Well, it's been said God works in interesting ways and I'll say, "I have to agree." For those of you visiting my blog from Encouragement Cafe today...here's a quick recap of the last sixteen days - on the 26th of July I returned home from She Speaks, a writing and speaking conference that filled me up. I left North Carolina with 3 words on my heart - "No Turning Back". God spoke to my heart, confirmed His call and assured me of His equipping. I was ready to follow His lead, yet entirely aware of my tendency to step off my mat only to crawl back on it. (See John 5)
I was back on the farm for just over 48 hours when our world was rocked...Grace, our fun, loving, full of life niece was killed in a bike/car accident. It still brings tears as I type the reality we all continue to wrestle with. Friends, I was expecting Satan to tempt me to turn back, but I was not prepared for him to leave me feeling like I wanted to quit, but that's what happened.
In those moments when my vision clears and I look at the big picture, I know God is working. Like Paul said as he sat in prison, we know God is using this for the advancement of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:12) Seeds are being planted, the Gospel was preached and is being lived out, a hurting world is witnessing the hope we have, but it's hard. It's so hard.
In the late night hours following Grace's death God woke me up, well actually my little boy did, but God kept me up and spoke words to my heart. Words I needed to hear, Truth I needed to remember and promises I need to cling to. As He did this, I did what I always do when I don't want to forget, I wrote it down. Then I read it again, prayed and asked God to use the words I needed to hear to bless someone else. I titled my post, "Grieving for, and with, Grace", hit publish and went back to bed.
The next morning I woke hoping the nightmare was over, but instead found nearly 3,000 people had read the words God put on my heart. He clearly answered my "Use me" prayer from days ago. I see that now, but over the last two weeks that hasn't always been the case...I've actually done what I prayed I wouldn't do - I crawled on my bed and wrestled with this whole serving God and speaking Truth thing. Part of me wants to delete that sentence, but God wants me to be honest. Friend, just because we have Jesus and the hope He offers doesn't make death easy. It's hard, we grieve, we miss the one we love, we don't understand, we ask "Why?", we cry...it's part of the process, but we do it with HOPE and CONFIDENCE. Even if sometimes it takes awhile.
And friend, if you're in that place, the place where it's taking awhile to stand on the Truth and cling to Christ can I encourage you? Last week I was there, I was struggling and having a hard day. I asked a few friends to pray early in the morning, but in the afternoon I continued to stumble as I tried to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It was then I had a message letting me know I had a devotional running in the coming week...I don't think I've ever talked to my computer, but I did that day as I told Mr. Dell, "I don't want a devotional!" I opened the email to find the title, "When You Want to Quit". These were words I had put on paper nearly 8 weeks ago, but ones I obviously needed to read at that moment.
HERE) and did what I had suggested to do - I wrote out the key verse - "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:14) And then I added two more - "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57) "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37) As I put these words on paper, I prayed and asked God to etch them on my heart and make them a reality in my life.
Friend, I wish I could explain all God did and said to me through what some may think are three simple sentences, but I believe it's more important to remind us all that His Word is living and active, sharper than any double edge sword (Heb. 4:12) and when it goes out it will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). His Word spoke to my heart and renewed my mind, it can do the same for you!
In the days that have passed I've thought about this more and have had to return to my card with Truth on it and Bible with Truth in it. I've wondered how to express what God has on my heart and again I share words God spoke to me praying they may also bless you. As I prayed about a post to share to acompany today's devotional, God brought to mind an interview I heard Steven Curtis Chapman do after the death of his young daughter. Someone asked if he would continue to write and sing songs that told about his faith and glorified our God. Steven paused for a bit and responded with something along the lines of "I believed it before, I know it now."
He had a choice and many would have understood if he gave up singing and doing what he'd always done, but he knew what God created him to do...live out his calling and glorify his Creator. Steven Curtis Chapman didn't quit and friend, neither should I. Or you. The truth is life is hard, the world is broken and sin is present. Bad, hard things have happened and will continue to happen. We will be tempted to turn back, tempted to quit, so decide now what are you going to do. Will you give up? Will you think it's too hard and surrender to Satan? These aren't easy questions, I'm asking myself too, but they are ones we need to consider.
Our circumstances will change, but our God never does! He is good. He is faithful. He is powerful. He is able. And friend, He is worthy and the work we do for Him, no matter how hard it is, is worthwhile! Let's pray...
Dear Heavenly Father, we come to You hurting and broken, but yet approach You with confidence knowing You are on the throne. We ask You to fill us with Your Spirit. Draw us to Yourself and feed us from Your Word. Open our ears to hear, eyes to see and tender our hearts to receive. Lord, restore to us the joy of our salvation, renew a right spirit within us and give us the desire to share the hope we have in You. Father in those moments when we are tempted to quit, remind us of who You are...a good God who's called us, a loving Father who's equipped us and the Holy Spirit who empowers us. Help us press on and walk in the victory You've already won. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus we pray, Amen