Weekend Rerun: Packing Up The Tiara

Originally posted on August 5, 2011

There I sat, cuddling my oldest daughter as she sobbed disappointed tears into her pillow.  Sitting in the minivan that night as we drove home, she had suddenly realized that God wasn’t going to make her a fairy tale princess when she grows up.

Her little life dream had been dashed.

After her sad announcement, my husband tried to shout back persuasive logic to her from the front seat, explaining that princesses don’t really live such great lives.  They can’t choose where to go, what to eat, how to dress, or even who to marry.

Somehow the lack of freedom was overshadowed by Disney ballgowns, glass slippers and tiaras.  And so after the pajamas were on, the teeth brushed, the prayers prayed, there we sat in her bed and she cried and we talked about feeling disappointed.

How life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect.
How sometimes we can’t have what we really want.
How movies and fairy tales rarely represent the reality of life.
How it’s hard to trust God when He tells us, “no,” but that we need to leave our future in His hands.
How our job is to work hard to develop the gifts He’s given and His job is to direct and guide our service.

No matter how you chat and philosophize sometimes, though, disappointment hurts.  For a while, we can hope that despite all odds, God is going to miraculously give us what our hearts desire.

But it doesn’t always happen that way and that’s the truth.

Sometimes God says, “no.”  He may do it so gently and with grace, and it’s not because He hates us or wants to see us sob ugly tears on our pillows.

In most cases, He does it for the same reason I tell my child “no” she can’t wear her favorite skirt that is now too short for her, “no” she can’t have cookies and milk at 5:30 p.m. as I’m dishing up dinner on the table, “no” she can’t watch that movie even if her friends have all seen it, “no” she can’t have a cellphone and laptop for first grade.  “No” is for people we love enough to protect.

Then there are other cases where the “no” is so He can be glorified and our faith refined.  In Beth Moore’s study, Daniel, she notes that there are always three scenarios:

  • God delivers us from the fire.
  • God delivers us through the fire.
  • God delivers us by the fire into His arms.

For the three men who refused to bow down to the towering image of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was no question of whether God could keep them out of the furnace that was blazing in front of them.  They declared:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

They had to go through the fire, but Christ showed up in all His magnificent glory and walked them right on out of there.  God said, “no, I won’t deliver you from the fire, but I’ll take you through.”

For others of you, God has said, “no” and it’s not clear why.  Maybe we’ll never know the reason this side of eternity.  You can’t see how this is protection.  You can’t see how He is being glorified.  Maybe it’s disappointing, this waiting for the healing or rescue that doesn’t ever seem to come.

Have you ever wondered how Stephen did it, the first martyr in the church, the first one to take stand up for Christ to the death?  Were he and his friends disappointed that God didn’t rescue him from the riotous Sanhedrin?  Were they waiting for the earth to open up and swallow the mob now raising their stones in murderous rage?

How disappointed and confused did they feel as God didn’t deliver Stephen from or through the onslaught of rocks, but instead delivered him home to heaven?  There was no last-minute rescue or miraculous intervention.

Acts 7:6-7 says:

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” (MSG).

Stephen “hardly noticed” the deafening noise of those about to kill him because “he only had eyes for God.”

Whatever disappointments we face, a fairy tale dream that never came true, a furnace God asks us to walk through, a definitive “no” instead of miraculous intervention, we are victorious by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  Just like Stephen.  Just like Jesus Himself looked to His Father as He suffered painfully on the cross for our sake.

We’re not looking at the enemy, the storm or the overwhelming circumstances.  We’re not looking at the hoped-for miracle or the anticipated rescue.  We’re looking at Jesus “standing at God’s side,” knowing that even when God chooses not to give us what we want or hope for, He never leaves nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: And Then What Happened, Part I

Originally posted on June 1, 2011

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God”
(Luke 1:36, MSG)

I’m not a big fan of surprises and hate suspense.  With the end of the regular TV season, I recorded the season finales of a few shows and will let them sit unwatched until September.  That way I can watch the season finale in all of its suspenseful glory and then immediately watch the resolution that typically occurs in the first 5 minutes of the new season.

Spending an entire summer not knowing how a story ends is not my idea of a good time.

I do it with books, too.  If a character is in jeopardy, I’ll flip ahead a few pages to see if his name still occurs in the text (he must still be alive) and then turn back to continue the story from where I left off.  Removing the tension and nervousness helps me enjoy the story with leisure.

At least, that’s my excuse.  My husband, however, says “I destroy the dramatic integrity of the author.”

Outside of the fictional world, I’m still no fan of cliffhangers. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I can live with my eternal future already determined.  I can easily skip to the end of The Book, read the final chapters and then happily mosey through the rest of the story, looking forward always to the “blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

In some ways, though, my eternal destination is the easy part.  It’s the suspense of day-to-day living that makes me want to “skip to the end” at times.

Once in middle school I lost my math book for a few days.  Fearing my teacher’s wrath (this mild-mannered, soft-spoken Algebra teacher of mine), I prayed at night, letting God know that it would be a great time for Jesus to come back and requesting that He please end my misery by whisking me off to heaven.

The rapture obviously did not occur in order to meet my middle school needs.  Instead, I had to “fess up” and tell my teacher about my missing book, which he promptly discovered in the Lost and Found.

That night I spent without my math book, though, was a horror of suspense.

Maybe you, like me, have asked some of these questions, no longer about lost math books, but now about your children, your marriage, your finances, your job, your ministry, your future.  Is everything going to turn out okay?  What is going to happen next?  Will things work out the way I want them to?

