Pain is a great indicator of healing they say.
Pain is a sign of recovery.
Pain is a gracious reminder our bodies are compromised, in need of attention and care.
But it requires us to slow down, to stop, to pause, to take more time and effort over our steps, our breathes.
Pain reminds us we have been knocked, we have been bruised, we have been struck down.
It confronts us with the fragility of our bodies.
Demands we adjust, change pace or position.
This week has been painful.
I have been rendered weak, fearful, shaken and knocked down. All my hopes…. no all my plans for the week required a strong body, a life free of pain. As I enjoyed an early morning cycle I didn’t think it would end with shock, frustration, end not at home but on a roundabout being knocked over by a car. I didn’t think it would end in so much pain.
We often pray our lives were marked by less pain. Surely our lives would bear witness to the good life, the joyful life, the blessed life in Christ without pain?
Without the family battles and breakdown.
Without the animosity or indifference of family and friends.
Without relentless suffering in lives consumed and marked by depression
Without the constant feelings of failure and inadequacy of parenting.Without yet another symptom or diagnosis.
Without the demand on time engagement and emotions when all you need is to be held, to be comforted, to be heard.
Our lives are marked by pain.
I often think my witness to the good life with Jesus would be more effective with fewer falls. No one would display the cyclist knocked down to advertise the benefits of an active, healthy lifestyle so why do our lives in Christ preach lives defined so often by pain? What is good about pain?
As pain grips, it heals.
It grips our mind, focusing us on the reality of what has happened.
It doesn’t allow us to escape or ignore.
It requires we attend and attune our minds, hearts and bodies to the reality of the present.
It reassures and reminds us of the reality of our suffering, of its significance, of its hurt and frustration even when bruises remain hidden from others.
As it floods our bodies, our minds, our hearts with its overwhelming intensity, filling every nerve and sense, affecting every move and thought, it reminds us we are alive. We feel and we feel intensely.
My accident, my fall, my pain this week required I abandon all the plans I’d made. Required I abandon my plans to rest in the sovereign purposes of my heavenly Father. Required I abandon my method of recovery to rest in the better comfort of my gracious Saviour.
In the frantic searching and scrambling for comfort and peace, I’ve only found one place of healing and rest.
In the frustration of living with more rest I’ve only found one place of forgiveness.
In the living of my weakness, I’ve only found one place of power and grace sufficient to sustain.
In my falling and in my fears, I have one who upholds.
In my shaking and tears, I have one who steadies my heart with His presence. Turning my fearful what if into a rejoicing what did.
We’re tempted to imagine the painless life is the good life. We’re tempted to think if this, or without that our lives would be more validated as Christians. But in times of suffering, there is no time wasted. The times of pain are times of purpose.
Whether it’s getting back on the bike or getting out of bed. Whether it’s the next step, or the next sorry, the pain may be powerful, but it is purposeful.
Our plans may require changing as we continue through a time of pain. But the Lord’s plans are purposeful and powerful, sustaining and strengthening every fibre, every nerve marked by pain.
Our temptation may be a longing to hide our pain, to replay and rewrite the moments, to conceal our pain or try and escape it. We may spend all our energy to fight that feeling of shame in our weakness. But mercifully, we have a gracious Father who overcomes our weakness, who shows the perfection of his strength through our weakness, who hides us in His love and in His mercy and comfort.
We have a God who has gone through every suffering, every pain, through death itself.
And as we share in his suffering, as we live our lives of pain, He does not put us to shame.
Through the pain, God beautifully works to display us, to shine us, with all the mess in our lives, all our fallings and our weaknesses, to a fallen and broken world in desperate need of his upholding and sustaining love.
We may be fallen, we may continue to fall, but the pain we endure powerfully, purposefully points the watching world to God our Saviour whose life of suffering purposed and achieved life in all its fullness for us. Pain that points to Jesus our Saviour who is keeping safe for us our forever home with Him, where we will be perfectly healed, perfectly restored, and forever freed from all pain.
We live our lives in fear.
Fear that grips our hearts, overrules our emotions, drives our decisions, flows from the deepest places of our hearts.
Fear that influences our words, actions, dictates the times we speak and chokes our words, catching them in our throats and rendering us speechless.
