What is there in death that is not grace?

“God, I can’t live this dependent on You.” My words are truth–an admission of undeniable need–not a whining attempt to manipulate His hand by way of His heart. “Every day it becomes more obvious: You have set me on a path that is not equal to my abilities. In Your sovereignty over the grand scheme of my life, You were not looking for a way to make my strengths and Your goals compatible. Rather, You have made a way that allows only for all strength to come from You.

“Truly, Father,” I go on, in a tired way. “I cannot pretend that this is easy for me to take. It isn’t. I feel like You’re taking away my freedom. I feel like you are condemning me to death. I can’t escape and I don’t know how to live here either. What am I to do? How am I to continue on this unfriendly-to-me path? Nothing I’ve ever experienced in life presents me with examples of how to handle this latest test. I am helpless, in myself.”

My child, that is exactly how I want you to be. In the greater-than-you difficulties of your condition, you are most present to grace. All your reaching from that place can but be for Me. I know it feels like death to you but, loved one, you must grow to embrace death in My hands just as you embrace life. I am the One who provides for you in both–I am the One who uses both for your good.

I know you don’t want to see good from Me in this way. But, My tender one, it is time. You are ready to face this. You must grow deeper in Me, and this is what is required. If there could be another way, I would execute it. Yet, My still one, you will not truly suffer: The gain you shall receive through this is knowing more acutely the pleasing submission I exhibited in My death. You will understand what gave value and depth to My resurrection.

You will be acquainted more deeply–more feelingly–with My travails for you. You will be consumed by Love in a greater way. You will rejoice–on the other side–for you will know that your God did not hold back from you any revelation that would bless you; though, at times they ran so deep that they exposed your weaknesses.

Can a God, jealous for my love, still be true when I am jealous for more than Him?

“I’m jealous, Lord,” I confess in a mourning voice, “of what others have. It wouldn’t be so bad,” I continue, “if I didn’t seem to have so little myself…” I pause as my wandering glance is arrested by several reasons for thanksgiving peaking out at me, daring me to be honest about what God has given me.

I try, but cannot address those things in words; rather, I hope that gratitude will be a whisper He hears from the recesses of my heart. How I need Him to listen carefully, I think to myself. Otherwise it would be a disaster: He could misunderstand my words for those of a grasping child who recognizes none of His faithfulness. He could become fed up with me and turn away from me forever.

Not completely over my fear, I am forced to continue the emptying of my soul. The potency of my feelings will allow me no other recourse. “Daddy, it’s just that I was having such a hard time being content as it was, and then–tada–there is my nemesis with more than me in just the places that I was hoping You would finally decide to bless me.

“I try to put it out of my mind; to be grateful in spite of this, but…I can’t take it! Why would You double things up on me like this? I thought You had mercy on Your children. But this feels more like I’m being squished–and quite on purpose! Please explain Yourself, Lord.”

And then His answer to my pleas falls upon me like a blanket of silent snow. Each word communicates that He is still here with me–whatever my condition and whatever imagination I lack regarding the benefits of His grace:

I do not have to explain Myself to you. All you need is for Me to give Myself to you, to reveal Myself in mystery; to captive your heart with healing that transcends the trials I’m using to show your need for Me to be these things to you.

You do not need change, My child; you need patience that waits upon Love with confidence which no circumstances can shift or shortchange. That’s what you need and I am giving it to you.

Lord, what is it that brings You near, making Your name to be my fear?

I don’t understand why my life has had to remain unpredictable and unstable for this long, Lord. I thought walking with You would give me good reason to hope and grow in expecting good things. But, God, I don’t understand: Have the good things I am waiting for gotten lost; have the good things I used to know fled to never return? God, I’m trying to make sense of what You’re doing but, instead, all I can make sense of is how I feel closed off from all the things that used to make my life seem so sweetly perfumed with Your love. Please, give me some imagination: I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with myself in the absence of so much blessing.

Wake me up, Father, to Your goodness to me in this day. May I not be so wrapped up in what I loved about yesterday that I am not able to fully appreciate what it means to have you with Me in in every moment of my now. God, I cannot cultivate a heart like this, but You can show Your glory in doing this in me.

Father, this is Your day that You have appointed. You have control over it and You alone. It is not for me to tell You what You should do with it, or how You should use it to benefit me. It is first and foremost designed to bring glory and satisfaction to You. It is filled with pressure so that I may be driven close to You; it is not sheltered from pain or confusion so that it may be at Your breast that I receive the comfort that I equate with Life. Only You know how this can be done and yet no day does it fail to happen. You and Your mercies are all over my life. That is all that must be said, all that must be so. Amen.

