Great is His Faithfulness, Even in Grief and Mourning

CT.4-7
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness, I say to myself,
“The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
~ Lamentations 3:22-24

The Comparison Trap:  Week Four, Day Seven… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

It’s been an insightful day. My takeaways are from the Scripture verses and from some of Sandra Stanley’s shared thoughts, but not too much from today’s devotional content. This has just been one of those days, but the Scripture still applies to the day.

I spent the afternoon and evening serving at church for the visitation of a friend’s husband who passed away suddenly on Monday morning. That friend has been a part of this Comparison Trap group study. Tomorrow is the funeral (on the day you’ll probably be reading this).

When I walked her to the restroom today on a break from greeting hundreds upon hundreds of people who had come to pay their respects and to honor her husband, she told me a story about the amazing love she’s seen poured out over her family.

Her husband was a state trooper, and the fellowship given to her by his brotherhood has overwhelmed her. Her coworkers took her car and had new brakes, rotors and other needed maintenance done on it when she had to leave it at work after hearing the news of her husband’s death. Her table-mates from the study and many of the women from the group and church stepped forward to bring food and serve in the kitchen with whatever needed to be done today.

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail,”  the verse above reads. The body of Christ has surrounded her through this tragedy, and it’s through His compassion she’s been able to see it in others.

“God is compassionate. It breaks his heart to see us struggle,”  Sandra tells us in this final devotional. It does, and His way of showing us His compassion is often by using others to display it.

“Great is your faithfulness…” 

The book of Lamentations is full of lamenting, wailing and grief. It covers pain, judgment, mourning and suffering. The book paints a picture of suffering so great that it is often difficult to see hope and to remember the promises of God.

But tucked away within the mourning of Lamentations, there are promises of hope to come. Within the heart of the message of this book, we can see that the writer expresses his confident assurance that God does not turn away from those who turn toward Him for help.

Tomorrow is the funeral for my friend’s husband.

In her grief, I want her to know that the Lord weeps with her, and it breaks His heart to see her struggling. His compassions never do fail, and His love for her will not allow her to be consumed by her grief. His mercies are new every morning, and His faithfulness in her life is truly great. The Lord is her portion, and her faith in Him will get her through the challenges to come.

There will be thousands of troopers who will stand in honor of this fallen police officer; there will be hundreds of friends and family members who will come to grieve with her; there are dozens of small group members who are praying for her; but, there is one Christ Jesus who will be there to comfort her and to bring her His hope in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Great is His faithfulness. Friend, you are loved.


 

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Finding the Jackpot of Truth

CT.2-5
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things
he planned for us long ago.
~Ephesians 2:10

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Five… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

Gosh, I just love this verse! I’m His masterpiece! That’s what the apostle Paul has shared with us from God’s own heart.

Even though there are times I don’t feel like anyone’s masterpiece (we all have our moments or days or seasons of feeling this way), just reading this in light of my relationship with Him makes me grin and let out a contented sigh.

Sandra Stanley calls it a “jackpot of truth” in the Comparison Trap devotional book. It’s a jackpot we already own… no rainbows to follow or leprechauns to find. The jackpot is already a part of our relationship with God, because of our faith in Jesus.

If you dig a little deeper into this amazing verse, you’ll come to realize that the new creation we became at the moment we received Jesus put His plan into further motion. The verse tells us that He has good things which He has planned for us, and He planned them long ago (well before we took a step into faith).

Sandra reminds us that the good things—the plans, the blessings, the circumstances—that He’s picked for me aren’t the same as the ones He’s picked for you. When we fall into the comparison trap by asking, “Why not me?”, we can know, in confidence, that God has something else planned… something He probably planned long ago, and something He’s personally chosen us for.

THIS is hope surrendered. It’s asking, “Why me?” or “Why not me?” and surrendering our wondering hopes to His plans and expectantly hoping that what He has planned is even better for us.

Instead of comparing our lives, our gifts, our talents and our blessings, we can have great confidence that the One who calls us His masterpiece is leading us toward and allowing us to experience just what He needs for us to be able to do the good things he planned for us long ago!