Fear that affects our bank balances, our use of time, our parenting, friendships and marriages.
There is no escaping a life of fear.
But there is an escape, a rescue, a wonderful redemption and salvation from the death of captive fear, an existence of deathly enslavement to fear, into a life of fear, a fullness of alive, joyful, worshipful, liberating and privileged fear.
There is a way to live in fear, a ransom from deathly, sinful fear, and that way is Jesus. The Son of God, who has brought us to enjoy fear of the Lord, no longer as slaves, but now as adopted sons and daughters. Filial, freeing fear.
No longer captive to fearing the opinions of others, trapped in spiralling thoughts of people pleasing anxiety. No longer rendered mute, our bodies paralysed and gripped, unsure of what is expected or demanded, overwhelmed by the burdening expectations of those around.
The fear of discomfort and exposure of self and sin. The fear of others knowing the secrets and intentions you bury deep within. This fear which spills out in defensiveness, in cruelty and shaming of others, in timidity and self-deprecation, all to layer up and hide the fears that pervade your mind and heart.
The fear that drives fight and flight resolve, that compels you away from the Lord, desperate to hide away from his sight, fearful of Him, afraid of Him.
The fear that hardens hearts towards him, denies his Fatherly goodness and comfort, and rages at him in hateful raging or dismissive apathy.
We see this fear pervade the world, the hearts and lives of our loved ones. We recognise this fear in ourselves, in our lives before Christ and in our fight now.
But you are no longer a slave but a son, a daughter
The Son and Daughter of the King, of your loving, good Heavenly Father.
A son, a daughter, called to a life of fear.
A fear that overwhelms, a fear that compels to action, love, speaking and serving. A fear that grips your heart, chokes your emotions, loosens and liberates your tongue one moment and silences you another. A fear that dictates and demands to be the motivation of everything you do.
But this fear is a fear cultivated by the Spirit you have of adoption, no longer of slavery.
The spirit of power, love and self-control.
This fear leaves us trembling. Trembling as the bride walking down the aisle who shakes with joyful, overcome, loving, fearful, wondering anticipation of meeting her bridegroom, trusting in the goodness he has shown her up until that moment and walking on in faith towards the life of promise thereafter.
Our fear of the Lord is a trembling fear of love, a trembling of delight, of overcome devotion and gratitude before the goodness and mercy of the Lord. Fearing the goodness and the love of our gracious God and trembling in his presence.
Our fear as children of God turns our hearts, minds and feet from fleeing away from God, trying to hide from Him, and drives us now to hide in Him, flee to Him for refuge, comfort, relief, forgiveness, mercy, strength and satisfaction.
No longer driven by a fear of slavery that whispers to us our need for self, our need for independence and self sustaining strength, that motivates all our frantic pursuit in life, or leaves us paralyzed in fear, crumpled on the floor, fearful and alone unable to stand.
This life of fear. This living in fear of the Lord doesn’t leave us staggering and striving for place and purpose, relying on nothing or no one else, leaning on myself on.
This living, godly fear doesn’t leave us staggering alone, but it does staggers us. This living fear liberates us from the crutch of self or others, and leans us instead on God, in staggered praise and faith in Him alone.
This fear of the Lord liberates us from deathly captivity to fear, and breathes new life in us. It gives us an anticipation of heaven, as we praise and tremble before our Almighty, Good God, Father, Son and Spirit, this life of fear of the Lord prepares us for an eternity of heavenly trembling and rejoicing before Him.
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling
A groom beholding his bride walking towards him overcome by the beauty of the moment, the glory of his beloved.
The gasping overcome breathe of a father as his firstborn enters the world and he holds fast his weary wife and precious child in fearful, protective embrace.
Breathless, tearful goodbyes between lovers soon to be separated.
The choked tender goodnight kiss of a weary mother impressing quivering lips to the peacefully sleeping child, no longer fighting restlessly.
I love you
So much desire, pain, hope, history, excitement, wonder and awe bound up within the phrase, the word. Yet so often the word gets caught in the throat, and spills out in a look, an action, any way to express the height, depth and breadth. I love you.
Our children ask us the meaning of all sorts of words at the moment. Worlds of fantasy and fiction, of fairytale and fact are opening their imaginations and minds to an overwhelming plethora of new language.
