He Is Saying Your Name

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I have lived deep in pain.
When I wanted a baby and God said not yet.
pain
When my brother called and said of his pregnant wife, it’s cancer.
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When my Papa died the day my baby was born.
death
I have lost friends and family, I have been disappointed and lonely.
As have most of you.
You, too, have received the doctor’s call, heard the rejecting words, felt the crippling fear and doubt.
When you are in the middle of deep, dark pain, you are blinded. Your body curls in on itself, your eyes darken with tears. You look for Jesus, desperately searching for Him, but you cannot see Him.
In the deepest pain, He is closest.
tomb
Mary stood at the tomb, searching for Him. In the middle of her deepest pain, she searched for His dead body but was blinded by her grief. Angels spoke to her and she could not see. Jesus, the One she searched for, stood behind her and she thought He was the gardener.
empty tomb
And then.
Mary.
He is right here. As close as your very breath. And He is saying your name.
Look up. Wipe your tears away for just a moment and listen.
He is saying your name.
He has not left you. He is there, speaking to you. Can you hear Him?
hope
He died and is alive and because of that resurrection, there is new closeness with Him.
I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
There is resurrection and now there is intimacy that was not possible before.
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In the middle of your deepest pain, do not wonder anymore where Jesus is.
Turn around. He is right there behind you. Closer than He’s ever been.
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And He is saying your name.

Nothing More than Feelings

I don’t always feel God’s presence.
In fact, I might even say that I don’t often feel His presence.
He feels far away
I don’t always feel joy and peace.
I can feel lonely and depressed, irritated and angry, and then feel guilty that I feel those things when my life is so good.
I don't feel joyful
Feelings. So fickle.
The question is not whether God is still there when I don’t feel His presence.
The question is not whether God’s peace and joy are still inside me when I can’t feel them.
God promised His presence
He has already promised never to leave me. He has already promised that nothing can separate me from His love.
He has already promised that I can have joy in all circumstances. He has already promised that His peace is beyond understanding.
God promised His joy
Will I believe it?
When darkness closes in, will I believe that the light is still there?
Will I trust God’s Word more than my own heart?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ~ Jeremiah 17.9
It’s hard in a world telling us that feelings are what is real. We are taught that whatever we feel, whatever we think, this is truth.
Regardless of what I think or feel, however, there is Truth that is above all else.
God promised His peace
And that Truth tells me that I am held closely by God no matter what.
Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. ~ Colossians 1.20-22 (Italics mine)
He has already done this, and this will never change. No matter what my feelings tell me.

Whatever Is Necessary

What do we do with the truly awful things of this life? With a loss of love, with a deep constant pain, with a fear that pervades our depths?
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 Discouraged
 It is dangerous to attribute it all to our not loving God enough, although perhaps we could say that is often the case.
Our faith is, as CS Lewis once said, often only a house of cards.
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He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. ~ CS Lewis A Grief Observed
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We walk around, believing that our foundation is solid, but in truth we are playing at faith. Our house needs a good breath of wind, for if it is never allowed to fall, it can never be rebuilt to last for eternity.
If my faith is only steady enough to endure this life, wouldn’t I want God to blow it down with whatever wind is necessary so that I can endure to the end?
I’m not sure.
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I think I want this, but fear holds me back. Fear of what God, in His infinite love and wisdom, might deal out.
He never promised to be gentle.
Is any pain at all worthwhile if it brings us closer to Him, closer to the sort of life with God that Jesus lived?
The given answer should be yes, but I hesitate and pull back at the brink of giving it.
Which means that I do not yet desire God above all else.
Not truly.
Do many of us?
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We give our hearts over to so many things other than God. . .As long as our happiness is tied to the things we can lose, we are vulnerable. ~ John Eldredge Walking With God
If God is truly enough, if He is what we need for happiness, for contentment, then we should be able to let go of those we love, endure that deep pain, rise above the pervasive fear, because we still have Him.
It is God who remains when all else is gone. It is God who fills us up with Himself so that we do not need anything or anyone else.
In truth, when we lose, when we hurt, we have more of Him than we have in the comfort and in the ease. That in itself should make us turn from the easy way.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3. 7-12
If only I could believe that. Truly know it and live it.
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But without the pain of learning it.

