On My Worst Days, Mustard Seed Faith is Enough

I didn’t grow up doing in-depth Bible studies so when I “discovered” the Bible in my early twenties, it was an exciting adventure to dig for treasure in the Word of God.

Along with Scripture itself, I devoured book after book on theology.

I could not get enough.

By my mid-thirties I had developed a fairly well-defined and defensible doctrine. I really thought I understood how God works in the world.

Then my son died.

And all the things I thought I knew, all the absolutes I had marked down in an notebook followed by an underlined verse to support them, didn’t seem so solid or well-defined.

I never questioned certain fundamental truths:

  • God is in control.
  • God is good.
  • God is present and will not abandon me.

But what form His goodness and control might take was unpredictable and many times beyond my understanding.

I’ve learned in the years since is that I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to have my theological ducks in a row. I don’t have to be able to give a defense (to myself or others) of how God works in the world.

I don’t have to have faith that moves mountains.

I only need mustard seed faith and God will do the rest.

I only need to hold onto the hem of His garment, and Jesus will honor my outstretched hand and heart.

Quiet Desperation

I’d say my relationship with God right now is one of quiet desperation.  

I know, know, know that He is in control.  

I absolutely believe that Dominic is safe with Him and that He will hold onto me even when I can’t hold onto Him.  

I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.

John 10:28 VOICE

But I am also often like a petulant child who comes to the dinner table knowing full well I won’t be refused yet angry I have to come at all.  I want to provide for myself (yet can’t!) since things haven’t gone my way.

I eat because I need the sustenance but it doesn’t always taste good going down.  Afterwards I go away full and satisfied yet there’s still some leftover discord.

I’m thankful and question in the same breath.  

It’s uncomfortable.  

But there is nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to-the Lord is my Light and my Salvation.  

Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You speak the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God.

John 6:68-69 VOICE

 

Repost: Why Not Me?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Read the rest here:  Why Not?

 

Five Years of Faithfulness

For my fellow Christ followers, my early morning post may have been a disappointment.  

We’re all schooled in the “right” things to say in the midst of a trial, aren’t we?  

“God is good!”  

“I know the end of the story!”

“Death doesn’t have the last word!”

And on, and on, and on….

True. Every single one of them.  

And yet…

If we are honest (and often we are not, because spiritual honesty is absolutely underrated in the church) we will also have to admit that KNOWING all those things doesn’t minimize pain.

It only makes it tolerable.  

But I don’t want leave anyone doubting for one minute that God has been faithful these past five years. 

He most certainly HAS.  

He has been a silent Source of hope and strength and breath and grace.  He has lifted my head when I couldn’t do it myself.  He has sent His faithful flock to minister to my needs and the needs of my family.  He has held me when I would have let go.

I have wrestled and questioned and even shouted but I’ve never, ever doubted He was here.  

faith does not eliminate questions but faith knows wehre to take them

I wish I could tell you that there was some super-spiritual moment when He assured me of Dominic’s safety in Heaven, but there hasn’t been.  

I wish I could tell you of a morning when His love and assurance and Presence washed over me to take away the angst, but I can’t.  

What I can say is that the Word I hid in my heart before this awful pain was also lodged there has been enough.  That deep well of living water has been more than adequate to quench my thirsty soul.  The torch of truth has been sufficient light along even this black-as-night path.

walk by faith feet on path

My faith is still just that-faith.  

I don’t have special revelation nor an extra dose of grace.  

I’m just following my Shepherd, trusting that He will lead me Home.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

Repost: Light Years

Since I’m spending time with my new grandson, I’ll be offering a few more reposts than usual this week.  If you haven’t seen them, I hope you enjoy them for the first time.  If you have already read them, I hope they are a blessing just the same.

Thank you for all the prayers and encouragement as our family rallies around this new life and helps him fight to gain the strength and size to come home.  ❤

Part of my Lenten observance includes reading the book of John.  

The words are not new to me, I’ve read them over and over-probably dozens of times in the past 30 years.  So I decided to use a different translation this time around in order to shake out some new insights and cause me to pay closer attention to what God might have for me right here, right now.

The very first reading did just that.

Read the rest here:  Light Years

Repost: Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

It’s really hard to wrap my mind around what exactly Dominic is doing now that he’s not here with me.  Sometimes I try to create a narrative or a scene or a story line that gives me something to hold on to.

It’s not easy though.  

So I absolutely understand why some parents think of their missing child as their “guardian angel”.  But that just doesn’t correspond to what Scripture tells me about what happens after death.

I firmly believe that there is a heaven and that my son is there, in the presence of Jesus and the saints that have gone before.

