Grace and Power

I am certain there are those of you who don’t mind waking up early.  You may even enjoy it.  I do not!!  I simply do not understand that mindset. And do you know what really puzzles me?  People who not only choose to wake up early, but who then go and exercise…..outside…… in the cold…..in the dark.  That is totally beyond my ability to comprehend.   No, I prefer to go gently and slowly into the new day.   I am pretty sure Jesus doesn’t want me up much before 8 AM.  When I wake up, I like to spend about half an hour of what I call “cuddle time” with my Abba.  During that time I listen to His words of love from verses I’ve memorized and I tell Him how much I love Him.  I offer myself to Him as a living sacrifice, submit to His will and the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life, ask Him to open my eyes, mind, and heart to perceive His glory, ask for the gift of wisdom for that day, and pray the whole armor of God over myself and my family.  It is a glorious and empowering way to start the day.  I find it so much more invigorating (and far more comfortable) than a 6:30 AM run.

This morning I woke to an impressive rain storm.  As I lay there reveling in God’s presence, I imagined I could hear His voice in each rain drop saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.”  I was captured with an overwhelming sense of God’s grace:  His saving grace, redeeming grace, empowering grace, sustaining grace, assuring grace, lavish grace, abundant grace, comforting grace – grace upon grace upon grace.  My mind and my heart tried to comprehend and contain it, but it was too wonderful for me.  All I could do was lay there in awe and worship.

Suddenly the sky lit up and a loud peal of thunder filled the air.  I was reminded of all the instances in scripture when God spoke with a voice that sounded like thunder to those listening.  Often this display of power filled the people with fear, but I didn’t find the sound scary at all.  It was assuring and exciting.  Awe and wonder gripped me anew with the awareness of God’s great power, majesty and might.  He is indeed a loving, caring, gentle Father, but He is also the sovereign creator of the universe, full of magnificent splendor and supremacy.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is ever-present because He neither slumbers nor sleeps.  He works all things for my good and His glory.  He has the power to transform the hardest hearts.  He protects His children from the temptations and attacks of the evil one.  He has the power to heal sick bodies, restore broken relationships, redeem wounded memories of the past, and comfort sorrowing hearts.  His power is gentle enough to shield one of His children in the shadow of His wings or strong enough to move mountains and control the winds and rains.  There is nothing greater than His power and grace.

Power and grace:  both perfectly revealed in one God, one Father, one Lord.  How blessed we are to be chosen to experience the gentle side of His nature through an intimate relationship with Him and at the same time to rest in the assurance of His great power and might.  May we never stop being filled with awe and wonder at the breadth, depth, and extent of God’s character!  May we awaken each day excited and eager to experience more of His grace, more of His power, more of Him!

I leave you with these familiar yet beautiful words of Paul found in Ephesians 3:17b-21, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  And now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever!  Amen.”  And Amen!!

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Heart’s Desire

What is your heart’s desire?  What do you want more than anything?  There are probably many things that come to your mind as you consider these questions – some superficial and some profound.  On a superficial level, I wouldn’t mind being taller.  Most everyone I knew growing up was on the shorter end of the spectrum including my immediate family.  My grandfather was 4 feet 11 inches tall.   I now live in a city inhabited in large part by Dutch people who tend to be on the taller side.  I have discovered that tall people don’t understand the perils and frustrations of being short.  Take the frustration of clothes shopping for instance.  Even petite sizes need to be shortened.  The sleeves are so long they make one look like a Neanderthal. Grocery shopping becomes an adventure.  There are items on that top shelf short people will never be able to purchase – that is unless a tall person takes pity on their vertically challenged brothers and sisters.  The top shelves in cupboards at home are forever out of reach unless one is into mountain climbing.  And have you ever noticed how short people sit on the edge of chairs?  They have to if their feet are going to touch the floor.  Then there is the risk of being a short person in youth ministry with tall Dutch kids.  My nose and the arm pits of most teenage boys are at the very same level – enough said.  Okay, no more complaining about my silly desire to be taller!  It doesn’t do any good to complain.  No matter how much my heart desires it, there is no doctor or miracle that can actually make me taller.  It’s impossible to alter my gravitationally depressed state so I am going to choose to celebrate my diminutive status.

