Give God time to keep His promise

I try to control too many things. But I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure when it started. I just have this driving urge to keep a handle on life so it won’t get away from me. Which is ridiculous, as any self-respecting Christ-follower knows (Luke 17:33). But, hey, I’m being honest here.

I try to control the silliest things too. When I go grocery shopping, I try to think of everything I need for about a month. Grocery stores aren’t exactly convenient to where I live, so it’s easier to make one big trip. But that means I have to plan ahead. That means I have to make meal plans. That means designing several different meals all at once and hoping that life doesn’t go crazy between shopping trips.

The trouble is, life always goes crazy. Life always screws up my plans, and usually I’m left with expired produce, questionable meat, or stale crackers. And none of that would have happened if I’d planned a week in advance rather than a month.

I’m not saying don’t plan. But what I am saying is don’t rush ahead too far, because you never know what curve balls are going to come at you.

Life will take crazy twists and turns. God will lead you down paths you never dreamed possible. He may take you down roads you never even thought you wanted to go down, and somewhere along the way you’ll realize you never belonged anywhere else. But that’s all part of His promise (Psalm 37:4). And God can be trusted to keep His promises (Hebrews 10:23).

But that means we have to wait.

I hate waiting. Maybe you didn’t know that about me. Unlikely if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time. Waiting is my least favorite thing.

At least, it used to be. God has been working on my old stubborn Scottish heart this past year, and I’ve begun to see the joy we can have when we release the things that scare us and trust God completely.

I had to go there several times in 2016. More than once, I had to pry my own hands off of my life and hand it over to God. And then I had to sit and wait and trust and pray, and that was literally all I could do.

No, I should clarify. It was all I did, but I could have done several other things.

I could have gone back to the corporate world and asked for my job back. I could have gone to my many loving and supportive friends and asked for a loan, just big enough so that I could afford groceries for the next month. I could have gone to a pawn shop and sold anything I had of value (I’m not joking, the thought did occur to me).

I could have done any of those things, but one question kept hovering at the back of my mind: “Do you trust God or not?”

I told Him at the beginning of this journey that I wanted to rely on faith rather than finances. I told Him I didn’t care what was coming, that I wanted to place my trust and my life and my future entirely in His hands. And if this was the life I was supposed to be living, I needed Him to provide for me, and if it wasn’t, I needed Him to stop.

Good gracious, friends, be careful what you ask for. Because God will hold you to declarations like that.

A few times throughout last year I thought God had stopped providing, but that was because I was planning too far ahead. So I started looking at life differently. I woke up every morning and thanked God for what I had that day, because every day I had what I needed for that day. And when tomorrow arrived, I would have what I needed then. God just wouldn’t always let me know ahead of time.

That is the recurring tale of my 2016. Until the end of December when God opened his storehouses and poured some major blessings on my silly head—blessings enough to provide over and above what I had expected for 2017.

While part of me is concerned He’s providing this much this quickly and telling me about it, the louder part of me is simply choosing to be thankful. I don’t want to forget what He’s taught me this year. Even if I have enough for months and months, it could still all be lost in an instant.

God has to be enough. Just God. Not money. Not possessions. Not power or influence or book sales or car maintenance or health insurance. All those things are wonderful blessings, but God is enough for me. He’s enough to provide what I need when I need it, and He doesn’t have to tell me what He’s doing or when He’s doing it. He’s God. He’s got a plan. He’s working everything out for my good. (Romans 8:28)

My part in this story is to be still. To trust. To wait. My responsibility is to give God time to keep the promises He’s made me, because He will. He always has, and He always blows me away with His goodness and generosity.

Are you trying to control your life? What about your finances or your health or people in your life? You can’t. You need to let go and give it to God and trust that He will work things out. And once you do that, you need to wait.

Even if it feels like you’re standing still. Even if it feels like you’re wasting time. Even when it feels like you should be doing something—anything. Just wait.

You’ll see the door when He opens it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind.

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My life as a portrait mosaic

I don’t remember the first time I saw a portrait mosaic. I think I was sitting in a doctor’s office or a waiting room somewhere, and at first I wondered if it were some kind of new impressionistic art. The image was all fuzzy and out of focus, and I didn’t understand why it would be framed and displayed.