Read the rest here:  Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

Thoughts Matter

So much of this battle has been fought in my mind.

Really, even more than in my heart.

Because you can’t argue with sad or shock or missing or disappointment.

But you can absolutely argue with hopelessness (there is nothing to live for), apathy (there is nothing to do) and distrust (there is no one who can help me).

So I spend a lot of time filling my mind with truth and doing the best I can to empty it of lies.  Some days I’m more successful than others, but I battle on regardless.

dont let anyone rent space in your head toby mac

When hopelessness tries to take up residence I say:

Remember the word to Your servant upon which you have caused me to hope.

~Psalm 119:49

AND

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

~Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG

Apathy sits heavy on my chest and makes me want to give up and give in.  Why try if life is random and chaos is rampant? 

I push it off with:

28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. 29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.

~Romans 8:28-30 VOICE

I remember that I still have work to do:  

“For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. “

~Ephesians 2:10 AMP

The enemy of my soul whispers the same lie he told Eve in the garden, “God really doesn’t have your best interest at heart.  He’s holding out on you.  You can’t trust Him.”

I shout him down and declare:

all the promises of god are yes in christ

The God Who sent His only Son to save me will not let me go.  He will uphold me with His Righteous Right Hand.  Even in the flood of grief, the fire of trial and the darkness of despair, He is with me.  

carry you old age

I have verses and quotes and hymn choruses posted all over my house so that everywhere I turn, my eyes can land on encouragement.

I won’t win any awards with my decorating scheme, but I don’t care.

All of this will be dust one day. 

I’m building an eternal future that won’t rot, rust or decay.  

“3 Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope— reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. Through faith, God’s power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things.”

~ 1 Peter 1: 3-5 VOICE

Hallelujah!  Amen.

 

 

 

New Mercies

I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.

It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.

Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.

A couple of the verses are ones most of us have seen or heard often:

mercies new every morning

But back up a little bit, and read it in a different version ( the VOICE) and it takes on even greater meaning for those of us walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

Jeremiah (the author of Lamentations and known as the “Weeping Prophet”) is overcome with grief.  He uses words I understand to describe how relentless sorrow and despair drag a heart down, down, down. 

He’s bitter, he’s crippled, he can’t move forward or even move at all.

Grievous thoughts of affliction and wandering plagued my mind—
    great bitterness and gall.
Grieving, my soul thinks back;
    these thoughts cripple, and I sink down. 

And, stopped in his tracks, he waits.

He knows he needs hope if he is to get up again.

So he turns his heart to the only One Who can help.

Gaining hope,
    I remember and wait for this thought:

He remembers that God’s love never runs out.  God will never suffer from compassion fatigue because the Lord is loyal, steadfast, inexhaustible.

God’s faithful love is new every morning! 

As reliable and obvious as the light that spreads across the eastern sky and chases the darkness from every corner.

How enduring is God’s loyal love;
    the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
 Here they are, every morning, new!
    Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.

Repeating that truth brings a heart courage to face even the most frightening or dismal circumstances. 

No one can stop the sun!

No one can stop the unfailing, loyal love of God from breaking forth!

Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
    My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”

I can boast (make much of, speak boldly about) about my hope in the Lord because He never, ever fails.  I will not be put to shame. 

i am the lord not ashamed who wait for me

I am not left alone to my bitter thoughts and my affliction will not be forever.  When I seek Him with my whole heart, He lifts me up and carries me through the darkest night.

It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
    to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
    for the Eternal to make things right again.

God will not allow injustice to reign forever. 

Sorrow will not have the last word! 

It is good to wait in full confidence, trusting that the Lord I love, loves me and will redeem and restore everything the enemy has stolen.  

“The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes”

Matt Redman 10,000 Reasons

sunrise trees

Is God Punishing Me?

I’ve heard it from more than one bereaved parent.  

I’ve thought it myself.  

“Is God punishing me?”  

Have I done something so terrible that it falls outside the grace and mercy of the God Who sent His Son and so I must pay for it with my own child?

My heart strains to make sense of things that don’t make sense and I sometimes reach for any explanation no matter how far-fetched or theologically inaccurate.

Because truly, child loss is sometimes only the beginning of the pain and sorrow and ongoing drama and trial.   Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, many, many things have gone wrong.

Many,  many things have been hard.  

After Dominic left, life just piled on like that childhood game where one person held the ball and everyone else tried to get it.

I woke up every day expecting another blow and it nearly always came.

I remember begging God to simply make it stop!

He didn’t.

