Tag Archive | longsuffering

Rare Air

Last night I conversed with a woman who’s known me nearly 20 years.  You know you are really getting up there when your friendships last decades. 

You know you are blessed as well…

We have been running our spiritual race side by side since our early college days, where our competitive natures led us to some type of outside obstacle course for Freshman.  I will refrain from sharing the rest of that story as she tends to gloat at its ending (even though I did in fact, win) however looking back at it now I wonder if it was symbolic? We were learning how to finish our race even then.

Although she and I have stories that are unique, we have “The Call” that is in common.  The Call to live for Him, and we started it together, our sophomore year of college.

I remember those early days of fire, where we were so hungry and so thirsty that nothing could satisfy.  We laid down our greatest desires at the time.  We have been laying them down ever since, and leaning on each other for support during the very difficult moments.  As of late there have been many…

I think God is gracious in that He gives us these people to support us when we are faced with overwhelming obstacles.  I get so frustrated with the journey and what all it has entailed, but I look around and see that I am surrounded by many who are on the same path.  Many who are living extraordinary lives for Him. 

Even if they seem ordinary to us.

I told my friend last night, “We are breathing rare air.” That was the phrase that had come to me.  I don’t believe this phrase is reserved for Presidents and Nobel Peace Prize winners.  No.  I believe that when we are being counter cultural, when we are doing the opposite of what the world says to do, when we are holding on for dear life (and even give up, but He is still holding us), when we are being the standard in a generation that has none, well, we are rare.

And the air is thinner up here.

And yet we are still breathing.

I am reminded of those in Hebrews 11.  Those who are in the “Hall of Faith”.  The Word says that the world was not worthy of them.  Dare I say God feels the same about us?  Those of us who are here now, enduring, persevering, sacrificing, suffering long?  Dare I say He sees us and knows our sacrifice and the very depths of it?  Knows we have given our lives even if not physically but emotionally, mentally, intellectually, socially?  And yes, even some physically?

It is a rare thing to believe in something supernatural.  In something you cannot see.  And even rarer to demonstrate that belief by the actions you choose.  To follow Him, knowing that you may not get what you want.  But in the end, really, don’t we all just want Him?

In my younger days I would have thought since He is all I want then nothing else will matter.  But now I see, it is Him just wanting to be first.  It is Him just wanting me to want Him more than anything.  Of course He has good things for us.  Of course He wants us to enjoy this life.  But not if we enjoy it more than Him…

My friend shared last night that He was giving us grit.  Yes, I agreed, and went into a story about a prophetic word I received years ago.  He said he was giving me backbone then.  That word was about 9 years ago.  If I was getting backbone then I cannot imagine what other body parts he developed in the time since of this journey.

There are times I feel slain and I am reminded of Job’s cry.

“Though He slay me yet will I trust Him”.

It is not an easy posture for one’s heart.  But He never promised it would be easy.  He only promised He would be with us.

And the blessing is that He is in His people. 

And they are with us too.

Nearly 20 years later…

SHALOM

 

 

Thoughts on Suffering

Today I got to spend the day with a woman who has been used greatly in my family.  Decades ago she became one of my grandmother’s very best friends.  When my grandmother passed away, she was there, standing in the gap.  She and my own mother grew closer and I knew she was like a surrogate mom for my mother.  A godmother.  Since my mom passed away, she has been faithful in sending me cards and pictures and other tokens of her affections.  Always reverencing their love for me (my mother and grandmother), reminding me of what I struggle so often to remember.

That I am loved.

me and linda

Today she spoke about her battle with breast cancer.  She has in fact battled this disease three times.  She was honest in her speech, sharing that yes, emotionally she struggled with this 3rd diagnosis.

“Lord, again?  Haven’t I already been through this?  Haven’t I already passed the test?”

This resonated with me greatly, as I thought about my own journey in waiting, and relationships, and surrender.

“Lord, haven’t I already passed this test?” I’ve wondered so often.

But His answer to her may not be the answer you hear in the pulpit, or online, or at a popular mega church, because it’s not a popular message.

It’s a message of the cross.

“Yes daughter,” He says to her.  “But I got you!  I got you!” 

I am discovering that one can experience and overcome various tests, trials and tribulations.  Even in the same area.  They can have those experiences and keep going through them.  Again, and again, and even again.

We see this in the Bible.  What does God say to Paul when he asks to have the thorn removed from him three times?

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Cor 12:8)

And even with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to the Father to remove His cup.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ (Matt 26:36-39).

I can’t imagine the depth of sorrow Christ felt to ask to be removed from this experience of physical suffering.  I can only imagine it must have been so great because He also knew all the world would be saved through it, and yet it was so painful that He  still did not want to experience it.

And in both cases (Paul and Christ’s) God basically said, “My will is for you to suffer.”

