Grief

May it be: Our heart’s response to an an unrelenting storm

Isaiah 43: 2-3
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”

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photo credit: lighthack via photopin cc

Last week on the way to my son’s VBS, we drove through a severe thunderstorm and it ended up peaking the moment we pulled into the church parking lot.  My husband had a work emergency so I was dropping off my son by myself but I also had my one year old with us. As we sat in the car trying to ride out the storm, the wind and rain were assaulting the windows and the fear in my kids’ faces grew with every loud sound.  Being afraid of storms myself, I prayed that God would give me the courage my kids needed during the wake of this storm.  After waiting in the car for 10 minutes we decided to find a close parking spot and make a run for it.  We didn’t have to run far but by the time we got to the church, we were all soaking wet and my poor one year old was screaming – she looked like she had been scarred for life.  But my almost 4 year old still talks about how we drove through the storm and then ran through it.  I wanted to show him that Jesus can be in the storm, and we shouldn’t always live our lives avoiding storms.  I often find myself wanting to avoid the storms, but God has been showing me some invaluable lessons in walking through the storm.

The older I get the more I realize that the storms of this life are unavoidable.  Some of us even find ourselves in a stormy circumstance for a long period of time.  The intensity may change but the actual storm remains the same.

At first, we may feel up to the challenge or sense God’s overwhelming peace and notice those around us surrounding us with love and support. But once that storm lingers, our patience may fade, God may seem far away, and our friends and family have gotten weary, busy, or simply forgot because their lives have moved on (rightfully so).

So what do we do when we find ourselves stuck in either a stormy season or a perpetually rainy and dreary season of life?  Our circumstances haven’t changed in a long time – in fact, it seems like they only keep getting worse.  What do we do then?  How do we keep believing in a God who doesn’t seem to be fixing our problems?

Step 1: Ask God to shine His light on what we are believing about Him.

I didn’t actually sit down and ask God to reveal the truth of what I was believing – it just came out in a conversation with my sisters.  I was saying that it seems that I have felt offended by God since my mom died.  I thought I have fully accepted her death but I found myself keeping a tally of all the ways I have felt wronged by God.

Offense #1: My mom died.
Offense #2: We couldn’t have biological children.
Offense #3: I got shingles and ended up with postherpetic neuralgia.

I have tried to look to God for the blessings he has given me along the way, but I think in the back of my subconscious mind, I have never really forgiven him for the “first offense.”  If you would have asked me if I held bitterness in my heart towards God, I would have said, “No way.”  I know better.

But if I’m being totally honest, as ugly as it is, that bitterness is still there and it’s clouding my judgment in every area of my life.  I so selfishly believed that because I had to suffer the death of my mom I should get a “No more suffering for a while” card.  And though I have been healing significantly over the last 8 years, I find myself applying that same train of thought to my current circumstance.

Because God has allowed me to have unrelenting pain from shingles, I should get a “No more suffering for a while” card.  After all, he did allow my mom to die, then we couldn’t have biological children, then I got sick, then my daughter had bad reflux, then we had financial difficulty, then my son won’t potty train, then…. On and on the griping has gone.  If you didn’t notice, the problems have gotten smaller and smaller but yet they seem monumental in my mind, because I have yet to fully accept what God has allowed in the first place.

So after God shines a light on your heart and exposes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  What do you do next?

Step 2:  Confess and repent of the sin that may be uncovered in Step 1.

Up until recently, I have not seen the need for this step mainly because I think I never saw the bitterness and resentment in the first place.  I would give it another name: frustration.  But there’s a card in Gracestoration – the Refiner’s Pot card that talks about the concept of calling sin by it’s actual name.  Sometimes we like to sugar coat our sin and in doing so it clouds our judgment and allows us to ignore the sin for what it really is – sin.  But when we confess, it unlocks the door to our heart and allows God by his perfect Grace to scoop the sin out so that we can move forward in relationship with Him.

1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 8:1
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”

Once we allow God to free us from a sin that could be entangling our hearts, we can then initiate the third step.

Step 3: Ask God to give you the grace to juggle each circumstance with him – to accept what He has allowed to touch your life and entrust it back to Him.

The last couple of weeks I have been drawn to another Gracestoration card: the Juggler card.  There is a lot to look at on this card, but I will only talk about the main concept.  If you want to study it more, please follow the link above.  (To see the card bigger, just click on the picture below).

14_JugglerIf you look at the man on the card, he is juggling several bottles.  The bottles represent various circumstances and situations ranging from good to difficult.  The word Sovereignty at the top of the card reminds us that everything that we end up juggling in life, has first been filtered by God.

He ultimately decides what we go through but we decide how it will look on us.