But what about the real needs – the deep, heart-felt needs that we’ve prayed for, worried about, or longed for?  Where do we take these needs and desires?  Is there anyone who can and will help us?  The answer is a resounding, “YES!”  The man with leprosy in Matthew 8:1-4 knew exactly where to go to get his deepest need and desire met.  He was an untouchable, an outcast with a hideous disease that disfigured him and would eventually kill him.  He needed to be healed and declared clean so he presented himself to Jesus.  It’s important to notice what the leper said when he came to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  He didn’t say, “If you can.”  He said, “If you are willing.” There is a huge difference between the two phrases.  “I can,” implies the person responding has the ability, skill or power to affect change.  “I will,” reflects the responder’s desire to help.  He knew Jesus could – was able – to heal and cleanse him, but he didn’t know if Jesus was willing.  In faith he made his bold request to the Son of God.  I’m sure his heart was racing as he waited for a response.  But then the leper felt Jesus touch his untouchable skin, he heard Jesus’ loving response, “I am willing. Be clean!”…..and his life was changed forever.

Try to put yourself in the leper’s place.  Did he feel a tingling in his skin or sense the Spirit’s power healing him?  Could he hear love and compassion in Jesus’ voice?   What would it have been like to feel the hand of God touch you?  I can’t begin to imagine how wonderful it was.  I want to feel that – don’t you?  Let’s learn from this leper and come to Jesus with our deepest desires and needs.  Come in faith to the One who not only can give you your heart’s desire, but also delights in doing so.  Come into His presence in prayer and boldly ask for whatever you need.  Feel the gentle touch of the Lord’s hand on your unclean spirit.  Hear His words of willingness and love.  Experience the healing and cleansing you long for.  Whatever your need, Jesus’ response is, “I am willing.”

  • Do you need physical healing?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Is there a need for broken relationships to be restored?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Are you in need of having a burden of shame or guilt lifted from your soul?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Perhaps you are in need of forgiveness, or need the power to forgive someone else.  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Are you facing overwhelming financial worries and need help making ends meet?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Are you in mourning and need comfort and help to endure?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Have you lost hope for the future because circumstances are so overwhelming?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Do you need direction about a path to take in life?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”
  • Do you have a burning desire to grow deeper in your relationship with God?  Jesus says, “I am willing.”

Whatever your need, Jesus is willing and able to help you.  He longs to touch your life with grace and mercy.  He desires for you to be free and empowered – to know true joy, hope and peace.  All you have to do is to ask, believing He can and He will give you your heart’s desire.

More

If you have ever seen “Oliver Twist” performed, you probably remember the heart-wrenching scene where Oliver holds out his gruel bowl and beseechingly says, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  Wanting more is a concept that we understand very well.  It is a part of our innate human psyche and an integral part of our North American society.  We want more money, more time, more property, more power, more fame, more friends, more clothes, more health, more, more, more.  Madison Avenue is quick to take advantage of our predisposition to more.  Advertisers produce ads that assure us that their product can fulfill our deepest needs and fill our empty spaces.  But all too quickly we discover the products leave us as empty as we began and we still want more.

Do you ever wonder if God gets a little tired of our ingratitude and greed?  Does He get frustrated that we don’t stop to consider that we really do have all we need in Him and that if we let Him, He will help us to be content with what we do have?  As familiar as we are with the concept of more, we are equally unfamiliar with the feeling of contentment.  I marvel whenever I read Paul’s words from Philippians 4:11 where he says, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  I marvel because I find that to be a most difficult statement to make and a daily struggle.  Every morning I do invite the Holy Spirit to empower me to accept with joy whatever God has planned for me that day so that I can be content.  I can usually make it through breakfast, before I find myself wanting more of something.

While striving to be content is a daily, on-going battle, it is one worth the fight because I have found that with contentment come the gifts of grace that truly do fill up the empty spots and satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and souls.  Gifts like joy, peace, hope, rest, assurance, comfort, strength, and most of all an awareness of God’s constant, loving presence.  Absolutely nothing on this earth can even begin to compare to the grace God is longing to lavish on us when we learn to be content.  All the other desires for “more” become pale, almost to the point of non-existence, in comparison to the glory of what God has to offer us.

