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.

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When God isn’t what we want, He’s always what we need

When I was a freshman in college, I attended a very strict, very conservative Christian college in Florida. The best place to shop for groceries in that area was the Wal-mart down the street from the campus, and it never failed. Every time I walked into that store, someone in the aisle would mistake me for an employee.

I wore a blue lanyard that had my school ID on it, so maybe that was why they always mistook me for a Wal-mart employee. It was funny, though, because I spent enough time in the store that I could answer most of their questions anyway.

But has that ever happened to you? You see someone and assume you know why they’re here? And then you find out you were wrong?

triumphal_entryToday’s verse is John 12:12-13.

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”

Two thousand years ago, Jesus rode on a donkey as He entered the city of Jerusalem, and just about everybody in the city came down to welcome Him. They were so happy to see Him. They waved palm branches and cried out to be saved.

Not even they realized that a few days later, they’d be the ones crying out for His death. The same people who called Him the King of Israel would be the ones mocking Him as He died on the cross.

I always used to wonder how people could change so drastically in less than a week’s time. How could they welcome Him so joyously only to betray Him so viciously?

Well, for one, people are just mean. That’s a fact of life. But, two, they’d misunderstood why Jesus was here in the first place. They made assumptions. And it’s sad because Jesus was plain with everyone why He’d come and all the prophets who had foretold His coming were plain about why He was coming.

But the reasons Jesus came weren’t the reasons people wanted Him.

The people wanted a king who would rule over them politically. They wanted a king who would drive Rome out of Israel. They thought Jesus had come to do that, but He hadn’t. What Jesus had come to do was so much more important.

But how often do we find ourselves in that same position today? We come before God and ask Him to do things for us, to answer our prayers the way we want because it’s what we want.

Culture, and even other Christians to some extent, tells us that God will give us everything we want, and we just have to have faith. So we grow up in a culture that says God is the great wish granter. Like a genie where we rub the lamp or click our heels three times and we get our heart’s desire.

And then one day we find out that’s not who God is. And what do we do? We give up on Him. We turn our backs on Him because He’s not who we want Him to be.

Sound familiar?

What I’ve learned in life, though, is that maybe God’s not what I want Him to be, but He’s always what I need Him to be.

He isn’t a wish granter or a genie. He won’t give me everything I want just because I want it. He doesn’t play favorites, and there’s no place I can go to get away from Him.

But He’s strong enough to carry me when I can’t take another step. He’s big enough to work out the problems of my life when I’m lost in chaos. He’s great enough to take the broken pieces of my heart and make something beautiful of it. And He’s gracious enough to love me even though I’ve never done anything worthy of love.

That’s what I need.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what God is about. Don’t think He’s only around to give you what you want, like a great big vending machine in the sky.

Jesus came 2,000 years ago to provide what we needed, and He’s the same today as He was then. And we need Him more now than ever.

So if God doesn’t give you what you want, don’t give up on Him. Just because you didn’t get your way doesn’t mean He isn’t there. It probably just means you didn’t know what you wanted in the first place. Trust the One who knows what you need and who is strong enough, big enough, great enough, and kind enough to give it to you free of charge.