I am for you and not against you

“I am for you.”

That’s what I tell my 12-year-old daughter after a long day and after we’ve flopped down onto the overstuffed blue couches to pray and to  chat  before bed.

It’s probably what I’ll be saying often for the next few years as she steps into the teen years.

Maybe it seems like some days I’m against her.

I tell her what she can’t have or what she can’t do.  She carries home yet another flyer advertising yet another activity and I remind her that her calendar is already dripping with ink from her doing so much.

She talks about movies, books, songs, apps, and sometimes she’s the one left out.  She doesn’t know that band.  She hasn’t read that book.  Maybe we won’t let her see that movie.

This is hard.  This is her coming to grips with what it means not to fit in, what it means to miss out, what it means to let things go even when others around her indulge like it’s no big deal.

Of course, she’s a good girl.  She’s not asking to attend wild parties or drink or do drugs or even watch a PG-13 movie.  That’s not her.

Still I explain it that night to her as we relax on the sofa in a moment of quiet, and I hope what I say sinks deeply down to the needy parts of her heart:

I am not against you.  Even when it feels like I’m against you because I’m not giving you what you want or what even feels reasonable or what other people get.  I’m never your enemy and I’m never out to hurt you or deprive you of what is good. 

No.  I am for you.  Always.  Because I love you.  And it’s because I want the very best for you that sometimes I have to keep you from the second-best, or even what seems “good,” or perhaps what we both know isn’t right or true.

She nods her head in understanding for  now.

I hope the understanding lasts.  It probably won’t, not all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be echoing these words again and again, if not to her, then to her siblings.

It makes me marvel at God really, because He knows how I feel.  He knows what it’s like to be the parent having the hard conversations, building the unpopular boundaries, saying the “no” that a child doesn’t want to hear.

In Romans it says:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV)

And the Psalmist wrote:

Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9 ESV).

God isn’t for me because He gives me everything I want.

 

To says God is for me means  His heart, His passion, His desire is for my ultimate blessing and my ultimate good.  He wants the best for me, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time because it’s not what I wanted or what seemed easy or appealing.

He knows what’s truly good and what I truly need, and that’s what He’s going to be doing in my life, directing, guiding, pausing, saying “no,” and saying “yes.”

So, as my daughter shuffles off to her room for bed, I sit for a moment with God. It’s as if He nudges me with His elbow to say, “See?  See what I’ve been trying to tell you?”

God isn’t against me when I don’t like His timing.

God isn’t against me when I long for the blessing He doesn’t choose to give (or when He gives it to someone else and not to me).  Even if we feel sometimes like everyone else His favorite because He so readily gives to them the things He withholds from us (and what’s that all about, anyway?).

God isn’t against me when my plans go awry or His plans don’t seem to make sense.

God isn’t against me when I experience injustice or hurtfulness.

God is for me.

He is for you.

It’s a matter of trusting His love for us, trusting Him enough to love us well and love us completely and to believe it when we read, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”  (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

The Great Human Struggle Right There in the Middle of the Kitchen

He freezes in the kitchen with one hand hanging mid-air.

psalm84

Picture courtesy of Steve Janacek, PicJumbo

He was headed into “The Forbidden Territory”—AKA the laundry room—just as fast as he could crawl when he heard me say, “No.”

And this tiny baby boy engaged in the great human struggle right there in the middle of my kitchen floor.

Do I do what I want to do?  Even if I know it’s wrong?  Even if mom says, ‘no?’

Or do I obey and turn to enjoy something else, something approved and acceptable?

He tilts his head up so he can see me, still sticking his hand right out into the air, paralyzed as he decides where to slap that hand down on the linoleum floor.  Place the hand here to move forward to the “No Zone of the laundry room.”  Place the hand there to turn and obey.

His muscles actually twitch under the strain of the decision.  He grunts and growls.  He looks at me with the brightest blue eyes all filled to the brim with tears.

Because he wants what he wants.

And yet, still crying, still upset, still disappointed, slowly he lowers that hand down and shifts his body.

He turns.

He crawls full speed ahead to my legs and throws himself at me.

Sometimes obedience is hard.  So I reward him with cheers and kisses on his cheeks and an elaborate hug.

He’s not even old enough for me to lay it all out for him all psychological and explanatory.  How sometimes Mom says ‘no’ because she loves you and she doesn’t want you to end up in the laundry room with a mouthful of cat poop because you found the litter box.

How sometimes the things we think we want the very most are the very worst for us.

So, it’s my Mom-job to tell him “no,” not to be mean or arbitrary, but for protection and because I have something better in mind than cat litter (promise!).

Does God give whisper this to us also?

Dearest One, I love you.  I know that your heart is hurting because I’ve said, “no,” but please trust me and trust my heart for you.  I’m not out to harm you or withhold blessings or good things from you.  I’m here to protect you.  Wait for the moment when I say, “Yes” and it’s perfect.  It’s worth waiting for.  Love, Abba

The Psalmist said it:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
  Psalm 84:11 ESV

He is our light.  He is our protection.  And He doesn’t withhold good things for us.

But we have to let Him define what is ‘good.’

Paul pursued what seemed like a noble Gospel-sharing goal—to preach in Asia–and yet, the Holy Spirit stopped him with a clear, ‘no.’

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-7 NIV).

It’s a ‘no’ that doesn’t seem to make a bit of sense.  Surely Paul’s itinerary seemed ‘good.’

