Storms rolling into Reno County at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God’s blessings don’t always feel like blessings

It rained last night. In June I wouldn’t have been so happy about it, but last night wasn’t bad. In June, I didn’t want to see another drop of rain.

I wish I would have found today’s passage back then.

Storms rolling into Reno County at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Storms rolling into Reno County at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Joel 2:21-23.

Don’t be afraid, my people.
Be glad now and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things.
Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field,
for the wilderness pastures will soon be green.
The trees will again be filled with fruit;
fig trees and grapevines will be loaded down once more.
Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!
Rejoice in the Lord your God!
For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness.
Once more the autumn rains will come,
as well as the rains of spring.

Throughout the Bible, God uses different aspects of nature and different circumstances in our lives to communicate with us. He has control over both, so what better means to demonstrate not only His power but His love?

I enjoyed the rain last night, although driving home in some of the heavier spots was a little nerve wracking. The rain was nice. It was refreshing. But I can tell you if I had seen last night’s storm back in June, I wouldn’t have been so happy about it. We were already soaked in Kansas, and we didn’t need any more rain. But it just kept coming.

I was so tired of the rain, so tired of having to clean up my basement after it leaked, so tired of being worried that the whole place was going to flood while I was gone and tired of worrying that my roads would wash out and prevent me from getting home in the first place. And I just didn’t understand why God was allowing us to flood like that.

But the more I thought about it, the more I talked to God about how frustrated I was, the more He reminded me that He wasn’t trying to cause trouble. He was preventing trouble.

Kansas had been in a drought for like three years. Maybe longer. And honestly even though we got more than enough rain, I’m not sure if our “levels” are back up to where they need to be. but as an agricultural state, it’s not good for us to turn into a desert. The rain was a good thing. It was inconvenient and troublesome, but that was because I was worried about it. And I shouldn’t have been.

See, the rain during that time was a blessing. It was a gift from God. Without that rain, I’m not sure what Kansas crops and livestock would have looked like next year.

And that got me thinking. How many times do we treat God’s gifts like they’ll only cause us more trouble? Rain is a reminder of God’s faithfulness, of His provision, but if you only see the inconvenience of it, you will miss the point. It’s the same with any other blessings God gives us. God’s blessings and gifts don’t necessarily come easily. Yes, He gives them out free, but most of the time, that means you have to change something about your life in order to make the most of them. The plain and simple truth is that God’s blessings don’t always look or feel like blessings.

My 2005 Malibu after my very first wreck, Wichita, KS -- 2008

My 2005 Malibu after my very first wreck, Wichita, KS — 2008

Example from my own life? My first major wreck. I’d bought a “big girl” car with my own money, and I loved that car. I had it for three weeks because someone got up on the highway in a truck without securing his aluminum ladder. The wind blew it off and into my path, and in swerving to avoid it, I lost control and punched through a guard rail going 70 miles per hour. The impact sheared the whole front of the car off and took out 20 feet of the railing, and I walked away with a few airbag burns (and a separated shoulder, which we didn’t realize until four weeks later).

On the surface, the wreck was awful. It was the worst thing that I’d gone through in my life up until that point. I was hurt and sore and angry and disappointed, and I didn’t know what I had done wrong to deserve to go through it. But how did the story end? I got a better car.

My first car had been a 2005 Malibu with 50,000+ miles. With the settlement from the guy’s insurance company, I was able to buy a nicer 2008 Malibu with 17,000 miles.

My wreck was a pain, but God used it to give me something better than I had. On the surface, it looked awful, but God had a blessing in mind the whole time. It’s like rain. Rain can be taken as a difficulty, a pain, a curse, but according to this, rain is a sign that God hasn’t forgotten His promises to us. What our enemy means for evil, God can use for good.

So before you look at that tough situation in your life right now like it’s trouble, take a step back and ask God about it. Because there’s a good chance that there’s more to it than what you can see right now. And if you’re a Christ follower, you can know God is working things out for your good and His glory. Remember, God is faithful. He always keeps His promises. And even though it doesn’t always feel like it, He never leaves us.

So hang in there and hold on. God’s got it covered, and someday soon you’ll be able to look back and see His hand all over it.

A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Overcoming fear

Life is full of scary things, and if you focus on all there is to be afraid of, it’s easy (very easy) to be overwhelmed with how little we actually have control over. The key is to recognize that God is in control and trust that He’s going to take care of the details. But that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re a control freak.

I’m convinced that God put certain passages in Scripture just for me. That’s how I feel about today’s passage.

A very steep section of Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

A very steep section of Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 31:4-8.

“The Lord will destroy the nations living in the land, just as he destroyed Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites. The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I don’t spend an enormous amount of time in the Book of Deuteronomy, but whenever I read it, I remember how much I love it. With a name like Deuteronomy and its location in Scripture, I get it mixed up with Leviticus and Numbers. But Deuteronomy doesn’t have as much law in it, not like Leviticus does. Yes, there are some portions about the Law and dos and don’ts and things like that, but the book as a whole isn’t just the Law. It’s about the Children of Israel, the generation after one that left Egypt. And this passage marks where Moses turns command over to Joshua.

Put yourself in Joshua’s shoes. What a terrifying proposition! This isn’t like a promotion at work that you’ve been waiting for. This isn’t even like a promotion you didn’t see coming. This is like your boss pulling you from an area where you’re comfortable and a job description that you’re confident in and tossing you into the role as CEO of a major company. In a matter of moments, you go from being the one who takes orders to the one who gives orders, and you didn’t see it coming. If you haven’t worked for a big company, that may not sound intimidating, but if you’ve ever worked for a corporation you’ll understand just how frightening that sort of event would be.

