There is no question . . . God’s ways are not our ways! Just when all appears lost, an ever-so-tiny ray of something will play enough hide and seek with our hearts to let us know He’s not forgotten us or made His first massive, messy mistake. Though we may be at our worst, He’s always at His best. Though our faith slows to a crawl, our heavenly Father is still running the scene with miraculous detail.
I figured this out years ago.
It was Christmas time and the neighborhood decorations could have won a “bling” contest. However, my family had just been blindsided with something so hard, we wondered if we would ever smile again, much less decorate for Christmas. I bumped baby Jesus from the nice to the naughty list after I had prayed and entrusted Him with something so valuable to me, but He seemingly had let it drop like a lead balloon.
KER-PLUNK was more like KER-SHATTER!!!
I grumbled, Is this what I get for trusting Christ? An earth-shattering experience so painful that believing Him seems way overrated? I think and feel a lot of crazy stuff about Jesus when my heart has been crushed. I thought that at least He could have allowed a softer ending—especially at Christmas.
But life, including the holidays, continued on, and so did we. Jon and I had run out to pick up a few last-minute gifts. In no mood to wish anyone a merry anything, I hurried Jon through Target until he stopped, turned, and made a beeline down the baby aisle. He scooped up a tiny stuffed bear wearing a little red hat and even littler red bow. Jon, who was in junior high school at the time, hugged the little bear like he’d just found a lost treasure. With no babies anywhere in the family and Baby Jesus off my Christmas list, I asked Jon who the gift was for.
“It’s for our family, Mom. Let’s name him ‘Happy’!”
Jon said something I had taught the kids years ago about grief. That is, when our souls are stuffed with sorrow, it’s like a deep sore that we protect even though we shouldn’t; if not attended to, that sore hardens and freezes our hearts. The quality of our lives comes from what’s in our hearts, so when our hearts are frozen by grief, we are compromised in every way. In order to live fully, we must keep the contents of our hearts in check, release pain, and open space for God to grow and shape us. In order to be fully alive in Christ, we have to learn how to grieve. So in Jon’s way, he said Happy was going to help us get out the sad stuff so our hearts would have space once again for God to fill us with joy and peace. Plain and simple.
When our souls are stuffed with sorrow, it’s like a deep sore that we protect even though we shouldn’t; if not attended to, that sore hardens and freezes our hearts.
For a kid who has a hard time remembering how to tie shoes, Jon can show up like the Holy Spirit and remind me of things I don’t want to remember. I wanted to be mad and never talk to the Lord again. For sure I was never trusting Him with anything more than my lawn and hair color—I could change either one if I didn’t like God’s management of it. However, I couldn’t argue with my son over a principle we all knew was right and good and also very, very hard. Happy the Bear came home with us that cold night a few days before Christmas, and to this day he is one of the most significant gifts to our family ever. Happy is our visual reminder that, in the midst of life’s most horrible circumstances, if we keep crawling back to Jesus, remain surrendered to His ways, and accept that they will almost always be beyond our wildest imagination, then we will experience His presence and work in our lives.
Just as God’s ways are not our ways, His timing is typically far different than what we would prefer. We want the quick fix; God wants our souls transformed. Transformation is never speedy. Romans 5:3–5 is a saving grace for those working through trials. It says:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (NLT)
In other words, time is God’s incubator. Just like you can’t hurry the growth of a baby in pregnancy, you can’t hurry God’s work in growing your soul. He melts our hearts and shapes our character as we thaw through pain and grief. So what do we do as the process unfolds . . . slowly, painfully, daily?
My family and I learned some important things in the days, months, even years following that dark Christmas season. If you—or someone you love—are in the character-transforming process and are tempted to give up, give these steps a try instead.
- Dive into Scripture and examine how God has been faithful throughout history, despite the outward circumstances. From Moses to Joseph, Jeremiah to Daniel, the disciples to God’s own Son, Jesus . . . God has been and always will be true to His Word. This cultivates our trust as we learn to persevere.
- Depend on the faithful support of others who will pray for you and stand with you. Surround yourself with godly, safe people who help you withstand the temptations of the Enemy.
- Do not make decisions based on feelings. Instead, take every emotion to the Lord. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This results in becoming more authentic, more humble, more real.
- Develop an eternal perspective. Reframe the false belief that God is good only if life is comfortable. Life isn’t meant to be comfortable and God’s goodness isn’t based on our circumstances. This results in a steadfast, deeper faith.
- Demonstrate an attitude of worship and thankfulness regardless of your current circumstances. Has the Lord provided food and clothing, a roof over your head, a mind that can think and create, and a body that can move—whether with or without pain? Cultivate a grateful attitude for even the basics. This results in an attitude of appreciation.
Let Me Hear From You
At some point in life, you will wonder if God’s forgotten you, if He really will take care of you, if He has remembered your needs. Maybe you have had crazy thoughts about Jesus a time or two. It’s okay to admit that trusting Christ feels humanly impossible when your heart has fallen apart. Maybe you are there now—angry and filled with resentment. How’s that working for you? Develop these five disciplines and begin to reframe your responses to life’s challenges.
Today, let’s connect on this one question . . . “What one choice can I make today toward trusting Christ with ____?” (You fill in the blank.)
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