When I find myself asking these questions, I’ve learned to stop and ponder these things:

Part I: Put It In Perspective:

As a teacher, I had occasional extra duties outside the classroom, including morning drop-off.  One morning, a petite third-grade girl ran up to me in hysterics.  I thought someone had died, certainly some horrible tragedy had occurred in her home.  It seemed like a true crisis.

She had forgotten her lunch.

“Oh, baby girl,” I said as I held her hand and dropped to my knees so I could look in her eyes, “it’s okay.  Maybe we’ll call your mom for your lunch.  Maybe we’ll get you lunch from the cafeteria.  Either way, you don’t need to worry.”

Immediately, I felt that deep prompting of the Holy Spirit: “How often have you cried in despair over a crisis that is as easy-to-fix in My sight as a forgotten lunch bag?” 

It’s not that God brushes aside our pain as childish or that the trials that leave us broken and hurting are foolish and unimportant to God.

Not at all.

Yet, it’s so easy to lose perspective because the issues we face in this world are sometimes big, certainly too much for us to handle and it’s hard to have hope when circumstances seem hopeless.

Consider some of the “cliffhangers” in Scripture:

  • Moses and the entire nation of Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, rushing water in front of them, Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit behind them.  Would God rescue them from the enemy and bring them to freedom?
  • Daniel spent all night alone in a dark den of hungry lions and the king himself burst out of bed at the first light of dawn to see if Daniel had survived the night.  Was he still alive down there?
  • The three men stood before the fiery furnace, watching as the guards carrying them to the edge of the flames burnt to ashes.  Would God save them from the furnace?
  • Esther marched into the throne room uninvited by the king in order to beg for mercy for her people, knowing that her boldness could get her killed.  Would the king allow her to live and grant her request?

These aren’t scenarios of lost math books or forgotten lunches.  They are life and death matters in the worst possible physical circumstances.  So then what happened?

What happened was God.

What happens in our Christian walk will always be with God. 

When we stand on the precipice of unknown, feeling the knots in our stomach, fretting at night rather than sleeping, wondering what will happen next, we hand that situation over to God and then remember:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us
(Ephesians 3:201-21, MSG).

Even in the biggest trials, we must remember how big our God is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Remembering: Even If He Does Not

 

Originally posted on February 20, 2011

 

Today, the sermon at our church was on miracles and how God uses them to bring glory to Himself and to grow faith in us.  It is always exciting to recount what God has done and give testimony, both Biblical and current, to His might and majesty.

But, today was a hard day for me to talk about miracles.  I’ve been praying for two years for a sweet baby girl, born terribly premature.  She’s fought so hard for so long, receiving a liver transplant, undergoing open heart surgery, and more.  Yesterday, though, I got the phone call saying she had passed away in the night.

Yes, it’s a hard day to think about miracles.

It’s not that I think this was too much for God or that He didn’t love this little girl enough to give her another miracle in her already miraculous life.

The hard thing for me is that I’m a question-asker.  In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions.  I am willing, sometimes even with people I hardly know, to ask them far more than the superficial sanctioned small-talk.  I’m not a “How are you doing?  Where do you live?  How’s the weather been?” kind of person.

Thus, as I’m praying for the family of this tiny girl, I’m bold enough to ask God some tough questions.  It’s at times like these I’m thankful that He is such a big God, that He allows us to lift our pain-filled faces up to His, look straight into His eyes, and ask Him, “Lord, why?  What are you doing in this situation?”

When one of Jesus’s closest friends fell sick, his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3, NIV).  Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t rush to their home to heal Lazarus.  In fact, by the time Jesus arrived, Martha greeted him along the path:  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Then Mary went out, fell at His feet and said exactly the same thing,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32, NIV). Some of the bystanders even bluntly asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (Luke 11:37, NIV).

These sisters didn’t hide their confusion and hurt and Jesus didn’t rebuke them for confronting Him.  In this case, Jesus quickly answered their questions.  He called Lazarus up from the tomb and displayed His power over life and death.  He asked a question in return ,“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV).

The prophet, Habakkuk, wasn’t like most of the other Old Testament prophets, who delivered messages from God.  Instead, much of what Habakkuk wrote is full of questions for God, just as Mary and Martha asked questions of Jesus. In his brief book, Habakkuk asked:

  • How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
  • Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13)

After presenting a chapter-long list of complaints to God, Habakkuk says, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1).  And God answered Him.

For us, sometimes it does become clear why God chooses to answer “no” or “wait” to our heartfelt pleas for a miracle.  I can look back now and see how God used my husband’s job loss and temporary unemployment not just for God’s glory, but ultimately for our blessing and benefit.  What seemed like harm, was actually salvation for us!

In other cases, though, our questions remain unanswered this side of heaven.

When the three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, they faced instant death in the fiery furnace.  The king offered them one last chance to deny their faith and worship him instead.  To this, they replied:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What faith!  The miracles aren’t what we should be seeking; we should be seeking God and hoping for whatever brings Him glory.  If He rescues us, then we praise Him.  Even if God doesn’t give us the miracle we’re looking for or provide for us in the way we expect, we can, like the three men in the fiery furnace, still worship God alone.  We can trust His hand.  We can know that somehow He will be glorified even in our tragedies.

When God answered Habakkuk’s tough questions, the prophet was moved to write what my Bible notes is a “hymn of faith” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV).  It’s one of my favorites:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk says, “Even when we’re starving and we have no hope of a harvest, we’ll choose to praise God.”  The Message translates verse 18 as: “Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.” It’s when we walk through the hard times with God, counting on His rule to prevail, pouring out our questions to Him and learning to trust Him, that He gives us the toughened, sure “feet of deer” and trains us how to “tread on the heights.”

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King