Rest is lost on the racetrack

If you are struggling because you seem to be missing God, do me a favor: Sit down, be quiet for a few minutes, and don’t move. Don’t be rigid, but rest.

God Himself has been watching your every move, ready to meet you, but unable to get your attention long enough for you to consciously slow down and move in to hear what He has to say to you.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God can feel far away even when we have been peaceful in our anticipation of His revelation.  But, if that’s where you are, and you’re growing impatient, know that the story isn’t over. You can’t write up your disappointment report until God moves, speaks or reaches out to you.

The question is not, will God respond? but will I like how He responds? God never fails to return the attention we give Him, but we must learn how to interpret the aspects of that return.

If God takes longer than we think He should to answer us, is He wrong? If He says no, when every happiness in the world pointed to yes, has He deprived us unfairly? If He says yes when we were desperate for Him to relieve us with a calm no, has He lost His compassion; can we no longer trust Him to do good on our behalf?

Before you try to make those judgments, I wonder if you have realized that God never said that any of those things were not good. And if I may now go one step further, I am curious if you know that He is adamant that they are good so long as He has chosen to give you this response to prayer. This is true because everything that God does is good — absolutely every time.

Now consider that God grants half of your wish: you ask for peace and happiness and He gives you peace. Do you judge His response as soon as it comes, or do you turn to the Lord in a spirit of humble submission and offer the Lord your worship even in your momentary ignorance of the beauty in His plans?

Let me tell you that God wants the latter, but not just for His own sake. Take this into account:

More than anything else, our prayers teach us what we value and show us where we need to grow. He is working to make clear to us, in every instance that we seek Him, just how we are missing the heart of God. But He does this not for the purpose of finding fault with us. He does everything with the intent of bringing us closer to Him, and bringing our character into greater conformity with His.

This is not a punishment, but an opportunity in everything we do to be like God and full of God. There could be no greater gift: God, when He is known for who He truly is, proves in us, that He is nothing short of everything we live to know and experience.

Do we vaunt pride more than patience; do we value power over persistence; do we seek prestige to the neglect of persecution? Then we are missing the point of living, the object of seeking God.

No matter what He says, I want to be able to show off God’s answers to my prayer, especially the ones that show His glory in contrast to my sin. For, how can He appear more faithful, more purposeful, more compassionate and merciful if I deny that I need all these things? And if I do not realize and proclaim that I am in debt to Him in all these ways, I will absolutely revert to believing that I am deserving of everything that comes to me from Him — and then, even more than that.

So, the keys to hearing, and more importantly relating, to God are resting and waiting. And the way we rest and wait is summed up perfectly in James 1:4:

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Recognize that God’s ways are above your own. Rather than grumbling, use your responsive efforts to praise Him for that — knowing that the end will make clear His wisdom that is mysteriously in play now. Let us not meet that end and be grieved that God’s only offering from  us was anxiety and displeasure.

It is impossible to have regrets with God when we trust Him. When we rely on Him with our whole being, we will neither look back with disappointment at His behavior toward us, nor remorse for our behavior toward Him.

Let Me See You, O God!

God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.

So don’t return us to mud, saying,
“Back to where you came from!”
Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether
a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we’re at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
since we were children is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
Is that all we’re ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
such anger against the very ones who fear you?

Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

Psalm 90

What Did You Expect?

It was totally going to work, and then _____ had to happen! Have you had that happen to you lately — something that ought to have worked out perfectly for you because you were depending on the outcome? But, because it didn’t, you have a situation you’d rather not have to deal with right now.

How many problems in our lives spring out of things that just had to work, and didn’t? Like a surgery, a test, an emergency response, a call for help. I don’t have much experience with these examples, but many of you do. You know what it’s like when it seems like God isn’t there. Or, maybe you believe He is still there, but are dissatisfied with what He’s doing.

How many of us feel that we are at odds with Him because He works, but not by our standards of excellence? Maybe the problem is more with us than we realize, though.

