Day 23 & 22… My exceeding joy.

Day 23 & 22

Psalm 43

I hesitate to write tonight because  1. I want everyone to read what my husband, Kevin wrote on hope on day 24 and just sit on those thoughts as I am (so if you haven’t read that, just don’t read any further and go read his post!) and 2. My brain has been like mush the past few nights.  So, I guess we’ll just see what comes out.   It will be simple tonight.   As I read Psalm 42 a few days ago and spent time thinking of what we’ve been learning and asking God to teach us about hope, I continued on to Psalm 43.  Many would say that these Psalms really are together as there are many similarities in them.   David continues to cry out to the Lord, and yet in the midst of his wondering where God is, he still declares him, his “exceeding joy”.  And I just had to stop and think about that for a while.  In the midst of his despair, his turmoil, still he longs to as he says:  “go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”  David knew his God and I continue to be struck by that as I look at my own life and long to know the Lord in the way that David knew him.  So, yesterday, in the midst of my own turmoil, I went to my own altar of sorts.  What would it look like to take time to just offer to the Lord my praise in the midst of all my questions of where he is in this, and what he’s doing.  The altar for me, the place where I just met with Jesus was in the bathroom getting ready for the day, and then in the car.   And there I worshipped.   I lifted my hands and I sang songs of praise to the Lord until I meant the words I was saying.  And in those moments my eyes faded from my circumstances and all I saw was Jesus.  And the joy that was present in my heart was a sweet, sweet reminder of what it looks like to tell my soul as David did “hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  Not in a self-help type of “pick up your bootstraps” (what does that even mean?) and just do it way.  But in a way where we are speaking God’s truth to our hearts even when we don’t feel it, when it feels impossible to believe.   To take our sorrow, and our disappointment and continue to place it in the Lord’s hand and still worship him for who he is and not what he does.  He IS my exceeding joy and God is teaching me what that means the more I press into him.  More thoughts on this tomorrow, when hopefully my brain is less mushy!

Questions for Reflection:

1. Is God your exceeding joy?

2.  What would it look like for you to “go to the altar” and bring God praise in the midst of the losses and disappointments you may still be wrestling with, with him?

Tomorrow’s Passage:

Paul in 2 Corinthians 4

Day 24… Hope

If I was writing a story for a great movie, the last 2 years is not the story I would write for us.  What I long for—and what I’m drawn to in great movies and books—is that ultimate redemption that comes in the midst of great tragedy.  Epic stories all have great tragedy.  The moment when all seems to be lost and has gone hopelessly astray.  Where we yearn for justice to come, good to prevail, and life to be set right again.  I feel it when I watch Lord of the Rings and orks are overtaking the armies of good and Frodo and Sam are on the verge of giving up.  Or a massive alien being is overtaking the city of New York and it all seems to be too much for the Avengers to turn the tide.  My heart brews with anger as I read of Joseph being betrayed by his brothers, thrown into slavery, and unjustly locked into prison.  Or Jesus walking to his death with a cross on his shoulders after years of nothing but bringing life to the world.  But what makes all of these stories great is that our longing is finally met.  Restoration comes.  Good prevails.  The world is set right again.

But what if the movie ended and we didn’t get to see redemption?  What if the story continues but we still find ourselves at a place where the world around us is not as it was meant to be, and yet the immediate pages ahead of us remain unknown with no promise that they will hold restoration that makes even the great tragedy understandable?  It’s not the story I would write.  In fact, it can feel like a story that shouldn’t or couldn’t be written because it doesn’t match up with the built-in longings of our heart for redemption.  It doesn’t seem to match up with our God who redeems.  When we see such a story around us or find ourselves in the middle of it, we can try to explain it away, or ignore it, or convince ourselves that something better is just around the corner.  But what if the story is exactly how it was intended to be, and the Author has written it that way?  What then?

