Icicle ornament on the tree, Haven, KS

Creating joy from sorrow

I was out late last night, in the same place I was toward the end of January, at Mid-Continent Airport watching the clock. But this time I wasn’t watching the clock, wishing it would stop ticking; this time I was watching the clock, wishing it would hurry up!

My best friend flew in from England around 10:20 p.m. For her it was a 24+ hour day, since she had connections in Atlanta and Chicago, after her nine and a half hour flight from Manchester. She’s been in the United Kingdom for a year, traveling all over Europe, reporting on the events and ministries of missionaries working there. She’s heading back that way again in May, and she’s home for a few months to raise support again. And even though I got to see her this summer, I was ready for her to be home, at least for a little while.

Between luggage issues and delayed flights, among all sort of other excitement, the events of yesterday were a great reminder of how God answers prayers, just not exactly in the way you expect Him to.

Icicle ornament on the tree, Haven, KS

Icicle ornament on the tree, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 40:1-5.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
    who have no confidence in the proud
    or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

I didn’t get home and into bed last night until 12:00 a.m., and I was so hyped up on Starbucks, I’m pretty sure I didn’t drift off until 1:30 a.m. So I’m going to make this brief.

God answers prayers. He listens. No, He may not answer the way you think He will. In fact, most of the time He doesn’t answer your prayers the way you think He will. But He answers.

A lot of things “went wrong” for my best friend yesterday, but everything worked together so that she could still make it back to Wichita. How many times is that true in our lives? I am guilty of seeing my own life like a shallow pool, a linear chain of events that stretches from Point A to Point B. But my life isn’t like that. It’s deeper than that, and the events of my life are a 3D chart than a line graph.

I see one thing go wrong in my life, and I’m threatened to despair. But most of the time what happens is that one thing that didn’t go the way I planned plays a vital role in helping something else happen–something bigger and better than what I expected.

That’s the way God works. He takes the disappointments and sadness in our lives and turns it around to bless us. Only God is big enough to work that way.

So whatver is “going wrong” in your life today, don’t make the mistake of seeing it like an error. Don’t assume that God isn’t listening. Instead, see it like a stepping stone. See it as an opportunity to watch God do something miraculous.

God bends down to our level so we can see that He hears us

I know people who believe God created the world and then washed His hands of it. I’ve always been told this belief is called Deism, that God is distant and impersonal and unreachable and that He has no interest in participating in our puny, little lives.

To those who are Deists, I really encourage them to actually study the Bible. Every story in the Bible demonstrates that God not only created the world but that He loves it too–enough to intervene its its affairs daily . . . on an extremely personal basis.

Like today’s verse, Psalm 116:1-2.

 1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
      and my prayer for mercy.
 2 Because he bends down to listen,
      I will pray as long as I have breath!

Sorry but that doesn’t sound like a distant, uncaring, impersonal God to me.

I mean, if God didn’t care about us on a personal level, that would be completely understandable. Actually, it would make more sense. Because, seriously, God shouldn’t have anything to do with us. The difference between us and God isn’t just like the difference between a flea and a stray dog . . . it’s more like the difference between a flea and a dog-catcher. God is so high above us, so far beyond our understanding, it really doesn’t make sense that He would love us enough to care about our day-to-day troubles.

But the Bible says He does.

And if you haven’t read the Bible, how can you hope to know anything about God?

It’s a bad example, but think about how children love to talk to adults. Children love to tell adults things about their lives. I’ve never had a conversation with a child where that kid didn’t get super excited when I showed an interest in the things they cared about. And when I bend down to speak to a child on their level, that kid lights up and can talk my ear off for hours. It’s not that I can’t hear them when I’m standing up straight; I usually can. But have you ever tried to talk to someone much taller than you? It’s very frustrating because you can’t tell if they’re actually listening. So when I’m talking to a kid, I usually get down on my knees or try to get on their level so they can see that I really care about what they’re saying.

Don’t you think that’s how God is sometimes? Can’t you just see Him bending down to hear us talking? He probably smiles and nods a lot. And He listens. But He doesn’t just listen, He hears. And most of the time, He goes out of His way to make sure we know that He heard, whether it’s through an answer to prayer or one of those surprise occurences that remind us He’s there. But do you think He actually needed to send Jesus to Earth to hear us? No. God hears everything. But He wanted someone on our level–someone we could understand, someone who had lived everything we had lived–to demonstrate His great love for us.

It would have been enough for God to create us. It would have been enough for Him to send Jesus to die. It would have been enough for Him to offer us forgiveness. Even if He had done all that and still not cared enough about us to seek friendship with us, it would have been enough.

But then why would He create us in the first place?

A relationship with God through Jesus doesn’t just save us from eternal separation, it saves us from loneliness. More than anything, God wants to have a relationship with us. He wants to know us personally.

Do I understand that? No. If I were God, I wouldn’t want anything to do with me. But that’s what the Bible says, and I believe the Bible.

So I’m thankful. Because salvation would be empty without a God to love. Maybe I’d get my fire insurance, but if God wasn’t there to help me survive this broken life on earth, what good is living?