I had just finished telling her why I would NOT be coming back to this church. The people were nice enough. The worship was good. The kids seemed to like the… More
I took a break from my own thoughts tonight to listen to someone else’s. A search result brought me to David Platt’s Secret Church simulcast speaking on the Holy Spirit. This is my first time watching one of these. Barely 5 minutes in and he lays down this admonishment.
He follows it by pointing at how we have marketing and publicity to do what the Holy Spirit should be doing and the danger of mistaking the physical presence of people in a building for the existence of spiritual life.
The American church needs prayer, now more than ever, and that means that your church needs prayer more than ever. If you don’t know what to pray, pray for a fresh move of the Spirit and pray for protection.
May it not be said of my church or of yours that we think we are bigger than the God we serve.
It is easy when people speak about “holiness” and “righteousness” for people to interpret the message as a demand of perfection, unattainable and futile, frustrating and infuriating. It’s easy to interpret it that way. It’s wrong, but I can see how one would hear the message that way, because I used to hear the message that way.
In the past few years I have learned that holiness and righteousness are not about adhering to a list of demands from an unfeeling master, but rather about relying solely and fully on the only one who is truly holy and righteous.
Hebrews 12 speaks to me to that point more than any other passage in the Bible. It begins with a heavy portion of the chapter addressing how we behave, instructing us to press on, to focus on Jesus, to expect ridicule and attack, to endure discipline as a blessing, to strengthen your spiritual self, to refuse to fall short, to reject anything that might cause you to reject Christ, because in unrighteousness is incredible and terrible consequence.
Alright, seriously, how do you read that and not think again that this holiness thing is simply about behaving better? You read on, because in the second half of the chapter, following some of the strictest admonishment in the New Testament of how to live our individual faith lives, comes some of the most freeing, sweetest breath of life and hope kind of words that I have read.
Moses climbed the mountain to receive the law, but there were strict boundaries placed which limited the Israelites from drawing near this event. Exodus 19 recounts this story and makes it clear that to attempt approaching the holiness of God by climbing the mountain would result in death. Hebrews sends us back to that moment, to remind the listeners of the familiar story, Moses going up the mountain to receive the 10 commandments. These commands and the law were given to God’s people so they would be set apart from the rest of the world,
But the writer makes such a strong statement saying “You have not come.” You have not come to the kind of mountain where law is given as a method of setting you apart, of making you holy. At Mount Sinai, Moses had to consecrate himself and follow strict guidelines and then he still had to wait for the trumpet blast in order to approach God there.
When I didn’t understand holiness, this is how I thought of it. That it is marked rightly as burning with fire, darkness, gloom and storm. That it is about consecrating yourself, following those rules and regulations, and then waiting for a trumpet blast to tell me that I’ve been good enough to come to God. However, Paul makes it clear with those 4 words “You have not come…”
So if we are not approaching the mountain of the law, what do we approach?
There it is. “You have come.” The other mountain, the mountain of God, where the first indicator is one that points at worship, thousands of angels in joyful assembly. And then “You have come” again, this time, not to a place, but to Him, to God. It is this path that ends in communion with our holy God.
How is this accomplished? By the word of The Word Made Flesh, which speaks better than all of the condemnation laid out from the first condemnation, that of Adam.
But it doesn’t end there! It goes on…
Just before Moses stepped onto that mountain, it shook violently. These details would have been so familiar to the Hebrews receiving Paul’s letter here, that to connect the shaking of Mount Sinai before Moses went to receive the law would translate so sensibly to what is experienced when the Holy Spirit came to the new believers in those days.
The writing of the shaking mountains moves into the consuming fire, this Holy Spirit symbol that we still recognize today, thinking of those tongues of flame that rested on the apostles as the Holy Spirit came upon them. It connects to Exodus 19 as the mountain shook, it was covered in smoke “because the Lord descended on it in fire.” Paul connects the power of holiness on the mountain to the fire witnessed at Pentecost to explain the power now available to us through His Spirit.
Before we are ready to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives, to experience him not like the nation of witnesses kept at bay down at the foot of the mountain, but to experience Him in full at the mountain top, we will find a shaking away. Just as God shook the mountains and arrived in fire, just as the Spirit arrived with rushing wind and fire on Pentecost, so to will He come to us in an experience unlike any other.