 


 

Finding Hope in His Blessings

Numbers 6.24-26.COMPRESSED

My pastor is taking us through the book of Numbers in the Bible. I know…, right…? Numbers…

I thought the same thing when he told us which book would be next after we finished Leviticus—a great book exalting His holiness and communicating His call for us to also be holy. To my pastor’s credit, he jokingly acknowledged that the book of Numbers isn’t typically considered one of the most exciting books of the Bible.

I know I’ve read through the book (ok, skimmed…) at one time or another, but it’s not a book I’ve ever given any time to deep study as a whole. I recently did go through parts of it while doing a study on the tabernacle, and I learned a few amazing things from Numbers in that study which I had never known. With the exception of the pieces I studied, I think my overall impression of Numbers was that it was…, dare I say it? …boring?

I no longer think that way about the book. We’re just a few chapters into it, and, as we wrap up one week’s lesson, I can hardly wait until next week’s lesson gets here.

I want to take you to one section of Numbers and just share a few verses with you. Chances are, it’s a passage you’ve probably heard at one time or another…in a church at the end of a service, at the end of a wedding, perhaps even at a funeral.

Numbers 6:24-26 says,

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Sound familiar? To me, too!

I grew up in a very small town in central Pennsylvania. My parents attended a Presbyterian church there, so I did, too. Each Sunday at the close of the service, our pastor—clothed in a rustic grayish-white robe tied with a bold cord—would raise his hands, stand before us and recite these words before walking down the steps from the chancel, down the aisle of the church and out to the lobby to greet each church member before they made their way home.

I like familiarity, so when my current pastor read these words, memories of church as a child just flooded back. I could see my childhood pastor with his salt-and-pepper beard wearing that robe saying these words to us. He said them every week, and it became a ritual I expected to hear.

Perhaps, some time in the future, we can dig into the deepest of meanings of this blessing, but, for now, I just want to share a few things with you based upon my initial feelings on the surface of this passage… no study, no word origins, no commentary…just how it speaks to me and quickly captures my thoughts as I read it without studying the depth of it yet…

First, this blessing is FROM GOD and it was given by the LORD to Moses for Moses to share with Aaron and his sons to bless the Israelites throughout the generations to come.

“The LORD bless you and keep you”:  Remember, the LORD spoke these words, so when the words were to be conveyed to His people, the words were spoken through the priests, but they were directly from God. This verse tells me He is saying He is here to walk with me, to kneel beside me to serve me, and to be with me as I walk with Him and serve Him.

“The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;”:  This verse tells me that HE has every intention of illuminating my life with His gracious and blessed presence, walking with me as I walk, and offering me his grace-filled forgiveness.

“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”:  This verse tells me that not only is He going to do everything he’s already said he’s going to do in the previous two verses, but He’s going to watch me, give me his personal attention and—through whatever I have to go through—He’s going to give me His peace with it.

What awes me about our God, is how He plants seeds in our lives and then
tends to those seeds,
waters those seeds,
nurtures those seeds,
breathes life into those seeds and
grows those seeds.
He then watches those seeds sprout, helps them to bear fruit and takes care of every detail necessary for the seeds to reproduce in abundance for the future.

YOU are that seed! I am that seed!

Despite times of drought, poor soil conditions, hibernation and a failure to produce on our part, He still ALWAYS does His part for those who love Him. He doesn’t let His children go despite our foolish efforts or stubbornness in relation to our obedience to Him. And, when we do mess up or when He does allow us to be tested through trials, He promises us over and over again in His Word that our good and His glory are capable of coming from all of it.

It’s no coincidence I am sitting in a church in the todays studying these words, recalling times from the years-ago yesterdays when the words were planted into me, and walking through a life where His promises and His blessings are carrying me through the tumultuous trials, yet still revealing His amazing grace through it all.

There are no coincidences. I’m seeing another seed sprouting from His Word. Praise be to Him!

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Finding Hope in What is Promised

Heron.Romans828

“Within every crisis, there is a blessing.”