Yet, even when it seems hopeless and crazy, utterly insane, or like all the doors are closed and everything is over and you should just give up already and go home, if God tells you ‘no’ and asks you to wait….then wait.  If He asks you to turn, then turn.

Linda Evans Shepherd in The Stress Cure writes:

Living in God’s will means always saying yes to God (p. 138).

You want me to stop?  Yes, Lord.
You want me to wait?  Yes, Lord.
You want me to change direction?  Yes, Lord.

That’s what He did for Paul.  He redirected Paul’s steps to Macedonia and to a Gospel mission to Europe:

 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:9-10).

Maybe I would have pushed and shoved right out of God’s presence and His will and right on into Asia.

Yet, Paul turned.  He accepted the ‘no’ and said ‘yes’ to God’s mission and agenda instead of his own seemingly noble one.

Do I want what I want?  Even if I know it’s wrong?  Even if God says no?

Or do I want to be where God is, satisfied and content in His presence and trusting in His love?

May we always choose the “yes” of His presence.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Learn When to Say, ‘Yes?’

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer 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.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

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

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Moms

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Luke 22:42

I’m a mom who likes to think she knows best for her kids.  I love them.  I want them to be successful, healthy, happy.  I want to shepherd their hearts and minds and invest in the development of their gifts and talents.  I want to “train them up in the way they should go.”

With all my “Mom-Knows-Best” skills, I signed up my middle girl for our church’s private kindergarten the week that registration opened.

For months I prayed the kindergarten class would reach the necessary enrollment.  I stressed and worried and spilled over all my freaked out mother concern to anyone with a listening ear about how her life would be destroyed at five years old if they cancelled the class.

Slowly, I transformed my prayers.  I whispered what started as an uncertain and half-hearted, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Over time, I began to actually mean what I prayed.  It was a radical shift for me and not a holy place I often reach in this always-in-control life of mine.

And then I picked up the ringing phone and heard the official news. No kindergarten due to low enrollment.

Off I sped to the local public school and registered my little girl in a building and system that seemed too big and unknown.

And I prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Then began the stress over her teacher.

I prayed for that one special teacher who would connect with my daughter and make her first year of elementary school as exciting and engaging as possible and who would expertly work with her strengths and weaknesses.

We walked into the classroom on open house.  I didn’t love the teacher.  The room seemed busy and confusing.  My child did what I had feared all along—she fell back into herself and shut down in an instant.  Truly frozen in place, I couldn’t convince her to sit at her desk or walk across the room to meet her teacher.

In that moment, I was ready to do anything—unregister her, ask for a move to a different class.  Right away, I prepared to step in and assume control from a God who seemed to be messing this all up.

Then I asked myself–-Had I not prayed all along for the best possible teacher and environment for my daughter?  Could I trust my God to know what is best for my precious girl? Could I place her in His hands?

I whispered in my daughter’s ear as we sat in that kindergarten classroom, “Lauren, I have prayed for you, every day I have prayed, that God would give you the right school and the right teacher.  He has brought you here so we will trust it’s going to be perfect and wonderful.”

And I silently prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

We so often model our prayers on The Lord’s Prayer, the “our Father who art in heaven” that Jesus taught to the disciples.  And so we should.

That prayer with its “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” echoes Jesus’ own words.  We can thus imitate the very prayer of our Savior Himself as He bowed low in Gethsemane, submitting His own desires to the perfect plan of the Father.  “Not my will, but yours be done,” He prayed that night.

It’s unlikely that you are struggling with the same issue as me.  Maybe your kids are grown and married.  Maybe you’re single.  Maybe you’re still rocking an infant at night.

Even so, perhaps you and I are in the same place.  We, with all our knowledge and expertise, think we have formed a perfect plan and then God intervenes.  He declines to give us what we want.

He tells us “no.”

Maybe you, like me, are less likely to react with the submission of Jesus and instead throw temper tantrums like Jonah.

The prophet Jonah had a plan, too.  He had a successful prophetic ministry to the Hebrew people.

In 2 Kings 14:25, we’re told:

He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.

Jonah had such a good thing going and his plans for his life probably included retiring after a fulfilling career as the voice of good news to his own nation.

Then God commissioned him to be an evangelist to a pagan nation that had long been the brutal enemy of the Hebrews.

You likely know the story.  He ran away from God, spent three days in a fish’s belly, and then after being vomited up on shore, finally obeyed God.

To a pagan nation, he preached coming judgment and they repented.  Even the king donned sackcloth and ashes.  It was one of the largest revivals in history—a whole nation turning to God in the course of one day.

Did Jonah rejoice?  Did he give praise?

Jonah 4:1 says, “but it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.”

We could get angry, you and I, when things don’t go our way.  We could stomp away from God’s plan and cross our arms in defiance.  We could run, fast and hard, jumping onto the first ship out of this place.  We could obey, but with an attitude.

Or we could pray, “Not my will, but yours be done,” and trust that our Heavenly Father knows best and remember His promise to work “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

*************

Live in my area and want to pray for your kids’ school year?  Moms and Grandmas are invited to Newington Baptist Church on Tuesday, September 6th at 9:30 a.m. for First Pray–a time of encouragement and prayer for our kids, their teachers, principals, and school staff.  Won’t you join us? 

For working moms, you can email me your child’s name, grade, school and homeroom teacher and we’ll pray for them, as well: heatherking@cox.net

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


Packing Up the Tiara

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 © 2011 Heather King