Tagged ‘Comfort‘

God Is Completely In Control

In July, I wrote we are freed from anxiety when we understand God owns everything, and we are merely the stewards of what he gives us to manage. As you know, the day after posting the article, my sailboat went aground in Lake Okeechobee. The rudder was severely damaged, and the vessel currently sits in long-term storage at a marina waiting for the repair. I am excited to see how God is at work in the situation. A few weeks ago I was asked to do a kitchen remodel for friends of mine. Another friend asked if I would help with their guest house remodel. Yet another friend asked if I would remodel their guest bathroom. Suddenly I had weeks of work lined up! God moved quickly to provide the work. This is the type of work I have done in the past to supplement my ministry income. Through the years, I’ve gutted two different personal properties and rebuilt them, so I have a lot of experience from which to draw. I am grateful God seems to be providing for the rudder by providing this work for me.

Understanding God’s ownership is the first step to overcoming anxiety. The next step is to understand God is fully in control. Not only does he own everything, he also controls everything. Nothing takes him by surprise. He is always in control of our circumstances. In theological terms, we call this the sovereignty of God. This one thought has saturated my mind in the past two months. God is sovereign. He is in control. I am not. And this is fine with me.

Let’s let God speak for himself in regards to this important truth. This is what he says through the prophet Isaiah:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11, ESV)

Pause for a moment, and let those words saturate your soul. God declares of himself, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” He is above all and over all. There is no one like him. He is supreme above all.

When we understand his sovereignty, we get a better picture of ourselves. We are not God. Our ways are not like his. We are created in the image of God, but we are not at all like him. We do not think like God, but we like to think we can understand him and his ways. Herein is where we struggle. We want to understand why trials fall upon us. We want to understand God’s purposes. We want to understand God. But is this even possible? I think not.

It is better to love God than to try to understand him. Perhaps this is where we fall short. We spend our days trying to understand him instead of just crawling up on his lap and enjoying him, loving him, pressing into him. Far better to enjoy his presence than to weary ourselves trying to understand what cannot be understood. In the end, he is God and there is no other. His ways are higher than ours.

God also declares his ways and purposes cannot be thwarted. He will do what he has set out to do. Nothing and no one can change this. He proclaims, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11, ESV).

Ultimately, God’s purpose for my life is for me to love him with all my heart. This is his greatest desire for me. How God brings this about in my life may vary from one moment to the next. Sometimes there are seasons of favor when all is well. We celebrate these moments of the excess of God’s kindness in our lives. In the blessings, we are drawn closer to him. Other times he brings great trials, and in our brokenness we turn to him for comfort. God can use both seasons to draw us closer to himself. Whether he chooses to bless or to burden is not for us to know. It is only for us to know he waits with open arms to draw us to himself in either circumstance.

When God provided the sailboat for me, many remarked that it was the favor of God. What happened to God’s favor when the sailboat went aground? Was not this a moment of his favor as well? We recognize God’s favor when times are good, but when trials come, we are quick to forget he is always in control. What if God shows us the highest favor by allowing great trials into our lives, knowing they may draw us closer to himself?

Our trials bring great pause, because they contain the greatest choice we have to make. Will we choose to let the trial push us away from God and our relationship with him, or will we choose to crawl unto his lap instead?

I choose his lap. I am a child of the sovereign God. When I’ve skinned my knees, I just want to be held by him. And so I run to him. He pulls me up onto his lap, and holds me close to himself. This is enough for me. In that moment, I am loved, and I love him for it. I don’t even care if he tells me the greater purpose he is working out. I rest in the knowledge that he is sovereign. He is fully in control. I do not have to understand him and his ways in order to love him and feel loved by him.

My friend, are you in a season of favor, and all is well? Draw closer to God. Are you in a season of trial, and struggling to get through the day? Draw closer to God. Stop trying to understand what cannot be understood. Just love him. Let this be enough. God is sovereign, and he is also good. His purposes will not be thwarted, and neither will his love for you.

God is completely in control.

As I sit at my desk and write this, I am aware there is a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean grinding its way toward my home. It will be interesting to see where God directs it. After all, he is sovereign.

I enjoy reading your thoughts. Please write your comments below.

Hope In Our Failures

On her right, the soil was still freshly turned, heaped upon the graves of her two sons. To her left, the dirt on the grave of her husband had settled long ago. Now Naomi sat alone between the graves, crushed by the weight of loss she carried.