…And You think of me?

Where are You today, God? What occupies Your mind concerning me? Do I make Your Top Ten list of important thoughts and interests? What do You make of me and how can I know what that is?

Have you ever asked God these questions? If not, it’s about time you have. These are important things for you to know. Too important, for you to try to get along without. Don’t let fear or pride get in the way of letting God spill out the contents of His unfailing love within your heart. He’s anxious to do so–won’t you let Him?

We’re together in everything–right, Lord?

I sit, uneasy. “With the world resting on my shoulders, I feel left alone by You,” I tell my Lord. “I can’t understand how I’m ever going to see You in this mess. I just don’t feel that I have enough strength to hold out for what You’re doing. Do You think You could give me a break, or at least let me know that we’re in this together?”

Oh, My Child, could it be that I would leave you? Is there a way that I could forget that you needed Me? Beloved, you must understand this: You may forget that you have needs, but I do not forget that you are as you are in My hands. I do not grow mystified by your condition nor do I forget what love looks like to you.

But, My Favored Child, you must understand that I will use many things to grow you that you may not understand in the moment. Yet, little one, do not question My love. My love is what supersedes your understanding with grace that is too great for you to fathom. Come, come near Me and you will find your rest–not in answers, but in the One who answers you.

If I can’t expect to enjoy the same way I did last time, is it worth coming to Him at all?

About two weeks ago I had an incredible week with God. Every day felt like a private conference between God and I that would put went deeper in its benefits than any other symposium could parallel. Each day seemed to have a new theme of grace that featured interactions with God that took a turn down paths I’d not yet have the privilege of traversing. What I had gotten used to with God was swept away in the tantalizing novelties I experienced.

But, like other conferences I’ve attended in the past, this one had it’s end: When it had served its purpose, it faded out of my life. I was left to put into my day-to-day life the fresh energies God had filled me with while I was in His presence. Now, there is a definite extent to which this God-imposed exchange seems a terrible concept. My initial feelings suggests that God is a bit cruel. How could He give a gift characterized by such intensity and then cause it to dissipate in such short order?

Here is a distinct example of how God’s thoughts are not like mine. When I grow familiar with a particular movement of God and I strain with hopes that it will last forever. God never favors preserving my fear-based desire that He not introduce any further alterations to my situation. Rather, He kindly overspreads me with His love; love that shifts me and turns my heart from focusing on what He gives to focusing singly on Him.

He doesn’t help me by making allowances for my propensity to look at His hands and lose my concern for beholding His face. His mode of service looks more like intervention. And, as we all know, intervention (when it’s coming our way) is never wholly pleasant. But the thing for you and I to remember is that God takes in the whole picture of our lives when He cares for us. What may give us grief for a moment does not lose it’s potential to give us more pleasure in God in the future.

Contrary to what our hearts may believe, pleasure is something that we need to learn. Pleasure cannot be divorced from God, and as people who have been divorced from Him through sin, we have lost the knack for it. Therefore, we must trust God in the way He chooses to conduct this training. His Spirit, alone, knows how to instate the deepest of joys in our hearts. We may not always understand the manner by which He’s doing it, but we can learn to trust the Love that dictates them. In that way He becomes the draw in all things, not what He’s doing or how we feel about any of it.

 

Wikipedia: He is a third-person, singular personal pronoun in Modern English, as well as being a personal pronoun in Middle English.

When’s the last time you found it difficult to function and God took over?

I’m a tired mess today. I haven’t been able to sleep for many weeks and I’m feeling the lack of refreshment more and more with each passing day. I’m kinda wondering what’s going on. No, I don’t exactly have a reason to give you for why I’m not getting sufficient sleep, but I do know God is working through it.

Despite my temporary physical- and mental-compromise–which has been especially bad this past week–God’s overflowing kindness has not been compromised at all. He’s taken these otherwise difficult days and loaded them up with almost more mercy than I can stand. The blessings seem endless. Where I have nothing to give, He gives all there more. It’s almost like He’s been saying, “Elaine, you can’t do anything significant with these days because of your condition? Here, let Me step in and show you that I can make everything significant if you will let Me take over.”

And what blessings I’ve seen since! It moves me to tears to see His kindness continually unfolding in my weakest of moments. Somehow, some way, God always makes phenomenal grace come out of whatever seems to me a nonredeemable reality of difficulty. Based on my experiences with God so far, I believe that God doesn’t save His best for last so much as He prepares us to receive His most abundant fillings when we are most empty and ready to want more.

