Thursday, January 17, 2013

Storms and Oak Trees

"Some of the storms of life come suddenly:  a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat.  Some come slowly...Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service.  When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest."  
      - Mrs.  Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

Funny thing about storms.  They can be disorienting.  During one Northern California storm I found myself driving along through some mountain roads back to Humboldt County.  It was pouring so hard I could barely see the road in front of me.  The sun began to set and it was getting dark.  The fears of "what if's" began to rise.  Having been in a few car accidents, and having the prior experience of vehicles breaking down on some out-of-the-way roadsides, those fears weren't based on unrealistic ideas of what could happen.  They were based on some indelible bad memories.  Storms can be like that.  They take in not only what is happening in the present, but they can bring along a carload of baggage from our past.  

Yet each storm has the capacity to bring with it elements designed to strengthen our fiber.  With each variety of storm there is a faith-test.  It seems it often comes when we think we are dangerously close to that line of what we think we cannot handle.  I've found that the line I think I can handle and the line of what God knows I can cope with are two different lines.  Interesting, how we think we are in charge of that line.  But it is often in those moments when we believe we are at our wits end that God either brings us a solution or supplies us adequate grace to take the next step.

In those moments the faith-test goes something like this:  God asks,
"Do you still trust Me?"  When you can't see in front of you, when the circumstances are the worst thing you can imagine, and when you believe you have no inner resources to endure this particular nightmare, can God be trusted? 

The Faith Giants of the New and Old Testaments often stood on that wobbily dividing line that life put in their path and they had to make a decision whether to step forward by sheer faith alone or step back. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."  That belief is not merely an intellectual nod but concrete actions of trust.  Stepping forward, staying the course, going on and doing the right thing even when there seems little hope.

One reward of repeated steps of faith is the strong rugged fiber of the heart that is developed during hard times.  It replaces the former faint-of-heart kind of belief that wilts under adversity.  One's insides are changed.  Without storms our faith would remain delicate.  But through the storms we are made ready for the Master's service.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Evening News, Gobbildy-Gook and Hope

The evening news was discouraging.  Politics, the aftermath of a natural disaster, people in despair, the economy...rough stuff.  One understands on a greater level why the 'Great Depression' had that  a very accurate name, and one wonders about the similarities to our current situation.  It appears that harder economic times will affect all of least everyone we know.  Most everyone has already felt some of the sting.  I just talked to two people, that as of yesterday, no longer have their jobs.  People are hurting.

I so appreciate that I am able to watch the evening news with a former history teacher and someone who was involved in politics at the city level at one point during his life.  It is my dear husband.  I pepper him with questions about the Great Depression and the gobbildy-gook going on in Washington.  One reason I like to turn to history and to then engage in Bible reading is for the sense of perspective it gives us, especially in these times.  My daily reading took me to the book of Job where things weren't so rosy for this perfectly nice moral God-fearing guy.  In the nineteenth and twentieth chapters he is trying to defend himself against his so-called friends, he is physically in pain and what seems to be the icing on the cake is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has rejected him.  Even his wife finds his breath repulsive.  Talk about reasons to be depressed!

But then Job does this wonderful thing.  Amid reciting all the agonies of his current life he has a moment of clarity.  It's like he suddenly lifts his head up, sees the clouds, sees the rays of sun beating warm upon his hurting body and says, "But as for me, I know my Redeemer lives and He will stand upon the earth at last.  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!  I will see Him for myself.  Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought! (Job 19:25-27 NLT).

It's so interesting that Job breaks out with this beautiful truth in the midst of his suffering.  The bottom line was his hope was in God.  Job didn't deny how bad things were going.  He talked about it a lot, as I'm sure we all would given the same set of circumstances.  Yet his moment of perspective was vital for his stability and well being.  It was a glimpse of truth.

A couple more encouraging verses to uplift us when we are undergoing things beyond our understanding:  "The eternal God is your refuge;  and His everlasting arms are under you.  (Deuteronomy 33:27a).  And, "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  (Psalm 30:5b).  Sometimes nights are long, but the morning is as sure as our current experiences.  With the Apostle Paul we can concur:  "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."  (I Corinthians 13:12).

May you experience some moments of clarity today, may you be caused to lift your head and feel some rays of sun beating warm upon your soul.  And may you be encouraged that even if we don't see it now, there is a bigger picture on the horizon.