So I began to wonder if I was being punished.  What other explanation could there be?  If God was allowing all these hard things, it must be because I owed Him something.  I hadn’t done enough or wasn’t doing enough.  My spiritual discipline was lagging behind.

Somewhere, somehow I was falling down in my faith.  

But those thoughts weren’t placed in my head by God.  They were fiery darts of the enemy of my soul trying his best to make me doubt and turn away from the Source of my hope.  

God is not punishing me.  

He made provision for all the punishment required when He sent His Son as a complete, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin.

My Heavenly Father is a good and loving God Who did not leave it to me (or you, or anyone else) to square that debt.  Because it is impossible for us to do it.  Even all the pain I’ve borne is insufficient to pay it.

Jesus paid it ALL.  The debt is no longer outstanding.  

john3-16-17

Now, I may very well (and often do!) have to reap the natural consequences of my own or other peoples’ sin. 

But that is very different than thinking God is doing me harm for the purpose of punishment.  

We live in a fallen world where things do not work as God originally intended.  Human hearts are callous at best and evil at worst and we do things to one another that should never be done.  Sickness, disease and accidents happen.

Sometimes all these things happen at once.  

God can and does intervene.  Sometimes He doesn’t.  I don’t know why in one case and not in another.  That is His wisdom and purpose and beyond my understanding.

But I know that He is not punishing me nor is He punishing you.  

Jesus Himself suffered greatly in His earthly life, yet never sinned.  

That made His sacrifice the perfect, complete and utterly final payment for my own sin debt.   Having received the gift of redemption by His blood, my life is free to be offered back to God as a sacrifice of worship, reverence and faithful obedience.  

But it is not required as payment for sin.  

Neither was my son’s.  

i made you and i will carry you

Holding On To Hope With Both Hands

I confess that I have not had a wholehearted desire to study Scripture since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

Oh, I nibble on verses every day, but I’ve shied away from the feast that used to fill my heart and soul.  

This year, though, I’m committing to a more diligent approach-choosing to focus on one word per month and writing out corresponding verses.  I am studying them, looking up cross-references, considering context and making personal application in my journal.

So the first word I chose was “Hope” because I think of all the things I’ve struggled most to hold onto in this life I didn’t choose, hope is the hardest.  

In my flesh, I want to give up and give in. 

If Heaven is my ultimate destination and I can’t control the future, why not just coast until the Lord calls me home? Why work so hard to live up to a high standard when grace covers it all?  Why lift my head when head down or head up, I’m assured of eternal joy?

I’m just being honest here.  

But I know, deep in my spirit, that this is not the purpose for which I was created.  I was not made by a loving Father to plod hopelessly through this world.  He breathed life into my soul so that I could fulfill His kingdom purpose in this place, at this time.

So I get back on the proverbial horse every time I’m tossed off and try again.  

Here are just a couple of the verses that are speaking courage to me, helping me hold onto hope with both hands. 

I hope they whet your appetite (as they have mine) for finding more.  

O my soul, why are you so overwrought?
    Why are you so disturbed?
Why can’t I just hope in God? Despite all my emotions, I will hope in God again.
    I will believe and praise the One
    who saves me and is my life,
My Savior and my God.

Psalm 43:5 VOICE

“Despite all my emotions” I will hope in God again.  God created me with emotions.  They are a gift (even though sometimes it doesn’t seem that way!).  But I cannot be ruled by them.

Emotions are changeable. 

Truth is not. 

So I have to turn my heart by an act of will toward the truth that God is my Savior, He is my hope.  

We live with hope in the Eternal. We wait for Him,
    for He is our Divine Help and Impenetrable Shield.
Our hearts erupt with joy in Him
    because we trust His holy name.
O Eternal, drench us with Your endless love,
    even now as we wait for You.

Psalm 33: 20-22 VOICE

I love the phrase from Psalm 33:20 “our hearts erupt with joy” This life is hard and joy is often a distant memory or a fleeting moment, but there will be a Day when my heart will be so full of joy-when every hard and hurtful thing is redeemed-that the joy will overflow like lava from a volcano.

No stopping it!

Now that’s something to hope for! 

If your heart needs help leaning in and holding on, here’s a link to a month’s worth of short verses focused on hope: Think on These Things: Hope

Print it out and tuck it in a journal or your Bible.  You can even look up the verses online and check out different translations.  (Something I love to do because it often reveals things I might overlook!)  Copy them out.  It only takes a few minutes.  Then underline the phrase or phrases that stand out to you.

Make them your own. 

Hide the words in your heart. 

Let the Word of God speak life and love to your soul.  

put our hope in the lord he is our shield