When we found out about Sophie’s diagnosis well over a year ago, it was absolutely devastating but neither Lindsey or I ever wrestled much with the “why” questions of God.  Honestly years of wrestling with singleness before Lindsey and I met had forced me (after much wrestling and grief) to come more face to face with the fact that God was sovereign and good, his plans were the very best for me, and his character and these truths were not altered by my circumstances.  I did not understand why our first daughter had anencephaly, but honestly the need to understand wasn’t heavy on my heart.  While we were in deep grief and sorrow throughout our pregnancy with Sophie and in the months after her birth, there was a continual hope at the root of both the joyful and sorrowful days.

I still believe that much of that hope was directly from God as he used his Holy Spirit to sustain and guide us.  But I also see now that some of that hope was not a hope in who God was, but a hope in what God would DO, a hope in what our hopeful circumstances would be in the future.  I would have done just about anything to enable my daughter Sophie to remain on this Earth alive and fully well with us.  But knowing I had little control over that—and that was hard as a father to be limited in my ability to protect my daughter—I had hope that while Sophie would be in Heaven under God’s perfect love and care, God would enable us to have more children to remain here on Earth with us.  It wasn’t until the days that followed Dasah’s diagnosis back in May that this hope in our hoped-for future came crashing down, and I began to realize where some of my hope—that I thought was in God—was actually being planted.  In the midst of this, the questions of “why?!!” and wanting to understand what in the world God was doing were now far more important than they ever were with Sophie.

In the days that followed, the first passage I found God leading me to was Psalm 42:5, which says,

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

As I read over it again and again, I knew why my soul was cast down.  There was no question about that.  But I was struck anew by the command to “hope in God”.  I was realizing I really didn’t know what that meant.  What does it look like to truly find my hope in God alone?  Not hope in what I think he will do, or how I think he will benefit me.  But to simply have hope in who He is.  At a time when I needed hope, it did not seem like an ideal time to see my foundation of hope being changed. So we began to pray—and have been praying every day since—that God would teach us what it means for our hope, joy, and faith to be firmly planted in who He is, and not what we hope he will do.

Over the summer, Lindsey and I began reading Tim Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (the best comprehensive book I have read on grief founded in the Bible…I highly recommend it to everyone regardless of whether you are or have ever experienced deep grief).  There are so many things I could highlight from the book.  But one portion struck deeply on how I viewed God.

In the book, Keller recaps Elisabeth Elliot’s novel No Graven Image that she released in the late 1960’s.  The book tells the fictional story of a missionary woman who spends years preparing and then moving to a tribe in Ecuador to translate the Bible into their native language.  She builds a relationship with the one man in the tribe who has the language abilities to help her translate the Bible into their language.  But when the man becomes ill and the missionary unknowingly gives him medicine that he is allergic to, the man dies.  Devastated, the missionary returns home because there is no other person in the tribe that can unlock the language for a Bible translation to be done.  God closes the door for the Bible translation.  When the book was released it got tremendous push-back from Christians who, as Keller says, “protested vehemently that God would never allow such a thing to happen to a woman who had so prayerfully dedicated her life to his cause.”

But Keller got to hear Elisabeth Elliot explain the book in a lecture she gave at the seminary he attended.

“She went on to explain to us that the graven image, the idol of the title, was a God who always acted the way we thought he should.  Or more to the point—he was a God who supported our plans, how we thought the world and history should go.  That is a God of our own creation, a counterfeit god.  Such a god is really just a projection of our own wisdom, of our own self.  In that way of operating, God is our ‘accomplice,’ someone to whom we relate as long as he is doing what we want.  If he does something else, we want to ‘fire’ him, or ‘unfriend him,’ as we would any personal assistant or acquaintance who was insubordinate or incompetent.”

As I read this, it struck a deep cord.  This was at the heart of my wrestling with God since Dasah’s diagnosis.  As we had walked with Sophie, I had great hope that God would heal our daughter, but I knew that God was God (and I was not) and it was up to him and according to his bigger, sovereign plans if Sophie would be healed.  I had peace in His sovereignty regardless of what He chose.  But, I also had great hope that God would give us more children in the future that would be fully healthy and remain on this Earth with us for decades to come.  And while I had never articulated it in words—even to myself—I believed God would never have us walk through the same grievous journey with any of our other children.  How could He?!!  That would not be the redemption and silver lining that I was longing for, hoping for…and not just hoping for, but hoping in.  In my mind, my hope was of course in God, but more specifically in what God would do…that he would give us future healthy children that we would get to parent and watch grow up.

