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God wouldn’t allow “that” to happen, would He?

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. 20 The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more. Isaiah 30:19-20 GNT

This will all happen when the LORD bandages and heals the wounds he has given his people. Isaiah 30:26 GNT

102    Your mind is sluggish and won’t work. You struggle to coordinate your ideas in the presence of our Lord, but it’s useless: a complete fog! Don’t force yourself, and don’t worry either. Listen closely: it is the hour for your heart.

As I read the passages from Isaiah this morning, I thought I knew what I would write about, I thought I knew the route my devotions would take me. This idea of God making us go through hard times is a challenging one, even with the promise of His presence there in the background. Knowing He is ready to heal the wounds, knowing He has got us, and while we fall, it will be into His arms.

Simple, profound, difficult thoughts.

Would God really do that? Yes, He would do anything that would help us realize He is here. To get our attention, not for His sake, but because life is too challenging to go through without knowing He is there, caring, providing, yes, disciplining when necessary – but He is there.

With this thought in mind, I turned to the last bit of devotional reading, the words of St Josemaria, and my thoughts took a different direction.

You see I resonate with the sluggish mind, I too often find myself in a fog, unable to understand what I need to, never mind be ready to teach it to others. The days when my meds slow me down, or perhaps I didn’t eat right and my blood sugar is too high or low. Or maybe it is, like so often, I have many things to cope with, and it takes a while to hear which God would have me see Him work in, in that moment. (Rather than my prioritizing them!)

But added to the fog is my guilt and shame over it. Why can’t I beat it? Why can’t I be at my peak performance at all times, why do I have to grasp? Why can’t I force myself through this mental/spiritual block I have? Anxiety will set in, and I keep imagining the disappointment of God, because the things I have been entrusted with, take more time than they should, and aren’t done to my specification.

St. Josemaria tells me not to worry. Huh, what does he know! (did I actually just say that?) In fact, having read The Way a half dozen times or more, I don’t think I really read this one, really read it an thought thorugh it before.

As is proper, the Scriptures give me what I need to understand why I shouldn’t struggle and force myself, and why I shouldn’t worry and get flabbergasted. Isaiah gives me the “why”.

If there was an issue, if it was serious, then I believe God would, in His time, bring about the hard times, the wounds He would need to bandage, He would bring me running to Him. He cares about us that much, He loves us that much. He wants us aware of His presence.

There is a time for this fog, a time to be still and listen with the new heart that God has given us when He baptized us, The heart of Christ, where the Holy Spirit resides and makes Himself at home.

It is a time to be blessed, a time to be comforted, a time to be able to realize only one thing, we dwell in His presence… and that is enough. Confident that He will do what is necessary, we depend on a God who loves us, and find the rest we need.

(Realizing of course, that if we are off course, He will correct us.)

That is what faith is… being able to stop… and enjoy the fog that blocks everything until we recognize the Lord is with us!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 390-392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Encouragement for those who wonder “if it is worth it”

Devotional thought of the Day:
1 I urge you, Timothy, as we live in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus (whose coming in power will judge the living and the dead), to preach the Word of God. Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season. Prove, correct, and encourage, using the utmost patience in your teaching.   2 Timothy 4:1 (Phillips NT) 

110  Rest assured: when you work for God, there are no difficulties that cannot be overcome, nor discouragements that will make you abandon the task, nor failures worthy of the name, however unfruitful the results may seem.  (1)

There are times life seems to difficult, the challenges to overwhelming, making progress seems impossible, and even maintaining where we are at, doubtful.

This is especially true for those who walk with God, who look at the world that Jesus sends us to bring the message of His love to, even as the Father sent Jesus.

We hear stories, like that of the lady in Britain who will have an abortion, so that she can appear on a reality television show.  ( She’s publicized it, which will put the reality show in a tough spot – will they re-issue the invite?  It will gain them publicity – but…)

But I don’t even have to go that far to see the challenges faced in this world.  The couple that gets married, but brings too much baggage from prior relationships, the person who is dealing with so much resentment in one relationship that it poisons other relationships, the pastor who is challenged by not seeing any changes in his people., that they haven’t grow in the two, or ten, or twenty years,  Is there a point where we should give up?  Where we stop giving them the answers that point them to Jesus Christ?  Is there a point where we come to the conclusion that it just isn’t worth the sacrifice anymore?

Or do we turn to “life coaches”, new programs, spend great deals of money trying to find a way to have measurable success?   There are enough programs out there, enough guru’s and experts and consultants, to last a lifetime.

Or do we stick to our guns, keep things just the way they are, taking great pride in our stubbornness, even in the face of defeat.  After all, one can serve faithfully even if it makes us miserable, the point is being faithful, right?