While I daily work at being content, there is actually one thing that I will always want more of – one thing I can never get enough of.  That one thing is more of God.  I desperately want more of Him – more of His love, more awareness of His presence, more time spent with Him, more time to worship Him, more understanding of who He is and what He wants me to do and be.  I want more of God!!  And the fantastic thing is…..I don’t think He minds at all that I constantly keep coming and asking for more of Him.  In fact, I think He delights in it because He delights in me.   He sent His only Son to die for me so we could have an intimate relationship.  I have discovered that the more I have of Him in my life, the more I can give Him what He desires  – all my heart, all my soul,  all my mind, all my strength.

Whenever I come to God asking for more of Him, I like to think that He responds to me like I would respond to my two granddaughters whom I love with all my heart.  No words can explain the depth of love I have for those two girls or how much I love being in their presence.  If they were to come to me and say, “Gran, we want you to love us more,” there is no way I would ever turn them down or turn them away.  That request would fill me with such joy and I would pour out my love on them – no matter how many times they came asking.  What gives me hope is that God loves me and you far more than I love my granddaughters.  So I invite you to join me in running into our Abba’s presence and asking for more of Him.  Let Him embrace you, speak words of love over you, take delight in you, quiet you with His love, and rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

There are so many ways to experience more of God.  Sometimes we are speechless as we see His glory in nature.  You may be overwhelmed with His presence during times of quiet and solitude.  Or you may be filled with awe and wonder when He shows up in power and might by answering prayers in ways that bring great joy.  I have experienced all of those, but I have discovered that the most powerful way of experiencing more of God is when I am going through a deep trial or struggle.  It is precisely when I have absolutely nothing left, that I begin to discover how lavishly He loves me.  In my devotions this week I was reading from “Come Away My Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts and came upon these words that so eloquently express God’s thoughts toward us, “In grief, my comfort is more poignant.  In failure, my encouragement is most welcome.  In loneliness, the touch of my presence more tender.”  I pray that will be your experience.   Just when you need more of Him, He will present Himself in a way that will fill you with pure amazement, comfort, and hope.

If, like me, you long for more of Him, I invite you to join me as we approach our loving Abba and say, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

Longing

Here we are.  It is 2013 and a brand new year stretches before us as an adventure waiting to happen.  The possibilities that are before us are both exciting and a little scary all at the same time.  No one knows what’s going to happen personally, communally, nationally or globally.  As you prepare for this great adventure to unfold, what is your heart longing for?  I’ve been thinking about that question and my answers have ranged all the way from being able to fit into a size six jeans (you skinny people won’t be able to relate to that), to learning how to keep my mouth shut when appropriate (like that’s ever going to happen), to the deep desire to hear my husband’s laugh one more time.  How I long to be able to talk to him, and share life with him again.   I ask you again, what is the desire of your heart for this next year?  Is it something as simple as losing weight?  Maybe it’s a deeper personal longing to find a job, get clear direction for your life, have broken relationships restored, or to find someone who will love you unconditionally.  Or maybe you are longing for an end to this violence in our country and around the world or a solution to the economic crisis.  Perhaps you are fervently praying for peace, justice and righteousness to reign.  Maybe your longing is for something you’ve been dealing with for years – a parent’s love and acceptance, a child to be born, a marriage to be healed.  Some of our longings will be satisfied and some will not.  Are we willing to submit to God’s will and accept whatever He chooses to bring us in this new year?

That is an easy question to ask, but a difficult question to answer affirmatively and even more difficult to live out.  I don’t think it is wrong to long for something.  After all, we are human beings and it is part of our nature, but we have to be very careful that our longings don’t give rise to a lack of contentment or ingratitude for what we do have.  I have to admit that this is a difficult road to walk.  It takes commitment and a daily choice to trust God and submit to His will.  There have been times when I really didn’t “feel” like accepting God’s will – it led me to a place that was full of pain and sorrow, but I have learned that following God’s will isn’t a guarantee of perpetual happiness.  It certainly wasn’t that way for Jesus Christ.  Yet He made a choice – THE most difficult choice – to submit to His Father’s will.  Who am I that I should not make that same choice?  I need to bend my will to His even when it hurts – even when I don’t “feel like it. When we submit our longings, our lives to God’s will, we open ourselves up to encounter miracles.  I have discovered that submission (no matter how painful at the time) gives me an opportunity to experience an intimacy with my Abba that molds me into a clearer image of Him, gives me a deeper understanding of His love and grace, and fills my heart with joy and peace that are beyond description.  My faith and trust grow stronger.  I have strength to face whatever the future holds and an assurance that He will always be with me.  Honestly, it is not easy to submit my longings to Him, but I’ve learned there is no other way to live in victory and I have learned that the struggle to surrender is well worth the effort.