And so when we discovered our second daughter was also diagnosed with a terminal condition, it felt even more devastating and heavy than Sophie’s diagnosis.  This wasn’t how the story was supposed to go!  How could our God of redemption and restoration write a story like this?!  I was now questioning how to find hope in God because he hadn’t come through as I was certain he would.  And as I read this portion of Keller’s book, God began to give me a deeper look at where my hope “in Him” truly was.  Not in Him, but in what I thought he should or would do.  I was at a loss.  So I began to pray he would teach me and enable me to have hope securely in who he is, and not in my current or future hoped-for circumstances.

Months have gone by, and while I haven’t often felt this deep intimacy with God, he has been showing me much about Him and myself and the brokenness of our world.  And I’ve kept praying he would teach me to truly hope in Him, not knowing what that really looked like.  Then a few weeks ago I got to pull away from the busyness of life and spend a day with God.  I journaled, read, talked with God, and got to listen to him.  And as I was driving home, seemingly out of nowhere, it suddenly hit me.  Over these months God has been teaching me what it looked like to hope in Him…and I didn’t even realize it.  I didn’t realize it largely because I was looking for a “hopeful” feeling.  A comforting sort of warmth inside my heart (my wife could probably do a much better job putting words to these emotions!).  But God was teaching me not about a comforting feeling but to know Him, to know his character, and in knowing Him to trust Him more.  I know that he is good.  I know that he is loving, and that he loves me, and Lindsey, and Sophie, and Dasah more than I even have the capacity to understand.  I know he is righteous.  I know he is powerful.  I know he knows all things, knows the much bigger story on an eternal scale, and he is in total control of this story…his story.  I can thus trust him with the life of my daughters and my wife and my own life…I can trust him with the story of our family.  And as I get to know more and more the One who I am trusting in these things, I have great hope.

A book I’m reading right now is When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One by David & Nancy Guthrie (a great practical book if you have lost a loved one or want to know how to help someone who has).  In it, Nancy Guthrie shares, “The truth is, we’re often more interested in getting what God’s got—not getting more of God…But God knows exactly what we need, and His purposes are grander than giving us what we want. He’s doing something deeper.” -pp. 57-58

I see this in me.  As I get glimpses of what it looks like to truly hope in God, I still often just want God to give me what I want.  I want to be god instead of trusting God.  But when I step back from my immediate feelings and momentary circumstances, I really do believe God’s much bigger story is so much better.  It’s a story that is eternal (and not just about the immediate pages ahead that I can’t see).  It’s a story centered not on me, or my family, but on Him because He is the one that all were designed to know and to be fulfilled in knowing Him.  It’s a story of deep sadness, deep heartache, and also deep joy (and not just for us, but God also).  It’s a story of greater redemption on an eternal scale. But finally, Romans 8:32 reminds us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  Because of God sending Jesus to live, suffer, and die alongside us and for us, this story God is writing in our family is a story of hope.  Our great God is not withholding anything from us so that we might suffer.  Our God has given everything—even the life of his only son—so that we can know Him, now and for eternity.  In Him and simply who he is, I’m learning to find great hope.

Day 25… The God who goes down with us and brings us up.

Genesis 46-50

“I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again.” Genesis 46:3-4

A gentle reminder for my heart as the coming weeks seem so daunting.  The anticipation of meeting Dasah and knowing goodbyes may come all too soon are overwhelming.  And most days just thinking of that makes my heart grow faint.