That has been a mammoth theme threaded through every moment of this heart-tenderizing time. God does not give us what we don’t need. And sometimes, if we don’t know we need something, He will allow the needs we wouldn’t otherwise see to become acutely disturbing.

How fun! you might be thinking. Thanks, God. But don’t go there just yet. Hang in there a little bit. If God is doing something in your life, no matter what it looks like or feels like right now–even if it’s presently taking something away from you–don’t put an end to what God’s doing before He does. Though it may look pretty black today, it is still possible for God to be good (even to you) when you can’t see the good that you want to see. Yeah, you may be restless now and grace at work in your life may be looking a little strange, but take the time to discover what’s deeper than Your symptoms–What is God working at? Surely He has a purpose for shifting things around on you so inconveniently. Have you asked Him what He’s doing, and not just ask for an answer, but for the glory to wait until He’s ready to answer?

 

Why should I keep at this when it’s so hard?!

I feel tired. Worn down. Empty of anything to give. My words on God’s activity in me once sounded so grand, even eloquent. Now, what I wish I could tell, I can’t. This has turned into a longer journey than I thought it would be. One with few get-up-and-shout-in-celebration moments along the way. There are wonderful moments all along the way–don’t get me wrong–but they often spontaneously arrest me as spots of beauty and hope amidst an otherwise ambiguous journey.

These days those spots God nestles in my life seem less and less the substance of things seen. They are deep workings of God’s Spirit in my heart. The surprising thing, to me, is that what cannot be seen with the physical eyes can often be difficult to speak of as well. This makes these wonderful moments feel like a bit of a handicap when I consider them after they’ve passed. They worked well in connecting me with God, but they seem to do little in connecting me with others. Who will understand me with stories like these? I find myself asking.

It’s not just that what I would have to share is so crazy, but that no one talks about the things that I would like to say. I get the feeling, sometimes, that no one really goes that deep, and they would prefer that I didn’t either. I try my best to comply in a way that puts the interests of others above my own, but so many dreams of highly meaningful relationships must die as I do this. That’s why I love to write–or am learning to love writing–because I realize it is the doorway to greater possibilities than I often find in normal conversation. Here, as I write, I get to share the perfusion of my soul and find others who identify with the words these things compel. What a blessing!

Lately I’ve been identifying with Mary (the mother of Jesus), concerning how she once hid away in her heart the many astounding things that she was a witness to from the point of Jesus’ entrance into her life to the climax of His mission at the cross. I imagine the quiet wonder she must have daily been infused with as she encountered the rare operations of the Holy Spirit upon her and upon her Son. How it must have plagued her heart to not be able to share so many of the amazing things God was doing with the family, friends and townspeople that she would have grown up with! Her soul was blossoming all the time, while her friendships probably wilted–not for lack of care, but for lack of deepening identification.

I think there is a special kind of pain known to the disciples of Christ who go through many trials in His name. There are so many who sit on the sidelines and suppose that people so near to Jesus should not have to go through such horrific or continuous tests. Or else they wonder at why a person should make such a big thing of walking with God–as though it were an all-encompassing thing. They recommend a break from such things, a chance to get ones thoughts and life in order. What they really mean is find out how to escape the very things that God’s using in your life to mold you into the image of Christ. They attempt to encourage a sufferer to remove ones presence from the gifts God gives.

This discourages me. I wish there could be more encouragement available to those of us who walk through difficult seasons with our Lord. I wish there were more understanding, more rejoicing with us in the monumental things God works out of monumental pains. But so often there is either quietness or rejection to meet our attempts to share what goes on between us and God. Thus, my following Christ has become a quiet thing–something I pour my heart and soul into, but mostly in the context of private interactions with the Lord.

I want to give Him everything I have–even when I don’t always fully understand what He will do with it. This is something I wouldn’t take leave of or give up. I just don’t understand why so many of the side-benefits that used to go with this relationship have faded as my intimacy with God has deepened. I guess somethings don’t go with us when we commit ourselves to running after God. For one thing, we’re not plodding along in a covered wagon that pulls along all our belongings behind us. Some of us have left that behind to be able to walk and keep pace with God in a much more unhindered fashion. We have wanted nothing between Him and us. I guess it’s just that sometimes we forget…that comes with a price.

I don’t know how God can possibly change me enough to make me congruent with everything that He stands for. I’ve done all that I can do in giving my life over to Him and asking Him to do what He wants with it. Now, I must wait. I cannot accomplish the change that remains for Him to make: the change that transforms me into a person who delights in His will in all things and wants what He wants as though it was the only thing worthy of concidering. That is a great work; when I surrender, I do not perfect that. I simply invite God to begin the work that will deliver me to that end. I’ve never seen it in full, but I’ve seen some pretty fantastic glimpses! I don’t know how, but He will change me to match the experiences of my life that He’s allowed to change.