Her mind drifted to her life in Bethlehem long before they made the fateful decision to move to Moab. The drought was severe. They had nothing left. Their options were scarce. In desperation they packed up the few belonging they owned and moved the family to Moab. Moab, the land of idol worshipers and pagans. Moabites, the enemies of Israel. Who could have imagined the grief she would bear as a result of this fateful decision?

After they settled in Moab, her husband died. She was now a single mother in a foreign land trying to raise two sons. The seed of bitterness was planted. She could have moved home, but decided to stay. It was a decision she would long regret. The final insult was when both of her sons married Moabite woman. It was shameful, but at least she was far from home and from the ones who would judge her severely if they knew.

A hot breeze stirred the dust on the graves as she sat and pondered her fate. Though far from the accusing stares of those in Bethlehem, she still felt punished by an angry God. Surely God had seen all they had done. Surely God had turned against her for allowing her sons to marry Moabite women. It was all her fault. The depth of her shame was exceeded only by the bitterness that bloomed within her.

Somewhere far in the heavens above, God had already forgiven her. He saw the bitterness that consumed her, and his heart hurt for her. If only she knew the plans that God had already put into place. If only she realized how he would use her, for what she did not understand was that as a result of her time in Moab, nearly a thousand years later Jesus Christ would be born.

(Adapted from Ruth 1:1-13, ESV.)

Whenever I read the book of Ruth, it is easy to get caught up in the romantic, Cinderella story of Ruth. But the book begins with the tragic story of Naomi. Naomi’s story matters because it gives us hope. It demonstrates that even when we have blown it, God can still use us.

To be fair, when they decided to leave Bethlehem, Naomi was likely not the decision maker. She was obediently following her husband Elimelech. But after Elimelech died, she could have returned to Bethlehem and her people. For some reason, she chose to stay. In staying, she set up the next unfortunate event. Her sons married foreign wives. God never intended this, and it was against Jewish law.

Was she wrong to allow her sons to marry foreign wives? Yes. Was God’s grace sufficient to use her in spite of this? Yes again. Let me explain.

Whenever I read the Bible I am always asking two questions: “What can I learn about God?” and “What can I learn about man?” Let’s begin with the second aspect first, what we learn about ourselves. Like Naomi, we tend to get bitter when we face unbearable loss. It is human. It is human to feel like God is being cruel. “Why did this happen? If God is in control, why would he allow this to happen to me? It must be because of sin I have done. It is all my fault.” Unfortunately, when we focus on our sin instead of God’s grace, we can become bitter. And bitterness is a terrible master.

This week I was talking with a friend whose life is falling apart. He feels he is spiraling out of control. He is concerned that he has sinned so much that God will no longer forgive him. Do you ever feel like that? It is human if you do.

Please understand that when we sin, we can expect to be punished. God does so because he loves us and wants us to be in a right relationship with him. Discipline is one of the ways we can know that we are truly in relationship with him. Like a father disciplines his son, so God disciplines us as his children. But because he is a father to us, he never stops loving us, even when we have blown it. This is where many of us struggle. God is quick to forgive when we repent. He wraps his arms around us when we are hurting. He knows the mess we have made, and loves us anyway.

Once we realize our sin and repent, God is quick to forgive. But what is next? When we experience great hardship and loss as a result of our actions, what do we do then? We chose to hope that God can still use us in spite of our failures.

The good news is that God is always in control. This is what we learn about God from this passage. God is at work even when life is hard. He is always at work even in your difficult times. God is at work even when you have blown it. Even in your failures, God can still use you. Naomi is proof of that. God was at work when the famine hit Bethlehem. God was at work when they moved to Moab. God was at work when Naomi’s husband died. God was at work when she decided not to return home to Bethlehem and family. God was at work when she allowed her sons to marry Moabite women. God was at work when they lived in Moab for ten years. God was at work when her sons died. God was always at work.

He is still at work today. The difficulty is that we rarely get to know the end from the beginning. We are here for a very short time on this earth. The full story of God’s grace is being played out across centuries of time. Like Naomi, how can we possibly understand our place in that? We can’t. But when we remember that God is fully in control we can have hope. We can choose to believe that God can use all our failures, yes even our sin, for good.

