“Our identity comes from Jesus alone, not from anything we have done (good or bad) or will do in the future (good or bad) or from our family (good or bad) or from our past (good or bad). ”
— Read on havhope.com/2016/05/25/nothing-but-the-blood/
May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23a (NIV)
They’ve been trapped for four years, stuffed in small, cardboard boxes in our garage. They are the household items I packed when we sold our home. Yet, I still have them tucked away. For the most part, I pretend they’re not there. However, every time I pull into the bay, the boxes remind me of the little things packed inside–stuff I can’t name because I have forgotten, it’s been so long. My garage needs to be purged, and no one will do it but me.
Of course, there are other things inside the house as well. Suitcases tucked into closets, hangers under the bed and piles of books on the desk behind a door. These things I see. I can name them. But they are still unseen by others. They hide in little nooks where messes go when company is coming over and I have fifteen minutes to “tidy up.” My husband calls it “the fake house.” Can you relate?
If I’m honest, I have a tendency to show my fake self to people too. Even though I have experienced freedom through transparency, the pull toward self-preservation is strong. Like a bee attracted to the brightest flower, I navigate toward the Pollyanna persona, not wanting to experience rejection. However, when I am honest, transparent and real about my own sin, then I am free to love and be loved. Ironically, the very things I would rather hide are what ministers to people the most!
The “messy” house, it turns out, is relatable. The truth actually does set me free to be empathetic, loving and honest because I’m not trying to earn anyone’s love. It’s true, I might be rejected, but It doesn’t matter when I believe God’s promises. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am deeply loved by God. I have been created for a purpose. God has always been there for me, even when I rejected Him. There is no hiding our true selves from Him. More than that, God doesn’t want us to hide our emotional mess from Him–or anyone else. So don’t. Instead, invite the God of peace into your messy house (even the garage). After all, your heart is His home. Only He can go through all the “boxes of junk” and purify your heart.
How? That’s a good question. When we respond to God’s invitation to spend time with Him and drink in His delight, it purifies us. He not only cleanses His home, but He also orders our thoughts and feeling so they reflect the truth of who He is and who we are in Christ. His word is powerful, convicting and cleansing. He is a God of order, not chaos. He is calling you and me into a life of constant transformation that results in more and more intimacy with Him. When He reveals the chaos in our lives He does it so we will release it, throw it out, so to speak, so we can “get around” with ease. Remember, His burden is light. So, when you feel God is opening up some boxes you’d rather keep closed and stored away, don’t resist Him. Instead, open up your hands and heart and let Him have free rein.
With my permission, He gently lifts a heavy box from the shelf and opens the folded cardboard. I squint to see what’s inside. There are sharp edges and something black poking out of the box.
“Hmmm. There’s a lot of rejection in here.” He pulled out a photo of my father standing next to me with his hand on my head. My dad’s face was stern, and I looked afraid.
“I was there, you know,” He said. “Holding on to this is hurting you. Would you let this go now? Can you forgive your dad like I forgave you?” “Yes. Throw it out. I don’t want that anymore.“Good. You know I love you, right? You know that I am love. I am just and I am faithful.”“Yes, Lord, I know. I’m sorry I held onto that so long. It hurt so bad. He was my father, you know?” “Yes, I know. I know rejection. Can I take this from you? I would like to.”“Yes. But I still feel unlovable. Like no one cares.”“Unlovable? I say you are loveable! I died for you.”“Yes, of course. I’m so sorry! I know you love me. I know you are enough. I know you died for me so I might have freedom and know real love. But I feel rejected and unloved. I know it’s not true, but I can’t make the feeling go away.”“Sit with Me awhile. Drink in my delight. Renew your heart and mind until you really believe the truth. Bathe yourself in the reality of My acceptance and forever love for you. Then, we’ll come back tomorrow and clean out some more junk. Okay?”“Okay,” I whispered as I snuggled up to Him. His strong arm wrapped around my shoulder and I felt…Loved.
Are there “boxes of junk” piled in your heart? Ask God to open just one and sift through it with you. Take some time to explore your thoughts and feelings. Then, as you sit with Him, confess the sin He reveals to you. Not just what you feel or what you thought, but the real heart issue like unforgiveness, bitterness, idolatry, or shame. Remember, it is for freedom sake that He has set you free!
