it head on. Because fear has no place in a heart that’s full of Jesus. Perfect love casts out fear.

I need to examine that black hole to see what’s at the heart of it, whether it’s a grudge that keeps me from trusting God, greed and discontent, impatience, idolatry, what have you. Once I find that sin, I need to repent of it, and cast it far from me. Then I replace that old doubt with a happy thought.

The thought that Jesus loves me and can do anything He wants with this situation. The thought that the Almighty Creator of the universe hears every word I say, and every word I don’t; my prayer reaches Him directly and immediately, it doesn’t get stuck in an in-box. The thought that He has everything under control and it’s all going according to His plan. The thought that He is faithful and cannot break His promises.

The thought that hope does not disappoint!


God Answered the Wrong Prayer

walking-on-water

Here we are, several weeks into our new life and I can honestly say that Houston is an answer to prayer… just not the prayer I wanted.

Back when the move was looming in the future, I started to feel nervous about it and began praying for stronger faith.

And since the job search had yet to yield fruit, I began to pray for patience as well.

It was around this time that I hear the song Oceans in Church and thought about how beautiful the lyrics were: “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me.”

That sounded awesome to me. Where my trust is without borders. That line quickly became the cry of my heart. Well, a cry of my heart.

But deep down, I was still that child sitting on the beach, absorbed with building sandcastles. I let my dreams run away with me and I prayed desperately for them to be fulfilled. And, meanwhile, I prayed for some faith and patience too.

But I can’t grow in my walk with the Lord of I’m too busy playing in the sand because that’s the thing about sand, it gets everywhere. It distracts. And it doesn’t fulfill.

I want to seek God. I want to grow closer to Him. I want to walk out on the water to Him. And I prayed for that.

So as the story goes, I got to Houston and I didn’t like it. I became homesick and disillusioned and disappointed. Nothing was working out the way we’d hoped it would, and I wanted to know why.

So I asked God, “What are You doing?” And He told me, “I’m giving you what you wanted.”

It was then that I realized that God had answered my prayer to let me walk upon the waters. He’s answering my prayers to grow my faith and to learn patience by giving me opportunities to trust Him and wait on Him.

I’ve been so worried that I missed something, that I strayed outside of His will because nothing seemed to be going right. And now I realize that this is just what it’s like to walk on water. It’s scary, and uncomfortable. And it’s very difficult to build sandcastles out here on the waves.

But it’s also exhilarating, and freeing, and intimate. Because as soon as I realized I was out on the water, I realized that Jesus was right next to me, holding my hand. And, like Peter, I’ll only sink if I take my eyes off Him.

It is so encouraging to realize that God loves me too much to only answer little prayers. It’s a privilege to think that God has called me, of all people, to walk with Him on the waves. What an honor that my faith, small and weak as it is, moved the heart of the Creator of the universe such that He would answer my prayer to draw nearer to Him, knowing full well that I would complain about this great gift as soon as He gave it to me. How great is that grace!

I am so grateful that God loves me enough to answer the prayers I need Him to, instead of the prayers I want Him to. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to walk with my Savior.

 


Waiting the Right Way

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I could make a career out of waiting. Looking back, I can point out any period in my life and tell you what I was waiting for. And I’m not done yet. Despite all this practice, I’m still not proficient at it. I guess you could say I’m waiting for patience.

Whether it was a friend when I was a kid, I husband when I grew up, or a baby after I got married, there has always been something to wait for. At the moment, I’m waiting for milk and honey.

My husband and I made a big change last month and moved 1,000 miles away to Texas. And I’m still waiting for God to tell us why. So far, it’s not the promise land I expected.

But what can I do? My hands are tied. My husband and I are doing all that we can to make our new home here, but so much of it is in God’s hands that there is a lot of waiting left over.

The Bible tells us multiple times to wait on the Lord and I’ve always thought this command was a little odd. So often when I’ve been called to wait on Him, I haven’t really had a choice.

Take waiting on Him to get married, for example. Well, I had to wait for Him to work because no one would even ask me out on a date. Now, when it comes to waiting in Texas for His will for our future, we can only go so far before it’s all in His hands and we are forced to wait on His timing.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting. And whining. And complaining. And worrying. But not trusting, or praising, or hoping.

But the Lord has been showing me that there is more to waiting than just sitting around and grumbling, as I’m so prone to do.

He has been calling me to hope.

I don’t like hoping. It hurts too much. Over the years, I’ve placed my hope in a lot of the wrong things, and I’ve been disappointed as a result.

We tend to think of hope as this weak thing, the least expected outcome, or something that’s just a step or two above worse case scenario. Hope has become a wimpy word.

In the Bible, it’s often used synonymously with waiting. And more than that, waiting expectantly.

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Rom. 8:24-25

When we are commanded to wait on the Lord, many of us (*raises hand*) do so begrudgingly, worrying all the while that what’s coming isn’t gonna be all that great. But that’s not being obedient to the command.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

Lam. 3:24-26

See, that’s what waiting should look like. It should acknowledge that the Lord is our portion, everything we need. Waiting should involve seeking after Him as the ultimate prize. And eagerly anticipating His will to be done.

Hope means waiting with great expectations. It means praising God and celebrating the victory before it even comes.

That’s the interesting thing about when the walls of Jericho came down; they fell after the Israelites raised the victory cry. When Judah came under attack in 2 Cor.20, God told them to stand still because the battle was His. They didn’t even have to fight their enemy; God defeated the enemy while the Israelites were praising Him, before they even made it to the battle ground, because they’d put their hope in Him.

Waiting isn’t easy, it isn’t supposed to be. And neither is hoping. God has an amazing plan for each and every one of us that can only come through the long hard wait.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Rom. 5:3-4

Those words ‘perseverance’ and ‘character’ are translated in the King James Bible as ‘patience’ and ‘experience.’

That’s why it’s so important to ‘let patience have its perfect work’ in us, and wait the right way.

Instead of asking God “Are we there yet?” we should spend the time thanking Him for the journey and for the end that He has planned.

Instead of worrying about whether things will work out the way we want them too, we can get our mopey thoughts off ourselves and look for ways we can love on others.

No matter what you’re waiting for, no matter how long the road looks, cling to hope.

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Rom. 3:5

From now on, I’m determined to wait the right way, hopefully. 


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