I love how God works. Even though I see through a glass dimly, I am starting to grasp (even if only in fractional part) more of His heart and how He truly is for us. The forbearing love and patient faithfulness overwhelms me.
Despite my trips, head-bumps, and outright wipe-outs, He's mercy is new every morning. Incredible.
What's also deeply encouraging is how He weaves truth into our pain, growth in our disappointments.
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.' Hosea 6:1
I don't know about you, but this verse has always disturbed me...until the last 8 weeks and my study of the book of Hosea.
Like a cancer that needs to be cut from the body, so does our God--in His love--cut out what doesn't belong and binds us up whole and renewed.
Another sacred echo reverberating over the walls of my heart is one of idolatry. This whole year has been a time of acknowledging, analyzing, and removing that which has displaced God. The challenge in discernment comes when we're bowing down to good things instead of the Great One--after all, not all idols are 90-foot images (Daniel 3) or golden cows (Exodus 32). Sometimes they are even gifts from God (our spouse, children, ministry, talents, etc.).
When these idols take up room in our hearts and push God to a compartment of our spiritualism, we're in desperate need of an intervention. As painful as it may be, that darling must step down--be cut down if necessary.
In some ways, the quiet (non-tangible) idols are the hardest ones to get rid of. After all, a person can remove themselves from alcohol or shopping outlets, but how does one destroy the idol of comfort, power, security, self-esteem, performance, etc.
Two stories keep scrolling through my mind. I've been rereading the story of Joseph in Genesis. Few stories encourage me like his. Joseph's problems started because of idolatry. His father, Jacob, had elevated Rachel's son to godlike status, doting praise that overruled his other sons. In his grandiose delusion, Jacob thought it would be a good idea to share his dreams of control and prominence with his jealous brothers. Not so smart. But, he was 17. I guess we'll cut him some slack.
But no one else did.
The next 13 years were plagued with one abrupt misfortune after another.
He was sold as a slave.
He was unjustly accused from the backlash of angry lust.
He was imprisoned.
He was forgotten.
And yet, through it all, Scripture reminds us that "the Lord was with him" (Gen. 39:21). God didn't abandon Joseph. Even in the pain of rejection, hatred, unjust punishment, and neglect, God eventually rose Joseph up to a place of successful importance.
It's also important to notice that Joseph didn't forget God. He continued to do what was right, even though it would have been easier to give in and have the affair. It would have been easier to sink into apathy and despair and not take responsibility for anything or anyone, but Joseph continued to work, continued to listen to God, and was in tune with Him enough to interpret two dreams for Pharaoh's men. He kept hoping something would change (Gen. 40:14) and doing what was before him with integrity.
Likewise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were confronted with a 90-foot golden image. The order? Bow to it. They wouldn't. Consequently, they were thrown in the furnace. God didn't spare them from the possibility of pain or the horror of "what might be." They weren't for sure what God would do (Dan. 3:17), but they knew that even if God decided to let them burn up and die, they wouldn't succumb to the temptation.
Two thoughts: God doesn't always spare us just because "we did the right thing." Need further evidence? Check out the book of Acts. Follow the disciples' lives.
And so, it's important that when we are confronted with fire, we burn through refined as a pure gold. I would hate to uncover that the only substance to me is mere dross. We do this by walking with the One who pulls us through--not of our own strength.
Life isn't about proving our worth to God...for we are worthy only because of Him.
Life isn't about making ourselves good enough to deserve success.
Life isn't about the fire coming to the deserving or undeserving.
This life is about trusting and turning...continually looking back to the One who rules. The One who holds all things together. The One who will one day make all things right.
So, in the mean time, don't be discouraged by the heat, the pain. Lean into and look out for what He wants to do with it.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
I Peter 4:12-13