When my shaking time was on me, a friend heard a song and gave me a lyric from it which says “You’re world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.” My friend, there is deep truth in that. I ran those words through my mind as things seemed to go from bad to worse. I found myself, at last, at a point where I was out of options and out of ideas on how to fix the mess all around me. I sat there in the sanctuary with what sounded like thousands of angels singing around me and in front of me I saw two empty hands with up turned palms. “Those are my hands,” I thought “I have nothing to offer. I have no more ideas. I have nothing.” Then into those empty hands slipped another pair of hands, filling them, curving around their edges, the meaning clear. Now that I had empty hands, they were ready to be filled by His. Now that I had nothing to give, He could give to me. Now that I had no more ideas, He could use me.
When you feel control is slipping through your grasp, don’t clench your fists. Let things fall around you, leaving your hands open so that what is of this world shakes away. Let His hands fill yours so that instead of you trying to grapple and grasp on to whatever you can grab to hold as the world breaks around you, He can hold on to you.
In the past few weeks I’ve been working through a decision. Not a little decision like which socks, but one that felt big and important. Big like…is someone documenting this, because this is going down in the history books…oh…documenting my life and thoughts is my job.
People would talk about feeling peace or gaining clarity, but I never felt out of peace or particularly foggy. Close to the end a friend voiced what I’d been thinking the whole time, that really, either way I went, it really would be ok, that it wasn’t about right or wrong, but A or B. But with the process, there was this wait, and in the wait I found myself wondering, “How will I know when it’s time to decide? Will there be fireworks or what?”
I’ve been there before. It’s a natural human experience, to search for signs and wonders to direct your steps, looking outside of yourself to address your inner monologue. Even in the “follow your heart” crowd, if you watch, they interpret events, moments, conversations, chance encounters and apply them to the craving of their spirit and direct their path, good or bad, and move. It bears this note, that the casual observer can also tell if the outside influence of the action is a good or bad influence.
This isn’t a current trend, that everyone does it because everyone famous is doing it, but something that has been in our nature from the beginning. I listened to in incredible sermon a few weeks ago where Moses’s calling was outlined. It’s a familiar story, Moses is out and about doing the shepard thing and woah! There is a burning bush! And from the bush comes a voice which directs Moses to go back and get His people and free them from Egypt. Well, Moses doesn’t just take the burning bush at its word, for one thing, who even was this talking to him? And why would the bush choose him? And how exactly was this going to work, because he just was not the best guy for the job?
We find that story in Exodus 3, and there in verse 12, God has already anticipated that what Moses is looking for beyond answers to the questions, is something real and tangible that he can look to to drive home that this was real and this was trustworthy. We read, “And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
We know the story that follows, Moses gets on board, goes and talks to Pharoah, Let my people go, plagues, blood, bugs, more bugs and death, freedom, Pharoah say “oh shoot, what’d I do?” chase scene, staff raised and parted sea, Isreal races forward, makes it in the nick of time and the Egyptians drown. These are some pretty impressive things there. But God did not say, “This will be a sign to you, there will be locusts, like, EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE.” He didn’t say a word about the blood, about the frogs, about the walls of water, nothing. It wasn’t any of the powerful or miraculous things God would do through for and through Moses. But those are the things we look for. I wanted fireworks. I wanted sky writing.
What God gives as a sign is that Moses will worship, that Moses will find himself in adoration of Him. What would show him that I am sent him out is that he would find himself facing God in wonder.
So, thinking on this, I decided to stop deciding. Stop pros and cons, stop weighing out the options, stop playing out imaginary what ifs in my head. I was just going to sing, to worship God. When the thoughts about the decision came back into my head, I sang louder. I sang in the car. I sang at home. I sang doing yard work. I sang at my desk. I sang when no one was with me and I sang when others were around.
Soon enough, I could hear another voice, a voice from my childhood singing a sweet old song, “Blessed Assurance,” and there in the chorus rang out, “This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” I love a good story and I love a good song, but there in those lyrics I found my answer.
The direction I should go should be the one that creates within me a response
to praise my Savior all the day long.
When I filled my heart, my mind and my mouth with song it became so simple to see which way lead to more worship, which way pointed me towards singing and story telling the lyrics and lines I want written about me, penned by Him.