Because Naomi made bad choices, a Moabite woman named Ruth marries her son. After the son dies, Ruth stays with Naomi and together they return to Bethlehem. Ruth eventually marries a man named Boaz. Together they have a son. Eventually they become the great-great-grandparents of a man named David, the greatest King Israel has ever had. By doing so, they also took their place in the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah.

All in spite of a bad choice. That gives hope for the rest of us as well.

This article was originally published in the September 2016 Newsletter.

He Remembers That We Are Dust

Do you ever have that moment when you wake up and a song is on your mind? This morning when I awoke, that was the case. It was a song by Kelly Willard. It was a popular chorus in the 80s. It is called the Cares Chorus. Here are the lyrics:

I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet
And any time I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You

(Words and music by Kelly Willard, ©1978 Maranatha Praise, Inc.)

I thought it was odd that such an old song would pop into my mind. Then, before I could even get a cup of coffee poured, one of my own songs came to mind. It was the song “Stumble” from my last CD project. The chorus says this:

I am only human, not some hero of the faith
I’m merely an example of God’s mercy and his grace
I keep my eyes on Jesus when my gains become a loss
As I stumble to the cross

I sat down with my cup of coffee, and then another lyric came to mind. This time the lyric was from a song that is thousands of years old. It was written by David, one of my favorite song writers of all time. This is what he wrote:

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14, ESV).

I think God was trying to say something to me through all of these lyrics. I think he simply wanted to remind me that it is okay to just be “Tim”. I know that sounds odd, but let me explain.

In the past few months, I’ve been dealing with many challenges behind the scenes. It may surprise you to know that many times I have found myself anxious, worried, or discouraged. I’ve had long conversations with God about it, and sometimes I find it difficult to hear him speaking back to me. I even get frustrated with him sometimes.

With social media, it is easy to give the impression that everything is exciting and positive in our lives. We are quick to share exciting news and hope that others will celebrate with us the victories in life. But we are often hesitant to share our struggles. I am as guilty of this as anyone. If we are not careful, we can be quick to share our spiritual victories, and slow to share our weaknesses. Yet our human weakness is the element that is common to all of us.

I think this morning God was saying to me, “Tim, it is okay to be human. I understand your weakness. I know the anxious thoughts that you have. I know the times you struggle to trust me. It is okay. I remember that you are dust. I’ll be God, and you can just be Tim. That’s alright with me.”

God understands that I am only human. He remembers that I am dust. This is a great encouragement to me. Though I long to respond as I know I should, many times I find my heart is anxious instead of trusting. I want to fix my situation. I want to make it work. If only I try harder. But rarely does this change anything. Instead, I need to surrender to his care.

I am grateful that I serve a God who understands my humanity. He understands it because he is the one who created me. He formed mankind from the dust of the earth. He breathed life into his creation. It is his breath that breathes in me. I am who I am because his hands formed me, and he never forgets this fact. He remembers that we are dust.

When I come before God, I can simply be his child. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t have to respond correctly. I don’t have to be free from anxiety before coming to him. Instead, I come to him in my humanity. I come to him in my brokenness. I come to him with my concerns. I come to him as his child. When I do, he reaches down and sweeps me up into his arms. He cradles me on his lap, and wipes the smudge of dirt off my cheek with his hand. He pulls me close to himself and runs his fingers through my hair. I am his child. He is my Father. His embrace calms my fears. His voice speaks gently to me, reminding me that he is here. His unconditional love for me overwhelms my concerns.

This is why I love David’s song the most. I cling to the idea that God remembers that we are dust. I need that kind of God. Do you also? Perhaps as you read this, there is something going on in your life as well. You’ve been struggling. The enemy has been whispering in your ear, “You are a failure.” Your humanity is wearing you out. When you awoke this morning, it wasn’t a song lyric that was on your mind. Instead, it was the situation you are facing at work. It was the struggle you are having in your marriage. It was the situation with your health. It was the haunting voice of doubt. My friend, if that is you, it is okay. God understands your humanity. His grace is sufficient for our weakness. Today, let him sweep you up into his arms. Settle into his lap. Let him hold you. Let him run his fingers through your hair. Know that he is near. Take courage that he is God. He is in control. Take comfort knowing that you are his child, and that is enough.

Remember, he remembers that we are dust.

This article was originally published in the October 2015 Newsletter.