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Conquered by God

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

I took a moment this morning to ask the Lord where in the Bible I should read, to be ministered to according to His will. I felt the need to go back to Joshua. I love Joshua and read it A LOT, but this morning, the Lord pointed out a group of words I had never mulled over before: “the reproach of Egypt.” The scripture, Joshua 5:9, says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I couldn’t move past the promise of this scripture.

It was a pivotal moment for the Israelites. They were on the cusp of walking into their Promised Land. All that they had been wandering about in the desert hoping for was about to become a reality. They were about to capture the first city in the land God was releasing to them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham somewhere around 500 years before. They were about to step into battles they didn’t even have to fight. Walk into houses fully furnished for their arrival. Settle into a land that they had never known, but had envisioned through the wistful smiles and dimming eyes of their elders. Their castles in the sky were settled into a land called Canaan and spread out before their ever-wandering hearts.

Let me set the stage a little for this verse: Moses had died and Joshua was roused by God to lead the people forward. The dust had hardly settled over the grave and God was telling Joshua, “It’s time to get up and move into the land. Prepare the people to walk through the Jordan.” I find it interesting that they wandered 40 years between two large rivers that held them captive in the desert until God was ready to make a way for them.

Three days later: the Israelites had been instructed. They had consecrated themselves and packed up. They were waiting for further direction. Joshua told the Levitical priests to pick up the ark and move forward. The people were instructed to follow the priests because they had never been that way before. Don’t miss the fact that someone else was supposed to lead them. They were not to rely on their own understanding. “Clearly, we walk forward.” No. Clearly, you follow.  The leaders of the tribes were to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial with. When they all crossed, the priests moved forward and as soon as their feet were out of the water, the river returned to flood stage.

On the other side of the Jordan, they were officially in Canaan. They camped under the stars beneath the shadow of the walls of Jericho. Here, in this foreboding position, God told them to circumcise themselves. Not just their hearts, but their physical selves. It’s curious that God would lead them to such a vulnerable position their first night in Canaan and then command them to make themselves easy prey by undergoing circumcision. Encroaching on Jericho was an act of war and here they were signing their death warrants … except God had already stepped in. Every warring faction in Canaan was afraid of them, even while they were helpless. The Israelites, in a radical act of obedience, physically disabled themselves from fighting and their first week or two in the land, had to trust God for protection from unknown enemies while their bodies healed. From the start, they were utterly dependent on God for survival there.

Their obedience led to their freedom in this new place. Because of their obedience, God removed their reproach. They would not be slaves in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their slave mindset into the land. They were going to be victors in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their victim mindset into the land. They were going to see new things in the land, so they had to forget the old things. God removed their reproach so that nothing of their old life would follow them into Canaan. He removed their shame. He removed their insecurities. The men in the camp had never seen warfare, but they had been raised by a generation who had only known defeat and captivity. God had to remove that from their hearts and minds. Instead of scorning the Israelites for their past, the nations in Canaan were filled with awe and dread because they knew God was moving the Israelites in, one victory at a time.

This one verse signified that God was removing all the former shackles in their hearts and minds so they could walk into Canaan as free men in their hearts and minds so that they could be victorious. They needed to see themselves as God saw them. As Beloved. As warriors. As owners and not beggars. You see, for forty years, Egypt might have speculated that God had led the children of Israel out into the wilderness to kill them off (Deut. 9:28). But God was about to exalt this nation that had been bowed down in defeat for so long. His glory was tied up in them and He honored them so that all people would honor Him in their hearts. After the Israelites were settled into the land, all people would look at the progression of victories and be unable to deny that these were a people God loved and cared for. Before they were conquerors, they had to be conquered by God. Their obedience was an act of surrender. Their faith was set in motion. Their God was about to deliver on His long-awaited promise.

Perhaps you’re there, friend. Poised on the edge of your promise. I was reminded of my promise the other day and I’ll be honest: it really ticked me off. There was no humility as I approached God’s throne in open defiance. “I am sick of hearing about this promise! Stop telling me that just over this mountain is the Promised Land because I feel like I keep getting to the top only to find it’s not the top and I still have climbing to go. I’ve been trudging toward it for so long! I’m weary and I can’t keep getting my hopes up!”

Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit led me back to Joshua today. Clearly, there are some things in me that God needs to deal with. You too? For instance, I can clearly identify that I’m throwing shade at God for promises I’ve been waiting on a long time. Not anywhere near 500 years, but for me, it’s felt like FOREVER.

Remember the two large rivers they crossed? The Red Sea separated them from Egypt, the place of their captivity, and the Jordan kept them from their promise until God was ready to release them. God had created a way of getting these people to look to Him for everything. Their waiting period was divinely orchestrated to draw them closer to God and prepare them to have all that He wanted to gift them. Us too, friend!!