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 ESV
My husband and I discovered a quiet place where we can walk two-and-a-half miles without coming into contact with another person. Any other time in our lives that would be a negative. But now, with all the craziness in the air, it is “normal.” So, even though we walk through the valley of death, along with everyone else, we will fear no evil because God is with us. Psalm 23 reminds us that we are not really alone. God is guiding us and comforting us with His presence. In verse one, David proclaims that the Lord is his shepherd, therefore, he shall not want because a shepherd always takes care of his sheep. Still, I would like to get to the other side of the valley sooner than later.
But, as David unfolds His relationship with the Lord, he reveals his hope. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.” For His name sake, He leads. Like a good father, He leads His children down a path paved with righteousness—not rebellion, jealousy, unforgiveness, bitterness, envy, or self-sufficiency. In this David took comfort, and so can we.
This valley is difficult. There is no sugarcoating the hardships, the loneliness or the financial loss that has overwhelmed the world. But God is leading for his namesake. The fear that creeps into our hearts is not from God. He is with me. He comforts me. But, if I follow my own path of selfishness and pride instead of humility and grace then His name sake is tarnished and I cease to follow my Shepherd.
Is God holding out His hand to you today to say, “Walk with Me?” If so, what does that look like? For us, it looks like canceling a trip for Thanksgiving, for His name sake. It also looks like wearing a mask even when it’s uncomfortable. It looks like taking long walks on deserted, country roads and breathing in His majesty. It looks like being still.
Fortunately, when I do wander (feel sorry for myself) God guides me and comforts me with His rod and His staff. In essence, the closed door opens up a window of obedience. Like a sheep that fears what’s ahead I can stray, believing I know the best way and, inevitably, I end up lost. Oh how grateful I am for God’s guidance! So, this year, instead of being with family far away, we will trust God to prepare a table before us. There are many who won’t agree but honestly, it’s all about Jesus–for His namesake.
I desire for “goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life,” and, to “dwell in the house of the LORD forever!” That’s worth waiting for, even if the road God takes me on is full of disappointment and solitude. And, if it makes me more like Jesus then I will gladly follow.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
” I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
The cool air blew through the parking lot as storm clouds skated across the sky, preparing the snow expected in the morning. We stood in line waiting for our ice cream, licking our wounds, after a different kind of cloud cover loomed. Just as cold and unwanted as snowfall in May, billows of disappointment threatened to steal our joy and contentment.
I wanted to know the next step, or at least the end of the story. After all, I’m the kind of person who likes to read the last chapter of a book to see if it’s worth reading. But my life story isn’t finished yet. I can’t turn the pages or control the outcome. However, in this situation we came to expect a certain ending. We prayed and acted in faith and things looked good. We would get what we “wanted.” Then, everything changed within a few hours. Someone else intervened and what we wanted was lost. Like the rolling waves of the nearby ocean, our emotions peaked, then receded into the vastness of normalcy. But it didn’t feel normal. It felt like we had been tricked or violated somehow–even though we prayed for God’s perfect will and He answered.
Right now, in the midst of disappointment, I know God allowed the cloud cover. What feels like a loss is actually a faith building experience that reveals the goodness of God. His goodness demands that He offer His best to His children. Sometimes that doesn’t feel good. In fact, sometimes it is so anticlimactic it makes you angry. This time God and I wanted different things. Or did we?
Fortunately, God did answer our prayers. He said, “No.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I said so. Because I know what’s best for you. Because I love you. Because I am the great I AM.” Then He asked, “Do you trust me?”
Then I realized the truth. This is a spiritual dilemma, not a physical one. Through this small disappointment God revealed that my heart was focused on earthly things, not on things above. My heart’s desire was not God’s best. Like a spoiled child I wanted to cut across what God was doing in the waiting and live for myself. Instead, God’s love compels me to echo Paul when He said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” God wants me to live for Him alone. Disappointment and discontent reveal that I believe Jesus is not enough for me–What He did is not enough for me.
Now, we sit looking behind us and realize this was a catalyst to action. We have a vision. We have plans. So, we wait. How long? I don’t know. As long as it takes. God isn’t going to plot our lives in a predictable way like a romantic novel. Boy doesn’t always get the girl. People don’t always live happily ever after. God surprises us with middles that don’t always make sense. In fact, the end is usually shocking, or at least abrupt. There is no neat The End this side of Heaven. Instead we are ushered into another realm altogether. A new life from the womb of the world to the fresh air of Heaven. There we experience everlasting joy. A joy that can’t be yanked out from under you like a cotton rug on a tile floor.
