Don’t be afraid, even if you can’t see what’s coming

We’ve got a new batch of kittens at Safe Haven Farm–seven of them! And other than several of them having some issues with runny eyes, they’re all healthy and hilarious. Yesterday I went out to play with them, and I had to laugh. It was a particularly windy day, and every time a gust of wind would come along, all seven would scurry into the shadows of the garage again. When the wind would stop blowing, they’d creep out to play some more, until the wind gusted again. Then they’d scatter.

Being afraid of the wind in Kansas is going to limit their experiences, because it’s always windy here. Eventually they’ll learn not to run in fear when the wind blows, but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it must be. If you’d never felt wind before, it would be pretty scary. You can’t see it, but it can knock you clean over if you aren’t paying attention.

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 3:22.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

When the children of Israel were preparing to go into the land God had promised them, after they’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God turned command of the army over to Joshua. Moses had done his job. And this was one of the messages God left with him: that the people shouldn’t be afraid of what they would encounter on the other side of the Jordan River because God would be there fighting for them.

And that’s a promise God kept over and over again.

We all face moments in our lives when we’re uncertain about what’s coming. In those moments, I always feel like I have some invisible enemy that’s going to sneak up on me when I least expect it. None of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s difficult to face a day sometimes when you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of it. Some people don’t know if they’ll still have a bed to sleep in. Some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

None of us know what’s coming. Like the Children of Israel who’d never seen the land they were going into, we face troubles and frustrations on a daily basis that go above our heads. There are circumstances and situations that we’re not prepared for. There are confrontations and accusations we have to face that we don’t know how to respond to.

It’s all unknown and uncertain, and there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. But what God told the Children of Israel back then is the same thing He’s saying to us know. You may not know what’s coming, but He does. And He isn’t passively sitting on the sidelines judging our performance. God is actively involved in our lives and in our world, and He will fight for us.

Granted, if you want God to fight for you, you need to be on His side, which means you need to be doing what He says is right. If you’re there, then you have nothing to fear. If you’re not there? You might want to think about getting there.

Just because I can’t see what’s coming doesn’t mean I should fear it. Most of my future is completely uncertain, but I will choose not to be afraid for one reason and one reason alone–my God is certain. I belong to Him, and He will fight my battles for me.

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God’s plan disguised by inconvenience

Do you have struggles in your life? If you think you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. Everyone has struggles and difficulties. Granted, some people have bigger struggles than others. But no one can escape them. And depending on your perspective, you can easily let them control your life.

I know, personally, the struggles I have aren’t huge. There aren’t any major illnesses in my life. No major medical issues. No major financial issues. No major lifestyle issues. The struggles I face more than anything else are more like matters of inconvenience.

Good example? My basement flooded last night. And it wasn’t even a major flood. It was just enough water to make a mess, which I promptly cleaned up. And then I went and took a shower. And then it promptly flooded again. Again, not enough to do any major damage. Just enough to be inconvenient . . . . and to cause me to call my dad and plead for help.

I think oftentimes God will put obstacles (read that opportunities) in our path that have to be dealt with as we walk toward His goal for our lives. Some opportunities are more fun than others. But I guarantee we learn more from those than we do from the fun ones.

And even though these opportunities may feel like obstacles when we run into them, if we can keep our perspective straight, we can look at them like God sees them — stepping stones to better things.

Today’s passage comes out of the Christmas story, Luke 2:1, 4-5.

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Talk about inconvenience.

It would have been difficult enough to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot but Mary was pregnant . . . and not just pregnant, obviously pregnant. And maybe they had a donkey. Maybe not. People always portray them with a donkey, but Mary and Joseph weren’t rich people. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if they had to walk the whole way. And I’ve never been pregnant, but I know a lot of people who have been. And walking isn’t their favorite thing to do during that period in their life.

And why did they have to do this? Because the Roman emperor said so. It was a stinkin’ census. A governmental thing. Like taxes. It interfered with everyone’s daily lives and upset the whole order of normalcy.

I can only imagine the grumbling this census caused in people. Maybe even in Mary and Joseph. I don’t know. I know I wouldn’t blame Mary for grumbling about something like this.

But what would have happened if Christ hadn’t been born in Bethlehem?