Words to be tried out and tested, played with and sounded out, used and misused, spoken and whispered and screamed back out into the world, taken from pages to people.
But not once have they asked us to define love.
What does love mean?
This word that transcends comprehension, articulation, that no number of synonym can suffice to encapsulate with all its wonder, fear, awe, emotion, action and depth.
We find ourselves lost for words;
Hunting around for synonyms that don’t quite fit;
Offering a definition that falls far short of all we want to convey.
Or maybe there is a way to define. A way for our finite hearts and minds to grasp a degree of the transcendent glory contained in this word.
For love is defined only and purely by one.
By one is who Beloved and creates, calls and carries us forevermore as his own beloved.
For the word love is defined by the name Jesus.
Defined by the person Jesus.
Defined by the only Son of God, Jesus.
The Beloved who lives forevermore as Lover, as one who defines and fulfills all that is means to love.
Who calls us to live a life of love, as created and so creatively, purposefully, with intentional pursuit, giving ourselves to loving others.
As we behold the life of love that Jesus enacted, seeking out the lost, declaring loved and accepted those the world would define as ‘un-loveable’. Washing feet, feeding, consoling, convicting, debating, healing, calling, sending, resting, rebuking, lamenting and rejoicing, receiving hospitality and extending it, noticing, inviting, intentionally pursuing and being willing to be interrupted.
The Beloved declaring in every attentive word and deed, I love you.
As we behold Jesus calling children, the elderly, the leprous, the marginalized, the poor, rich, as we behold Him speaking with compassion and convicting challenge, we behold the Beloved who loved his own.
As we behold his relentless unyielding pursuit of living out the loving eternal fellowship with Father and Spirit, pouring this same love out to others, we behold a love enacted in sacrificial surrender and death.
In Jesus we behold the love of God that loves his own and loves them to the end.
By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16
By this we know what love is…..by Jesus.
Created, commanded and compelled by the love of the Beloved to live lives defined by love.
Defined by Jesus.
When confronted with an immensity that overwhelms, a world that seems incomprehensible and unattainable, we can begin to wonder where we fit in.
Do I have a place?
Am I noticed?
Our selves begin to panic, become focused and intent on establishing a place, of creating an impression, of securing validation. Focusing with increasing clarity, vision, intent until the immensity that fuelled our motivations becomes blurred in the narrowing pursuit of self.
Or do we fear, retreat, step back and away from the threat, put up the barriers, make the defences secure, limit the space and confine to the achievable, attainable known. Confining and limiting until all that’s left is self?
Whether it’s fight or flight, self struggles and strives for place.
Ultimately there are only two worlds that offer this place:
The first is all about self. It’s alluring, inviting.
Seemingly full of excitement and adventure with a cushioning of comfort and no possibility of failure.
Promising freedom and rest.
Inviting the soul to discover, to celebrate, to feel alive and awakened not only to possibility but actualized potential.
The best you that you can be.
The world of self-help is spiritually intoxicating.
The problem is, it’s just that. Intoxicating.
Infiltrating deep within minds, souls, hearts that are in desperate hungering need of freedom, true freedom.
Minds that are caught in perpetual spirals of self doubt, self despair, and self deception, caught in frenzied pursuit of grabbing onto ideas, any ideas that help make sense, that offer perspective, that give meaning or assurance that you, your life matters.
Hearts that are weighed down with worry, manically restless in the mundane, and overwhelmed by obscurity and the unknown.
The world of self-help is intoxicating, but its introspection only drags the self deeper into self until all ability to wonder at other, all sense of awe before the glorious aesthetic beauties of the world, all joy and wonder in and with others is squeezed out and stifled.
Until there is just self.
Intoxicated self filling up and serving self.
The second world has no concern for self.
In this place, the self is abandoned, always set aside for others.
In this world, the self is crucified, put to death.
How can I breathe with so little space for myself?
How can I fulfill with so little time, thought, or limitation to myself?
The problem is this space is the kingdom of God.
If it is to find its place here, the self has only one answer to its pursuit of life, freedom and rest.
Death to self.
This death comes in varying forms: Surrender of self, setting aside of self, establishing control of self, denying self.
If self is to find life, to find security, life and a place in this world, it must die.
