Valley of Vision

More of a prayer than I poem I think.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

Disappoint My Fears

That’s a beautiful line isn’t it?

Disappoint my fears.

A friend shared that with me. It’s actually part of a prayer from Thomas Chalmers. The full quote is this, “Disappoint my fears, O God, and let the remainder of my days be consecrated to Thy service, and to a busy preparation for Heaven.”

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Fear is such a delusive thing. It’s vague like the smoke wisp after a flame is blown out or maybe more like the first curing tendrils of mist that creep across the earth, pale and barely there until your eyesight is murky and almost completely obstructed.

 

We can be afraid of just about anything and everything.

We can be afraid of being happy just as easily as being unhappy.

Afraid of being seen and known just as much as being unseen and unknown.

We can be afraid of solid real things but just as easily afraid of the shadows we conjure up in our own minds.

The what ifs and maybes.

I’m afraid to trust…

You fill in the blank with whomever it is.

What if they…

Again fill in the blank with whatever it is.

Fear paralyzes you. It keeps you from being able to move past a situation or circumstance and roots you in place. It hinders you from being able to do the things you ought and prevents you from doing the things you should.

I get it. Really I do. Bad things happen to all of us. Suffering, real hard suffering, will come to all of us at some point in time.

But our hope is not that our worst fears will not come to be. Our hope is in the fact that when it does come, when real suffering enters our lives, Christ is faithful to never leave us. Our hope is that he is faithful to bind up our wounds and to heal our brokenness.

We trust that if it does come we do not face it alone.

May our fears be disappointed because we are trusting our Father.

Sharing at Thoughtful Thursday and

 

Nailed Down

Suffering comes to all of us in various ways and to varying degrees through out our lives.

There are things we go through that in the moment seem big but afterward when we have some perspective of time and distance we realize those same incidents were smaller than they originally seemed.

Other times there is just no denying the heaviness and weight of some suffering. We know it and recognize it and those around us know it and recognize it. It’s big suffering.

Right now I know people who are all suffering to varying degrees.

I know people dealing with the recent death of loved ones.

I know people struggling with health issues.

I know people dealing with hard decisions and difficult situations.

I have friends who are just weary and need rest.

I know people facing their own lack and shortcomings as spouses and parents.

I know the struggles I face with my sin on a daily basis.

But I also know a God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. One who is gracious and merciful.

No matter where you are in this moment or what situation you might be facing, know that the God who created everything out of nothing sees you. He knows you. He knows where you are right now and He knows where you will be tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.

Take heart, friend. Be reminded of this truth shared by Tim Keller ~

“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming;

contra Buddhism, suffering is real;

contra karma, suffering is often unfair;

but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful.

There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” 

What beautiful hope we have knowing that, big or small, our suffering drives us closer to God!

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Sharing at Candidly Christian

Coming Full Circle

I mentioned recently how much has changed in my life in the past few months and how much being part of the Bible reading challenge has played a role in that change. The other component to that has been enjoying the study of Romans in our local Bible Study Fellowship group. (Side note: If you aren’t familiar with BSF but would like to be a part of a solid Bible study for women look them up and see if there is one near you. I have thoroughly enjoyed and grown from my participation in ways I didn’t even know I needed.)

We’re in Romans eight right now and just as God seemed to be doing something behind the scenes with the Bible reading challenge I feel like stuff in my mind and heart is being moved and rearranged as a result of the group sharing time and lectures each week. The desire to have my life fall in line with the confessions of who God is and how He expects His children to live is being shaken…the kind of shaken in Psalm 62…the kind of shaken in Hebrews 12 where only that which cannot be shaken will remain.

It’s a glorious and slightly scary place to be.

Lecture last week dealt with the topic of suffering.

It is a foolish thing to deny that suffering happens in our world. You only need to watch about five seconds of the news to see wildfires, earthquakes, draughts, and famines. It’s also a foolish thing to deny that we face suffering in our lives as well. And actually Paul makes the case for suffering by reminding us that in order to be glorified with Him (Christ) then we must also take part in His suffering. In verse eighteen Paul says that his own suffering is not worth even comparing to the glory that awaits. In II Corinthians he refers to light and temporary troubles…this from the man who suffered about every way a person can suffer.