Ask yourself, do I live for the things this temporary world offers? Can I be content in all circumstances? Is God enough for me?
Ultimately, I thank God for unanswered prayers. Or, I should say, I thank Him for saying no. I praise Him for making me wait. I am content to live in the Hope of Heaven. In the meantime, God is the author of my messy middle. Besides, the end is already written.
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
My short legs wrapped around our neighbor’s shoulders. I clung to his chin, my little body draped over his head like a bonnet. I had just followed him into the water. Suddenly, he snatched me up and plopped me on his shoulders as the jellyfish surrounded us.
“I got you. Don’t be afraid, Marlene.”
The Okinawan ocean was crystal blue. The jellyfish danced serenely around his legs as he glided his way to the beach. But I wasn’t afraid. I had been lifted up. I was being carried then and I am being carried now.
This has given me peace over the past few weeks. When the news floats through my living room, threatening to sting, I remind myself, “The Lord Himself goes before me and will be with me. Don’t be afraid, Marlene.”
When I start feeling depressed because we’ve been separated and isolated for so long. God answers, “Don’t be discouraged, Marlene, I am with you.”
Today, when we feel the Corona virus hovering like jellyfish, unseen and dangerous in the waters of everyday life, there is a pull toward fear and discouragement. And yet, God still echoes the same words, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” These words pull us in the opposite direction, causing resistance. Not necessarily physical resistance, like immunity to a virus, but a covering from the world—a sense that we are on God’s shoulders and He is walking us through the waters. In other words, the Bible is true. It promises trouble but Jesus has (past tense) overcome the world.
Consequently, God was not surprised by Covid-19, but I was surprised by peace. It’s not the peace the comes with denial or the peace that comes with knowledge, rather it’s the peace that surpasses understanding. This is what Romans 15:13 means by “overflowing with peace.” When I put my hope in the God of hope–not in my health or my family or financial stability–He fills me with joy and peace as I trust in HIM!
So, just for fun, close your eyes and picture yourself on a beach standing in front of Jesus with your back to Him. He’s waist deep in the Ocean and jellyfish are all around. Your eyes are closed, and your arms are crossed over your chest.
He says, “I got you.”
Without hesitation you fall back into His loving arms. It’s the ultimate trust fall. But that’s where the joy and peace come from! Our hope is not in avoiding the Corona virus, our hope is in the Lord. The enemy is trying so hard to stir up division, strife, fear and hopelessness. But we are like little five-year old’s who can’t see clearly until we get up on God’s shoulders. So, hold up your arms and allow God to scoop you up onto His broad shoulders. Then, rest in Him as He carries you through. He always does.
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”…They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.
Have you ever felt abandoned? I have. It’s a powerful emotion mixed with isolation and loneliness, then baked in the oven of time. As a verb it means: To cease to support or look after; desert.
I was almost eleven when we moved from the “comfort” of military life to the unknown. I stayed at home for a full year, mostly by myself. My mother worked full time, my sister started beauty school and my younger brother spent his pre-school days with my mom at her secondhand store.
Because my parents had separated, my father remained in Las Vegas. We moved to Southern Oregon with my mom to start a new life. At least everyone else did. I was literally abandoned. My physical needs were met but my emotional needs were deserted. For an entire year I sat at home reading mature novels, watching General Hospital and collecting fears like precious coins. I was already a fearful child, but isolation fueled the fears like oxygen does fire. Also, my dad never came to visit. Not once.
Of course, I’m sharing this because of the social distancing we are experiencing as a global community right now. We too have distractions where we can immerse ourselves into other’s drama so we don’t feel so alone. However, that only lasts as long as a crocus’s bloom. The reality of being created in the image of God is that we need real relationship. A real relationship with God and with other people is the only way to avoid feeling abandoned. God promised that He will never leave you or forsake you. Even if you are left at home and no one seems to care. God is there. God’s loves. God’s grace is sufficient.
But, in this miraculous age of technology, we are never without the resources to connect–at least as long as we have electricity! At ten I was unaware of my need and welcomed General Hospital’s Luke and Laura into my life as friends. When I was pulled away from them at eleven (my mother finally put me back in school) I grieved the loss of their “relationship.” I missed them desperately. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was so real to me as a child. They were my family.