But in the fear that you will be lost as you abandon self, God speaks with comforting clarity.
As you lose yourself, you are now foundAs you die to self, you are alive
As pursuit of self gain is abandoned for following Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
This is where you in true fullness of life, grows and flourishes in ways you never could have imagined.
This is where you are freed to love in eternal security, rooted and established in Christ, united to him forevermore.
This is where you are transformed by the renewing of your mind, where words of life are spoken over you by your heavenly Father.
No longer desperately spiralling into a world of conflicting voices.
Now given the mind of Christ. Your mind formed by and filled with the life giving words of God.
As selfish gain gives over to delight in the Lord, you are awakened to a vision, a plan that exceeds any career, family, healthy lifestyle, or athletic goal. Your heart is freed to imagine the purposes beyond this moment.
All self justification surrendered. All self promotion and serving left behind, all pride in self given over, you are free to come empty handed to receive and enjoy eternal relationship with God. As self infatuation is brought to death, your heart is free to witness a world of wonder and awe and beauty. The sight of a newborn baby, the smell of bluebells carpeting the forest floor, the silence of the morning awakening wonder and fear of the Lord who spoke and it came to be, whose word alone creates and sustains all life.
With self preservation abandoned, self serving motives and all manipulation and control put to death, there is only now truly secure, servant hearted, loving relationship with others.
With sight no longer fixed on self, we are freed to see the image of God in every living person.
Freed to grieve over the fallen, marred image and compassionately long for its renewal in our lost friends.
Free to delight in the renewing, transforming image of God growing from one degree of glory to another in our graciously redeemed brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is a battle for self and a battle of self to be fought and there are days we seem to be fighting a losing battle:
Self doubt threatens to sabotage relationship.
And in the fight for self, whispering words of degradation spill out attacking self or others. Responding in fight or flight.
But the outcome is secure. The victory is won. God brought us by grace alone into his kingdom. He has purposefully placed us, called us, redeemed us within his kingdom that gloriously extends far beyond ourselves.
Before the immensity of God’s vision for us in his kingdom, before the incomprehensibility of his grace and mercy, when confronted with a salvation and eternity that is unattainable for self , we no longer wonder where we fit in, but come in wonder that by grace we do.
Final preparations done.
All that’s left to do is that first step across the start line.
Follow the course mapped out for you.
For all of you.
Runners lined up.
All set out on the same path.
So much to share, with so much to separate.
One course unfolding for each runner a different race.
Distinct, powerful motivations of every heart leading them to this race, each so personal.
Every step a gain, full of purpose, intent, focus.
Every misstep and stumble a temptation to stop, a threat to your place.
It’s the grit and gruel of the race.
But there is a race marked out for us.
The outcome, and goal the same to which we are all pursuing, sometimes striving with all our effort, aware of the muscle fatigue but pressing on.
Other days, stumbling, falling, the surrounding cheers of others feeling like faint echoes rather than the encouragement fellow weary runners.
Yet always, the grace of the goal, wonderfully the same.
The same gracious author and perfector of our faith.
The Same Saviour who called us to this race, who called us to this life of perseverance and faith, who brought us to this time and place.
The Same Redeemer who specifically planned for each one of us our own particular course.
The Same Lord Jesus who sovereignly ordains the moments our course inter-weaves and crosses paths with others.
The Same Lord who gifts us with cheering and championing fellow runners, without the competition, the threat, or fear of being surpasses, overtaken, outshone.
The Same Saviour who directs our steps lovingly, knowingly up the steep terrains or over the threatening tree roots, requiring us to watch closely, take care, watch and pray in case we stumble.
The Same Advocate who in the moments we’re running with no one around, never for once leaves us without a championing voice to cheer us on.
The Same gracious, generous Saviour who has not only called us to this race, who will not only welcome us home, but who never, for one single step of the way, will leave us.
Who never, for one moment is not sustaining and upholding us by his grace.
Every breathe a gracious gift.
Every step a giving of his goodness.
Oh the grace of God revealed most beautifully in the gift of Jesus.
Oh the grace of his race for us.
The grace of our race for Him.
I see the weight of the worry you bear
The fear of tomorrow’s offering.
