In the space of four days, opposite events occurred:
- Someone said something with an intent to destroy.
- A friend took me to the National Art Gallery in London.
I sat before a painting with my friend – The Raising of Lazarus.* It mirrored my circumstances… Lazarus was dead, and I felt the same. But, four days later Jesus told the mourners to open to tomb. An awful smell poured out. Yet, Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come out!”**
…I sat there. Lazarus was me. Jesus was calling. I lived! Lazarus tore off his shroud. I could tear off mine. I could be free!
You see, death-like words don’t have to hold us down. “Come out!” Jesus calls to each one of us. We can choose to get up and LIVE!
* Sebastiano del Piombo, 1517-19 **from John 11
Derek bought me a hat, a green one with a bow in the back. We both like it, but others have not been so positive. “You look eccentric!” “You really look funny!” And the best one.. “Your hat looks like a lily pad!”
I appreciate the honesty. But… there is a wonderful verse in the Bible. It says that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”* We don’t need to worry about opinions. God created beauty to stand out as different, for that is what beauty is. Each of us is beautiful, regardless of our peculiarities.
I still wear my hat, and when people meet me, they nod and smile. They even stop for a chat. My lily-pad hat might be eccentric, but so is God’s love.
* (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
You might remember… my memoir wasn’t published because of a threat of legal action. A full year later the threat still exists. Yup! It’s an accomplishment that deserves the equivalent of a boy-scout badge.
It was also a test to find out what is really inside me. Sure, I found anger and the desire for revenge, but I also found something else. The strength to get back up. The ability to forgive. The courage to consider that I might be getting another badge next year.
I find God does that with troubles. He uses them to teach us about ourselves. He uses them to make us deeper and truer. “It is God who arms us with strength and makes our way perfect.” (from Psalm 18:32) It is God.
I wish it hadn’t happened, but this thing called fear was planted inside me as a child. Even now it tries to grab a hold of me. It tries to take over.
I can tell you that fear is a prison. It tears away from us the courage to fight back. It makes us powerless. But knowledge of fear, and how it works, doesn’t mean it goes away.
There is only one way I have found to overcome fear. I make a choice. I choose to look at God, not the one who causes fear. I choose to care what God thinks of me, not the opinions of others. I choose to be what God wants me to be, not what others demand.
When I do that, fear disappears.
You probably know how hard it is when those we love push us away…
- If you don’t do what I say, you can’t be my friend.
- If you love me, you will never disagree with me.
- If you care for me, you won’t tell the truth.
What are we supposed to do? We are upset and scared.
But God doesn’t push us away. He says, “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men? … I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.” (Isaiah 51:12,16)
God gives us his dignity. He gives us the wisdom how to respond. He protects us. We can move on.
Memories can become our masters. When we have been broken and hurt, and don’t know how to move on, those memories enslave us. It is as if they take over our life.
In the Bible God’s people were enslaved as well. They knew they couldn’t escape the pain and suffering inflicted on them. God knew they couldn’t… He rescued them. He sent hope. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Let God fight for your heart today. Believe him when he says, “Don’t be afraid.”
Sometimes life seems to throw us more than we can cope with. Sometimes these troubles come at once… the washing machine breaking, the fridge, the car, the printer, the telephone, my boots… emotional griefs… death, rejection, and exhaustion… My tears flowed unhindered. I was truly in a deep, dark valley.
Then I got a paper cut and spilled lemon juice on it. I started to laugh. The solution was so simple, I rinsed my finger in water. When life stings, I immerse myself in God, his Word. I drink his peace and perspective. “As we pass through the Valley of Weeping, we make it a place of springs.” (Psalm 84:6)
When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, he wanted Moses to ask Pharaoh a request. “Let my people go!” Why was that necessary? God doesn’t need anyone’s permission to do what he wants. But God respected Pharaoh’s role. He was giving Pharaoh the chance to do what was right.
Instead Pharaoh revealed his true heart, and God showed Moses the consequence. “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you – so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.”(Exodus 11:9)
Just like for Pharaoh, God respects our role in life. But can we respect those around us? Can we let them thrive? God gives us a choice… and whichever way we chose, it decides which “wonders” we will see.
Never? Yes! “The one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16) God is quoted again in the Bible, but it is slightly altered. “The one who trusts in the Lord will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6) Shame shows our sense of moral inadequacy, of feeling that we have royally failed. Dismay shows our sense of emotional inadequacy, of feeling overwhelmed by things happening outside our control. We might have messed up, or life might have messed us up, yet when we trust in God, when we know that He is in control, not us… His indisputable NEVER takes hold.
In the midst of being forced to work for my father I felted utterly dismayed. I couldn’t change it. I also felt shame at not having the strength to fight him. God never judged me for my seeming failures. NEVER. He held my hand and led me out.