“When my spirit grows faith within me, you know my way.” Psalm 142:3

Yes, He knows my way.  As He knew the way of Joseph, Jacob, David… He not only knows but goes with us.   Had Jacob known what was coming for his people, I doubt he would have gone down (Exodus 1:8-14).  And yet, all he needed to know was the promise.  The promise in that moment that God Himself would go down with him (Jacob) and that He would also bring him up.  The promise was for Jacob, and the promise was for his people.   The years Jacob and his people would be in Egypt and what would become of them were not known.  But what was known was God’s presence and His promise.   And that’s all they needed to follow God.  Is that all I need today to follow God today?  Is that all you need today to follow God?  Is the promise of His presence, which is just as true as it was for Jacob and Joseph as it is for me, enough?  I find myself wanting to know how the coming weeks will unfold.  I want to know if Dasah will be born alive, if she’ll live for days and we’ll get to bring her home.  I want to know if I’ll come home once again with empty arms, or if God will perform a miracle of healing unlike any we’ve ever seen.  I want to know how He’ll produce peace and joy in our hearts if we have to say goodbye and how He will sustain us if we find ourselves again standing at the gravesite of another daughter.  These uncertainties, fears, hopes and longings fill my mind and heart often unexpectedly and I confess I dwell on them too long many times instead of entrusting them to the Lord.  I try to make sense of what’s to come and how I will respond instead of trusting that the Lord goes with me, with us, and that’s all I really need to know right now.   And if the worst comes, not only does He go down with us, but He will also bring us up.  If even more intense grief, sorrow and loss is to be a part of our journey a little over 3 weeks from now our God will meet us in it and He will bring us up out of it.  In the midst of the grief that still resides in my heart in the loss of Sophie, I have watched Him sustain us in the midst of our sorrow and lift up our hearts ever so slowly as time has gone on.  And I am reminded of that today. That I serve a God who goes with us, to the depths of our pain, meeting us there and slowly ever so slowly planting seeds of new life.   May I trust in that truth today when my mind and heart is tempted to wander to all the “what if’s” and how will i ever walk through what’s coming.   He is with us.  He is with Kevin.  He is with Dasah.  And we are very much not alone.

Question for reflection:

1. Is His presence enough for you today? Why or why not?

Tomorrow’s Passage (Day 24)

David in Psalm 42… My husband, Kevin will be writing on what it means to HOPE in who God is and not what He does.   Get excited, I know I am!

 

Day 27 & 26… SENT

Day 27 & 26

 Genesis 42-45

 “for God SENT me before you to preserve life”

“For God SENT me before you to preserve a remnant…”

“So it was not you who SENT me here but God.”

(Genesis 45: 5, 7 & 8)

 Oh Sent One..

 Does God ever allow and yes, even SEND us to a place of darkness if only for us to find that it is the very place where He will bring life and light not only to us but to the world around us?