I see in your eyes the weight of your fear
Having nothing on which others may lean
I hear in your voice the uncertainty and pain
Fighting to run, or hide or give in
I hear in your voice the relief just to speak,
To choke out the pain all-consuming
Look up my love and behold Him there
Your Friend and Saviour and King
Look up and see the Bearer of all
Your darkness and deep sorrowing
Look up and Behold Him in all his glory
The only one able and willing
To raise up your heart out of despair
And fix it securely in Him
His infinite love bears the weight of your fears
His infinite wisdom knows all
While all the fullness of God in Him dwells
With delight he cries I am yours
I see the weight of your grief and fear
I imagine the battle railing
And as much as I love you and am willing
The only One able is Him
Look up and Behold the glory of Christ
Pour out your heart into His
For you have in Him an infinite Lord
The end of your heart’s wandering
Tidying up my younger daughter’s bedroom usually results in unearthing a treasure trove of hoarded goodies. Shells under the pillow, gems under the bed, special pens stashed away in toy boxes. Scissors that have been banned secretly hidden from plain sight behind the innocent crowd of dolls and teddies at the end of the bed.
Treasure stored up. Stored away. Kept hidden for fear of others laying claim to these prized possessions, or often desired possessions. As I find different items scattered around my little girl’s room, they reveal her little heart to me. Sometimes revealing her empathetic, compassionate desire to protect, watch over, keep safe. Other times revealing her lack of confidence or assurance that they would be available to her if left beyond the safety of her room.
At times, even revealing her rebellion in hiding away what was taken from her, or hiding to restrict others from using it.
Our burying of treasure, our hoarding of the precious things we hold tightly too reveal what we love and where our security lies. I had a morning this week in my readings where everyone seemed to be snatching, grabbing, hiding, coveting and storing up treasures for themselves, out of fear, selfishness and lack of trust in the generosity of God.
There was Achan stealing and burying treasure from Jericho; Ananias holding back his land, hiding away and not giving for mass distribution amongst the believers; the labourers in the field assuming they’d get more than the 11th hour worker and despising what they got, despising the generosity of God and finally the disciples, longing to secure and claim privileged places in heaven at Christ’s right and left hand. Fearful of their future place, dissatisfied with the present, and needing to store up security for the future.
Guarding, claiming as one’s own, storing up, burying deep. All things we are called to do as God’s own precious, prized, dearly loved children. The problem is we misapply the right action to the wrong objects all the time.
The Lord asks us to guard, claim as our own, store up, and bury deep, and he commands our hearts to be the treasure chests, the hiding places. Calling us to store up the treasure of Christ and his word in our hearts. Our only treasure being the kingdom of God, the gift God gives us of himself. To cling but only to the eternal.
But to cling to Christ must mean loosening our grip on the temporal and earthly. For a little girl to rest contended in the generous provision of her family and enjoy the satisfaction of finding all she wants beyond the borders of her hiding places requires a surrender to the trust in the goodness of her parents, the generosity of her family.
The only secret hiding place that God requires us to make in this world is our hearts and the only treasure he calls us to store up is the treasure of Christ and His Word in our hearts. But to bind our hearts to the eternal truths of God, to be gripped and moved by them, means holding lightly to the promises of the world. And mercifully, graciously, in His word, God reveals he is the eternal protector of our hearts, of his word sealed up in our hearts by his Spirit who continuously witnesses, assures, challenges and convicts our hearts by the power of His word out of his perfect and steadfast love for us.
As the parent who knows and discovers the state of her child’s hiding places and catches glimpses of the heart that hoards and hides, our perfect, all knowing, perfectly wise and loving Heavenly Father knows what we hide, pretend we keep secret in our hearts, and the work of His Spirit can be painful in loosening our grip, in uncovering what we keep ‘hidden’. Nothing surprises Him as he works to loosen our grip on our earthly treasure, our status, our future security, our bank balances, our children’s education, our routines, our plans, our looks. As He works to bind us more tightly to Him, He reveals Himself as abundant in generosity, and grips our hearts to hold tightly to His beauty, glory and excellency that far surpasses anything we can begin to desire from the world.
He is the protector of our future, guarding our inheritance, kept imperishable and undefiled in heaven for us. He is the protector of his children, not loosening his grip on us, continuing the work he has begun in us until the day he welcomes us home. Eternal truths stored up as treasure in the hiding places of his children’s hearts, sealed by the Spirit.
