In the past few days (particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT), I have found it helpful to chew on these quotes and verses about life and loss. I pray that it may be helpful to you also as you take your own heart and mind to the feet of Jesus for comfort, strength and wisdom.
“The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.” From How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? by Pastor John Piper.
“We were talking about the shooting and how it is devastating. They reminded me of all the babies America kills daily in women’s wombs, yet we do not mourn over that.” From my friend Nathan Haugen.
“The life that we live falls short of the life God gave us.” From Tis More Blessed to Receive 12.16.12 by Pastor Dan Johnson.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 Peter 3:13-14
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
I am empowered and comforted to FEAR NOT! No matter what circumstances surround us, God stands in authority and is the suffering Sovereign.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5
- Abide in the Vine
- Love others
- Have faith like a child
We have all experienced moments, seasons and degress of discontentment, have we not? It’s not difficult to get caught up in the daily grip of busy schedules, a sense of insufficiency, or a longing to feel more appreciated, more rested, more financially secure. I remember times when I believed I would be happier if only my kids were better behaved, if my spouse or friend was a better communicator, if I could lose more weight, if I had a more satisfying career or was more talented, if I could make a more signficant difference in helping improve the lives of others, and if my family was safe from encounters with things like cancer, disability or accidents.
Along the way I have discovered that God’s expectations are even higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-10) yet He never makes impossible demands of me (Ephesians 4:11-13, Hebrews 13:20-21). Somewhere between trying to measure up and growing up in my relationship with Christ, God keeps reminding me His power is made perfect in my weakness through two invaluable tools — His Word and in His Holy Spirit alive in me.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This truth is the same for me as it is for you. Do you believe this to your core?
Reality Check: Sometimes life gets hard — sometimes REALLY hard. And, without God, I will never be sufficiently equipped to live it well. That’s why I appreciate the perspective and insight these verses bring.
2 TIMOTHY 2:3-4 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.
2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Consider these facts for yourself:
Fact #1 — God is my Creator. Jesus is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my empowerer. (Hebrews 11:6)
Fact #2 — To be disentangled, I must embrace God, myself and others in view of mercy. (Romans 12:1-5)
Fact #3 — Keeping focused on my relationship with Christ influences my ways of thinking, my attitudes and my behavior. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Fact #4 — Recognizing God’s sufficiency, sovereignty and indwelling releases me and mobilizes me for a life of freedom! (John 7:37-39)
The Word of God is our Divine weaponry in the enemy’s battle for our minds. Whenever we have questions or doubts about who God is or who we are in relation to Him, that’s where we must go to re-align with the truth. It’s in growing that kind of personal relationship with God our Father and in fixing our perspectives about life on His perspectives about life that we develop passion for our mission. And, because the Holy Spirit dwells in those of us who are in personal relationship with God, God energizes us for things that please Him. That’s a powerful combination! That’s an arsenal where I can anchor my life, satisfaction and freedom!
Clues for me that I am becoming re-entangled with the world are: self-indulging, taking on too much, feeling stuck in shame, becoming critical. What does it look like in your life when you become “entangled in civilian affairs”?
As we disentangle our focus from things of the world, we find freedom in a life with Christ that fills our aching souls and honors our holy God.
ALMIGHTY GOD, You are my Commanding Officer and I want to participate in Your mission. Please strengthen me in heart, mind and body to fully engage in my relationship with You and to increasingly share Your perspectives about sin, suffering and stuff! Please make my aspirations HOLY. Mobilize me, by the power of Your Holy Spirit in me, to do the things that delight You and to serve others on behalf of the spiritual freedom I have available to me through You. AMEN
Fear & GLORY
—by Luke Hinrichs
Everything rests, then,
on whether you,
with spongy heart
and openmouthed meekness,
hear with aching ears
the heaven-sent announcement;
and whether you act,
taking it in like food,
making way for
your own nourishment.
Imagine yourself, then,
one of the shaken shepherds—
“Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news
of great joy that will be
for all the people.
For unto you is born
this day in the city of David….”
A woman in a very strained marriage once shared with me an important insight she had unpacked. For years she had been in an emotionally abusive relationship. Although she had grown to fear her husband, she also feared losing him. The idea of surrendering her hopes and dreams for her family was, understandably, so overwhelming that she had become stuck and unable to make decisions or take steps that God wanted her to make.
Then God prompted her with a newsflash: “You are more afraid of man and your circumstances than you are of ME.” It was as if God was asking, “How much do you really trust me? How much do you even KNOW me? Do you believe that obeying me will be worth surrendering every other fear? ”
I appreciated her humble, teachable spirit. In such extreme circumstances of suffering, it can be very tempting to justify our own comfortable and preferable strategies.
Her perspective challenged me to consider what I fear. Do my worldly concerns exceed my concern for walking according to God’s best for me?
- Am I so afraid of having children who like me…that I fail to provide them with godly discipline and boundaries?
- Am I so afraid of being able to pay bills…that I dwell on anxious thoughts and chase man’s wisdom without waiting on the Lord for answers and trusting Him to provide?
- Am I so afraid that things won’t turn out the way I want them to…that I fail to consider that there will be holy consequences for my rebellion?
- Am I so afraid of being misunderstood or rejected…that I try to keep others satisfied rather than being who God made me to be?
- Am I so afraid of what establishing boundaries might cost…that I am unwilling to trust how God may use them for healing in my relationships?
- Am I so afraid that following God will rob me of “fun”…that I am willing to cheapen His grace for me by taking advantage of the fact that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love?
- Am I so afraid of the “what ifs”…that I fail to walk in faith and risk offending God?
My list could go on and on.
My heart is divided. I waffle my way through so much of life weighing every command of the Lord like a cost-benefit analysis. I want an undivided heart! I want the Lord to be able to depend on me as someone whose obedience to His ways is swift and unwavering.
“Here I am, send me!”
HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY TRUST HIM?
PSALM 86:11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.