Look closely at the man’s hands: On the right side of the card, you see the word Accept above one of his hands and on the left side of the card, you see the word Entrust above one of his other hands.  The juggler Accepts what God has allowed to touch his life with one hand and then immediately transfers it to the other hand to Entrust it back up to the Lord.  The man is “juggling” these various circumstances  with God.

As I’ve been studying this card this time I around, I realize that lately I have been struggling with accepting what God has allowed to touch my life.  Of course, I think that I have accepted it, but then God so graciously uses various difficult circumstances to remind me that I have yet to fully accept what He has allowed.  I have realized that my bitterness toward God is keeping me from accepting what He has allowed. Once He restores my heart and brings me to a place of forgiveness, I can then accept each circumstance that He allows to touch my life and immediately transfer the circumstance to my other hand and entrust it back up to Him.

In a previous post titled Entrusting Grace, I talked in detail about the concept of entrusting.  It’s essentially transferring the responsibility of the object that you are entrusting to a place of safekeeping.  I argued that God is that place of safekeeping for us as believers.  Once we entrust what we are going through to the Lord, our hearts can rest knowing that He is ultimately responsible.

So how do we keep up this continuous cycle of accepting and entrusting when it seems like nothing is changing except that God keeps giving us new things to accept and entrust?

Step 4: Fix our eyes on Jesus Christ instead of our circumstances.

If you look at the juggler’s eyes they are up – he is focusing on the one to whom He is entrusting.  I have talked about this issue of focus in almost every post.  (I think God is trying to tell me something).

But this time around, I feel God expanding this concept of focus in my mind.  It’s not just about looking up and remembering that God is in control.  Of course, that’s important and essential.  But I think lately I have forgotten His glory, His power, His character.  I have let circumstances numb me and His glory has faded in my mind.

I recently read parts of the book of Job again.  I have foolishly joked that I feel like Job lately, but when I looked closely at his story, I realize that most of us could not even fathom the amount of tragedy he experienced in such a short time.  In one day, within minutes he lost 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys, a large number of servants, 7 sons and 3 daughters.  And then on another day he became afflicted with painful sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head.  It was on this day that his wife told him to just “‘curse God and die.'” (Job 2:9)  Job’s response is quite remarkable:

Job 2:10
“‘ You are talking like a foolish woman.
Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?'”

I can’t imagine a loss of that magnitude and a response like that either.   It says at the end of verse 10 that “In all of this, Job did not sin in what he said. ”   In the midst of insurmountable suffering, Job focused on the character of God and did not sin.

As you may know, Job and his friends have a dialogue for 36 chapters talking about Job’s suffering.  And in those chapters, Job and his friends question why a godly man would have to suffer like he did. And near the end of the book in Chapter 38, we finally hear God’s response.

Job 38:1, 4-5, 8, 12
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm…
‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it? …
Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,…
Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place,…
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?…'”

I honestly could quote the next 4 chapters because I find this dialogue the LORD is having with Job very enlightening.  I have always believed that God created our Earth and everything in it, but I don’t know if I have ever stopped to think of it in this way.  Especially growing up in the current culture, I have often thought of the ways of nature governing themselves in a sense.  It seems Science has come up with explanations for everything that happens in nature.  Reading this has allowed me to stand in awe of a God who literally laid the foundations of the Earth.  This God…MY GOD… gives orders to the morning and has storehouses of snow and hail.  He disperses the lightning and sets the path for the thunderstorm.

After the LORD spoke all these things to Job, Job responds:

Job 42:2-6
“‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, ‘Listen now and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'”

After I read the LORD’s response to Job, I can relate to Job’s response: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Reading this passage of Scripture has given me a new view on what it means to fix my eyes on Jesus.  It has given me a glimpse of His glory, His power, and His sovereignty and it has humbled me.   When we start to fathom the amazing power, love and grace of this God that we serve, we naturally want to fall at His feet and respond like Mary did when she was told she would carry the child that would be Christ:

Luke 1:37-38
“‘For nothing is impossible with God.
I am the LORD’s servant,’ Mary answered.
‘May it be to me as you have said.'”

So today as I continue to walk through this unrelenting storm,  I humbly come to the throne of Grace and confess my sin and my desperate need for a Savior.  His grace allows me to accept what He has allowed to touch my life and immediately entrust it back to Him. The cry of my heart is that I can daily respond as Mary did:  “For nothing is impossible with God.  May it be to me as you have said.”

2 thoughts on “May it be: Our heart’s response to an an unrelenting storm

  1. Oh Sue, this is beautifully written and, I can tell, inspired by God. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing… for your honesty and humility. This brought tears to my eyes and conviction to my own heart. Love you!

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