Remember who God is

I taught a workshop in Midland, TX, last September. It wasn’t anything super spectacular, although the feedback I got confirmed that my explanation of plot structure was enlightening. But I remember standing up in front of a room full of authors and asking myself how I’d gotten there.

Yes, I’ve been writing for a long time. Yes, I’ve been a successful writer for many years. But I’m still learning. I learn something new about writing and storytelling and editing every day, and I feel like the least qualified person to stand up and teach a room of writers about plot structure.

Have you ever felt that way?

Like you’re the last person who should be teaching others? But the way life ended up working out taught you things that other people wanted to learn. That’s kind of how I feel about my teaching. Except I fully believe that life doesn’t just work out. Nothing about life is random, and the moments that feel random don’t last long because there’s a bigger story unfolding in the background.

Nothing happens to God’s children by accident (Isaiah 46:9-10). Everything He allows into our lives and our experiences is something He has already seen coming. That doesn’t mean He is the cause of the negativity and the badness we experience, but it does mean that He’s already seen the end of it and knows how to turn it into something beautiful.

Remember who God isGod is big enough to take the darkest moments of our life and change them into something that brings light to others. Sure, it stinks while we’re going through some of those tough moments, but if we can hold on to the truth of Who God is and what He does, we’ll thrive even in seasons of drought or fire or darkness.

God redeems. He takes broken things and makes them beautiful. He takes empty vessels and fills them with treasure. He takes someone with a collection of seemingly random experiences and makes them a expert that others seek out for knowledge.

Throughout the entire length and breadth of the Bible, that’s the story God tells. That’s the role He plays in the story—the Redeemer (Isaiah 48:17). The one who buys back the broken.

But He doesn’t stop there.

He could only buy back broken things, and He would be the greatest Hero in the universe. But He takes it a step further. He not only redeems. He restores. He takes those years you think you wasted and turns them into something that can help other people. He takes the never-ending time you spent waiting on something and makes it into valuable experience you can use in a career or a relationship. He uses the hurt and the pain and the scars you thought had no purpose to bless others.

He buys back the broken, yes, but He makes the broken beautiful too. That’s who God is. (Isaiah 61:3)

So if you’re in a dark season right now, remember who God is. If you’re waiting, embrace it and enjoy the season where you’re totally relying on God. If you’re hurting, recognize that God isn’t the one hurting you, and that He can turn your mourning into joyous dancing. If you’re struggling with a load that’s too heavy for you to bear, remember that God’s shoulders are wide enough to carry all your troubles.

Psalm 113:7-9Remember who God is. He honors the poor, He carries the weak, and He provides for those in need without reluctance or discrimination (Psalm 113:7-9).

Dark seasons don’t last forever, and when it’s over God will make beauty from the ashes. That’s a promise, and He always keeps His promises.

Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Directions from an outdated map

I love Google Maps. Without it, I would be lost–well, literally. I am directionally challenged, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. As far as I’m concerned, the hood of the car always points north, so if you tell me to turn any direction (north, east, south, west) I won’t have any idea which way I’m supposed to go. I laugh when people ask me for directions because if they only knew how discombobulated I am all the time, they’d never ask me how to get from point A to point B.

Before I give anyone directions, I usually always Google it so I can tell them north, south, east and west–because most of the time the people who ask me for directions understand that, even if I don’t. Oh, the irony! But have you ever tried to give directions from an outdated map? That’s a foreign concept to most people now because of Google Maps and other digital navigation services, but there was a time when you had to rely only on paper maps. And if your paper map was wrong, you were going to be in a heap of trouble.

Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 48:17.

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is good for you
    and leads you along the paths you should follow.

The trouble with asking for directions is that many times you have to wait for an answer. Especially if you ask me! You have to wait for me to look it up on Google Maps!

Life directions aren’t all that different from navigation. And it’s usually a good idea to ask someone who knows where they’re going for directions, but no matter who you ask, you still have to wait for an answer. And I get tired of waiting. And when I get tired of waiting, I strike out on my own. I’m a pretty resourceful person, so going my own way isn’t exactly a challenge at first. But the difficulty with following your own map is that it’s not up to date.

You can follow your own rules, follow your own directions, follow your “heart” or whatever you want to call it from dawn until dusk and you’ll end up going in circles because the core of who we are inside is lost.

We’re born lost. Some of us just won’t admit it. Like somebody in a grocery store who won’t ask where the peanut butter is–of course they know where it is, they just want to walk the length and breadth of the store three times to find it. Right?

Admitting that we’re lost takes humility. I don’t know why. It just does. Even knowing that I’m not the world’s best with directions, I don’t like admitting that I’m lost when I’m out on the road somewhere. I want people to think I know where I’m going. I want people to think I’m a good navigator, a careful navigator, that I’m smart enough to find my way around when I don’t have a map.

But navigating life is a little different from navigating a grocery store. There are similarities, yes, but the stakes are higher. With one, the biggest risk you take is going home without your peanut butter; with the other, you risk the blessings you haven’t received yet.

God has told us everything we need to know about how to get where we’re going, and the beautiful thing about the Bible is that it’s never outdated. Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t need to be updated. The Bible has the directions we need. We just need to listen to them. God teaches us what is right and good through Scripture. He leads us down the paths He wants us to take. But He never forces us to go against our will. We have to choose it still. You’ve heard the expression about leading a horse to water? I’m pretty sure that’s what God does for us. He leads us to the crossroads, tells us what we need to know to make the right choice, and then leaves it up to us to decide which path.

Some choices aren’t that clear cut. Sometimes you have two good choices. But more often than not, you have a right choice and a wrong choice, and if you’ve listened to the Bible, you’ll know the difference. But choosing the right over the wrong isn’t always easy. It’s better, but it’s not easy. And of course, you’re free to do whatever you’d like, even if you’re a Christ follower. You don’t have to follow the paths God has laid out for you. You don’t have to use God’s directions as you navigate this life. You can make it up as you go, if you want. But if that’s what you choose to do, you should remember that you really don’t know where you’re going.

Have you ever tried to navigate using both Google Maps and Mapquest? More often than not, the directions they give you aren’t the same. True, you’ll eventually get to your destination, but one way is better. One way is faster or avoids more road construction or takes into account the type of neighborhood you’re driving through. And if you try to take one set of directions and use it alongside a different set, you’re just going to end up confused.

So stick with one direction provider. Just make sure it’s someone who really does know where they’re going. And if they don’t know either, make sure they know who to ask.