If today you are searching for fireworks or parted seas, may I direct you instead to song. Sing, sing loud, sing off key, just sing, until you hear Him singing with you, delighting in your delight of Him.
Right before they leaned him back, his lips turned up into a smile, his eyes closed gently and he took a little breath. If I had known that his face would have shown the sincerity of his heart, I might have rethought my idea to leave my phone back on my chair so that I wouldn’t be tempted to take pictures and not just experience the moment. I will hold fast to the peace and pleasure written on his face for years to come.
In second grade, the kids watched a video of a friend being baptized. There were questions that followed and I answered them as carefully as I could. I know that as a parent I have the power to convince my children of most anything, and with something as sacred as their faith, I do not want them to turn around one day and say “I only went to church, I only prayed that prayer, I only sang those church songs to make Mom and Dad happy.”
Afterwards we talked about it, what baptism was, what you had to decide before you did that. Before that video, I knew they knew that Frank was baptized as a baby, and Molly was dedicated, but we hadn’t really touched the subject beyond that. In that discussion I told Frank that he had been baptized, but that if he decided that he ever wanted to be baptized again as a way to show people that he’d decided to invite Jesus into his heart, that was ok by me. It was clear that while Frank thought about God and thought about spiritual things, he had not made that choice for himself…which that was no big deal, because he was just barely 8. I told him that he would decide whenever he was ready, but he shouldn’t decide anything because his friend had and he shouldn’t say anything because he’d thought it’d please me, because it actually wouldn’t make me happy if he only said something to make me happy about God, that it should only be about him. He nodded and looked like he was thinking, but that was sort of the end of that conversation.
A few months later, he sat and watched another friend be baptized. I glanced at him to see what I could see from his face and his eyes were a little damp and his expression was of close examination. I asked him what he’d thought about it and he said something to the effect of “Good,” and no more, but it was pretty clear the idea of being in front of all those people in a wooden tub was extremely strange to him.
The summer continued and the school year began, and we didn’t discuss it anymore. Our conversations centered around my trips to Richmond to help my parents, situations at school and how they made the kids feel, what they’d been learning or whatever they were interested in at the moment. My parents both had intense health concerns and we prayed for them pretty much every night, but I could see something different about the way Frank was praying. It was not recitation of familiar verses or listing thanks and wants, but it was this honest appeal to the one he believed could heal his grandparents whom he loves so dearly.
I had encouraged those prayers and agreed Amen and Amen with him, but I became discouraged about my parents health situation. Then as I was sure God was not going to bring the healing I so desperately wanted for them, I was afraid I’d set Frank up for incredible hurt and anger that he would direct towards God. Maybe I should have said something about how He should pray “thy will be done” or “not what I want, but what You want.” But no, I had told him to ask, ask honestly what he wanted from the God who was listening and who loved Him and whom he could trust to do big miraculous things. I was sure that not only would I soon have to walk him through incredible loss, but I would have to walk him through incredible anger. I turned to God, struggling to form good sounding paragraphs that would express my willingness to submit to suffering, petitioning for healing and help with my child. It was mostly just short statements and questions. “What are you doing? I can’t handle this. What have I done?”
On and on Frank continued to pray, and miraculously my parents both received words like “recovery” and “remission.” These words I never thought possible, but Frank prayed earnestly for. How that taught me about the faith like a child. How that taught me about how He cares about us. How humbled was I that my son had stayed trusting praying “Help them” while I gasped for enough air to croak out “Help me.” My cousin, who has worked tending to the care of patients who went through what my dad went through and personal experience with her family facing the same battle my mom has faced took the time out to call me and make clear that what my parents went through and their coming through the other side was nothing short of a miracle. It was medically ridiculous, but it was truly miraculous.
We continued on, Frank would pray for their continued strength and now he had other things to pray about, and his prayers were filled more thanksgivings than nearly anyone’s I’d ever heard. He started every prayer with all of the things he’d appreciated about the day and credited them to God, thanking Him for allowing those good things. He’d say “Thank you God for this great day. Let tomorrow be even better than this one!” And the following evening he thanked God again for the day, just as sincerely showing that he believed that God had indeed made the day better. Even on days I knew he’d had rough days, he thanked God for the day and found things that were good about it. That positivity and remembrance to give credit where it was due spoke so much to this mother again.
