"New Testament scripture stacks up too much evidence for us to claim that suffering is never within the plan of our sovereign God/" -Beth Moore, Believing God
"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" - Jesus, John 11:40
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far out weights them all?" -God, through Paul, 2 Cor 4:16-17
"Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
"We enter into God's victory, His once and for all and yet presently unfolding victory, through the doorway of our own suffering.....by surrender." - Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild
"All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace." - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
"In my frustration with prayer, I used to focus on the lack of God's intervention. Why won't God do what I ask? ...God asks me to make myself known to him in prayer and then works my prayers into a master plan for my life--a plan which I can only faintly grasp." - PhilipYancey, Prayer:Does it Make Any Difference?
It seems so much of what I am reading right now is intertwining with the other things I am reading. Your God is too Safe and The Holy Wild, by Mark Buchanan, Believing God, by Beth Moore, Prayer by Philip Yancey and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
One of the recent threads twining through these books and around my heart is the message to walk and not faint.
In Luke chapter 18 Jesus shares a parable about a persistent widow....to show they should pray and not give up. And we do that, don't we? Don't we often pray and pray, and be persistent and want to not give up, but still, the answer we desire..seems not to come. Like John the Baptist, in jail, waiting execution, we ask, Jesus are you the one, or is there another??? We start to doubt. Jesus tells John's disciples "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Luke 7:22
When God does not answer the way we think he should, the way our logic of love would say he should, do we stumble, do we lose our faith?
Back in Luke 18, talking about the persistent widow and God answering prayer, Jesus says "And will not God bring justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."
Quickly? Quickly? Often we pray persistently, and don't see our answers at all, let alone quickly. We see the pain, the poverty, the loneliness.
With our eyes, the persistent widows cries are not answered. With our eyes.
Then He says the oddest thing, perhaps: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
How does that fit in? And this is where all this intertwining is connecting together. We pray and we wait on God, and as Mark Buchanan shares, in Your God is too Safe... We wait on our prayers and we pray while we wait. Our relationship and ongoing conversation with God draws us closer and we see more and our perception changes, as we start to see the glory of God in every common bush. In even the pain of suffering. Ann's book has chapters on this same point...seeing God in everything, even the hard things.
Mark talks about the verses in Isaiah 40:31 but those who wait on the LORD, will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. He goes on to talk about how our waiting, at first might be soaring, then come down to a persevering run to a walk and not faint.
Walk and not faint. When the answers don't come the way we expect, or seemingly not at all. When the days/nights are hard. When children suffer. When the walking is quiet, lonely, long. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? Will we not stumble on account of the wait...on account of Him? And if so, how?
As I started, a week or so ago, thinking about this walk and not faint, the fuel for my walking was love. Love of God. Love of those I am walking for, alongside. A determined, but at many times not so joyful walk. In that span of time, God has used Ann Voskamps book, 1000 Gifts, to start the opening of my eyes, to see another way to walk and not faint. To walk with thanks and gratitude. And in the thanks, comes joy...
I am such a baby, a neophyte in learning this, I dare not even whisper the thought...but it is there, a cloudy concept to be grasped, and mulled over and tried and to grow into. Not nearly there yet, but a hope of there. A hope of a way to walk and not faint...with joy.
So I do not have the answers...yet...but I do have some traces of answers. And I am hopeful, expectant to keep walking, keep learning, keep following the winding vines as they loop and connect and touch and grow.
Because I think Elizabeth was right, every common bush (and hard bush and painful thorn) is afire with God for those who see.
O God, I have tasted Your goodness,
and it has both satisfied me
and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire.
O God, the Triune God,
I want to want You;
I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Your glory, I pray,
so I may know You indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me…
Give me grace to rise
and follow You up from this misty lowland
where I have wandered so long.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Some would gather money Along the path of life Some would gather roses, And rest from worldly strife. But I would gather children From among the thorns of sin, I would seek an ebony curl, And a wide and toothless grin. For money cannot enter In that land of endless day ,And roses that are gathered Soon will wilt along the way. But oh, the laughing children ,As I cross the sunset sea, And the gates swing wide to heaven ,I can take them in with me! ~Author Unknown~
“God wins us, not by shouting, beating us up, or starving us into submission, but by asking for an invitation to enter.
We are loved into surrender. The more we accept that he operates out of love for us, the more we will entrust ourselves to him.
Fénelon expresses this truth beautifully: "God is not a spy looking to surprise you. He is not an enemy lurking in the shadows to hurt you. God is your Father who loves you, and wants to help you if you will but trust in His goodness."