I’m tempted to not want to remember 2020. Painful memories and disappointments that led to a lot of lamenting, yet with them, breakthrough. And for that reason, I reminisce. Not because I enjoy suffering, but because of what it gives birth to. The pursuit is not suffering. The pursuit is Jesus. And our suffering gives way to his likeness. Romans 5 has been on my mind lately. This idea of persevering. And not just that, but persevering in hope.
“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. Not only that, but 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]
Disappointments endeavor to steal away our hope. More than ever this year I felt like I had to fight to remain hopeful. I’d tell myself it would be okay because God is good and he would make it right eventually. Which is all true, but after awhile I grew tiresome even in this, until the Lord gently revealed to me the area of self-reliance. Again, calling me back to a place of sweet surrender and reliance upon him.
I often equated perseverance with hardship. As if it’s something I had to strive for or work at. This idea of enduring just seems laboursome. But I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be.
Yes, long-suffering requires patience and trust, but what it doesn’t require is might. Paul, in Romans 5, talks about our sufferings producing a kind of endurance, the kind that in turn produces a character in us that gives way to hope. And better yet, a hope that does not disappoint! For it is the hope of the glory of God, in whom we have eternal peace and joy through Jesus. Believers, you also have this hope in you. Living and active! For God has already poured out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit IN US.
I want to encourage you – the thing that brings about suffering and causes you to lose hope is actually the very thing the Lord is using to produce a perseverance and new hope in you! This kind of character and hope is found no other way but through the persevering. There is no striving to endure, only surrendering to the process already at work.
Persevering in hope is near impossible when we look to own strength. But praise God we don’t have to! Praise God for allowing suffering. Praise his Spirit who is already moving through our sorrow as we submit to him. And praise Jesus for his redemptive work within us.
Be curious ones :: curiosity is what draws us into the presence of God. Longing to know that which we don’t understand can either bring us pure frustration or deep humility. In an effort to know God we can grow weary. I think one solution to this lies with the question, How do we posture our hearts toward God? With obligation or might? Or that of wonder and awe?
Moses, in the Bible, was drawn toward the burning bush out of a curiosity at something he did not understand nor think possible. There he was met by God. Only he first had to remove his sandals, for the Lord said he was on holy ground. I sometimes think what would’ve happened if Moses hadn’t removed his sandals. If he walked on by and just ignored this phenomenon all together?
If we long to hear the voice of God, we must first learn to posture our hearts toward humility. With a desire to know the heart of God. We must come with an open mind and act with obedient faith—God will meet us there. And we will be left in awe of who he is, all that he is and all that we do not yet know. For who can understand him? He is beyond all things. But those that seek him WILL be found by him. And their peace will be sure. Their joy abundant. And their hope secure.
Lately I’ve been thinking I should have more answers.. more knowledge as to defend my faith. And that’s good, I believe God wants that for us. But maybe more than us pursuing and wanting knowledge, God just wants us—our love, our affections, our obedience, our hearts inclined to his.
We do not have to understand him to know him. But we do have to seek him to truly find him. He is not far and in fact he is very near. My encouragement is that as we become curious ones, we would draw near to the heart of God and into the fullness of his presence. Emmanuel. God with us.
Embracing the present moment :: I heard someone say today, “Don’t count down the days til the end of quarantine, count UP the days to how much you can grow in this time.” And I think about wisdom and wanting to know what Jesus desires for us right now. Has it changed or has it always been the same and now maybe we begin to see differently? Because our eyes are looking around, our hearts are looking in, and our mind is looking for an answer.
There are a lot of voices out there right now. But the voice of Jesus and the wisdom found in his word are the only ones that matter. So here I give glory and testimony to Jesus.
When quarantine drove us indoors, I started asking the Lord a million questions. And I was always given the same answers - “I love you. I’ve got this. You can trust me. Stay right here where I can love you best.” Resting in his plan is easy when we know his nature.
That said, this time “alone” for the most part has been raw and refining for me. I’ve messed up countless times, but I’ve also had moments of victory over my emotions and selfishness. And every time I’ve chosen the better way, the way that leads to more of Jesus, I literally weep with joy and thankfulness. His power helps me choose, his grace is sufficient and his presence is enough. I am in love with this man Jesus - all he’s done, all he IS.
These days are short and precious days to be pouring out our affections for him - the only thing that will last for eternity. Let’s not waste this gift of time and opportunity to choose to love him with everything we are! “Lord teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” [Ps.90:12]
This weekend as we consider the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, my prayer is that we’re all beginning to see it with new hope, greater love and clarity and with more vibrancy than ever before.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. May we look carefully then how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” [Eph. 5:13-17]
“When we have sold our identity to the judges of this world, we are bound to become restless, because of a growing need for affirmation and praise. Indeed we are tempted to become low-hearted because of our constant self-rejection. And we are in serious danger of becoming isolated, since friendship and love are impossible without a mutual vulnerability.” – Henri Nouwen
This passage from Nouwen’s book, Out of Solitude, has been on my mind recently. It’s true, isolation is becoming more of a danger than ever. It’s easy to hide behind our phones, computers, social accounts, blogs and platforms. But human connection, not digital connection, is what we were designed for.
Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire.” It says in verse 24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
I’ve known the destructiveness of being isolated. And I’ve known the sweetness of beautiful, vulnerable friendship. Nothing is better than knowing the love of a true friend. I’m so thankful this season for the sweet gift of friendship with my Savior–our truest friend, Jesus. No one could ever amount to his companionship and love.
The holiday season can be really hard for some. I know it has been for me lately. But take comfort that Jesus sees you. He’d want you to know you’re not alone no matter how isolated you feel. His hand of friendship extends to all without hesitation and without judgment. His love is the answer to your deepest need and his friendship will satisfy your every desire.
Community is underrated :: The church has become another social event when it was designed to be a body. A family. A community built on love and truth and with the sole purpose of growing together in and toward Christ - that is our aim.
This is for me as much as any other believer in Christ. We were never meant to go it alone. There’s a need and a time to be with the Lord in the secret place, yes. And it should start there. Yet we cannot neglect the need we have to be in communion with other believers, bearing each others burdens as we have been commanded to do (Gal 6:2).
Vulnerable stories told with trusted friends will lead to greater freedom and life in the Spirit. If you don’t have community now, don’t wait, do whatever it takes to find it. If you have community, think of how to go deeper with one another. Ask yourself, what does it mean to suffer with those who are suffering? How can I celebrate with those who are rejoicing? See what the Lord would have for you and press in. Be the first to take the steps in obedience toward deeper more enriching relationship in the body of Christ.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another toward love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-26
Unity in the body is sanctity in Christ.