Hidden treasure empowering his cherished, precious children to cling to Christ alone, and freeing us to abandon our insecure lordly coveting and hiding in exchange for lives hidden with Christ in God, lives of servant hearted abundant generosity and surrender. Hearts filled with love for Christ as their treasure have no fear of loss for all is gained and no fear of future for that is secured, no need to hoard for the generosity of God has and will provide abundantly more than all we can imagine.
First memories. First day at school. First love. First heartbreak. First failure. First loss.
What would you include in your life history?
I had to complete a life chronology form recently and it struck me how I judged my ‘significant moments’ and how many ‘firsts’ made the list. The form itself asked for a value judgement on these events and required an assessment of whether the significant event was deemed ‘good, bad or neutral’.
We encourage self reflection and retrospection on our lives and this is a great thing. However, as I was filling in the form, I became increasingly frustrated by this box: ‘goodm bad or neutral’, the term ‘neutral’ seeming increasingly inappropriate and the requirement to make a value judgement on past experiences really tough and uncomfortable. Were they good or bad? I admit I rebelled and for most of the entries I ended up putting ‘both’ because in every experience, as I reflected there was joy tinged with sorrow, there was victory but after battle, there was even suffering but with hope, and even a measure of clarity in hindsight.
I would say I have a naturally more positive, glass half full perspective, but adding ‘both’ to events that spoke of mine and others’ broken hearts, bodies and minds wasn’t just me putting a glossy veneer over painful pasts. Neither was I trying to be ‘deep’ adding both to seemingly wholly ‘good’ events- memories of family trips to Disneyland, but the magical 6 year old joy of that moment was accompanied by my dad leaving our family. The memory is strong and the good is to be celebrated, treasured, and the bad acknowledged and judged according to what it was. I’m not trying to be pedantic and of course certain events, my wedding day for one, was wholly deemed good. However, as I filled in this form, a verse kept coming to my mind from 2 Corinthians 6 where Paul is recounting the hardships he and others have endured and so commending himself and his coworkers in the gospel ‘as servants of God’ who are ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything’.
This is beautiful paradoxical living in Christ. Lives of expectant suffering and expectant hope.Called not to live neutral lives, putting a glossy coat of paint over the cracks in the wall, but to have real hope through real suffering.
Our lives in Christ are ones of heightened sensitivity. The bad is often sinful, evil, rebellion and our hearts grieve when our sin impacts others, and cry out in compassion and tenderheartedness when perceived in others and we bear the brunt. The good is glorious, certain hope, protected and treasured, stored up in our hearts and sealed there by the Spirit, lifting our hearts to long for eternal enjoyment of good forevermore, of perfection in heaven.
What would appear in your life history form and how would you judge it?
Something trifling to the world or not even a factor in another’s life chronology becomes a key moment of victory over sin for the son or daughter of God:
A date night at a restaurant is a victory against the eating disorder; a Father walking a daughter down the aisle becomes a testimony to the power of the reconciling message of the gospel; a confession of guilt the power of light shining on the darkness and freeing bondage to pride. Any one of these the awareness and celebration of the spirit’s work within the redeemed, and securing victories against the flesh.
Or a parent running a bath for a heartbroken teenager daughter following a first love breakup becomes a powerful display of empathy and compassion, the kindness of God enveloping and healing her heart, stored up and treasured forevermore.
A mother going to work the next day as usual is the testimony of the strength and endurance of the spirit for a single parent.
A routine hospital appointment becomes an event that will save a life and become a witness for Christ 10 years later.
Time with friends a victory over social anxiety; Talking to someone in the playground a fight against fear. Suddenly moments of seeming normality become triumphant rejoicing, events testifying to the heavenly realms meeting earth.
God doesn’t come into situations of our life that are bad and then work to sort them out, and bring them to an accepted level of neutrality. No, the situations, events of our lives are always both good and bad and that will always be the case this side of heaven. God is working in, through and on account of the bad, the devastating the evil and suffering. It is all under his Providence, all by his hand, on account of his purpose that surpass our understanding and perspective, however much retrospective reflection we make.
