I couldn't help but laugh at the irony of listening to our 6.5-month-old cry while reading the story of Elizabeth and Zachariah in Luke 1. Here our son was, crying for breakfast because to him it felt he was waiting for an eternity and breakfast might never come! But I knew that I would feed him in exactly 13 more minutes. See, I was almost finished with my quiet time with God this morning (which is sporadic at best these days as we are still transitioning out of night time wake ups and my sleep is as sacred as time with the Lord, God said so...literally...if you've ever encountered me on little sleep, you'd know why...I'm the 8-9 hours of sleep a night kind of person...) but to Aaron it felt like an eternity before I would be done...
Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I come across something that God said and I think, "seriously God, You've got to be kidding!?"
Jesus said, "You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule." (Matthew 5:3)
Reading Jesus' words, I have to pause and work through it. I don't know about you, but usually, when I'm literally at the end of my rope, I am quite frankly, in deep deep despair. The last thing I'm thinking about is how "blessed" I am.
Sometimes I'm at the end of my rope because of a decision(s) I made. But other times, it's because of circumstances around me that are completely out of my control. A few years ago, there was a week-and-a-half period when three unrelated events kept knocking me to my knees to the point where the final one left me reeling so hard that I remember telling my parents, "I can't pray anymore. I'm so tired of all this pain and heartache. i. just. can't. pray."
When we find ourselves at the end of our ropes, we've done all that we can do. We have nothing left of ourselves to give. We've either created some mess that we're in and don't have anything left to give. Or we find ourselves in circumstances created by the evil and chaos of this world and we find there is nothing that we can do or say that can make things better. Either way, it feels like our lives are over. There's no hope left. We're drowning in a pit of despair. Things can't possibly get any better. This must be the end...
But then God. When we've got nothing left, the only thing that remains is God. What if we could believe that when all else is gone, God is big enough that He is actually enough? When we literally have nothing else, we're at the end of our rope, what if God is there? What if God gently wants us to trust that His plans for us, and everyone around us, to experience an abundant life, still remain?
It never feels like a place of blessing when there is nothing left of ourselves. But we can trust that somehow, someway, God still has a plan. And His desire has always been, and will always, be to love us and bless us. It's at the end of our ropes that we experience the fullness of this love, grace, mercy, comfort, peace, goodness, faithfulness. When all else is lost, it's here that we find the fullness of God's blessings.
Maybe we're counting too often. Counting the people who could possibly help, the money we have access to, the resources available to us, anything we think could possibly help us...meanwhile forgetting that God can move mountains with faith the size of a fruit fly (anyone else have a gross invasion of these lately...they multiply like rabbits, it's the most obnoxious thing). Not that God wants us to set aside all of our math skills, but I think He wants us to count on Him before we count on them.
Doom to those who go off to Egypt
thinking that horses can help them,
Impressed by military mathematics,
awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders—
And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance,
not so much as a prayer to God.
Still, he must be reckoned with,
a most wise God who knows what he’s doing.
He can call down catastrophe.
He’s a God who does what he says.
He intervenes in the work of those who do wrong,
stands up against interfering evildoers.
Egyptians are mortal, not God,
and their horses are flesh, not Spirit.
When God gives the signal, helpers and helped alike
will fall in a heap and share the same dirt grave. (Isaiah 31:1-3)
At first blush, it might seem like what Isaiah wrote is all doom and gloom. But if you stand back, it's much cheerier and hopeful than that. God has always ever wanted us to look to Him for our needs (whether they be a literal battle God-forbid, or our daily needs like food, finances, or clothes...I'm 19 weeks pregnant right now so all three of those are my top 3 daily needs). He wants us to stop wasting time looking to all the other stuff we think we need to thrive in this life or accomplish X, Y, and Z.
How much more stock do we put into what we have, don't have, can do, or can't do, than in God, the Creator of it all (who by the way has never ceased being Creator 🙄)? I don't know about you, but I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I've thought or said 'but…' when I have had a need or felt promoted by God to do something. 🤔 I mean how many times does God do way more with the least amount of ______ (fill in the blank) than we can do with all our perceived 'necessary' resources in the world? So here's to stop counting and waiting and fretting until we think we have 'enough' and to saying 'yes' when all we've got is God. God is MORE than enough and has access to all the resources in the world. Let's start with Him.
I'm so thankful God's ways are higher than ours and God's thoughts beyond our thinking. As I read these words in Isaiah this morning, I asked God what He thought about all this election stuff in the U.S. right now, and I imagined God chuckling.
8-11"“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them." (Isaiah 53)
I couldn't help but be amused and ask, "Why are You laughing?" And God reminded me that just as Israel rejected God as King (1 Samuel 8) and wanted to be just like everyone else and have a king, so too we do the same. We have placed SO many of our hopes, dreams, and expectations on our president that we have forgotten who are true King is. Sure the president of the U.S. might have some authority to impact our personal lives, but by and large, we have more control over our lives and community than they do. But most people I know are anxious about this year's election results, no matter who wins. And why? Because we've given our president that kind of authority in our lives.
If God anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel, who literally went crazy while king, we can rest assured that we will be just fine, no matter how this election goes. If nothing else, more darkness gives even just the slightest glimmer of light more influence. So let us laugh at ourselves and remember who we are: daughters and sons of the King of kings -- the most influential One there ever was, is, and will be. As Christ-followers we are filled with the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. Let's live like it.
Yesterday morning the words of my massage therapist struck me so much that I've been thinking about them ever since. (Before you get jealous, I will tell you that the massage was just so-so...yes it was relaxing, to the point that I may have woken myself up snoring a few times, yep that happened...but still, you didn't miss anything.) When the massage started she said something like "these next 80 minutes (I mean it, don't be jealous, you didn't miss a thing) are all yours. You can escape the world and all its trials and stress and just breathe in good energy," or something along those lines. Anyway, I couldn't get her words about "escaping the world" out of my mind. My gut reaction was that I don't actually want to escape the world, why would I?
Don't get me wrong, I know that there are a lot of awful things that happen to each and every one of us and the people we love and hold dear to ourselves (save all the other atrocities happening all over the globe at this very moment). I've seen my fair share of tragedy in my own life from diseases to addictions to fatal drunk driving accidents to the affects of mental health issues, burglaries, and we're just talking about my family and close friends. I get it. There are things that happen in this world and in our lives that literally SUCK. As I type this, one of my friend's moms is on hospice from a rare cancer that has spread all over her body.
However, the truth is that we weren't created for all this bad stuff. The intent was never that we would experience all this pain, heartache and struggle in our lives. Yes, the chaos and evil in this world that we live in is very real and we experience it firsthand. But despite all of this darkness that can feel overwhelming and paralyzing at times, and likely the sound of "escaping" (if we actually could) is appealing, it is possible to experience joy, contentment, peace, hope, the fullness of life.
Because in fact, we were created to experience heaven on earth today, and an abundant life, not by escaping this world, but actually while being present and living in it. We aren't just supposed to survive this life and somehow manage to get through it. We're supposed to thrive despite what may happen to us, and those we love deeply.
And what if, we're not just created to thrive in the midst of the darkness of this world, but what if we're also supposed to play a part in bringing heaven to earth? See, I actually believe that that is part of our calling as humanity: to make earth like heaven (where tragedy, pain, suffering, oppression, tears themselves are absent). So instead of escaping life, what if we ran headlong into it?