Faith

Cloud Cover

” 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.”

Philippians 4:11-13

 

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.

Philippians 3:8

Contentment, Faith, Hope, Jesus, Life, Sanctification, Spiritual Battle, Trust, Victory, Worry

Circus Circus

  …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?’”

Hebrews 13:5-7

He picked us up outside a little church in Sarasota. “Hello!” His accent was unique.

“Where are you from?” I asked as we drove away.

“I live here but I’m originally from Morocco.”

“What brought you to Sarasota?”

“Oh, the Circus!”

“Really? 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?”

Matthew 6:25-26