Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trusting God is not easy (by Ray Ortlund)

This is from The Gospel Coalition.  It's a super encouraging post that looks at trusting God, something I need to be encouraged so often to do!

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31
Trusting God is not comfortable.  It doesn’t belong in a Hallmark card picture — a colorful valley, a quaint village, a church steeple, with a sentimental slogan.  Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful.
Rabbi David Kimchi, one of the early Hebrew lexicographers, defined the verb “wait” inIsaiah 40:31 with reference to the medieval German verb for “twist.”  That is, waiting on the Lord can involve tension and pressure and stress.  How could it be otherwise?  Waitingis pent-up irresolution.  It is not easy to wait trustingly for the Lord:
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, . . . so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.”  Psalm 123:2
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”  Psalm 130:6
“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.”  Psalm 143:6
My point is this.  You may be going through hell right now.  You may be bewildered, gasping, frightened.  But that doesn’t mean you aren’t trusting God.  It might mean you are trusting God.
Isaiah really understood something.  He understood that it’s in this tension that our strength is renewed.  How so?  There is something about coming to the end of ourselves and our own strength and wisdom — that’s when our hearts finally crack open, and the love of God pours in.
When we have nothing of our own left, when nothing will suffice but that which is directly and immediately of God, that’s when God alone is our sufficiency, and we find him to be so.  He’s worth the wait.

Monday, June 25, 2012

so comforting.

And He will be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure.
(Isaiah 33:6)

Such comfort and peace.  God is my stability.  Always.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

it's time to stand

I read Isaiah 36 and 37 today.  It's a fascinating story about Hezekiah and the people of Israel, and it is sandwiched between prophecies of judgment and prophecies of healing.  Hezekiah and the people of Israel are surrounded by the Assyrian armies.  It's a dismal situation, and to top it off, they are being taunted by Rabshekah (don't you just love the names?).  He is a servant of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.  With boundless pride, Rabshekah questions why the people are following after the Lord and whether they're doing it right.  He tries to persuade them to surrender to the king of Assyria.  This king would offer them drinks, land, food, bread, and vineyards, "a land like your own land." (v. 17)  Rabshekah points out that the other nations' gods could not save them from the hand of the Assyrians; what made them think their God would save them? (v. 19 & 20) He even announces this in the Judean language so that all the common people can understand what he is saying...and hopefully become fearful and tremble and forsake the Lord.

What was the peoples' response?  They didn't answer Rabshakeh (v. 21).  Some of the king's staff tore their clothes and reported to the king (v. 22).

And when the king heard, did he and the people quake in fear?  As they could see the Assyrian armies over Jerusalem's walls, as the ridiculing words of Rabshakeh echoed in their minds, this is what their king did: "...Hezekiah...entered the house of the Lord." (37:1)  He instantly went to seek the Lord!  This involved talking with Isaiah and receiving the word of the Lord.  Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and asked for God to deliver them "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God." (37:20)

And God uses Isaiah to speak to the people and assure them that He will deliver them and destroy Assyria.  In verses 36 - 38, the angel of the Lord destroys thousands of Assyrians in their own camp and Sennacherib is assassinated by two of his sons as he worships his gods.  What an answer and what a deliverance!

This applies to me so much right now.  I don't have an army surrounding Park Place, nor do I have an enemy standing outside our house walls yelling at me.  But I am on a journey of trusting God this summer, and it has modern-day parallels to the people of Israel.

The people are trying to seek the Lord (and have certainly made mistakes along the way, like allying with Egypt), but even during seeking the Lord, they go through this difficult time.  My circumstances this summer aren't always easy, even as I am seeking the Lord.  He allows tough times to happen.  Hosea 2: 6 says "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths."  Israel was following after idol-lovers instead of the Lord, and God orchestrated her situation in such a way that she would then seek Him.  I think this summer is a call for me to seek the Lord even more fully, to place Him as my first priority, and to learn to fully rely on Him.

Rabshakeh was tempting the Israelites with what seemed like the best option at the moment. Surrender to the king of Assyria; he promises so many good things; these troubles will be over.  My temptation this summer is to wallow in sadness, to feed any discontentment in my heart, to have a "woe is me" attitude, to not look for ways to love people, to complain, to not choose joy, let the hospital hours and those fleeting moments pass me by, where I could have shown someone ignore the lessons God gently and repeatedly shows me, to not allow the head knowledge to be applied in my heart, not trust God.

