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

And Then What Happened? Part II

“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their hearts.  You will listen carefully”
Psalm 10:17

You can read “And Then What Happened? – Part I” here

Part II: Fretting Is Not the Same as Praying

I have some things in my life even now that I find myself pleading with God about.  Some suspense-filled situations, some impossible dreams that I’d like to see God miraculously fulfill, some questions about what will happen next.  Is everything going to work out the way I desire?  Will God take care of this need?  What is it that God has planned for me?

The suspense is killing my suspense-hating heart.

So, my prayers begin to take on some urgency.   More than that, when I pray, my words sound more like a child begging for candy in the checkout line rather than the trusting requests of a content child.  “Please, please, pleeeeeeeease, may I have this?  Please will You answer this request the way I would like?  It would all be so perfect if You would work out all these details so this could happen.”

What I am asking for is not as selfish as a chocolate bar or as petty as a $2 Princess camera that does little more than click when you press a button—the novelty items that my children find oh-so-tempting.  I’m asking out of need and out of a weighty burden for someone else.  It’s not what I’m requesting that’s the problem; it’s how I’m asking.

Then, changing my praying attire from pig-tailed toddler to business-suit lawyer, I present my case to God.  “This is the evidence showing why the verdict should go my way.  I have exhibits A, B and C to back me up here. Please decide in my favor.”

As a backlash to my heart’s desires, my rational side gets involved in this debate.  Attempting to protect myself from disappointment, I say to my heart, “These situations are impossible.  Period.  End of Story.  There is no way that things will work out the way you desire.  The circumstantial evidence against you is just too overwhelming.  You’ll just have to settle for less.”

I accept those highly logical arguments for a time, but knowing that God can do anything, even the impossible, I fall down to my knees, squint my eyes, clasp my hands together and go back to pleading.  “Oh, please, please, please, please . . . ”

Years ago, I found myself “praying” this way most of the night every night.  Begging and arguing and explaining to God.  I talked and talked and talked some more to Him.  When I’d said everything I had to say, I just said it all over again.

Was this truly prayer?  Or was it instead simply fretting in front of God’s throne?

It’s not that God requires us to pretend we’re all right even when we’re not, to hide our disappointment or anger or fear and act like faith-filled super-Christians.  David and Job and Habakkuk all poured out ugly truth in their conversations with Him.  Psalm 51:6 tells us, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts” (NKJV).  With God, we can always be honest.   He knows what’s hidden in the dark corners of our heart anyway.  Telling Him how we feel, however, invites Him to do something about it, to speak truth back to our hearts.

I wasn’t just being honest with God, though,  I was begging and pleading.  I was doing all the talking.  As Chris Tiegreen writes, “Don’t confuse pleading with God and believing God.  Both are appropriate, but only one qualifies as faith.

Instead of having faith that God heard my request, that He would work on my behalf, always working things out for my good and for my benefit, that He was not only able to do the impossible, but He was also willing, even desirous, to bless me and shower me with affection—instead of praying with that faith, I was pacing back and forth at His feet, more focused on my request than on my Answer.

That explains why Philippians 4:16 wasn’t working out for me: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  I was making prayer and supplication, I was letting my requests be made known to God, but I prayed out of anxiety and worry rather than with gratitude and worship.  Chris Tiegreen also wrote, “Faith allows us to rest,” and this certainly wasn’t resting.

I had justified my pleading, telling God I was willing to be the persistent widow, presenting my case to the Judge day after day after day until He granted my request.  Yet, somehow persistence for me had become inextricably linked with a lack of faith.

So, I followed a suggestion and created a penny cup.

Needing a physical way to move prayers out of my heart and into God’s hands and then leave them there, I placed an empty mug on my desk.  Every time I found a penny (which happens more often than you might realize!), I placed the penny in the cup and prayed for that one specific request.  I didn’t spend hours repeating my petition every night.  I really only prayed about it when I moved the penny out of my hand and into the pile of other coins.  And I was persistent.  My pile of copper grew as I laid my request at His feet time after time.  Yet, I didn’t pick any of those pennies back up.  I left them there.  I didn’t linger, arguing, explaining or pleading.  I said a simple prayer, “God, please work the miracles necessary in this situation.  I need Your help.  Thank You that You work on my behalf.  Amen.”   Clink went the penny into the cup.  Away I walked, trusting that God could take care of my need.

Somehow, even though what’s going to happen is still unseen, even though the circumstances I’m in still remain unresolved, I feel less plagued by suspense.  Instead, I feel reassured.  I will likely continue to groan at to-be-continued television episodes and I will surely still flip to the back of the book to see how it ends before reading the first page.  I hate cliffhangers and suspense and dramatic tension as much as ever.

About our Christian walk, however, Paul wrote, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” (Colossians 2:6).  He tells us what will happen next.  It ends the suspense and resolves all cliffhangers.  We will keep living our lives in Christ today, tomorrow, and the day after that.  All of the specifics may be unclear, but the bottom line remains the same.  We live in Emmanuel, God With Us.  And when I pray in faith rather than begging and pleading, I remember that the God who is with me will take care of it.  He’ll walk me through.   It may or may not be what I’ve desired or planned, but it will always be in His capable, trustworthy, compassionate hands.  “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).

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 © 2011 Heather King

And then what happened?– Part I

“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 upon us, I’ve 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.  I’ve been known to read the last page of a book first and then flip back to the beginning.  In most cases, I’ll still read the book the whole way through, but I can do it without tension or nervousness and am therefore more able to enjoy the story with some leisure and appreciate the actual writing.  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 tell my teacher that my book was missing and all of my nightmares and worst fears abated when my math book reappeared on my desk the next day, having been discovered in the school lost and found.

That night I spent without my math book, though, was a horror of suspense for me.  What exactly would happen?  How would this all work out?

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 asking me, “How often have you cried in despair over a crisis that is as easy-to-fix in My sight as a forgotten lunch bag?”  This little girl didn’t have any hope, she couldn’t see any remedy or solution on her own, but when she gave the problem to me, I resolved it within seconds.

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 for a brief moment:

  • 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 and rushed to the cave 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.  They were impossible situations with insurmountable odds.  So then what happened?

What happened was God.  Yes, these problems weren’t trivial or small, petty or frivolous to the people in them.  But, as difficult as our life may be or as dark and scary as the unknown appears, 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).

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36, 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 © 2011 Heather King