We know there is physical suffering. We get sick. People die. Bones break and skin tears.

We know emotional suffering. Feelings can be hurt and hearts wounded.

We know of mental suffering. We can suffer from depression and breakdowns.

We know relational suffering. We can treat each other horribly and with great unkindness.

We also know internal suffering…feelings of guilt and shame plague us.

I know I have experienced every form of suffering on that list to varying degrees. I also know that in the midst of each one my only hope has been that Christ’ suffering far outweighs mine no matter how devastating my experience, and it is accomplishing a purpose. Somehow, I am being made more into the likeness of His Son through my suffering.

On Sunday our New Testament reading was from Hebrews chapter five. Verse eight jumped off the page at me, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Emphasis is mine.

His way of learning obedience to the will of the Father was through His suffering. The preceding verse refers to His time of prayer and crying out to the Father in the garden. He suffered with the knowledge of what was to come and through it made His way in obedience to death.

His obedience led to perfection and our eternal salvation and Paul went on to say that there was so much more to say about it but it was hard to explain because his readers had become hard of hearing or sluggish.

I don’t want to be sluggish in my hearing and I want to have a right view of the suffering that comes into my life. I want to lean into it and follow it all the way to obedience to the point of death. Physically if need be but far more likely in the dying of self so that I may love those around me, forgive those around me, to show Him to those around me.

I really want that. Or at least I think I do even though I realize I am asking for it out of certain amount of ignorance of what that could actually mean in reality. But in this I come full circle back to Romans eight and thank God that while I may not be able to pray as I ought the Spirit of God intercedes on my behalf and there is One who searches and knows my heart. On this I can rest. On this I can trust.

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Lean into suffering, friend. Embrace it and seek God through it. Because in those valleys He is found and your love is strengthened.

Hidden In Christ

Recently I was challenged to consider where my mind is when I am in the midst of suffering. The question came in the middle of our study in John dealing with the crucifixion of Jesus.

I can honestly say that I have only faced true suffering two times in my life. Obviously there have been hard times, difficult times, but only two seasons of what I would call true suffering. In the grand scheme of things not much and after really considering those passages of  John, surely nothing that compares to the suffering of  Christ. 
His suffering covered every  realm of humanity. 
Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. No part of Him and no part of mankind was left untouched by suffering. The beatings, the betrayal of friends, the weight of sin and the wrath of God, that perfect fellowship with the Father and the Spirit being broken. While we may suffer in some of these realms at some point in our lives, He suffered in them all at one time in a magnitude that we aren’t capable of experiencing.
But when we read of that time in His life it is completely clear where His mind was. 
When Judas was preparing to betray Him, Jesus was washing His feet.
When the disciples could not even stay awake to pray with Him, He was crying out before God the Father on their behalf for protection from the world and the evil one.
As the soldiers pinned His arms down to pound nails into His flesh, He literally asked God to forgive them.
Stripped naked and laid bare before all, with soldiers casting lots for His clothes and the crowd hurling insults, He granted forgiveness to the thief next to Him.
In the midst of such physical agony He looks down and sees His mother and makes provision for her care.
In the midst of His suffering He wasn’t thinking of Himself, His pain, the unjustness of His situation but of those around Him, family, friend, and foe.
Remember when Jesus came upon the blind man and His disciples asked if the blindness was the result of the man’s sin or that of his parents? Jesus’ reply was that it was not a result of sin but rather “…so that the works of God might be displayed in him…”
There are horrible things that happen in this life. There is pain and suffering that for many of us is unimaginable yet it takes place in the lives of others every day. But no matter how great or how small our suffering may be we are called to take on the mind of Christ and suffer as He suffered. 
What He shows us is that even in the midst of suffering we are to look outward, to those around us, and minister to them so that the work of God may be displayed in us just as it was displayed in not only the blind man but perfectly and completely in Christ, in whose life our lives are hidden.