No, maybe the situation that we’re in isn’t our fault, but what if that’s not God’s main focus? What if He’s more tuned into our response to what is going on than we can understand? What do we do then?

If He knows what we’re going through, and He is choosing to be a part of it all, why isn’t He shaping up everything to look and feel better now?

I think the key here could be that idea we have of everything. What is that part that God has chosen to work on? Is it our circumstances or our hearts; our wants or our attitudes?

When I look at a problem I have, I look for what God is doing with the BIG things — what is going on around me — not so much in me. But, are those really the big things — at least as far as God is concerned?

Do we really think that God, when He seems sluggish to us in the matters that are most important to us, that He is not at the same time working consistently in the matters that are most important to Him? Could it be that He is operating in such a way as to turn our hearts to what His heart is after?

A Lanuage I Can’t Translate

Why do I feel like I always have to be running when I don’t really have anywhere to go? Why does being still and waiting feel so abnormal, when I need direction anyway? No matter how far I come in my relationship with God, His ways will still be foreign territory to me; a language I can’t translate without Him near to replace my insight with His.

There are so many things I want to have Him involved with in my life, yet my first reaction when I see Him in something is always, “Oh, God, You’re messing everything up!”

Why are my plans and ambitions so important to me; so much more important to me than what He has had planned for me since before time began? You would think with all that time and all that infinite wisdom, He would know a thing or two, and I would revere that, but is that like me? No.

I get excited at the good ideas I come up with for myself, and try to shelter them from damage. But is letting them be replaced really a bad thing? Especially when God sees down the road and knows where I would be going if I followed plans that offer me such a foggy hope.

Yes, God knows best…if only He would continue to make my heart know and live by that too!

Walking Home to Him

There have been several periods in my life where I have felt profoundly hopeless, or at least short on my supply of hope. I’ve keenly wondered where God was and how He planned to restore my hope and the feeling that I was truly blessed. I wanted to believe, yet I also wanted to not have too much trouble seeing. To demand to see is to long to feel easily aware of what we would rather not hang our whole beings on in unflinching belief.

How little, as a people, we are open to hardships that test our beliefs, and draw out our neediness for God. We can easily proclaim that He is all that we need, when we want to feel very spiritual about our relationship with God, but when we see God test, that we treat it as the worst thing in the world.

And, perhaps it is. Perhaps God’s work to establish our souls in Him through situations and events that only faith will fit is the worst thing the god of this world and his followers will ever know. Yet, it is not something they can have any more effect on. What evidences we do see of their activity in and around us has been no less than schemes submitted to the authority of God and permitted that He might accomplish His purposes in us in such a way that He might exterminate evil and rebuff Satan at the same time, even at the point of his greatest contention: our hearts’ most deeply held allegiance.

Think about it: All the demons in this world — forces in number and power we could not fathom — seek day and night to destroy us, but remain entirely subject to our Father in heaven. They cannot make a move without His knowledge and permission.

Now, this fact may startle some of us, and make us question how the God we serve should be justified in allowing evil to have its way with us at any point. We might decide in a fit of confused rebellion, I will not accept this!

But, please, pause for a moment and consider our alternative: Evil with complete control of our lives. This is what Jesus died to save us from!

God is the One to save us from the evil we fear and the death we are powerless to ward off. Believing in Him and the power of His death to deliver us from evil does not mean that we will never again experience the effects of evil, however. While on this earth, we live in the presence of evil and the bitter consequences of its power; yet, one thing we may already know to be lifted from us, and that is sin’s legal power — it can no longer separate us from the forgiving mercy and loving security of God. We who are in Christ can know in full, throughout our time on earth, the freedom Christ has bought for us from death, damnation and a darkened heart.

That is all the blessing we really need in this life; as Romans 8:31 says, “So what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?” Take this to heart, and you will take Him to heart as well. Amen.