But I am so, so encouraged by the Israelites' and Hezekiah's instantaneous turning to the Lord.  How I want that to be my heart's solution to every tendency to take the easy way out.  In a song by Laura Story called "Make Something Beautiful," she says,

"I admit there is a yearning
For the hurting to subside
But not at the risk of missing
What you're doing in my life

Yes, there are going to be tough moments this summer.  There will be "Rabshakehs" everywhere, tempting me to focus on the present, to look at the world, to choose the easier path (with fleeting happiness and without true joy).  But I want God.  I want His voice and His ways.  As someone once posted on Facebook, "In trials, is your end goal freedom, or are you more concerned with what He forges in you during the process of the fight?"

With the encouragement that the Israelites sought the Lord and He answered them, I similarly want to seek His face and soak in the lessons and love that He has for me.  As they were able to stand upon His faithfulness through His strength, I want to do the same!  This summer is a test of faith, a call to arms, a time to stand, while saying,

"Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord,
We have waited for You eagerly;
Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls." Isaiah 26:8

And I want to be found at the end of this summer saying, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation." Isaiah 25:9

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

well, if i WERE to write a blog, this is probably where i'd begin

The way this summer is laid out was not my ideal summer.  If I could create the perfect summer it would not involve school or having my boyfriend be 8 hours away.  It would not have a nursing research class that’s 4 hours twice a week and makes pretty much no sense.  It would not have 2 ½ months of not spending time with the aforementioned guy.  It would not have 12-hour nursing shifts that start at 7:00 a.m.  It would not have coffee pots randomly going off at 1:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m. when I need my coffee.  It would not have a girl who’s discontent.

And that’s what it comes down to.  Am I content with these circumstances, am I joyful with where God has me, and do I trust His guidance over these 100 days of summer?  That’s where I want my heart to be and that’s what I’m striving for.  This is the beginning of that journey.

Back in January, I chose a word for the year, and ironically (actually, more like God-knew-I’d-need-this), my word was “trust.”  I figured that since there would be so many life-changes this year, I’d need to practice trusting God.  As this year set off, little did I know how much more I’d need to learn to trust God; I thought I had it down pretty well, but I don’t.  All semester long, He gave me little treasures of Scripture or tidbits of knowledge through Bible studies, sermons, or songs that were all related to trusting God.  I started compiling them into a flowchart, or as we nursing students call them, “concept maps.”  (I’m such a nursing nerd.)  These lessons have been a sort of foundation for the path of trusting God that this summer holds.

Barely three weeks into summer and I already have a million things to add to the Trust concept map.  I am so amazed at how God reveals lessons and truths to me right when I need them.  And He doesn’t stop with just one amazing Scripture.  He gives me several to meditate on and revel in.

I want this summer exactly as it’s unfolding.  I know this is God’s plan, and deep down I want His will for this summer, rather than some cheap plan I could think up instead.  I know that His will is what is best for me.  He is using all these circumstances for my good (Romans 8:28).  He also does exceedingly, abundantly above all that I ask or think.  I am not able to comprehend how He’s doing it, but I know He is.  I am not able to understand the ‘why,’ but I know He does.

I know that God has so many sweet lessons to teach me during this time that would probably not be possible if I were in different circumstances.  I want to learn these lessons, I want to soak them deep into the recesses of my heart, and I want to be changed as a result of this summer. 

He’s teaching me to love Him above all else and to put Him first in my life.  He’s teaching me what it means to be wholeheartedly abandoned to Him and to follow after Him without hesitation.  He’s teaching me to trust Him with my future; my having ‘control’ over anything is really just an illusion.  He’s teaching me contentment in all circumstances.  (Stay tuned for more lessons to come…)  Backing up all of these lessons are some of the most applicable and relevant Scriptures God’s ever shown me in my times with Him (Hosea 11:12, 14:8-9; Isaiah 30:18, to name a recent few).  What sweet, precious truths.

And that’s just it.  I mentally know all these truths.  They are there, embedded in the neurons of my brain.  But I want to apply them in my heart.  As someone once said, the twelve inches from your head to your heart is one of the farthest distances to travel.  This is the journey I’m on this summer, hand-in-hand with Jesus, and I’m excited for where we’re going to travel together.