One last thing before Jericho: they had to be circumcised. They had to cut away the things God said to cut away. They had to rely on Him for healing, and not only, but for safety in their time of healing. They had to become reliant on God for everything. They had to know who gave victory. They had to know the sheltering of the Almighty in dangerous places. They had to experience the truth that victory was not on them, it was on Him. Looking back at the last few years of my life, I can easily recognize that this has been God’s purpose; to destroy the fiercely independent woman I have become and create in me a heart that relies solely on Him for everything. To remove the things that can’t go with me into His Promised Land and heal me. I can’t take insecurities into His promises. I can’t take past defeats, or fear. I can’t take a victim mentality, or any abandonment issues I’ve had. I can’t take my own strength. His glory is tied up in honoring His promises in my life and He has to fulfill His promises because He cannot lie! Your life too! Be conquered by God, friend, so He can bring  you into the Land overflowing with goodness that He promised you so long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pharisee Within

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

Conquered by God

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

I took a moment this morning to ask the Lord where in the Bible I should read, to be ministered to according to His will. I felt the need to go back to Joshua. I love Joshua and read it A LOT, but this morning, the Lord pointed out a group of words I had never mulled over before: “the reproach of Egypt.” The scripture, Joshua 5:9, says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” I couldn’t move past the promise of this scripture.

It was a pivotal moment for the Israelites. They were on the cusp of walking into their Promised Land. All that they had been wandering about in the desert hoping for was about to become a reality. They were about to capture the first city in the land God was releasing to them in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham somewhere around 500 years before. They were about to step into battles they didn’t even have to fight. Walk into houses fully furnished for their arrival. Settle into a land that they had never known, but had envisioned through the wistful smiles and dimming eyes of their elders. Their castles in the sky were settled into a land called Canaan and spread out before their ever-wandering hearts.

Let me set the stage a little for this verse: Moses had died and Joshua was roused by God to lead the people forward. The dust had hardly settled over the grave and God was telling Joshua, “It’s time to get up and move into the land. Prepare the people to walk through the Jordan.” I find it interesting that they wandered 40 years between two large rivers that held them captive in the desert until God was ready to make a way for them.

Three days later: the Israelites had been instructed. They had consecrated themselves and packed up. They were waiting for further direction. Joshua told the Levitical priests to pick up the ark and move forward. The people were instructed to follow the priests because they had never been that way before. Don’t miss the fact that someone else was supposed to lead them. They were not to rely on their own understanding. “Clearly, we walk forward.” No. Clearly, you follow.  The leaders of the tribes were to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan to build a memorial with. When they all crossed, the priests moved forward and as soon as their feet were out of the water, the river returned to flood stage.

On the other side of the Jordan, they were officially in Canaan. They camped under the stars beneath the shadow of the walls of Jericho. Here, in this foreboding position, God told them to circumcise themselves. Not just their hearts, but their physical selves. It’s curious that God would lead them to such a vulnerable position their first night in Canaan and then command them to make themselves easy prey by undergoing circumcision. Encroaching on Jericho was an act of war and here they were signing their death warrants … except God had already stepped in. Every warring faction in Canaan was afraid of them, even while they were helpless. The Israelites, in a radical act of obedience, physically disabled themselves from fighting and their first week or two in the land, had to trust God for protection from unknown enemies while their bodies healed. From the start, they were utterly dependent on God for survival there.

Their obedience led to their freedom in this new place. Because of their obedience, God removed their reproach. They would not be slaves in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their slave mindset into the land. They were going to be victors in Canaan, so they couldn’t take their victim mindset into the land. They were going to see new things in the land, so they had to forget the old things. God removed their reproach so that nothing of their old life would follow them into Canaan. He removed their shame. He removed their insecurities. The men in the camp had never seen warfare, but they had been raised by a generation who had only known defeat and captivity. God had to remove that from their hearts and minds. Instead of scorning the Israelites for their past, the nations in Canaan were filled with awe and dread because they knew God was moving the Israelites in, one victory at a time.

This one verse signified that God was removing all the former shackles in their hearts and minds so they could walk into Canaan as free men in their hearts and minds so that they could be victorious. They needed to see themselves as God saw them. As Beloved. As warriors. As owners and not beggars. You see, for forty years, Egypt might have speculated that God had led the children of Israel out into the wilderness to kill them off (Deut. 9:28). But God was about to exalt this nation that had been bowed down in defeat for so long. His glory was tied up in them and He honored them so that all people would honor Him in their hearts. After the Israelites were settled into the land, all people would look at the progression of victories and be unable to deny that these were a people God loved and cared for. Before they were conquerors, they had to be conquered by God. Their obedience was an act of surrender. Their faith was set in motion. Their God was about to deliver on His long-awaited promise.