I can’t imagine going from my little writing position to suddenly being in command of my company. It’s not something I would even want. And it makes me wonder if that’s how Joshua felt. After all, he saw what Moses had gone through. He saw how the Children of Israel had treated Moses. He witnessed everything first hand as a soldier, and then when he’s given command, he suddenly has to face the fact that he’s the one God wants in charge.

So it’s no wonder God tells him over and over again not to be afraid, not only in this book but also in the Book of Joshua, directly after this one.

But what I find interesting about this passage is how God repeats key phrases. God tells Moses to tell Joshua not to be afraid and that God will go with him. And then Moses tells Joshua that God said not to be afraid and that God will go with Him.

Why repeat it? And it seriously is almost exactly repeated word for word. Couldn’t the Scriptures have just said something like “Moses told Joshua all God had said.” There are other passages like that. Why not here? Why put it down again? And what’s more, if you look ahead to Joshua 1:1-9, you’ll see almost exactly the same thing repeated.

This is what I have learned about the Bible. God doesn’t waste words. If He chooses to repeat something in Scripture, it’s not an accident. It means something, and usually it means we need to pay attention. It means what He’s saying is something He wants us to really understand.

Whether you’re a CEO of a company or at the bottom of the food chain, you face scary things all the time. Life is scary. Living is scary. There’s not a moment that fear can’t take advantage of your life, especially when you grasp just how powerless we are. But what God wants us to know is that He’s not going anywhere. The same God who went ahead of Moses, the same God who went ahead of Joshua, is the same God who is going ahead of us today.

God knows what’s coming. He knows what the future has in store for us, even if we don’t, and He isn’t going to let us face it alone. He’s there. And if He’s there and if you can trust Him, you don’t have to be afraid. Fear isn’t something that you need to give in to because God has given us the power to overcome it.

I don’t normally do this, but I love the song “Overcomer” by Mandisa. And I watched the music video for it last night that features some pretty well known overcomers. The YouTube link for it is below, and if you have a moment, I’d really suggest watching it and remembering that no matter what you’re facing in life right now, God is telling us not to be afraid. You’re going to face challenges and impossible situations, but God isn’t going to let you do it by yourself.

Steps in the jungle at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Don’t be afraid to change your plans

I had a plan when I was a senior in high school. I would graduate from Pensacola Christian College in four years with a degree in commercial writing, but I probably wouldn’t get a full-time job after graduation because I was probably going to get married and start a family. Well, my plan didn’t work.

I made it a year at Pensacola Christian College and came home (thank God) and finished my writing degree at Wichita State University instead. And I’ve been working full time since 2005 (sign language interpreter, librarian, writer) and I still haven’t even been on a date, which is normally a prerequisite when you intend to get married. None of these things were in my plan, but looking back now, I wouldn’t change any of it.

Steps in the jungle at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Steps in the jungle at Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Proverbs 19:21.

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

People get attached to the plans they’ve made. I’m not really sure why, but it happens to me too. When I was young I used to get so upset when our plans would change at the last minute. Maybe it’s because I’m a creature of habit. I don’t know.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that even though you make plans, you can’t be afraid to change them. Why? Well, God has a better plan than you do. And even if your plan is good, His is best. He won’t force you to change your plans, but you’ll sure be better off if you do.

I could have forced my plan. I could have gone back to PCC for the rest of my education. I didn’t have to leave. No one forced me to leave. (Oh, but I’m glad I did.) I didn’t have to go to WSU. I could have opted for an associate degree at a junior college and lived at home. And that way maybe I could have pursued a relationship. I could be married now. Most of my friends my age are married. Most of my friends younger than me are married. And many of them have kids–more than one kid. Some have armies.

But when I consider all that God has given me because I changed my plans to suit His, I wouldn’t go back for anything. I had many plans for my life, but God had a purpose for me that I didn’t know about. And if I had pushed my own plans, it would have been a lot more difficult to reach the purpose God had in store.

So what’s the point of getting upset when we change our plans? Why are we afraid of it? Most of the time, if you’re changing your plan for a reason God has indicated, the new plan will be better than the old one in the end anyway.

I think the fear comes from the unknown. Once you sit down and plan something, you have the illusion that you’re in control of your plans, but that’s not true. Even if you push your own plan, you’re not in control of it. Life can still spiral out of control at a moment’s notice whether you’re following your plan or God’s plan. The upside of following God’s plan when everything falls apart is that you can trust all the bad stuff is part of the plan. If you’re following your plan and everything falls apart, you won’t know what to do and you aren’t big enough to fix it.

Being steady and consistent are important. If you promise to do something, you ought to do it. I’m not saying that if you’ve planned to do something you should back out of it because it pushes you out of your comfort zone. That’s not the point at all.

But if you’ve planned to do something and God obviously shows you that He wants you to do something else? Don’t dawdle. Change your plans to suit His. And don’t be afraid of it.

Him asking you to change your plans could be for a reason as simple as avoiding an unforeseen catastrophe on the road you were driving on. Or it could mean you end up the president of a company instead of peon in a cubicle. Whatever plans He asks you to change, you just have to trust that He knows better and that His plans are better. After all, He can see the big picture, when we’re stuck with just a few pixels.