In the same way, we need connection with our “family,” even if we remain at least six feet apart. We are not meant to be alone in the family of God, floating individually in a protective innertube of isolation. So, now is the time to figuratively link arms. If you weren’t connected before, reach out to someone. Chances are they are feeling lonely too. If you are connected, maintain those relationships through phone calls, FaceTime, and the like. It is good for the soul.
Having said that, please don’t forfeit this time by treading water. Dig into God’s Word. Covet this time to be with God as He shapes us with the waters of solitude. The rough edges will be smoothed if we swim toward Him, I promise.
For example, this time, as I am left at home with my husband, I have become aware of other self-indulgent behaviors–selfishness, impatience and a desire to be the center of my world. Instead of escaping into another’s fantasy I battle the real pull of self-centeredness. Our pastor reminded us on Palm Sunday that we are not the center of our world, God is. God made it that way to save us from ourselves. You see, apart from Him we can do nothing. There is no real comfort, no real love and no real belonging without Him.
I pray that we will all be changed when the tide comes in and we are all back on the same shore. I pray that God’s love will compel us into the arms of those we hesitated to hug before the pandemic. I pray, in this time of social isolation, we will run into the embrace of our Heavenly Father, and reach out to others as we are able, leaving our fears in the wake of His lavish love.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
For we, through the Spirit, by faith are waiting [patiently; with care and perseverance] for the hope of righteousness.
Have you ever dropped a seed into the dirt and watched it slowly grow into a plant? If so, you understand waiting. You understand faith. You have experienced the miracle. This kind of waiting (patiently, with care and perseverance) is part of our faith walk. Through it we demonstrate our love for God and exercise our trust in Him. Like the seed, as we wait, we too are changed. The Living Water touches the hard seed of our heart and the root sneaks out for more. Pressed into the dirt, like an umbilical cord, it sucks in the life-giving nutrients.
Likewise, our spiritual roots are made in the waiting. As we pray, surrender and listen, the Holy Spirit draws life from the divine and bears fruit in our hearts and minds. The changes are minute. So small we cannot see them until the green stem pops above the surface. It may be a flower of kindness or forgiveness or love—a flower that bloomed while we waited.
I am expecting. Four years ago, we purchased three acres of land that sits at the end of a cul-de-sac nestled up to the Cocheco River. We planned to build right away, but we’re still waiting. The stakes are in the ground marking the footprint of the home. The architects and the engineers have finished their work. Still, we wait. We wait because the appraised value of the home does not match the cost to build. In reality, we are waiting on God. You see, this land wasn’t bought on a whim. We prayed for God to provide a home where we could host missionaries who need a place to stay while on furlough. We prayed for a home where pastors and ministry leaders could find rest. We prayed for a place where we could gather with our church family and do life together. Yet, the door remains closed.
Admittedly, there are times when I get discouraged. I lean toward skepticism and sometimes think, maybe it wasn’t a vision from God. Maybe it’s just what we want. I contemplate selling the property and giving up. Other times I want to push ahead without God’s leading, giving time a little shove. But maybe the gift isn’t the house at all. Maybe the gift is found in the waiting.
Don’t get me wrong. As of today, Marty and I still expect God to provide a way for us to build this home. But it’s in the joyful expectation that we see beyond this life. We not only wait for a forever home here in New Hampshire, we also wait for Heaven—A place where Jesus is building us a forever home. Every day He works at it, bit by bit, removing walls and letting more light into our living-heart. This waiting defines our faith journey. Like Abraham, we walk with God, believing His promises, expecting God to deliver. But, sometimes, like Abraham, we take things into our own hands and end up with Hagars and Ishmaels. Fortunately, none of that deters God. His promises are certain, like they’ve already happened. We will, for certain, have our Isaac. It may not be a house on the river, but we will have eternal life with Him.
Marty and I drive to the property often to pray. Yes, we pray for the house but, more so, we pray for God to be glorified in the waiting. He is the Master Builder, after all. There is a joyful expectation. The waiting is a gift. I imagine living in this house the same way I try to imagine living in Heaven. The doors are open for those looking for a place to rest, only, He is waiting.