Having said all of that, there is one thing I continue to long for with ever increasing passion – even more than being with David again.  That is to see the face of Jesus.  I feel like the Greek men who approached Philip in John 12:21 and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  I can hear the hunger in their voice and I share their deep yearning. The intensity of my desire to see Him with all barriers and veils removed is beyond my ability to express in words.  The words of 1 Corinthians 13:12 resonate in my spirit, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  That is what I am longing for!!  I want to see what David saw right before He died.  I want to look into those eyes and see the love that defines and sustains me.  I want to be held close to His chest and enfolded by His grace.  I LONG TO SEE JESUS!

Until that day I will rejoice in all the ways God has revealed Himself to us.  I will praise Him for allowing us to have an intimate relationship with Him on this earth.  This Christmas season I have been doing a lot of thinking about Jesus’ name “Emmanuel” – God with us.  Last night as I was reading from the devotional “Come Away My Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts, I was struck by these powerful words, “…desert all else to follow the call of the Spirit until…until all emptiness and loneliness of the subterranean recesses of his soul are flooded by the sublime, glorious reality of Emmanuel.  Emmanuel!  God with us – God in us – God in me!  God in you!”  All I could say was, “Amen and amen!”  Praise God that He is indeed with us so let’s be grateful for the Holy Spirit who enables us to know Him intimately.  It is in His presence that all other longing will fade until we are left with contentment and a longing to see His face.

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that God will not only give you the desires of your heart this year, but also that your deepest desire will be to see Him face to face.  I offer these verses from Psalm 37 to you as a blessing and a prayer, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”  Have a blessed 2013 and remember to submit your longings to Him so His contentment can reign in your life.

Waiting

The wait is over.  Today is the day after Christmas and all of the excitement and anticipation that has been building for the last few weeks has been assuaged.  Presents have been opened, dinners consumed, and company enjoyed.  We worshiped together as church families, as family units, and as individuals to celebrate the birth of God coming to earth in the form of a baby boy named Jesus.  Our hearts are filled with joy and hope.  It has been a good Christmas.  The blessings have been many and we are filled with gratitude.  We are also thankful the waiting is over.

Yet, the waiting continues.  Yes, the anticipation of celebrating Christ’s first coming is over, but we continue to wait with eager expectation for His second coming.  That time when the trumpet sounds and we see him coming on the clouds of glory.  That time when we will be gathered up into His presence, all separations will be removed, and we will see Him face to face.  That time where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow.  That time when time itself no longer matters – only eternity in His presence.  Oh, how I long for that time…..but I have to wait.

Many, if not most of us, do not like that “four letter” word – wait.  We live in a culture of almost instant gratification.  Waiting in line at the bank or waiting in a traffic jam can annoy us greatly, but they don’t begin to compare to the frustrations of waiting for the really important stuff:  the healing of a loved one, family members to come to salvation, restoration of broken relationships, wisdom for which college or job offer to take, financial security, peace among nations, and the list goes on and on.  I think it’s safe to say, we are all waiting for something and it’s not always pleasant.

Giving up control of our lives and trusting God to work out His plan is one of the more difficult things we are asked to do.  I find it particularly difficult to let go of being sure my family is happy, healthy, and following God’s plan for them.  Fortunately, God keeps reminding me again and again, that He’s got them covered.  He loves them more than I do.  His grace is sufficient for them.  His plan will prosper them and not harm them, give them hope and a future.  So I find myself coming back to the cross time after time to place each of them God’s arms….. and then I wait.  In that time of waiting I discover anew the scope of God’s grace and mercy.  As I choose to wait, the Holy Spirit fills me with hope, faith, trust and peace.  I wish I could tell you that I have learned my lesson about the value and importance of waiting on God, but I continue to have to learn the blessings of letting go, trusting, and waiting.  In the process of waiting I discover another gift of grace: waiting and trusting draws me closer to the presence of my Abba – and that is glorious place to wait.  Come, my friend, join me as we wait together.