Well, I just had to look closer.

mosaic-eyeThat one big image was actually made of a ton of smaller images. Probably tens of thousands of little images all came together in one big portrait. I don’t remember what the subject of the portrait was, but the concept stuck with me.

Life is a portrait mosaic

I have my own little picture of my life. I know its shape and size. I know what colors it has. I know the subjects in it. I know what it focuses on. I know because I can see it. It’s my life. I know what it looks like.

You have one too. Everybody does.

Little stories, big picture

We all have an idea of what the portrait of our life looks like. It’s smooth and in focus. It’s not missing any pieces. And it’s perfectly cohesive from one corner to the next. That’s what we see.

But if you look look closer, you’ll realize that your big life portrait is actually made up of many smaller portraits. We all live more than one story. We all experience events in our lives that change who we are and challenge what we believe.

Not everything that’s happened in my life has been happy. Not every choice I’ve made has been good. But God is big enough that He’s taken all those dark spots in my life and fitted them perfectly into the grand portrait of my life.

This is what we’ve got to remember. Just because there’s an experience we’ve had that wasn’t positive doesn’t mean our lives are over. As much as it would be nice to imagine a life full of nothing but happy memories, that’s not how it works.

We live in a broken world

Our first parents broke the world long ago, and we’re still dealing with the consequences of their actions. Nobody is perfect. No life is perfect. No relationships are perfect. So that means we’re all trying to build a life using broken pieces, and it’s not something we have the power to do.

But God does.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

This verse has been used too much probably, but isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it comforting? If you belong to Jesus, if you’re seeking His heart, you can trust that everything happening in your life will ultimately turn out good. Because God is good, even if your circumstances aren’t.

Maybe you lost your job. Maybe a loved one has died. Maybe you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or maybe you’ve just endured the end of a relationship you thought you’d never lose. Those are all bad things. Nobody’s saying they’re good.

But God is big enough to take those bad things and plug them into a bigger picture where they will play a role in making a beautiful story come to life. That negative experience will just be a part of the larger picture. After all, portraits have to include shadows, or else the image won’t be realistic.

Life might stink right now. It’s okay. Say it. God never promised that life wouldn’t stink. He actually promised the exact opposite (John 16:33). What He did promise is that we wouldn’t have to go through those times of difficulty and suffering alone (Matthew 28:20). He also promised that those dark moments we have to endure won’t be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
mosaic-pin-1When we see one part of a portrait, God sees the whole piece in its entirety. We may only be able to see one pixel right now, and that pixel might be blacker than the pit. But even the brightest painting still has a few flecks of darkness in it. How do you know you aren’t just seeing one of those?

And if the opposite is true and all you see are the good moments, understand that you’ll have to go through some bad stuff too. Everyone does. But a bad situation doesn’t have to ruin your life. A bad situation can be the stepping stone you use to climb higher than you’ve been before.

So instead of focusing on one picture, try looking for the others. You can’t see things from God’s perspective, but you can trust Him when he says He’s got it under control. He sees the whole picture when we see just a small piece.

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God works with us to help us figure life out

Do you believe God knows what He’s doing? I do, but that still doesn’t stop me from wondering what the heck he’s thinking sometimes. I’m so very grateful that He’s there putting pieces together because it’s times like these that I can’t see the big picture. All I can see is the damage.

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

An orchid in the sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 8:28.

And we know that God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I had been planning to post a Psalm today, but this verse was featured prominently on a site I frequent. And it seemed appropriate to focus on it today. I know so many people going through difficult times right now, and in the midst of all those trying circumstances it’s tempting to think that God has walked away. But that’s just our enemy trying to discourage us.

This is one of those verses that everyone uses and everyone knows, and I honestly hesitate to use those kinds of verses. But just because they’re popular doesn’t make them untrue, and this is reassurance I needed today.

God’s got a plan He’s working on, and that plan is going to be good and bring good to the people who love Him.

The Amplified Version actually says it this way: We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

God being a partner in their labor. I’ve never seen that before, and that actually changes my view on this verse a little. Because it’s easy to think that God has this distant and powerful plan already in place that all of us fit into like puzzle pieces on a card table. And it’s easy for me to envision that He just puts the puzzle together.