He still would have been virgin born. He still would have been the Son of God. He still would have fulfilled many of the prophecies in the Old Testament. . . . just not all of them.

The Old Testament is very specific saying which Bethlehem Jesus would be born in (there are two). Prophets had been very specific for hundreds of years as to the location where Christ would be born. What would have happened if Joseph had decided it was too much trouble to obey the law? What would have happened if Mary had decided to stay home?

Granted, traveling to Bethlehem had to be a terrible inconvenience, but it was necessary to fulfill prophecy.

So what does this mean for all of us?

Well, many times, God is going to ask us to do things that inconvenience us and we’re not going to understand why. I mean, maybe Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was going to be born in Bethlehem because of all the prophecies and that’s why they didn’t have a problem going. But I guarantee, they didn’t know the far-reaching effects of having a child born there. Just like we don’t truly grasp the implications of our reactions to what God brings into our lives.

Being inconvenienced usually means that it’s something God wants you to do. Being inconveniences usually means that you’ve gotten too comfortable or too confident or too focused on something that doesn’t matter. Being inconvenienced usually means you’re only thinking about how your plans will be upset.

I can tell you the main reason I was so upset last night about my flooded basement wasn’t because of the mess, although that was troublesome. What upset me more than anything was that I had other plans for last night. And I couldn’t get them done because I had to clean up my basement. That inconvenienced me because I had wanted to do my own thing last night instead of having to take care of a wet, cold, dripping mass of towels. And I had to do it twice!

But I can also tell you that my basement floor is super clean now. So maybe it was God’s way of telling me that I needed to mop? =)

I don’t know. But what I do know is that many times God will ask things of us that seem like huge inconveniences. Things that will cause more struggles in our lives than they solve. But every time there’s a reason for it. And every time there’s something for us to learn. And every time, there’s something God is going to do with it.

So the best thing to do when inconveniences come from God is to just remember that He knows what He’s doing and try to enjoy the struggle, as strange as that sounds. Because you can look forward to the other side when it’s finished and you have gained something for your trouble. And you never know how God might use it. But you can be confident that He will.

God’s strength gives us grace

We get a lot of deer out where I live, not so many at this time of year, but around November is when they really start popping out of everywhere. That’s when you really have to start watching the road because they tend to jump out in front of you without any notice. They’re incredibly graceful creatures, though. They have amazing balance, and they can jump over fences with ease. And if they’re incredible in the Plains, they’re even more incredible in the mountains.

Deer have a lot of confidence while jumping from rock to rock. They are coordinated and strong and balanced and graceful and swift.

That was what I thought about when I read today’s verse, Habakkuk 3:19.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
      He makes me as surefooted as a deer,[a]
      able to tread upon the heights.

People don’t read Habakkuk like they should, I don’t think. It’s one of my favorite books in the Bible, and it’s a lot of fun to say over and over again (kind of like Humperdink).

It’s kind of funny if you think about what this verse is saying. To me, it says that God’s strength gives us grace. And that is very true. God is strong enough to forgive us, to give us things we don’t deserve. That’s the very definition of grace.

One of the reasons I love the Bible. Double meanings. The same fact means two different things.

God’s strength gives us grace in that it provides us with the balance we need to survive the trials of life without falling. To really grasp what it’s saying, let me include the same verse out of the Amplified Bible.

19The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Deer are graceful creatures, able to leap from rock to rock without difficulty. What this verse is saying is that by putting our confidence in God, He will give us the same ability to work through our troubles.

When we are confronted by life’s many problems, it’s really easy just to stop. The easiest thing to do is to stand still and stop trying, especially because it feels like everything you do just makes it worse. And while it is definitely a good idea to be still on occasion, it’s never a good idea to give up. And if you think about it from a deer’s perspective, if they stand still long enough, they’re going to get shot. And besides, watching a deer stand still is no fun; I like to watch a deer move. Because then I can marvel at God’s creativity in making such an amazing creature.

It’s the same with us. When we face troubles without giving up, it gives others a chance to see the grace and balance and strength of God through us.

So even though they’re a pain, I will try to welcome troubles when they come my way. Because the more opportunities I have to trust God, the closer I’ll get to Him. And the more troubles I go through, the better other people can see Him through me.