It’s a phrase I’ve been repeating to myself for more than 30 years. Anyone who knows me well has heard me say it. It’s how I’ve approached life since I was a teenager.

About 12 years ago or so, my young daughter handed me a new take on my old mantra. At that point, I had been a Believer for many years, but I was still in the very early stages of entering into a relationship with the Lord. She was challenged with something she was experiencing in her competitive athletics and was airing her frustrations in the car on the way home from practice one night. Trying to help, I used my mantra with her. It wasn’t the first time, but it was a time I will not forget.

I was looking at her in the rearview mirror sitting in the back seat. She looked at me through that mirror, and she said to me, “Mom, you know that’s kind-of in the Bible, don’t you?”

I had never considered my mantra biblical, but it was a part of my mostly-secular viewpoint that all things happen for a reason. Faith in being able to find a blessing was my perspective, but faith in the Lord through this phrase was not really a prominent part of my perspective at this point.

Intrigued by what my child was about to tell me, I said, “Really?”

She said, “Yes. You should read the book of Romans. That thing you always say is almost like Romans 8:28.” She proceeded to tell me that it said God will work everything for good for those who love Him.

My little girl was the reason we changed churches — she had so many questions that I couldn’t answer and our old church didn’t seem interested in helping to answer them. She was the reason I started to volunteer in the nursery during the youth ministry night at the new church. She was the reason I started attending the adult education class during the second service on Sunday mornings — so she could attend both church and Sunday school. She was the one who would excitedly share deep thoughts with me about what she was learning at this new church we were attending. Here was my little girl telling me that my mantra was in the Bible.

When we got home that night, the first thing I did after getting her some food, a shower and off to bed, was to go to my Bible. I really didn’t know where Romans was located within its pages, but thank goodness for a Table of Contents. I found Romans 8:28, and I read the words from my King James Version — a Bible which had been presented to me as a child from a Sunday School class, but which was hardly ever used:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The language was there. She was right. My mantra was actually in the Bible!

Wow! My mind started racing! A few months earlier, I had already decided to enter into this relationship which was different from anything I’d ever known before. I was excited about the teachings and messages I was hearing and learning at this new church. That night, though, was the moment I discovered that before MY mantra was MY mantra, it was His Word, and so many pieces of my life began to make sense to me.

He captured a piece of my heart as a little girl, and He never ever let go of me. Throughout the challenges of my childhood, the difficulties as a teen, the tumultuous college years, and the ups and downs of married life, He was always there. It was He who planted my mantra in me, and it was He who used my little girl to reveal Himself to me through His words that I’d been living by for so many years without even realizing that before they were my words, they were His.

Romans 8:28 has become my life-verse. The heart of this website has been built upon hopes surrendered to the Lord because of the deep promise that is found within this verse.

“The Message” version of Romans 8:28 states, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Every detail. That’s such a promise. That promise can change hearts, change lives, change hopes, and change thoughts. Believe in it. Trust in the Lord.

Finding Hope in the Circumstances

Lone Daisy

Why me? Why have today’s circumstances been allowed to be today’s circumstances in my life?

It’s a question I ask myself all the time. It’s a question that brings me HOPE (learned over a lot of hurt), because I know that I am a child of God, and I know that He has promised to bring me hope and to work all of these circumstances for good.

Jeremiah 29:11 brings the hope:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

and Romans 8:28 brings the promise:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So what IS the point of today’s circumstances?

Are they to refine me? To define me?
Are there lessons to be learned by me? Or, are there lessons to be taught to others?
Am I meant to take away an opportunity for growth? Or, is the take away meant to be shown to others as an example of hope?
Are these circumstances a lifeline to what lies ahead? Or, are they a lesson of what needs to remain behind?

My checklist reveals a lot. The answers that I jot down reveal a lot. The answers are there. The original question begs for the additional questions to be asked. The answers are there.

God is speaking to me today. No, not out loud, but very profoundly. When I can lean on His hope and His promises and know them to be faithful and true, I will be able to sort out some of the answers. Then, maybe, just maybe, the dilemma will become another blessing.