There is never a moment of our lives left without his presence and his Providence.
We like to judge our lives by good and bad experiences, reaching the end and deeming it good or bad. But in all the good and the bad all is lived by God’s grace, for his glory and the accomplishment of his loving purposes in and for us. And this is wonderfully freeing. Recently I read the following:
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.
And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace
All by grace alone, and out of the abundance of God’s grace, we can confidently say that while our life experiences, our ‘significant moments’ are both good and bad, they are always being worked out for good and by God’s grace, under his Sovereign rule, and according to His power, might, love and perfect knowledge, He will accomplish the purposes that He has for us, in us, his always good purposes.
So as children of God we can boldly, honestly declare that ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’ Romans 5:3-5
It is God’s judgement that overrules and that is a wonderfully good thing! Because of Jesus, we never need fear a negative or neutral judgement. Our lives may never fear a neutral goal. Your suffering, your bad, awful, devastating experiences will not be wasted in God’s kingdom and his chronology of history. Not one moment of your pain or agony is overlooked or bypassed, but judged wonderfully in Christ. Every moment you experience is being worked to achieve something far more glorious than any of us can begin to imagine, and as part of a life history that includes the whole of God’s redemptive work for his children from the creation of the world until the day he welcomes us to Him. We do not await a bland, neutral standing before God, but in Christ, a welcomes, loved, accepted, desired, joyful belonging. In Christ, we are not only judged good but glorious, sharing in his glory.
The significance of your significant moments. The treasured and painful firsts. All are known completely and perfectly by God, and He who has begun a good work within yo will surely bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
What would appear on your life chronology?
Your events will look different to mine. But every child of God has this in common:
You can rejoice in the suffering, glory in the good, knowing that your life will always be accomplishing a glorious testimony to the goodness of God.
As soon as she learnt to walk, my younger daughter learnt to hide.
Blink and you’d miss her.
We’ve spent many a panicked moment in the park, the supermarket, museums. We’ve had most of a wedding party looking for her. She’s been found up trees, lying on supermarket shelves, inside laundry baskets, and wardrobes. She thinks it’s hilarious and still now at 5, she’ll jump out with a ‘Boo’ and wonder what all the fuss is about.
Unless of course, she’s hiding to avoid doing something she’s been asked or avoid being told off. As I was putting her to bed the other night she noticed I’d spotted the her Pooh Bear teddy sporting some new eyelashes lovingly added with permanent black marker pen, and the equally permanent doodles over her desk, bed, and yes the wall. Already in bed and with nowhere to run and hide, she immediately pulled her duvet up over her head.
Usually she hides from me playing or avoiding an inevitable telling off. But recently, there have been some precious moments of coming to me to hide, of seeking me as her hiding place. Playing chase with her older sister, she’ll run towards me, screaming ‘Mummy’s base’ and hide under my jumper or cling on and hide behind my legs. ‘You can’t get me’. Hiding for safety, hiding in relief and confidence.
And that is where our very lives are placed, in hidden protected, safe refuge in God:
Your life is hidden with Christ in God
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance
A dear friend pointed me to these verses this week. God is our hiding place. No longer, like Adam and Eve do we need hide away from him, in shame filled guilt ridden, rebellious alienation away from Him fearing the inevitable punishment. In Christ, he has brought us near, so near that He himself as become our very hiding place, the very place of our heart’s refuge. Safe, protected, in Christ no longer facing punishment but receiving grace and mercy, no longer alienated but children safe and hidden in our Father’s abiding presence.
God himself as your hiding place. As you shelter, grasp him, take refuge in Him, as you hide and entrust your deepest desires and fears to His protective refuge, as you feel the surrounding threats of doubt, fear, surrounding problems and pains closing in, then know his surrounding you, guarding you safe, keeping you hidden from attacks that threaten, as he surrounds you with shouts of deliverance.
When doubts creep in, hear him shout out ‘Nothing can separate from my love’
When guilt threatens, his cry :’There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus’
As persecution closes in, God declaring ‘I am working all things for the good of those who love me.’
As your faith feels a failure and falters, He surrounds you declaring, ‘A bruised reed I will not break, and a smoldering wick I will not quench.’