Perhaps you’re there, friend. Poised on the edge of your promise. I was reminded of my promise the other day and I’ll be honest: it really ticked me off. There was no humility as I approached God’s throne in open defiance. “I am sick of hearing about this promise! Stop telling me that just over this mountain is the Promised Land because I feel like I keep getting to the top only to find it’s not the top and I still have climbing to go. I’ve been trudging toward it for so long! I’m weary and I can’t keep getting my hopes up!”

Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit led me back to Joshua today. Clearly, there are some things in me that God needs to deal with. You too? For instance, I can clearly identify that I’m throwing shade at God for promises I’ve been waiting on a long time. Not anywhere near 500 years, but for me, it’s felt like FOREVER.

Remember the two large rivers they crossed? The Red Sea separated them from Egypt, the place of their captivity, and the Jordan kept them from their promise until God was ready to release them. God had created a way of getting these people to look to Him for everything. Their waiting period was divinely orchestrated to draw them closer to God and prepare them to have all that He wanted to gift them. Us too, friend!!

One last thing before Jericho: they had to be circumcised. They had to cut away the things God said to cut away. They had to rely on Him for healing, and not only, but for safety in their time of healing. They had to become reliant on God for everything. They had to know who gave victory. They had to know the sheltering of the Almighty in dangerous places. They had to experience the truth that victory was not on them, it was on Him. Looking back at the last few years of my life, I can easily recognize that this has been God’s purpose; to destroy the fiercely independent woman I have become and create in me a heart that relies solely on Him for everything. To remove the things that can’t go with me into His Promised Land and heal me. I can’t take insecurities into His promises. I can’t take past defeats, or fear. I can’t take a victim mentality, or any abandonment issues I’ve had. I can’t take my own strength. His glory is tied up in honoring His promises in my life and He has to fulfill His promises because He cannot lie! Your life too! Be conquered by God, friend, so He can bring  you into the Land overflowing with goodness that He promised you so long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pharisee Within

Published August 13, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

Bewildered Parent, Please Read!

Published July 24, 2018 by Dawn

So, I met someone …

It was most unpleasant and such as it was, I decided almost immediately that this wasn’t for me and I didn’t ever want to do it again, for sure.

My son introduced me. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening at the time. I’m a little clueless like that, but in hindsight, I understand full well what was going on, and thank God for that! Otherwise, I would have taken the whole ordeal personal for years to come.

I met my son’s … sin nature. It’s silly, isn’t it, that after years of being in youth ministry, I wasn’t better prepared for the moment when my son really came into his own. Being fully aware that we all have a sin nature, how did I not immediately recognize what was happening? How did I not immediately run to God in faith that He can deal with the sin nature? Instead, I freaked out.

I did everything within my power to protect my kids as they grew up. Fifteen years single, celibate … 24/7 mom with no other goal in life but to raise two happy, healthy, well-adjusted kiddos into adulthood. No cable, nothing but Christian music on the radio, church three times a week … I had a list of credits that made me feel really good about their future selves. Then I met someone … the inner sin nature of my unbridled and foolish teenage son. I looked at my list of self-righteous accomplishments and threw my hands up in bewildered defeat! What now, God? How did this happen?!

It was bound to happen, and I should have known that. After all, WE ALL HAVE A SIN NATURE! Turns out, I can talk about that in ministry, but it hadn’t sunk in. I was doing a lot of things to avoid what would certainly surface anyway, and needs to because here’s the truth: how can we understand grace and the depth of sacrifice Christ made for us if we never face our sin nature? Do I want my son to not see himself in light of the word of God and the truth of Christ’s forgiveness? Absolutely not! Before the cross on Calvary’s hill can astound him, he must first know his own inability to attain righteousness on his own. And I can’t take this part of his walk with God personal!

I shared this for the parents out there who are blaming themselves for their kids’ behaviors. I’m not going to say you had nothing to do with it, but you haven’t nearly the fault you hold against yourself. Sure, you see yourself in that kid. You recognize your own past and recoil. But it’s all just fodder for the revealing of a sin nature that Christ will soon destroy. Our kids cannot ride to heaven on our coat tails (or apron strings). We must allow God to do a work in them, and it’s painful to watch. Rest in this, friend: God is a good Father. He is our Abba Daddy. He’s my son’s Abba Daddy too. What He has done in us, He will faithfully do in our children. Trust Him! Pray for your kiddos and allow God to work in them. You need to let God take control while they are in your house, so you can encourage them in that transition. Don’t fight it, and don’t fight your kiddos. Love them. Guide them. Pray over and encourage them. Correct them in love. This is how God has dealt kindly with you, and your wayward kiddos need that same kind of support. Trust God to deal with the things you cannot deal with. He must become greater; you and I must become less.