One of the prayers that I have had since finding out of Dasah’s diagnosis is that both her and Sophie would be givers of life. I have been praying that their lives would give life to other children in unexpected ways.   That other parents in the same position as us, would hear of their story and choose life for the child they carry with a fatal diagnosis.   I have prayed that Sophie and Dasah’s story may turn the heart of a woman with a healthy child growing inside of her womb, who is about to choose abortion, to instead choose life.   I have prayed that our little girls’ lives might lead us to a brother or sister for them, born perhaps not of my womb, who would get the chance at a life in a home with a family that adores them because of their sister’s lives.  I have prayed, that we, their parents, in walking this journey would steward well the gift of their lives to us.   That we would step into the platforms we never wanted but now have to speak on grief, loss, surrender, the sanctity of life, and be ourselves life-givers to others in the midst of our own sadness.  And I have prayed that our little girls would lead others to the one true God, the true LIFE GIVER, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and THE LIFE (John 14:6).  To live this way is a daily surrender to the ONE who SENT us to this place. To let Him refine, restore and meet us in it.  He has not sent us to this place in vain, as a result of some random genetic glitch (or whatever else has caused the lives of our children to unfold in the way that it has, of which our doctor’s still have no clear answer for). He is in our story and even as I write that with tears in my eyes, I am asking God to help me remember that on the days where it feels like the sorrow is too great, where I watch others walk a seemingly easier road and I wonder what He’s sent us here for.  Yet just like Joseph, whose brothers thought they were the ultimate cause of his slavery but Joseph knew and declared “so it was not you who sent me here, but God.”, so we too know that it isn’t simply a medical issue that has brought us here today but as hard as it may be to swallow, God Himself is intimately involved and yes, even orchestrating this part of our journey.  I do not understand all the ways His sovereignty (total control) works or plays out in our lives, but I know that I serve a good God. A God who is loving and kind and for us. A God who continues to demonstrate these aspects of His character to generations past and generations future.   He is involved in our lives.  He is redeeming the broken pieces and He is sending those who have a relationship with Him into a broken world to take their own broken pieces and be vehicles of bringing His light, His life into the watching world.  Joseph was not the only one sent to preserve life.   So are we as Christ-followers.  Sent to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Sent to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14). Sent to be witnesses of His power and grace to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 8).   Sent to be ministers of reconciliation, to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5). Sent to show the watching world that Jesus is our greatest treasure.   This story He is writing for us is not the way I would choose to show the watching world that He is my treasure. I’m sure that there were many times when Joseph would not have chosen the story written for him to be a vehicle to saving God’s people. “God, isn’t there another way?” is what our hearts cry often. And Jesus cried out the same when He was about to go to the cross to take on the sins of the world.   “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)  And so we are very much not alone in this cry, Jesus Himself walked a similar road and countless faithful men and women chose to honor God in WHERE EVER He sent them and so have been lights of His power and grace to the world.  Oh how I pray that we would be a generation that reflects what generations past have, that we would live as SENT ones, walking with God in the midst of the unknown and the dark places where at times we can wonder what purpose they could possibly play in the grand story.  That the way this generation of believers walks through season of darkness and light would reflect and show the world that Jesus is our great treasure, that He’s worth knowing, that He’s worthy following, that He’s worthy of our worship in any circumstance and any season.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What does Joseph recognize about God as he is reunited with his brothers?
  2. What are ways you’ve seen God at work in seasons of darkness?
  3. How does knowing God is at work affect how you view your current season of life?
  4. Where is He sending you to be a light for Him?

Tomorrow’s passage (Day 25)

Finishing my time with Joseph in Genesis 46-50

Sweet Life Giving Moments!

Thursday night, Kevin came home!!!  So Dasah, Toby and I made sure he had a proper welcome!

 Before my mom left, she threw Dasah the most special and delicious tea party!

So thankful that my mom and Dasah’s Nini could spend the week with us while Kevin was away.  What a sweet sweet memory!

Day 29 & 28… When you just WANT OUT of the darkness.

“and so get me out of this house.” Genesis 40:14

Has that been you? Do you look at your life and wish you could just get to where you’re going and not be so detoured by the darkness that has encroached upon you? I think about that often. When will this season be over?  When will our family grow, not in gravesites but in our arms at home? And sometimes I imagine what life would be like if this season of darkness and loss and loneliness was just a really bad dream and never really happened. What would life be like if I was chasing after a 1 year old who was learning to walk and mumble sounds that had the resemblance of words and then stress about how I was going to handle a newborn and I didn’t have time for things like what I’m doing now, sitting in my chair, writing.   It is those times when I  think of what my life could’ve been, or what it will be like when I just get out of this season that I become the most discontent and unsatisfied.   A quite unhealthy place to be, but let’s just be honest, it’s a place all of us are tempted to linger in for a little too long when we are in the midst of the hardness of life.  The grass is always greener somewhere else… right?  And here is where I’m discovering that though it’s okay to want out, what does it look like to choose in to the place of darkness God has called me to, to walk with Him in it.  Joseph lived liked this. The more I read of his story the more I am amazed at this man Joseph.   He wanted out. He said it in Genesis 40:14,15 to a man whose dream he had just interpreted and now will be face to face with Pharaoh while Joseph is still in prison. So Joseph says to him:

“Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

So what happens?

Genesis 40: 23 “yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

And for TWO MORE WHOLE years, Joseph was left in prison.