Faced with your failure in the battle against sin, his battle cry of ‘It is by grace you have been saved… it is my gift’
While your fear for others tempts you to break free from your hiding place and solve and save on your agenda, hear His deliverance cry declaring, ‘I am the Lord and there is no other.’
As the darkness and despair begins to cast shadows creeping ever nearer to your hiding place, hear your Saviour declare, ‘I am the light of the world’
My children may run intermittently to me, seeking me as their safe hiding place, but we have an abiding hiding place. Brought near by Jesus, brought so close to our heavenly Father that he declares himself our very hiding place. Held and hidden in Him.
Never called or asked to leave him to face the enemies surrounding, never called to go out and face the falleness of this world or the devil’s schemes by ourselves.
We only ever battle hidden with Christ in God, with His shouts of deliverance surrounding us as we wage the good warfare against sin, the world and the devil.
Only and always hidden with Christ in God.
Our hiding place until the day He brings us safely home. Where no doubt, despair, darkness or enemy will enter. When God’s shouts of deliverance we have heard all our earthly days will become our face-to-face worship of our Deliverer.
I wonder how many times you’ve heard or said these words:
‘Appreciate your time with your children now. It goes so quickly.’
How those words can encourage and bless on the good days where time flies!
How those words can inflict guilt and breed resentment on the bad when time seems to stand still!
How often are those words heard or spoken now to struggling parents living without the usual socialising, support and of course school?
For all the moments in the newborn days those words just raised my anxiety and fear and increased my guilt that there was far more arduous survival than appreciation about my parenting, I can see the truth and the value in those words. For underlying them is the good assumption that we raise our children for independence, that as they grow, they do so increasingly away from us, from attachment to autonomy.
To transition ourselves as parents from enacters to equippers, from acting on their behalf to advocating for them in their own endeavours. To see our children, flourish, grow, take responsibility, create and achieve without our intervention. Our role as parents is one of seeing our children wonderfully, courageously become increasingly less dependent on us. A calling that under ‘normal circumstances’ comes with cost to our desire to cling on, to keep close, to maintain control and protection……. a calling that in the midst of relentless lockdown life and homeschooling feels in danger of regressing.
Muuuuuuummmmmyyyyy. Where is my colouring book, shoes, where’s Chestnut (the guinea pig), where’s my pencil case, my hairbrush, Snowy (the other guinea pig)?
Mummy, I need a carry
Daddy, how do I do this?
Daddy, tell me about Ancient Rome.
What is the most dangerous animal in the world?
How do you spell Nebuchadnezzar?
Ohhhhhhh I can’t do this.
Mummy, I need you.
Daddy, can you help me?
And yet, in the relentless need, there is a beautiful truth and child-like spirit to learn from. For while the incessant noise of our children’s appeals and demands, may resound like whinging and exhausting expectation in mine and my husband’s ears, there is a plead to a mother, to a father that rings out as worship, wonder and faith before their Heavenly Father.
Unashamed, bold, expectant, child like dependence.
Unashamedly coming to a Father with expectation of receiving.
Unashamedly acknowledging a need.
Bold confidence in the Father’s power to provide.
Utter awareness of one’s dependence on the Father.
No attempt to hide their need and helplessness.
Crying, screaming out in need and helplessness.
Delighting in the infinite knowledge of the Father.
Seeking comfort with expectation.
Pleading of the Father’s mercy with arms outstretched, confident in love within the Father’s heart always inclined to forgive, to welcome, to restore.
We long for our children to grow in confident independence from us, but only so they might grow into increasingly child-like dependence on their Heavenly Father.
As they spend less time in our arms, to rest in His.
As they walk more often without holding on to our hands, to cling and grasp their Heavenly Father’s ever more tightly with each grace dependent and Spirit led step.
As they grow less reliant on their parents’ riches and support, to become increasingly poor in spirit, living in child-like poverty, empty and needy before their Heavenly Father and his abundant grace and mercy.
As they take fewer looks to check Mum and Dad are nearby, to grow in child-like need of assurance, confidence, boldness and joy in the presence of their Heavenly Father.
This is a relentless season for parents. Through our children’s incessant, crying needs may we come in likewise child-like confidence to our Heavenly Father, who receives the cries of his children with joy, love, and a perfect, eternal delight to soothe and satisfy.