One night Frank was climbing the ladder to his loft and turned around and said “Mom, I want to be re-babatized.” I was a little taken aback. I asked him why and he explained that I’d said before that if he decided he wanted to do that, he could. Well, sure, I’d said that, but I’d sort of expected it to be something he did when he was maybe 17, you know, the same age I was when I decided to make my faith my own. I asked Kermit about it, was he too young to decide this? Kermit said “Well, 9 is young, but if the Spirit tells him it’s time to do it, then it’s time to do it.” Man. Look at everyone in my family being more right on than me.
Frank waited patiently for the baptism date to arrive and read his baptism booklet. There on the back was a spot for his testimony. He stopped on that. He asked if we could come back to it. Sure. But when we came back to it, he didn’t get it. I tried to explain what a testimony was, but he kept answering “Why do I want to get baptized?” instead of “Why did I ask Jesus into my heart?” I told him probably ten convoluted examples of what a testimony was and he looked over my shoulder and made silly faces. Finally I said here is a pencil, take this to your room, turn off the tv, sit down and write why you decided to ask Jesus into your heart.
I came back to check on him maybe 10 minutes later and he was watching tv. I asked him what happened and he said he’d finished and given it to Daddy. He’d written…
“I was sitting in church thinking of God and decided to follow Him so I could understand him better. I chose him in my life because one, no two people. My mom and dad. My family believes in him so much I couldn’t resist but to get baptized. I know he did some risky miracles, but nothing he does ever goes wrong.”
My heart, right!!! I told him it was perfect, and inside it made me feel so much better that he’d gone and written it alone so that I didn’t wonder if I’d influenced it. The last bit made me chuckle thinking through Jesus’s miracles and which would have been the risky ones. Probably walking on water. At bedtime I asked him “Which of Jesus’s miracles was the riskiest?” Frank answered, “In my life?” I was a little surprised, because I expected a bible story, but I said “Ok, sure, in your life.” He talked about how God had healed his grandfather, and how He’d helped Grandfather start living a healthier lifestyle, but in order to do it God used a big scary health problem.
And I saw it, the path that Frank had traveled in the past year, from the times where he watched his friends being baptized and knowing that about baptism the way he knew about anything else “bibley.” He’d been taught about it, he’d read about it, he’d heard about it. But faith is not faith that is on paper or words floating from a speaker to your ears. Faith is found in experiencing God and His might and majesty and finding no other alternative worth choosing.
Today Frank was baptized, something he’s waited and wanted to do for a few months. That smile as he slipped beneath the surface and came up, it came from deep inside. We have many more years ahead of us as parents, to guide him, to direct him, to speak truth to him and to encourage him to continue to choose this faith as his own…on his own. But what a gift we have in this day, to remember that our boy has a heart for the Lord and is tucked so sweetly in the arms of our Savior that he can whisper his prayers right into His ear.
Happy Baptism Day, Frankie!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Growing up I sang the Doxology and had enough Sunday school to get the basic idea of the trinity. Three in one….all each individual and yet not separate. There was a children’s moment where the children’s pastor used a banana to illustrate the trinity, showing that if you press your finger into the top off a banana it will separate into three parts, all three fully banana, but individual sections. It stuck, that banana example.
But it was still a bit of a mystery. Because, God the Father I could understand. He made everything and made me and my family. God the Son I could understand. He was Jesus who died on the cross and took our sins. God the Spirit? God the Holy Ghost? What was that? Was it like a transparent Jesus? Or like God with a Charlie Brown holey ghost sheet on? And what was with the tongues of fire? It was almost like I was looking at the banana, and the first two pieces were banana and the third piece was like, I don’t know, kiwi in a banana shape? Just confusing.
In the early years of my adult life, I understood that those urges, the pulls on your heart which give directions to your steps, separate from whims and desires had something to do with the Spirit. But I probably also attributed that like nice feeling you get when you’re singing at church or like the feeling of the wind on your face when you sit outside at a retreat as the Spirit. I was aware that there were people who talked about the Spirit provoking certain responses in them that I wanted no part of and I saw stories on tv about snakes that just made the idea of being too involved with the Spirit sound kind of dangerous and weird.