God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
Skipping. That’s what came to mind while reading A Standard of Grace by Emily Ley. It was an answer to the question, “What would it take to bring back the type of heart-bursting joy you may have felt as a child?” Why skipping? Because, when I skipped I was completely oblivious to others’ opinions and my own negative self-talk. But skipping wasn’t the only thing that made me forget. I would also run for no reason, had pretend-tea-parties at the bottom of the pool, rolled down grassy hills, swung till my toes touched the sky and cheered for Pee Wee football. “First in ten, do it again! Alright! Uh-huh!” All of these things brought me heart-bursting joy because I wasn’t self-conscious. I was free!
That is until I wasn’t. Somewhere between eleven and twelve, I stopped being free–at least free enough to skip in public! Of course, in my defense, most adults don’t do these things. Instead, they opt to walk politely across the parking lot, push the swing for others or stay on the surface of the water to protect their hair (You know what I’m saying, ladies). Sometimes, though, when I walk from the grocery store to my car, I’m tempted to hoist myself up onto the shopping cart and ride across the lot! But I don’t. Why? Because of self-awareness. Most adults have it. It keeps us confined to ourselves, reserved and fearful of what others might think.
On the other hand, have you ever met an adult that seemed free of self-consciousness? Most likely they were full of joy and grace, loved others without hesitation and freely gave of themselves. They probably jumped into the deep end of the pool, hair and all, skipped to the swing set and pushed and pulled till their toes touched the sky. I want to be that kind of person — that kind of adult. I want to forget myself to the point of experiencing heart-bursting joy in the LORD…like David.
When David wrote Psalm 28 he was beyond stressed, but he chose to worship God and his heart was bursting with joy! David set an example by dancing for God without shame, and he didn’t stop when his wife rolled her eyes (2 Samuel 6:16). David was as free as a child. Perhaps, as adults, we forget God. We forget we are His joy; He delights in us. Or perhaps, Instead of Jesus’ love for us, we think of our failures, those humbling times when we’ve blown it and others saw, or worse, were hurt by us. These kinds of thoughts steal joy. But, If we did remember, would we would be transformed into “child-like” adults, free of self-consciousness? Would we be full of joy and grace, loving others without hesitation and freely giving? I want to be that kind of person — that kind of Christian. I want to forget myself to the point of experiencing heart-bursting joy in the Lord.
This year, I am determined to express joy without fear of disapproval. I want to be a cheerleader for others who are struggling. I want to dance before the LORD with all my might, no matter who sees. I want to be free–free to love and be loved, forgive and accept forgiveness, show grace and receive it. The only way to do this, however, is to forget “me” and focus on the LORD. Like David, I need to be so consumed with God’s love that I just don’t care if others think I’m crazy or stupid or delusional. God’s Word says, “The joy of the LORD is my strength” Nehemiah 8:10. This gives me the courage to run the race of life without fear, rolling down the hills when I trip and skipping all the way home.
And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment.So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Ephesians 1:7, ESV
What does Waco, Texas have to do with redemption? If you’ve visited
this small city in the hill country, made famous by the television show Fixer
Upper, you’d know. After attending a women’s retreat in Seguin, a friend and I
journeyed to Waco for some shopping therapy at Magnolia Market. What I found,
however, was much more than great shopping. Waco is a city defined by
the word redemption.
Not only are there several homes that have been brought back to life, there is also a thriving economic upturn because of the popularity of Fixer Upper. In fact, thirty-thousand tourists visit the city per week! But it wasn’t until we took a tour from Waco Tours (https://www.waco-tours.com/) that we discovered other organizations that were working to revitalize the poorer parts of the city.
For example, the library in East Waco was refurbished and a mural was designed to encourage education for the underprivileged who live there. There is also a non-profit grocery store called Jubilee Food Market created by Mission Waco that was placed in a “food desert” so that those without transportation would have access to healthy, low-cost food. Finally, we were told about a church that gathers the homeless who live in Waco for a church service every week under the bridge where most of them live. During construction, when many were displaced, Chip and Joanna Gaines opened the common grounds at Magnolia Market for their services on Sunday morning.
When you arrive, you realize very quickly that this is not a wealthy city even though there are very nice areas with rolling hills, green grasses, and a beautiful river. But God is moving mightily, meeting the needs of the poor through His people. Moreover, He is bringing people from all classes and races together in love. For instance, Jubilee Market offers jobs to convicts who are transitioning from jail to living in the world. At Jubilee, they find a place to belong when others turn them away. As one employee put it, “I now have hope for the future.”
