So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.

Advertisements

Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

For while we were still weak, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!