So I lived the first decade and a half of my adult faith like
FATHER, SON, and the other guy.
I saw some unhealthy things attributed to the Holy Spirit and I saw some intriguing things attributed to the Spirit, but nothing ever interested me enough to stop and say, “What exactly are you all talking about?” I would read about and think on the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit, but the Spirit still remained distant. It wasn’t until my 30s that I sat in churches where I heard good scripture on who the Spirit is and about the daily impact of the Spirit on a person’s life and our world, not fantastical promises of supernatural worked up frenzies expressed through sensational emotional highs. I heard about surrender. I heard about releasing control. And these things peaked my interest.
By the time Pentecost rolled around last year, I was excited about this. A day to remember when the Spirit came and the church was born. The day was almost upon us when I realized something.
In the Old Testament, God was introduced as “the God who sees me.” He was watching. He was observing. He was manipulating the outcomes of human affairs, but He was separated behind a veil.
Then came Jesus, and at Christmas we meet Emmanuel, “God with us.” God stepped out from behind the veil and drew closer to humanity, willing to step into our dirt and mess and clean us.
Then came the Holy Spirit. And He was now the God withIN us. The Spirit was the final piece in God moving as intimately into our lives as He possibly could, to go from being behind a veil, to being present next to us, to being inside of our hearts.
It was a beautiful thought, one that I treasured over the past year. That God would want to be so close to me and that the Bible told this story from start to finish of growing intimacy with Him. There was this terrible separation at the beginning of the book when Adam and Eve were send out of the garden, but God had a plan to restore that relationship, to bring back the closeness where man could stroll in the garden with God and feel no shame. It is like this embrace that gets tighter and sweeter as the story concludes.
Last weekend I was visiting with my mom and she was telling me about a book she was reading and some conversations she’d had with one of my cousins and she presented this to me. God in the Old Testament was the God who was invisible to us. Then Jesus came and made God able to be seen by man. And then the Spirit came and enabled us to make God seen by others.
Oh, how that pleased me! In the spring, my life group (see: small group, bible study, cell group, etc.) read Forgotten God by Francis Chan and discussed the Holy Spirit, His person and His impact. The thing that I was surprised to find was that the first effect a person displayed after an experience of the Spirit was almost always a vocal one. To worship, to speak a foreign language, to pray, praise, sing or to tell people about the gospel. When we can’t find the words, in Romans 8 we read that the Spirit speaks for us. The very obvious job of the Spirit is to make God known to as many people as possible.
That embrace that drew me closer and closer into His presence reversed.
In the same story about the sweetest intimacy we can experience is the story of the greatest extension available. As His arms gather us in each alone to Himself, He offers to place His Spirit inside us so that we may in turn, turn and embrace others. Through the Spirit God offers us each the experience of making Him known to us as our whole world, as well as the privilege of making our whole world know Him.
Like breathing in and breathing out, the blessing of the Trinity and Pentecost is the inhalation of intimacy and the exhalation of love. There is a song that came out a few years ago that says it like this…
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only.
Praise Holy Ghost.
Are you there God? It’s me, Sarah.
During my figure skating years, I would strike deals with God. If I landed the next jump I would take it as a sign that I should talk to a certain boy. Or I would cut a tight circle with my blade on the ice and if I could keep my spin scratches within the boundaries I’d drawn, it would be a sign that I would pass the test I had tomorrow. It was not a particularly accurate system, but I did it more than once, evidencing a confidence in what was little more than an 8-ball in action.
Deciding for myself to be a Christian at 17 didn’t seem to make the direction of God any more clear. I looked for signs and wonders to make it clear for any and everything from where to go to college to where to eat dinner. What path should I take? Which way should I go? What does it all mean?!?!?! While I considered myself to have at least a modicum of discernment, while I thought myself to be right about more or less everything, at the end of the day, just like so many other people, this was a question that plagued me.
When I felt direction, was it God talking or was it me?
Was I just making up the answers to my own questions about His will for my life?
1. Be prepared to shut your mouth. We all know that famous phrase from the backseat, “Are we there yet?” Does it speed the travel time at all? No, of course not. Neither does nagging God. Another well known line is “God gave you one mouth and two ears, so you’ll listen twice as much as you talk.” This is true with our relationship with the maker.