In short, Waco is a place where you can see the Gospel lived out every day. It is an uncomfortable place where you are challenged to look at your own heart, beliefs, and motivations. It is a place of glory where Baylor University shines and a place of poverty where a homeless man bathes in the fountain at Baylor’s entrance near the Hilton hotel and the Brazos River.
Similarly, our hearts are complicated too. We love the Lord and yet do not always love Him with all our hearts or love others as Jesus loved us. Nonetheless, like Waco, we are being redeemed. Every day we walk in newness of life and have hope for the future. To me, Waco is a metaphor for spiritual sanctification. As we allow God to search our hearts, He chooses to cleanse us. Then, little by little, we are made more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
As we allow God to reveal the deprived and impoverished parts of our lives we can surrender to the process of redemption. Remember, there is a river as powerful as the Brazos in your own heart cleansing you from all unrighteousness. Remember, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Remember, there is a Jubilee Market where we can belong, no matter what we have done, and get fed by the One who paid the price. Remember, there is a place for us to gather as a Church and praise His glorious name for all He has done, is doing, and will do for His glory. Remember the Cross!
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Mosesand the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
…be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
picked us up outside a little church in Sarasota. “Hello!” His accent was
“Where are you from?” I asked as we drove away.
live here but I’m originally from Morocco.”
brought you to Sarasota?”
We’d love to hear your story…”
The Uber driver shared how he provided for his family when he was a child growing up in Morocco. He performed acrobatics on the boardwalk for tourists and, he said, “I made more money than my father.” His Uncle had been in the Circus and taught him how to perform. Eventually he was able to get an internship at Disney World working at EPCOT. Afterward he worked with the Ringling Bros. Circus for almost two decades, traveling all over the country until they shut down in 2017.
This colorful story reminded me of God’s
faithfulness and the power of contentment. When I first heard it, I was transported
to the Moroccan seaside and felt the joy and pride that he had as patrons would
pass him money and applaud. God gave him a gift that eventually carried him to
the United States where he continued his dream and lived in relative luxury.
Even as an Uber driver he was satisfied and happy with the memories of his
nineteen-year circus career. His Pooh Bear like attitude impacted me. If I were
him, I would have told the story of my rough childhood in a poverty-stricken
country where my labor enabled my family to eat. But he didn’t mention the obvious
difficulties, only the blessings.
Even now as I reflect on this encounter I am
convicted. You see, I am a pessimist. Naturally, when I wake up in the morning I’m
usually grumpy. My sunrise countenance aligns more with Eeyore’s than Pooh’s
and I am definitely NOT a Tigger—those energetic people who are always cheerful
and kind from dawn to dusk. There is a weight to my flesh that is attached to
childhood memories telling me that “bad things always follow anything good.” It’s
not until I sit at Jesus’ feet that I start to feel and act joy-filled and
content. Because of this I have to purpose to listen to God’s promises first
thing in the morning or the heaviness follows me throughout the day. For
example, when I am tempted to worry about loss, fear can grip me and keep from being
productive. However, if I listen to my Heavenly Father, He whispers, “Never
will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Or, when I fear criticism because
I think I’ve done something wrong I will isolate myself and “hide” from God and
others. But, if I run to Him, He says, “There is now no condemnation for those
who are in Christ Jesus.”
God, like the Uber driver, always looks on the bright
side and wants His children to remember what He has done and to be content. That’s
why God wants us in His Word. It truly is a lamp to our feet and a light to our
path. It illuminates the dark places so we can see the work God has done
through the suffering. Only then do I realize that the heaviness I feel in the
morning is an illusion. My reality is amazing! I am free from the poverty of
sin and death and so are you. Regardless of our past or current circumstances
we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We just need to be reminded often.
Ironically, whenever I tell my story, including the trials, others are encouraged because God’s redeeming love is all over my past. Like an acrobat’s trapeze act, it is the hard and dangerous feats that impress us. We are amazed at what God has done, if not without suffering. My story, like the Uber driver’s, includes suffering too, but God masterfully choreographed every step. I am grateful for the journey God has brought me through and desire to be satisfied with wherever God leads. I want to reflect on God’s goodness in my story and to have a contentment and optimism that is reflective of God’s faithfulness. I want to be a Circus Pooh.
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”