I’ve found, so far, that where God raises the stakes, He raises my expectation and perception of Him–and that’s worth everything He takes me through to get there. I will take this journey. I shall consider myself blessed to be given the honor of being raised to such glories in Christ. I will consider God as One bestowing blessing on me and not a curse. I will ignore my feelings to the extent that I will not let them rule how I see God. This is not easy. God will have to do it in me. But, I believe if He got me on this path, He can furnish the means for me to walk in it and trust Him all along the way. He knows each new doubt I face and how to bring it down, to bow before His majesty. I want Him to do it and He wants to do it more. Hallelujah!

 

God: Giver of freedom or Minder of minions?

Does that second definition resonate with you? I know it has for me. When it came to God, I felt no welcoming to come and know Him. I felt a calling, yes, but to me it was a brutal thing that clawed at me almost mercilessly in any moments I had–as unusual as I tried to make them–of relative repose.

Do you labor, like I did, under the burden of believing that God is a hard task-master and an undesirable companion in your life’s journey? Do you hear, at times, pleasant things about God and find yourself wishing they were true–if only what you knew of God were not so? Do you understand God to be nothing more than a judgmental tyrant? Do you wish there was some way you could negotiate with Him for a level of amnesty? Not so that there could be a greater possibility of closeness between you–there is no way you would be so audacious as to seek that; instead, you desire to quiet down the battle-hype between you and God.

I can understand this penchant for seeing God with that dominating proclivity for casting humans into despair with His unyielding expectations and crushing judgments. It is such a bad thing for us to think these things because if we had an acquaintance who demonstrated even a sprinkling of these characteristics, we would not be in anyway confusing our relationship as a friendship. We would resent the day they came on the scene of our lives. If they stay, we can be sure that they will ruin everything that we happen to love.

Considering the weight of these conclusions we have about God, it’s no wonder that we try to keep God from being close–we don’t want to be any nearer to these negative distinctions than we have to. But would God have it to be this way? Does He want His person to leave you with such an unappealing impression? I used to think He didn’t care. This was obviously the way He wanted things to be.

But, if we’re trying so hard to maintain a significant distance from God, how can we really be sure of what He’s thinking or wanting in regard to us? If we engaged in this type of relationship-management with anyone else, any objective observer would find it necessary to challenge the untested assumption we had about the other. It would not be sufficient to look at there actions of days, months or years past to make present-judgments. We would be required to explore the matter and gather more recent facts and conclusions. There is always the possibility–with our human counterparts–that with time they have changed. What we thought they were at one time may have been accurate, but today it may be in need of a revision.

Too often we conclude God is so different from us–different enough to make Him appalling in His starkness. But why do we think this? Where do these perceptions come from? For many of us, it must come from more than circumstantial evidence, since our shared part with God in this state has been minimal, at best. Would you be inclined to consider that we were born with this broken perception–with this desire to keep ourselves apart from God, apart from and before the interactions we’ve had with Him and His world.

This is going to take a lot of work to sort out. But there is truly nothing we have more time to sort out. This is the main thing we were meant to decide with our lifetimes. But don’t be discouraged if this sounds like something that is out of your league. It’s out of every humans league but for the fact that God calls out to us with every intention of making Himself known, if we are willing to receive Him; if we will but he made to learn and then distinguish who He is from what we’ve thought and what we’ve been told by other sources.

I wish I could tell you right now all that I know He wants you to hear. How He wants His love to break in on you renew your mind with joy and peace. How He has good plans for you that are deep enough to include everything in your history and present circumstances you have considered to be nothing less than the pitiful reflection of a bad plan or an equally bad Planner. God wants you to know–to accept into the deepest places of your soul–the reality that His love is not simple nor scripted; rather, it takes a lifetime of basking in (or abiding as the Bible calls it) to even begin to understand it, to trace out its waves of light that convey energy and hope to the human that depends on it.

There is so much more to say, but I trust that God will say it. He’s always speaking to you, anticipating the joy He will share with you when you turn attend Him, when you bring your heart in full to share with each moment He gives you. When you discover that He gave you life to encounter Him, to experience Him, to disclose yourself fully to Him and find Him complying. That is just a tiny picture of who God is. If you didn’t catch the steadily growing whisper of freedom in the words, ask for God to change your perceptions of Him until they are true and delighting.