God will listen and it is right to tell Him what’s on your mind, but if you never stop and sit still and quiet, you’re not going to hear anything. Tell God your thoughts and opinions and your hopes and your plans, and then be quiet. Be still and know, friend, know that He is able.
Job lived through some horrible situations and he didn’t curse God, but he got pretty down. He had some friends give him some advice and Job talked and talked and talked. By the time God shows up on the scene to have a word with Job, God has to tell him to Just. Shut. Up. Now of course, God didn’t say “shut up,” because God is more polite than me, but the message was there.
Job 38: 2-3 says God spoke out of the storm and said “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Now I know that message, because I’ve heard it loud and clear. I have the tendency to think I know best and there have been more than one occasion where God has in essence said “Who do you think you are? Do you know who I AM? Get ready, because we’re about to have a talk.” That is not the way you want to start things off with Him.
If you want to hear God’s voice, the first thing you have to do is be quiet.
2. If you want to know what sort of things God will be saying, get in the Word. God will not tell you something that conflicts with what He’s laid out in the Bible. Read it with respect, look for the historical context, look up the original meanings of words, look for the application in your life today and look for the broader meaning for the church at large.
Let’s say you get home to find out your significant other is out. They left you a note on the table that reads “Ran to Food Lion. Getting milk. Be back in 15.” After 10 minutes, you wonder if he can pick up your dry cleaning. You know from the note if he is close to the dry cleaners or far away. You also know that he’s probably already left the store and is almost home since so much time has passed. Because you were given important information and you can use the knowledge you have of the area and the time, you are able to figure out you’re probably going to have to pick up your own slacks.
God gave us the Bible to be a resource, a tool. Though you might see someone decorating their yard with an old plow, or displaying their grandfather’s old saw proudly on the wall of their shed, but that’s not it’s purpose. Tools are made to be used to help us build things. The Bible is a tool to help us build our lives. Use it.
3. Keep a journal. Or some method of documenting that allows you to review what God has done. In high school I heard a youth pastor say, “If it is important, right it down.” That was when I started my first journal. and there have been many years where I didn’t journal with any regularity, but having picked it back up, I’ve been reminded of how important it is.
I have discovered that I am a word hoarder. If I’ve emailed it, written it down, blogged it, or read it, I don’t discard it, I hold on to it so that I can review it again and again and gain from it all over. Keeping a journal, keeping a little hoard of words the documents your days enables you to recognize patterns of His faithfulness as you revisit what God has done for you, taught you, taken you through. And eventually you’ll start to anticipate that God will do these things again and again.
If it is true on a grand scale that “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” it is also true for our own lives. There is no historian but you for your days and nights. Perhaps, you will grow up to be well known and influential on the course of the world and someone will right a book on you in retrospect, but that author will be digging through research to discover who you were. You are in your life now. Who better to write it down but you?
While God authors your story, put pen to paper and document it.
Live your history.
Learn your history.
And leave your history behind ready to move on to what God has for you next.
4. Be prepared to accept what He says. Even if you don’t like it.
Seeking after God when you are facing challenges or difficulties or decisions is not the same as chasing Santa. God loves you and wants you to live a life beyond your wildest dreams, but He is most interested in His glory and our gain. And our gain might not look like we think it should.
Our gain may look like a broken car so that we can build a friendship with a mechanic.
Our gain may look like going without so that we can know provision by His hand.
Our gain may look like failure so we are inspired to try harder next time.
Our gain may look like devastation, utter decimation, so that we are hands are so empty they are ready to be filled by His.
Our gain isn’t always new things, promotions, accolades and skinny thighs. His glory IS our gain. When you are ready to do what brings Him the most glory, you will, despite the circumstance, see the most gain where you didn’t expect to find it in the first place.
Knowing where God is leading is possible. God is no created method for predicting the future, like my figure skating 8-ball attempts to divine answers to silly questions. God is ready to walk you straight through your life into His glory and He has a Plan A for your life. He will not be thwarted by a Plan B, but He has a best plan, His plan for you. The best way to walk that path is to tuck in so tightly to His shadow that the only thing you can see are His feet in front of your own, His track before you, and walk therein.
