Life-changing moments have a funny way of arriving right at your front door, literally and figuratively. About a year ago my husband and I had exactly this experience with a dire, totally unexpected challenge showing up at our front door. The instructive piece of our situation was that our chances of a favorable outcome was 1 percent.
Acceptance was the hardest part. We hadn’t done anything to create, or in our view, deserve this trial. In response to such outcries on our part Jesus has only to spread out his arms to remind us of His own loving acceptance of the ultimate injustice: the death penalty for a sinless life. He is a living reminder to us that:
It is in such seasons of trial, when I reach the end of myself, that God’s faithfulness is most fully on display. In the first days of our “new normal,” Lamentations 3:8 evoked this reminder:
Doesn’t the high God speak everything – the good things and the hard things into being?
(One of the disciplines I’ve adopted in my relationship with God is journaling. I write down my questions and pray about and write answers, often recalling inspiration from sermons, scripture passages or insights from fellow followers. Now and then I uncover a completely fresh, fully formed idea that I know was not mine. My entries reflect all of these sources.)
I decided one of those Q&A devotion sessions was in order. As I started my quiet time I became aware of the song that had been playing in my head all morning; it was the Veggie Tales’ tune, “God is Bigger than the Bogeyman.” (God does have a sense of humor.) Here is an excerpt from my journal that day:
1. Is this situation opposition or a Godly trial? Everything in life contains an element of both opposition and trial. Opposition comes from the accuser seizing the moment as an opportunity to exploit your weakness. Trial is My commitment to work all things for good. I do that regardless of a problem’s origin.
2. The next thing I laid at the foot of the cross was my anxiety. As the Lord challenged me to examine my heart and high level of anxiety I wrote: Your abundant peace flows through me like blood coursing through my veins, bringing life, warmth, nourishment. Anxiety comes from the outside; peace flows through my heart. Anxiety buffets me like waves, knocking me down with its unexpected force; peace brings me to my knees in grateful surrender for its protection. Anxiety steals my energy, my breath, it drains life from me; peace brings color back to my cheeks, gives my body much-needed rest and turns my gaze outward, away from my problems toward those who love me and those whom I love. It gives me strength to carry on.
3. Persistently I asked, “Will it be okay?” God spoke this to my heart: You will be okay because I have already rescued you once for all. No harm can come to you. As you walk through these valleys in the shadow of death, stay close behind me. Hold onto my cloak and let my perfect love cast out your fear.
I gave you the analogy yesterday, and again this morning, of walking a tight rope across the abyss. The key to safe passage is to focus your eyes. Keep your eyes on me. Don’t let the accuser distract you by tempting you to look around.
The second lesson in the tight rope is that tight ropes must be tethered to solid ground on both ends. We are going on a high-risk journey together, but I am on the other side to catch you.
And Jesus is right beside you. Listen to my son. Step when and where he tells you to.
Great challenges allow me to accomplish great things in you, and through you, to save others. I have prepared you for this moment for longer than you realize. Take up this cross and follow me with joy; yes, you heard me correctly, joy. Had you not grown so much in our relationship we could not attempt what we are about to do. Trust.
The heart of your question is my favorite: What are you afraid of losing? This is a question asked out of fear. Is it my will to take everything from you? No. I AM all, and you will not, could not, lose me. So in that regard, dear child, I tell you emphatically you will not lose it all. Rather you will learn to redefine all into something better, more eternal, more enduring.
Remember, I am not a magic eight ball that you shake to get answers. My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts. Even if I tried to explain my plan to you now, you would not understand it. But as you walk with me I will shine the light of truth on you and your husband. And by that tiny act, repeated thousands of times over our journey, justice will be fulfilled in greater glory than how you are asking.
4. Why is this happening? What is your will in it? First question: See magic eight ball. Second question: My will is unchanging. My will in all things, since the beginning of time, is to display My glory in ways that generates awe, shielded only in the interest of freedom, so that I might win all children to Myself.
I do this in everything. You know the joy you find in discovering My revelations each and every day. I love to act in small ways because they bring joy and comfort and incremental change.
Now and then I invite you into a larger story. And no great story is complete without great peril. But, the greater the peril the more exuberant the victory. Two things to know: My will is to do great things through you. My will will be accomplished in time. Second, your role is only to trust and obey.
The one place I did not have peace was around my sense of injustice at the unfairness of the whole situation. Then a friend prayerfully and carefully shared the following, noting the difficulty of the message:
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:20-23
Because we are following Christ, we are called to suffer unjustly (like he did) so that we can show Him to the world in how we walk through it, and in how we love those who treat us unjustly. While this is really really hard to do, it’s also incredibly beautiful.
And so we did. From that epiphany forward, my husband and I released the situation fully into God’s hands. We prayed for our enemies, the people who were making accusations against us, and we trusted that God was with us regardless of the outcome.
Two weeks ago we received news that the odds had shifted; there now was a 99 percent chance the situation would resolve favorably. And last week it did, nearly a year later. While the 1 percent turn is miraculous in and of itself, equally miraculous was the peace and joy we experienced while walking through the unknown, behind the Lord each moment of each day over the past year.
This morning I entered my quiet time intending to praise God for His deliverance and faithfulness. My mind wandered like my beagle on a scent despite my efforts to maintain focus. God gave me a strong, repeated nudge to turn to His word; I opened Bible Gateway and found the following passage as the verse of the day:
But blessed is the man who trusts me, GOD, the woman who sticks with GOD. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. Jeremiah 17:7-8 MSG
Praise and thanksgiving to the God of 1 percent. With him on our side the odds are ever in our favor.
Read another post about “Perseverance in Suffering.”
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