When This World Becomes Just Too Much

ISIS
Ferguson
Tunisia
Greece
Our world is broken. It is fallen.
Cancer
Infertility
Loneliness
Joblessness
Our lives are broken. They can be dark.
That there can be ugliness in this life is not questioned by anyone. No one would argue with the idea that we all go through times of darkness, times of weeping, times of where in the world, where in all of this hurting world are You, God?
If the question then is not will I suffer, then the question must be what will I choose when I suffer.
When I hurt, will I believe that God works for the best in everything or will I wonder whether God is working at all? When I ache, will I believe that God is most present when I am at the end of myself or will I wonder whether God is really in anything at all? When I don’t know how long I can hold on, will I believe in God when I cannot see Him through the dark or will I wonder if the darkness is all that there is?
What do we do when we are sinking, when we are drowning, when we are at the end of ourselves and are pleading for relief?
Paul
Paul pleaded with God to remove his thorn. He begged God three times for release. The first two times? Heaven was silent. The third time? God said no.
Christ
Jesus asked if there was any other way but the Cross. God’s answer? No.
Why do we think it should be different for us? Why do we think that we should be exempt?
If God is most present and works most powerfully when we are at the end of our own limits, then shouldn’t we want to lean into our suffering rather than try to escape it?
Paul chose to boast of his weakness, to be content with his hardship. He chose to immerse himself in his thorn in order to gain more of Christ.
We don’t have a choice about whether we will hurt.
Our choice is in how we will respond.
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Will we spend our time begging for respite? Will we beg God to take it away and then curse Him when He does not?
Or will we receive our suffering as a gift? A gift with a purpose, even though we may never know the purpose. A gift with a promise, a promise of grace and God’s presence.
When God says no, when God says My grace is sufficient for you, instead of arguing with Him about it, instead of fighting Him with all of your strength, ask Him to help you get to the place where you can receive your adversity as a gift from a loving Father.
A gift that brings you more of His grace. A gift that brings you more of Him.
I have learned to kiss the waves that dash me against the Rock of Ages. ~ Charles Spurgeon

Art credits: The Apostle Paul sketch from 1514 A.D.; Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane by Orazio Borgianni; The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

What I Want from God

I expect God to reward me.
Expecting
Perhaps that is a bit candid, but I suspect I am not the only one.
I expect that when I do something for God, give something up for Him, that He will reward me appropriately.
I think that I can control His response by what I do.
Perhaps this is extreme, but I don’t think so.
Before our children came along, my husband and I went to China for a year to work with a house church that had been established the year before.
Missions
Travel
Serving
When we came home, we didn’t have jobs.
A month went by and we still didn’t have jobs.
Our savings started dwindling, and another month passed with no sign of gainful employment.
When work finally did come? It was a temporary position at a university. Not exactly what we had dreamed and hoped.
Through all of this, there were a lot of prayers hurled at God.
There were a lot of accusatory, “we served You!”, and “why are You deserting us?” sorts of prayers heaved toward God.
We think that if we do something for God (give up our life, give up control, do x number of acts of service), we should gain something from God (love, happiness, more than enough to live on).
Yet if God is holy, if He is worthy, if He is perfect beauty, than to see Him is to bow, to worship, to understand my own unworthiness.
God is offering us so much. He gives us His Son. He promises to make us like Him, into who we were created to be. He promises us His presence, promises to be with us, to never leave us.
So I suppose we do gain when we give up something for God.
Not houses and travel.
Home
Not adoring family and deep friendships.
Family
Not healthy body and intelligent mind.
Intelligence
None of this is promised.
What, then, do we gain?
Nothing less than God Himself.
Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ~ Revelation 21.3