But as we wait, we need to ask ourselves a question, “What are we going to do while we wait?” Certainly there is an aspect to waiting that is about complete stillness, rest and calm.  On the other hand there is a responsibility we have as we wait:  to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.  Jesus’ last words to us were, “Go into all the world…”  Just as Jesus realized at an early age what He must do, we need to be about our Father’s business – the business of spreading the good news of salvation through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.  We get to be His ministers of reconciliation helping people to be restored into a right relationship with God as they experience the forgiveness of sins.  We are His ambassadors, speaking on behalf of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, helping people find the Light of the World in a dark, broken society.  We get to be His righteousness, bringing mercy and justice to the oppressed and hopeless.  Oh, yes, there is much to do while we wait.  Perhaps as you consider the new year that will begin soon, you can take time to think about what God is calling you to do.  Then as you go to the cross with your anxiety, concerns and worries and give them to God trusting Him to handle them, you will be free wait for His return when all will be made new and you will be free to be an important part of bringing His kingdom now.

Happy New Year, dear reader!    May these words of 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 inspire you to be about His business as you wait for His coming.   “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  I pray this year be filled with many opportunities to be a blessing to others and bring glory to God.  I can barely wait to see what He is going to do.  🙂

 

Three Gifts

If you are like most people, you are in the throes of Christmas preparations:  shopping, cleaning, baking, decorating, wrapping, attending parties and programs.  It can be a hectic, even stressful time of year for everyone except for the business owners who are delighting in the customers crowding their stores, eager to part with hard-earned cash as they look for the perfect present for a loved one. It must feel like paradise for those who love to shop, too.  I must confess that I am NOT one of those people.  I really hate shopping!  I would rather have a root-canal without Novocain.  I find it so stressful because I do not have the gift of “gift giving.”  There are those who are able to find that perfect gift that delights your heart.  I’m more likely to take home a chia pet than the perfect gift.  It causes me so much angst that I can break out into a rash whenever I enter a mall.

My dear husband was the exact opposite.  He had the ability to choose a gift that was meaningful, thoughtful, and selected just for me.  How I cherish those gifts now that he is gone.  As wonderful as David was at choosing the perfect gift, there is One who continues to shower me with gifts that are even more precious, more perfect than David’s gifts – my Abba.  During these last three months I have been struggling to adjust to a new stage of grief and my Abba has lavished His love on me through three gifts.  They are actually three words that have encouraged, comforted, and strengthened me.  I have been thinking about what gift I could offer you, dear reader, and have decided to give to you the three words my Abba gave me.   I pray that they will be “just the right gift” to encourage and bless you this Christmas season.  The three gifts are these words:  relinquish, commit, and trust.

Relinquish:  As wonderful as the holidays are, they can be reminders that our life is not what we had hoped it would be.  Feelings of worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, guilt, shame, anger, despair, grief, unforgiving spirit, and loneliness can overshadow the joy of the season.  I pray that you will be so close to the heart of God that you will experience the blessing of relinquishing anything that is burdening you.  How the evil one longs to overwhelm us with weighty burdens and a heavy heart.  Because we all struggle with our natural, sinful selves, we too eagerly accept these feelings and miss God’s gifts of hope, joy, peace, love, mercy, and so much more.  My prayer for you is that you will be able to relinquish anything that is robbing you of God’s gifts of grace and place it in God’s hands.  He is big enough to take care of our problems, hurts, and confusion.  “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)   This Christmas, enjoy the gift of freedom as you chose to relinquish.

Commit:  A second gift I would like to give you is the gift of choosing to commit.   This choice takes us beyond relinquishment to the action of commitment to submitting to God’s will and obeying His commands.  We commit to fighting the temptation to revert back to trying to handle situations ourselves without seeking God’s guidance.  We commit to putting our lives, the lives of our loved ones, our marriages, our jobs, and even our futures in God’s capable hands.  We commit to persevere through the suffering, holding onto God as tightly as we can.  It is then, and only then, that we can experience hope and this hope will not disappointment us.  “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And this hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  (Romans 5:3-5) This hope is what I wish for you this Christmas as you choose to commit.

