Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hope in Christ

1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

This world is full of things we hope for. 

My husband and I are currently preparing our house to sell - it's a lot of work, and the list continues to grow. We were hoping to be done by the end of May... and then the end of June... and now we're just trusting the Lord for His timing as to when it will be completed. 

I've struggled with chronic pain since I was about nine years old. I've been through so many ups and downs with hoping doctors could determine what the issue was in order to treat it. I've tried so many supplements and ideas, it's exhausting. With each new idea, it's tempting to raise my hopes of healing, only to be disappointed and depressed.

Yet the things of this world are not where our hope truly lies. When the Bible talks about hope, it doesn't use or describe it as something we desire will happen. It's something we know and expect will happen. Hope is a result of faith.

If I "...fix [my] hope completely on the grace to be brought to [me] at the revelation of Jesus Christ" it totally changes my perspective. My hope is not in getting the house sold by the end of this month - the house selling has little consequence in the face of the day Christ declares me His righteous daughter. My hope is not in healing my chronic pain - God's sovereign grace is over my chronic pain, and He uses it as a tool to mold me into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) and to grow my relationship with Him. 

I may wish for things here on earth, but I'm so thankful to hope in Christ. I don't have to be depressed by disappointed hope in timelines or suffering. All is in God's hands. His unchanging grace, love, and purpose for me are a rock to stand on, a refuge of protection, and a stronghold in our spiritual battle. Wishes and desires come and go, but God is the I AM. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our Daughter's Demeanor

1 Corinthians 10:13
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

The newest addition to our family, our easy-going daughter, has been nicknamed Sunshine. She is full of smiles, amazingly patient, and all around good-natured. When most kids would be bored to tears, she is patiently waiting and watching. That is her favorite thing to do: people watch. She is thoroughly entertained by this activity and it is adorable to watch. One little smile from Sunshine can turn the low tide blues of my moment to a sunny high tide on the beach.

When I meditate on the verse above, it is useful to remember that no sin I have committed is new. While my situation may be unique, all men (which, of course, means women, too) have encountered the temptation within the situation. I am not alone in my sin - others do understand those temptations. Yet God - our gracious, sovereign, loving Father - will always provide the way of escape. He will always give us a way to choose not to sin.


Sometimes, I think He uses our daughter's demeanor as my way of escape. Her sudden broad smile, her random dance break-outs, her excited sounds, and infectious giggles can all remind me of God's grace in my current situation. Just remembering His grace helps me to choose more wisely - to take a step back and look at the situation through His eyes (if I do so choose). I struggle with the temptation - and often fail - but that sweet little demeanor often stops my thought process just long enough to recognize the choice of what I do next.

I thank God for this reminder of His grace in our daughter's demeanor.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Let me be candid. I cringe at the thought of showing weakness in the face of my pain (the irony isn't lost on me). It is not in my nature to show the severity of my trials, and I work to "shield" those around me from it. While there is some good intent (adding to the world's list of complaints is a disservice to my companions), I think the true issue lies with my pride. God has been convicting me lately about not showing my struggles to those around me. Complaint may not serve my companions, but neither can Christ's light shine through me as a living testimony if I hide the very trials through which He works in my life. 

I see people respond to the salutation, "How are you?" with an enthusiastic, "Fantastic!" I understand the importance of living in the knowledge of the reality of Christ's amazing work for us, and I congratulate those people on their ability to testify of that... but I have (almost) never been able to truthfully say, "I'm living the dream!"  

Isaiah 26:3 says, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You." When I keep my mind focused on God, His goodness and sovereignty, and thankfulness for it, I am content and in perfect peace. That peace is only marred by my chronic pain and various trials if I let it. There are, in fact, times when that peace can be enhanced by this physical pain God permitted within my body. 

But how can people see the good that the Lord does in my life through my weakness if I don't show my weakness? How can they understand the depth of His work, or the height of the mountain, so-to-speak, if they do not see the valley? There is also the flip side: how is God served when I'm not dealing well with the pain? In those moments that I lose patience with my child who is complaining about something far less difficult than my own suffering? In those moments when the peace of Christ escapes me because my mind in centered on myself rather than Him?

The truth is, I've reached my limit. My reservoir is empty, my strength spent. God has already taught me I should be relying upon His strength before I get to this point - and I think I am! - only to discover my level of reliance was elementary.  I've reached this point numerous times, but it always amazes me how little I actually tap into His Holy Spirit.  When my strength is completely spent, only then do I rely fully on Him. Only when I am too weak to put up the puny fight I have in me compared to His omnipotent power, will He supercede my boundaries and pour forth His power, His testimony, His grace through my frail form. 

It is a recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit in me to do what God has commanded of me: love.  I am too tired to help others, but the Holy Spirit has new life.  I have more love for myself than others, but the Holy Spirit can overcome my selfishness and sacrifice for others.  I have nothing left to give, but the Holy Spirit has everything to give.  It is only in the knowledge that I have nothing to offer that I can recognize the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit to work through me anyway.

As I struggle to understand what it looks like to live in humble weakness - not just before God, but before others - I am thankful for my weakness. I thank God for His sufficient grace to work His good will through my weakness, and His wisdom to teach me through it. What area are you weak in right now? How can your weakness testify of God's strength?