struggle

All posts tagged struggle

Blessings that Feel Like Curses

Published November 27, 2017 by Dawn

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”

It was one of the most pivotal moments in Mary’s life. How many dreams did she have about her future? She was betrothed already, and would soon be married to a highly esteemed man. She had a flawless reputation. Her character was such that she was not just a child of God, she was a favorite. While she dreamed of the white picket fence and a yard full of kids, all two years apart, her Father had big plans for her.

I wonder what kind of disposition Mary had when remembering this moment as God’s plans unfolded in her life. From that moment on, nothing looked quite like she thought it would. She was pregnant with no alibi. The man she was engaged to wanted to leave her. While the Bible does say Gabriel explained everything to Joseph so he wouldn’t leave, it doesn’t say anything about a town hall meeting so everyone else knew that Mary was still pure and virtuous. Her reputation took a fall. No wonder she immediately left town to go to Elizabeth’s!

I’ve been thinking about this for days now. Mary’s “blessing” probably felt like a curse sometimes. First the pregnancy, then the long journey on a donkey in her last trimester. Giving birth in a stable. Fleeing to Egypt not long after becoming a new mom. Raising a son whose thoughts were often otherworldly and strange. When Jesus was twelve, he told his mom he stayed behind in Jerusalem so he could “be about my Father’s business.” He wasn’t talking about Joseph.

Gabriel had warned Mary about Jesus’ mission. That he would be despised, rejected and crucified. I wonder how often she thought about that, and how gracious she was when her emotions overwhelmed her. Gabriel had told her a sword would pierce her own heart too. God’s favor and blessings in Mary’s life felt like pain and agony from the start. I imagine she lost perspective sometimes. I wonder if she ever knelt in prayer and poured out bitterness instead of praise.

More than anything, I wonder if perhaps we have gotten it all wrong. Have we decided that blessings in our lives are curses and vice versa? When trouble comes because of things we know are the will of God, how often do we lose perspective and struggle to hold on to promises? Likewise, how often do we look at the things of this world that distract us and keep us complacent and decide in our hearts that they must be blessings simply because of how they make us feel? We get comfortable and love it that way, but what would God be doing in our lives if allowed to have His way? Would it be any less His will just because it causes us turmoil?

As I thought about Mary, I realized that God didn’t call her blessed because He had a life of ease planned out for her. I think He called her blessed because He had chosen her to bring glory to Him. In spite of all the pain, God trusted Mary to raise Jesus. She was His faithful servant and God was pleased with her. His gift just didn’t always feel like a blessing. I wonder, though, if her response was always just as kind and gracious as it was that first day when Gabriel broke the news to her. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

I’m not always that gracious. Actually, I’m not sure I’m ever that gracious. I want to be, and it’s been my prayer for a while, but when God allows things that hurt – things that break me – I don’t respond like Mary. I weigh the things God allows against the pain they cause and decide from there whether they are a blessing or a curse. But I think I’m doing it all wrong. The Bible makes it clear that oftentimes, walking in the will of God hurts something fierce. The pain doesn’t make it any less the will of God, or any less a blessing. The blessing, after all, isn’t in how much we benefit. The blessing is solely about the glory of God being revealed through our lives. It exists in the way our trials make us less worldly and more like Christ. If being broken was the will of God for Mary, and the will of God for Jesus, how can we expect it to be any less His will for us?

I believe we can take comfort in the fact that in all of the brokenness and despair, every person that endured the will of God in the Bible and was obedient, brought glory to God. Their stories have stood the test of time and remain to remind us that God’s will is ultimately for our good, even when it doesn’t feel good. May God continue to bless us, and give us strength to bear it.

 

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Standing Outside the Fire

Published May 31, 2017 by Dawn

I walked into a tree limb yesterday morning. It was literally my breaking point. I walked into a tree limb, it poked me in the eye and I started to cry.

 

I know … I sound super lame right now, but it’s true. I fell apart after being poked in the eye by a stick. You’re probably cracking up right now. I’d be laughing too, but … well, ok, I’m laughing now. It wasn’t funny at the time.

 

I hit my breaking point exactly as I just mentioned. After a two-night, surprise admission to the hospital (which means a crappy shower and no razor … let that sink in, ladies … ), I came home right before a strong storm knocked out the electricity (ok, seriously, am I the only one obsessed with taking a shower?). I came home with a kid who doesn’t understand how vital it is to not do anything for the next ten days of his life while his body wards off a very nasty infection that necessitates some of the strongest antibiotics currently known to the medical world. To say I have been stressed lately doesn’t seem like I have adequately conveyed to you the angst going on in me. But do you get it when I mention the tree poking me in the eye? It didn’t even touch my actual eyeball. It just poked me near my tear duct. Tears welled up in my eyes, but the tears from my heart pushed them overboard and I stood in the yard crying like a child.

 

Dear Daddy,

I’m done. Please, not another thing. These so-called light and momentary troubles are getting the best of me right now. I don’t know how strong you think I am, or how strong you want me to be but I assure you I’m not. I’m done. This assault … can I call a time out? I don’t know what you’re aiming at in my life right now, but my hands are up and I surrender. How can I glorify you in this moment? What purpose can you possibly have in poking me in the eye? Cease fire! I can’t take anymore!

 

I eventually sucked it up and got back to what I was doing: picking up the yard after said storm so it could be mowed. The Holy Spirit whispered something to me that Paul said, about counting it all joy in suffering … it was an okay thought and it got me through the moment but that yard just sucked me back in to the here and now.

 

There was so much natural debris in my yard, I decided to start a small fire and burn it little by little. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned how God uses music to speak to me sometimes, but it’s one of my main obsessions, so it makes sense. Only His choice of song was a little strange … Standing Outside the Fire. I don’t think I’ve heard that song since I was a kid. But there I was, standing next to the fire when it started running through my head.

 

Life is not tried it’s just merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.

 

And I realized that here lately, I have been merely surviving. With my head barely above water, so to speak. Standing outside the fire – existing outside that precious communion with the Holy Spirit – I am barely making it. I am overwhelmed. To be completely honest, I’m not trying. I’m not putting forth much effort beyond just making it through each day.

 

There are several encounters with fire in the Bible. Moses at the burning bush. Moses on the mountaintop. The fire at Mount Sinai. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Elijah. The fire is both unapproachable and engulfing. I can clearly see a progression of the Spirit of God: coaxing us near, engulfing us, drawing us near to Him. When the veil was torn, all of humanity was given a beautiful opportunity to come into this kind of fellowship with God. Unfortunately, there’s also a discomfort involved. Fire purifies. It burns up the natural man until there’s nothing left to hinder in our pursuit of the Father’s heart. It feels a lot like heat and tribulation in this life. Jesus came that we may have life more abundantly, but we won’t ever do more than merely survive if we are willing to stand outside the fire. We’ll just be surviving the onslaught. Never victorious. Never advancing. Never coming into precious communion with the Father. I know I wasn’t made for that.

You and I were made for Him who shows up as a pillar of fire. Who says He will be a wall of fire around us. The children of God were made to be consumed. These sufferings come so that the glory of God might be revealed in us. The fire of His presence. I don’t want to stand outside the fire. I want to step into it. Walk in it, knowing that God is there with me and will not leave me or forsake me. I want to allow His Holy Spirit to purify me through trials. When I am weak, He is strong. Here I am freely admitting my frailty. I am ready and needing God to stand by me and give me strength. These moments are so sweet, even if they seem a little bitter at first. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an even greater glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).