Trust:  The last word I give you is “trust.”  Once you have relinquished that which burdens you and have chosen to commit to submit and obey God, I encourage you to open your arms wide and receive the gift of trust.  I pray that you will be able to trust that God loves you and the ones you love with a depth and intensity that is beyond our ability to comprehend.  I pray that you will trust that God’s grace is more than sufficient for whatever you need; trust that His will is perfect and just; trust that He will be faithful to His promises; trust that joy will come in the morning; trust that Jesus’ blood was enough to provide complete forgiveness for all your sins.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  As you trust and lean on Him, I pray that His peace will fill your life as you celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your three gifts and that you will share them with others.  Have a very blessed Christmas.

Fiery Furnace of Adversity

A number of years ago my husband spoke at a medical conference in Barcelona, Spain.  We both fell in love with this beautiful city, its people, its culture, and (of course) its cuisine.  We spent many enjoyable and informative hours exploring it all.  We were enthralled by everything we saw, but there was one stop we both found to be very fascinating – the glass-blower’s shop.  Not only could you purchase lovely hand-blown and crafted gifts, but you could also watch the master glass-blower at work.  He would take a shapeless, ordinary-looking piece of glass and transform it into a work of art.  But for this transformation to take place, the glass first had to be subjected to the intense heat of a fiery furnace.  I couldn’t help but see God as the Master glass-blower and me as that shapeless blob of glass who is in the continuing process of being transformed.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being transformed into the image of God.  That led me to think about the various ways God uses to bring about the necessary changes so we can reflect Him more clearly.  Often He speaks to us through His living Word, during prayer, through a powerful sermon or an insightful book.  Other times God molds us with counsel and encouragement of wise friends and family.  These methods and others are powerful and effective, but I have discovered there is one way that has made a profound difference in my spiritual life – times of adversity.

We all experience seasons of testing and trials and we don’t like it one little bit.  Perhaps during these times we need to ascertain if God is giving us an opportunity to become even more beautiful through the adversity.  Like the master glass-blower, He knows we “ordinary blobs of glass” need to go through the fire so the Master can mold and make us into the beautiful work of art He designed us to be.  This is certainly not a pleasant way to be transformed.  In fact, if we are honest, it is profoundly painful and we would like to run and hide.  Unfortunately, that is not an option, because difficult circumstances in life don’t just go away because we find them painful.  So if we can’t escape the fire of adversity, we need to decide how we are going to endure it.  There are many things we could choose to do, but the one way that has worked again and again is to obediently submit to the Father’s loving hands as He purifies and molds us.

The good news is that if we choose the path of obedience, no matter how painful the moment, He is our constant companion, our strength, our shield, our refuge, and our ever present help in time of trouble.  Even when we don’t “feel” His presence, we can rest in the promises that He will never leave or forsake us and that there is nothing that can separate us from His love.  Adversity can be the driving force that compels us to embrace a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.  The more intimate we are with Him, the more we become like Him.  And the more we become like Him, the more beautiful we become – just like the glass when the glass-blower removes it from the fire.

But the question remains, “How does one endure the fiery furnace of adversity?”  It is imperative that we stay close to God by being in His word, in prayer, in Bible study, and in worship.  We need to take every opportunity to draw closer and closer – even when we don’t feel like it.  Remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy has also proven to be a powerful tool in enduring trials and heartaches.  Romans 8:28 reminds me of the importance of looking for ways God is using the trial for my good and His glory.  A good question to ask God during these times is, “What do you want me to learn?”  God has assured us in His word that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  We need to learn to persevere, trust, and wait for God’s timing.  None of this is easy, but by the Spirit’s power it is doable.

I must admit, I find it very difficult at times to think of these times of intense pain as “good and perfect” gifts from God.  I continually struggle to stay content with what God has allowed to happen in my life.  I have to work at adjusting to my new reality – whatever that may be.  But I have discovered that faith and obedience enable me to endure the fires of adversity because I have seen the result when the time of testing is done – the fiery furnace of adversity “burns off” sins, characteristics and attitudes that are keeping me from being a more beautiful reflection of my loving Father – my selfish desires, my needs, my happiness, my pride, my…my….my…..my.

So while it is profoundly difficult to go through the fiery furnace of adversity, I welcome it because, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death…”  Philippians 3:10.