His leading will never disappoint.
His ways are good.
His paths are worth the journey.
If we are lucky, we have a friend who has faith that makes you take a step back in awe. If you are friends with Cheryl Binegar, you are lucky, because you have that friend. Cheryl has always impressed me with her reliance, her joy, her care for others and her purity, purity of intention and purity of action.
There was a man in the Bible that most are familiar with, Job, whom God credited like this, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” And to that came the response from the terrifying restless wanderer, the acceptance of the challenge “Surely he will curse you.”
My friend is going through a very tough time, helping her parents through incredibly difficult health issues. There is sense of living loss without absence that can walk beside us when we travel with our loved ones as their health fails, and it is unlike anything else I’ve known. I imagine it is unlike anything Cheryl has known either.
She has been support to so many, and my hope is that she is receiving the same measure of support in return, good support. As Job sat wishing he’d never been born after the decimation of everything he loved and valued, his friends saw him from a long way off, saw his trouble and they suffered with him. In Job 2, we read that “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
These well intentioned friends who loved Job started their attempts to comfort him, just by being with him. Just being present. And that was such a good thing. It shows the depth of their care for him, that they would sit with this man who was ceremonially unclean, covered in sores. They could have looked on and said, “I’ll send a nut and fig basket to the friend of ours who we all believed to be the best of the best, but I’m not going near him til he is recovered.” Skin afflictions were viewed as expressions of soul afflictions at that time, so the watching world, seeing Job’s family, livelihood, property, possessions and finally his health could have immediately declared him to finally be exposed for some secret sin and shame. But they don’t. They come to him and they suffer with him.
They must truly love him, but in the many chapters to follow they try talking him through his situation, but in doing so they express their own questions about Job and God, their own doubts, their own fears, and their own sorrow. We’ve all been there. In a dark place with friends who offer advice or commentary that doesn’t suit or may even sting. If you are honest with yourself, you’ve been that friend, not knowing what to say, saying something that comforted you once and seeing the other person’s face change, and you wish you could have said it better. We’ve all said, “I wish I knew what to say.”
I wish I knew what to say.
Cheryl is facing now a difficulty that is recognizable as painful. If you’ve lived what she is living, even a portion of it, then you will, as Job’s friend’s, see her suffering from a long way off and ache for her. If you haven’t experienced sickness in those you love, I know you know it’s terrible, but when I entered into my own experiences with this, I remember clearly sitting with my brother as we shared that we just didn’t understand before. It is a blessing to be outside of that knowledge.
Cheryl is in a beautifully supportive community and has built for herself with her sweet, funny love for everyone she meets a response team who wants to care for her. I’m not even there and I trust that it is so, because I know those lovely people that she has loved in action and I know that they will love her in action in return. But when anyone sits in presence with someone going through what she’s facing, it is natural to accompany commentary as Job’s friends did, with our own doubts, our own fears and our own sorrows.
And the faith of my friend, y’all….
Her heart is not just to graciously accept the comfort given, but to share the peace and the comfort she already has.
I want to share this with you, this bit from a Facebook post she made the other day. She says…
“I will end with this. Many of my friends have really struggled with how long my family has been going through this trial. They don’t understand why God wouldn’t just heal her. I will never pretend to understand the Lord’s purpose for allowing this struggle, but I do know that I have seen so much good arise from it. God isn’t my genie in a bottle who grants my wishes. He does love me and my family and never intended for the world to end up so broken. But He has given me what He said He would. That is peace through this and the hope of a future. He doesn’t owe me a comfortable life here. I get that and honor Him through this painful season. 🙏🏼”
Cheryl has peace that passes all understanding, an incredible thing because these trials she faces are outside of reason. So many would be driven to despair, and yet Cheryl, and I believe her parents who are living this, are driven to hope. Not because they are naive, not because they are simple, not because they are fools and not because they are weak.
They are driven to hope, because they have that kind of friend one in the same as the one who they call Savior.
I will tell you, if you have a friend like Cheryl, you are richly blessed.
Cheryl will tell you, if you have a friend like Jesus, you are eternally blessed.
Pray for my friend Cheryl, and for her parents, and for her family. And pray for those supporting her, that they will have eyes that see and ears that hear, so that they too may know peace like she does.