But if God is a partner in our labor, working things out, that’s personal. Partners work together. Side by side, hand in hand, face to face. He’s not just sitting at a table piecing our lives together. He’s in our lives, building our lives one brick at a time alongside us. He doesn’t just snap His fingers and life happens, though He could. He gets His hands dirty and works in our lives.

Have you ever thought that way? I haven’t. I don’t know about you but working side-by-side with God to figure my screwy life out sounds like a good idea.

He already knows what’s going to happen. He’s seen the last page. He knows the last line. But we don’t, and time moves differently for us. His being available to help us through life a moment at a time isn’t for His benefit; it’s for ours.

Whatever you’re facing today, God has a plan. No matter how you’re struggling, no matter how you’ve been hurt, no matter what you’re afraid of, no matter aspect of life you don’t understand, God’s working it out, and not from some distant point where you can’t access Him. He’s right here with us, offering to work alongside us to help us get through the difficult times.

Challenges help us grow, so embrace them. Hurt feelings suck, but God’s plan is more important, so shake it off. Loss can be devastating, so take the time to grieve but move forward, holding God’s hand.

He hasn’t left us on our own, and He won’t. God is good, and so are His plans for us, in spite of what our enemy may be whispering in your ear today. We don’t have to stumble around in the dark hoping to find our way. God’s waiting for us to catch up. So keep your eyes open, keep your heart open to Him, and jump.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

The best is yet to come

Could you use some good news this morning? I could. This hasn’t exactly been an awful week. I’ve absolutely had worse, but every day this week has felt gloomy, as though I’ve been living in some kind of hazy shadow world. Every day has felt like the mornings when the fog is thick on the roads and even if you try to shine your light brighter all it does it reflect back in your face and blind you.

I’ve finally just hit the point where I want some good news. It doesn’t even have to be great news. Just something good. Just something positive and uplifting. Something to remember on the foggy, dreary, gloomy days when all I want to do is stay in bed and give up.

So I needed this bit of good news today.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 8:18-27.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Know what this set of verses means?

The best is yet to come.

That’s what it means.

I get bogged down by life easily. My life is just so full, and that’s a good thing. But it can get too full pretty quickly, and before you know it, I get caught in the trap of thinking that this is all there is. I mean, theoretically I know that this world isn’t my home and that heaven will be better and that God’s going to make a way where there seems to be no way. I know that He’s a strong tower. I know that my Redeemer lives. I know that when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

I know all that. But that’s tomorrow. And I’m stuck in a perpetual today. So how do I focus on what matters, how do I keep pressing forward, how do I keep taking aim over and over and over knowing that I’ll miss even when I do my best—and do all of that cheerfully?

I know the best is yet to come. But how do I live like it? Right now I’m like a tired old horse struggling under the weight of a plow in a field too dry to work. And this set of verses says I’m supposed to wait with eager hope? Well how do I hold on to eager hope when the hope I feel is more like dragging an anchor along the bottom of a muddy lake. Hope is more like a chain around my neck than a set of wings that lets me fly. At least, that’s what it feels like on these gloomy days.

Maybe it’s cliche and maybe people are tired of reading it, but the best verse to remember when you’re trying to hold on to eager hope is the verse that directly follows the passage above: Romans 8:28.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Want to know how to hold on to hope when it feels like everything is going wrong? Want to know how to keep living in the light when it feels like everyone around you is lost in the darkness? Want to know how to react when you don’t get what you want or what you think you need? Remember Romans 8:28.

If you are following Christ, if you are seeking Him first, if you are partnering with Him to make a difference (no matter how big or how small), God is working out the details in your life. And even when it seems like everything is falling apart, God still has a plan … and it’s a good plan.

If you’re down and facing a lot of discouragement, just remember that God has a plan. And remember that this world isn’t the end. There’s something beyond this world, a life beyond wonderful, and when God is finished with us down here, we get to go there.

Tomorrow may be hard to face, but hold on to hope because God is working things out down here. And when He’s done working things out down here, we get to go home. And once we get home … well, even our best days here pale in comparison to what our worst day in eternity will be like.