Faithfulness on our end is not about giving up, or finding the miracle program/person, or even sticking to our idea of being faithful.  It is about having faith, trusting that God has told us to go, but that there will be seasons of life, and seasons of ministry that are barren like winter, some are like the rapid growth of spring, others like the dog days of summer, and others where the beauty of fall shows the glory of God, and the value of being patient. In each of those seasons, our work is to point to Jesus, to His love, to correct those that are veering away from it,

We should evaluate our messages, our work, how we prove and correct and encourage others to look to Jesus. To trust in Him, not in us or to a style of ministry or worship.  But all that work has to be done with patience, knowing that in each of us, there is the struggle of sinners and saints. That is our key, patience that is born in our faith in God, in our confidence that He is reigning, that He is in charge.

It’s hard, very hard. We are like the rest of the world, we want to do what we want. But when we trust in God, when we know we can focus on Him, we begin to see those promises revealed in our midst. Luther, a man who struggled through many dry seasons, and many were life seemed forgotten said it well, as he wrote about the Lord’s prayer:

Truly, God’s good and gracious will is accomplished without our prayer. But we pray in this request that is be accomplished among us as well.  (2)

His will, will be accomplished.  It will, we have that promise.  Yet we need to know it is being accomplished here, in our midst, in our presence. (and it helps a lot to see the role we play in this -even if minimal)  We have to trust God – and keep focused on Him – even if that simply means praying the Kyrie.

Patience is the same kind of trust we have in the Lord, that He will deliver us, it is the faith that sees God revealing to us His love and mercy…

Struggling?  Look to Him.  things not working our – Look to Him…

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 661-662). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Impatience, Broken hearts and Christian Ministry.

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Devotional thought of the day:

3  There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, 4  and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 5  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! 6  Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.  Romans 5:3-6 (MSG)

The world is cold and seems to be asleep. You often look on it, from your vantage point, with a glance that would set it on fire. Lord, may it awaken! Channel your bursts of impatience and be sure that if we manage to keep our whole life alight, we shall set every corner of the world alight, and the way it all looks will change.  (1)

By no means am I naturally patient.  It is not the gift I’ve been given, and  this is seen quite easily.  This morning, getting some lab work done, I was frustrated that there were 4 others before me.  I know ther has been as many as 20 before, but this morning, with places to go, people to minister to – waiting 10 minutes seemed like a month.

I am especially impatient when it comes to dealing with pain.  You know – the physical pain of them drawing blood ( 4  quart vials it seemed like! ) Or the spiritual pain of grieving, or the pastoral heart pain of watching people choose to do that which will hurt them.

“Why won’t they listen?” we ask.
“Why won’t they at least try it God’s way?”
“when will they ‘get it’?

Every minister I know has suffered from such impatience, such heart break as people continue to choose their own way.

Most of us have been tempted to hammer them, to “use the law” to crush them until they repent, until they conform to God’s plan. (or at least ours)   We want to find something to do to turn them into “supersaints”, to help them overcome all their sin,, to get their acts right and for them to become the next Billy Grahams.   We want that prodigal to turn for home as soon as he gets to the end of the driveway.  It doesn’t always work that way though.

But can we have God’s patience, the father’s patience with them, and still pray and encourage and take the moments we have to call them back to Christ?

It’s hard… its really hard…dang it, it’s hard.

The apostle Paul notes it as well,

18  I’m passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, 19  keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we’re in. There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith. 20  Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of them. I let them wander off to Satan to be taught a lesson or two about not blaspheming.  1 Timothy 1:18-20 (MSG) 

What a challenge this is!  How our soul, itself broken and impatent, struggles with such days of ministry!  Yet, learning to discern when to speak – and how to speak, and when to let the prodigal go is a skill that comes with maturity.

I find it interesting that Romans finds the solution in trusting Christ, in looking to His promises, the work we expect that He will do, in any time of trial, and that includes this one.

Escriva’s comment is similar – that we funnel our impatience into our own life, opening it up to see God work in us.   TO see God eradicate our own sin, and the things that would quench our spirit. Paul mentions this proactively to TImothy as well, telling Timothy not to walk down the road where these brothers walked….

As I thought through this… I think it is an essential part of our ministry, to be ready, in season and out, whether the time is right or not in our mind.  For prodigals do return home, and we need to be aware of how we’ve been welcomed back home ourselves.

For it is in realizing the grace we’ve been given, that we find the love and mercy to welcome them home.

So pray, intercede, contemplate God’s love for them and for us and be ready…  

to rejoice in their home coming.

Lord have mercy!

 

 

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1424-1428). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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