We do not like suffering.  Our flesh hates it.  Whether it is physical, emotional or mental.  When we are hungry we want food.  When we are tired we want sleep.  When we have to use the restroom we find the nearest toilet.  We do not like being uncomfortable.  And suffering is, in my opinion, the worst kind of uncomfortable.

But suffering in the kingdom, is highly regarded.  We cannot get away from that fact, and any gospel that is preached without the teaching of suffering is erroneous.

2 Timothy 2: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…

One of my struggles in this season is not the teaching of suffering.  I think I understood that early on in my faith, that I would need to do hard things for Him.  That I would need to lay down my life.  But I didn’t know about long suffering.  I didn’t know about the lengths and depths that He could call one to.  I didn’t know that He could call you over and over (and even over) again to experience difficult circumstances.  And I didn’t know He could give you power to sustain you through it.

I got to speak with some women today who are related to my grandmother’s friend.  They too are in seasons of recovery from loss, grief and trauma.  They too are overcoming things they never imagined they would go through.  And I can see the changes.  I can see there is more humility, there is more kindness.  Our hearts are tender now…

Suffering changes you.  But if you know Him, it can change you for the good.  He can work it for the good…

When Paul cries out to have his thorn removed, we find out why God said ‘no’.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Cor 12:7).

He was humbled through this thorn.  He was sustained by His grace.

I realize the Father has been after something in me in this season.  Something that I didn’t know was there.  It was distrust.

I have known that the way I have related to the Father has always been intimate and passionate, zealous and possessive  (on both sides).  Yes, I have loved Him.  But I have consistently struggled with trusting Him.

Looking back on my journey, I would trust Him to a certain extent.  And with my singleness I would only trust Him up until a certain number of years (we have passed that number of years by the way).  Of course, consciously I was not aware I was doing this.  But He knew.

At the service today my friend Linda testified about her “thorn”.  She testified that the Father would not remove it, but that He would keep her through it.  She also testified that she would worship anyway.

Wow.  To worship Him anyway.  Even after the third time.  That is the faith He is after.  That is the call for His chosen.

I am grateful that even in my pain and grief and anger, He has never changed.  His love and loyalty are steady and even though I don’t experience the high feelings of emotions I did all those years in my journey, I sense His love as strongly as I used to.

And for the first time, in such a long time, I trust Him.

I trust Him like I used to.  I trust Him like I did as a babe.  I trust Him like before the tests and trials.  Before the losses and setbacks.  Before the confusion over my identity.  I trust Him.  Because now I can see (as I have in the past but forgot) that He really is for me.  That His choices really are in my best interest.  Especially when it comes to relationships.

He protects me.  Like a good father does His child.

I am His.

What I know now, that I didn’t know earlier in my faith, was that His way somehow feels/is harder and at the same time protects.  I also did not know that His way does not negate (long) suffering.  That though He is for me, pain is inevitable.  And in life pain is inevitable. But at-least with Him it can be used for our good.

Because in order to reign with Him we must suffer.

That is the cross.  That is being a disciple.  That is being His.

SHALOM

 

At the Car Wash

Yesterday. I waited 40 minutes to get my car washed. 40 minutes. But it seriously was not that big of a deal to me. I have waited much longer for greater desires of my heart. 40 minutes is a drop in the bucket!  In the midst of my wait I posted my status on social media and a friend informed me there was another available car wash close by. This one was automatic and would be faster than the hand wash I was waiting for. I debated. Should I leave and go to the other spot? I’ll be honest and say the biggest reason I chose to stay where I was at was because I simply HATE changing my plans! Once I’m in motion with plan A please do not bring plan B to the table! It causes me anxiety thinking about something different happening. Thankfully God has brought good people in my life who are “plan B” people. They are perfectly fine with switching up life at any given moment and have caused me to be far more flexible then I normally would be. But anyways, I digress…

So I decide to stay where I’m at because I dont like changing plans (even if the new plan is better) and also because, as I told my friend online, “waiting is good for me”. I have become accustomed to waiting. Working in Customer Service has helped with that. I understand the business side of things when it comes to servicing customers and I understand businesses are doing their best (usually) when providing that service. Its not the car wash’s fault everybody and their momma showed up at 4:15pm on Monday afternoon for a wash.  While waiting I realized one of the reasons the Lord has had me wait so much in this journey is to show me that, are you ready for this???

I’M.

NOT.

IN.

CONTROL.

There. I said it. Now you know my deep dark secret. I’m a planner and as a planner I like to control things. That is actually a gift. But a while back Jesus told me, “Nicole, there are some things I have delegated for you to plan. There are others that are in My realm of control“. Jobs, living arrangements, relationships, these are all “Jesus-control-items”.  The small details of life, those are up to me.

At one point while trying to decide if I should visit another car wash I wondered if I was making myself wait unnecessarily longer than what was needed. But I simply did not have the gusto to get out of line and try to find this other random car wash I had never been to.  

Instead I felt more comfortable waiting. 
Who would have thought I would ever choose waiting?

SHALOM