Ever-Present Father

Published July 5, 2018 by Dawn

She looked up into the stands and gave her mom the most pained look of disgust. It was bewildering. “What have I done now?” her mother thought. The rest of the Friday night game was a blurry memory, obscured by that look on her daughter’s face. When the final seconds wound down, a hurt and confused mother hurried down the bleachers toward her daughter. “What was that look for?”

Without having to consider for a moment what look she was referring to, the pretty cheerleader burst into tears. “How could you not tell me my dad was coming?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about! Your dad was here?”

She nodded her head and sobbed.

“Well, what happened?” Her mother was starting to panic. What had happened to cause this emotional upheaval?

“He leaned over that rail and called out to me. When I turned around, all he said was, “Do you want some money? … Mom, why would he ask that? I haven’t seen him in forever and he didn’t even say hi or anything. No ‘I love you.” Just, ‘Do you want some money?’ No, I don’t want your freaking money!”

It wasn’t about the money. It was about a girl who wanted to see her dad and hadn’t for a while. A girl who later explained that she would prefer his presence over his wallet. A teenage girl who taught me something so profound: a father’s worth is not in his ability to provide. It’s not in his willingness to bless his children. It’s in his presence.

I’d never considered how distorted my expectations were in my relationship with God until this moment hit me in the car one morning. I remembered it with such clarity, and with the memory came this weird mixture of conviction and deep peace. I could clearly see the way I had been approaching God, desperate for His wallet, so to speak, and angry about what I perceived as lack between us. I thought about the daughter who just wanted her father to be there, whether he was providing or not. I thought of the presence of God in my life and how He’s been faithfully “there” for me, in good times and bad. Not always blessing me, not always providing in the ways I consider the best, but holding me. Comforting me. Being my companion through an often lonely life. My Father. His strong arms. His strong love for me. His never-failing presence. In hindsight, I understood her heart-cry in that moment and was suddenly so very grateful for the constant presence of God. I suddenly understood it to be far more important than anything He does for me. I finally understand why Paul was able to walk the road he walked, without comfort and without any semblance of hope in this life. He had the ever-abiding Spirit of God and it was enough. It’s still enough.

Father of Promise

Published June 27, 2018 by Dawn

There must have been many nights, Sarah cried herself to sleep, feeling the frailty of her once-strong body as youth slowly died away. Her God had made a promise, but life had gone on just as barren as it always had been. She lived in a silent, seething bitterness watching Ishmael grow up under the arms of his father. She endured the daily sneers of her rival, whose womb had not betrayed her husband. Sarah knew she was Abraham’s beloved. She felt like his curse. The one thing she felt gave worth to her as a wife was motherhood, and she had been denied that by the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

How many nights had they laid down, his arms wrapped delicately around her, his face pressed into her ear, whispering the hope and faith of a man who was confident about his God. Sarah’s eyes traced the lines of the canopy drapery, tears rolling down her cheek and her throat catching sobs before they reached his ears. He smiled, sure of his future. She cried, sure of her failure. Bitterness nestled in her bosom, growing like thorns and sickening the garden of her heart. There had never been a tale of resurrection before, so when dreams died then, they simply were no more. And Sarah’s dreams had died.

Long after Sarah had abandoned all hope, “ … the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.”

I read this the other morning after entertaining thoughts all the way to work that probably resembled Sarah’s during her barrenness. Thoughts about broken promises and a silent God. Thoughts about endless warfare and abandonment. Thoughts about faith weakened by time and circumstances, and a need ripened past the harvest.

The Holy Spirit tried to reach me through the radio with “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong and “Overcomer” by Mandisa. I arrived with just enough peace to not cry in front of my students or coworkers. Then I read this in Genesis and I was stirred a little more, considering God’s timing and how sometimes, He pushes us past the breaking point and then holds all the broken pieces while we struggle to accept things that cause us pain without abandoning our faith.

This thing between Sarah and God kept turning over and over in my mind, accumulating other truths like a snowball. A girl in my class reading her bible in her freetime reminded me that there’s a next generation after me. A memory of a broken child just wanting her Father, and not just his money, reminding me that God is my Father and our relationship is about more than blessings and goodness. Finally, it all came together into this one magnificent, chain-breaking truth: Sarah’s story was the first resurrection story. A dead dream coming to life again after years of turmoil. That story has spoken to generations after, like all these things in our lives might one day reach someone else who hasn’t even gotten here yet. And in the midst of it all is a Father who wants us to know that He is here for more than blessings. He’s here for the highs and lows. To hold his child and comfort him or her. To bless, but with a purpose and a timing set by wisdom and not emotion or desire. A Father who’s promises are yes and amen, and who is not a man so that He should lie.