At this point Joseph had been in Egypt for 13 years and though I don’t know how long he had been in prison before this, it is clear that things aren’t necessarily getting better for him. Wouldn’t you want out? Wouldn’t you say “Get me out of this house, this prison!  I was wrongfully put here, I did nothing to deserve this… please tell who needs to be told that I don’t belong here.” And here is where we, in our culture of comfort and ease, can often find ourselves either growing bitter towards this God we serve, or doing everything we can to get out of the circumstance we find ourselves.   Yet, this is not what Joseph did. He was honest about wanting OUT and yet was faithful IN.   He continued to honor God, to attribute God’s power where God’s power was due and there is nothing that leads us to believe that his heart was bitter or his chief aim was getting out of his affliction. Somewhere along the way God was building in him a deep understanding of himself that continued to sustain and dictate how Joseph lived. So much so that 7 years after Joseph found himself out of prison and in the highest position of authority next to Pharaoh, he was able to say For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52.

Kevin and I are learning to embrace (yes, I said embrace) this season of sorrow and suffering. To embrace it as an integral part of our story and not just chapters that are simply a detour to the good chapters, where life goes the way we had hoped.  But life hasn’t gone the way we had hoped, and we are discovering that these may in fact be part of the good chapters in our lives. Even as I write this, I find myself thinking of all the goodness in these chapters, all the joy, life and hope!  Sometimes it’s hard to see those things in the midst of painful circumstances, deep disappointment and sorrow.  But these are the chapters that are leading us to more of Jesus then we ever knew we could experience, to more hope planted in the right places then we ever knew we needed dug up and re-planted, to more joy that is far deeper and rooted in Christ then we knew He could bring.   Oh I pray that we can say like Joseph “God has made me fruitful IN the land of my affliction”. In it, not out of it. This is who our God is, and who He continues to be to us, the One who meets us IN our affliction.  In the places we may think we are least likely to find treasures, here is where in our affliction we find a God who delivers us TO HIMSELF.  To know Him, IN it.   Well, that is where the deepest treasures of our God is, if we’re willing to dig IN it.

Questions for reflection:

1.  What dark areas of your life are you just waiting anxiously to pass and get out of?

2.  What would it look like to allow God to meet you IN the darkness?

3.  What areas of your life is God calling you to press into and not just wish your way out of?

4.  Think of what treasures of who God is have been more engraved on your heart in seasons of darkness?

Tomorrow’s passage (Day 27)

Still with Joseph, (we’re becoming buddies) in Genesis 42-45

Kevin was gone this week on a work trip, but we’re headed to pick him up tonight (insert excited emojis!).  So my mom came to be with me and we made some fun memories!  So here are some of my LiGHT moments this week…

Dasah got to go on a little tour around the world in celebration of turning 35 weeks with her Nini at Epcot’s Food and Wine festival… first time for mom and Dasah!  We ate some delicious food, saw some incredible acrobats in China, watched Billy Ocean (old school… okay, I really didn’t know who he was let’s be honest) and finished our world tour with fireworks.. of course!

and then in the evening this happened…

IMG_3897IMG_3899

I know, I know, I caved. Let’s just say Dasah wanted to sleep with Toby… and of course,  I had to make that memory happen for her.

Day 30… His presence in the darkness

Genesis 39

 When the Lord is WITH you in the darkness, His strength gives you courage, His life gives you hope, and His love soothes the ache of a lonely heart. Joseph was enslaved, and then wrongfully accused and thrown in prison and still three times we see in this passage a declaration that the Lord was WITH Joseph in all of it.   That the very place where darkness should surround, the Lord showed Joseph his steadfast love and gave him favor… in prison. And in whatever Joseph did he prospered.   My first thought was if God’s presence with Joseph made him succeed and prosper everywhere he went, then how did he end up in prison? Oh the ways of God are not our own. Our idea of prospering are not His and in this very broken world over and over God wants us to know that even in the brokenness, even in the darkness, even in the places that don’t make any sense how we got there He is present. And there we discover that His presence is more than enough to sustain and carry us.   There is one statement in this passage that gives us a glimpse into Joseph’s heart and perspective. When trying to be persuaded by his master’s wife to lie with her he responds “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”.   Here we see a piece of Josephs’ heart to honor and fear God in whatever circumstances, as challenging as they may be. Today I received a card from a friend whose words encouraged and reminded me of what it means for God to be with us, to be the one who strengthens us, that even in our darkest hour His presence with us can not help but be displayed through the life of the one willing to simply cling to Him.   She wrote:

“God has allowed you to walk through valleys I have not thought possible and I pray that God has also provided deep trust and assurance of the acres of hope that you have in Christ Jesus. Our only hope! Crowns await you my friend and every hurt and loss you have been called to endure has been felt so deeply by our God and Savior. You have pointed thousands of people to Christ and not just with words but by walking step by step through the impossible. Words are deep, but your faithfulness and trust has shown people a God who is high above the Heavens, but who also cares deeply for a lost and hurting world. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 With much love and sorrow and continuous petitioning on your behalf. May God strengthen you and rise you up to stand in the midst of waters that are much to deep”

            I was reminded as I read this of a conversation I had several weeks ago with an incredibly wise woman who has also walked a road filled with loss.   We were talking of miracles and God healing Dasah and she said “Do not forget that the miracle will also be to have joy in the midst of sorrow, peace when there should be no peace, hope when all seems hopeless. When joy and hope and peace are found in seasons of such loss, that too is a miracle that could only be wrought by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.”   Only God can produce such fruit in seasons of such darkness for me and for you in whatever season of darkness you find yourself in.

 “I think the tang of the salt that the world needs to taste, and the brightness of the light that the world needs to see is precisely this indomitable joy in the midst of sorrow. Joy in the midst of health? Joy in the midst of wealth and ease? And when everyone speaks well of you? Why would that mean anything to the world? They have that already.   But indomitable joy in the midst of sorrow – that they don’t have. That is what Jesus came to give in this fallen, pain-filled, sin-wrecked world.” –John Piper

 It is only the supernatural work of God and His presence with Joseph that could make him prosper in the midst of slavery and imprisonment, a picture of his steadfast love and favor in the midst of betrayal, and a fear of Himself in the midst of the most challenging of circumstances. And it is only the supernatural work of God that can enable us to prosper and know God’s love and favor towards us in the midst of the darkness we find ourselves in.   The same God who was with Joseph in prison, is the same God who is with us today revealing Himself and His power in the most unlikely of places that we and the watching world around us would know that He alone is the source of all hope and joy.

 Questions for Reflection:

1.  What did God’s presence with Joseph affect in his life and the lives of those around him?

2.  What could God’s presence with you in seasons of darkness affect.. in your life and those around you?

3.  Ask the Lord to produce in you joy and hope in the dark places in your life.

Tomorrows Passage (Day 29)

Joseph in Genesis 40 & 41

and I’ll leave with a sweet joy moment from today…

Sweet joy moments... Dasah's first convertible ride!

Day 32 & 31… When the pieces of your story don’t make sense.

Genesis 37 & 38

I didn’t make it to posting anything yesterday because I had the sudden and rare urge to vacuum and mop all the floors of our house.  And once I discovered all the hidden corners and crevices where our golden retrievers’ hair likes to congregate, let’s just say it took a lot longer then expected and left me utterly exhausted.   So, I spent a little of yesterday and today reading in Genesis 37 & 38 and thinking about this guy Joseph.  You see, I’ve read this story before, I think many of us have.  Perhaps you watched (like I did) a sunday school teacher use her felt board to show Joseph’s colorful coat and tell the story of his journey from being the favorited son of Jacob, to the most hated brother, to sold into slavery, to… well, I don’t want to spoil the story.  In fact, as I read it and stopped at the end of Chapter 38, I tried to think of what I would’ve been thinking as Jacob, as the brothers, as Joseph, not knowing the end of the story.   You see God is not mentioned at all in these chapters, not in when Joseph shares his dreams, not in His thoughts on the brothers betrayal and lies, and not in Jacobs response to the grief of losing his son.   And though God isn’t mentioned it doesn’t mean He is not there.  You see, without spoiling the story, I already know that this is a story of God’s redemption for His people.  In fact, all the stories in scripture lead to that… redemption, restoration, it’s woven into the thread that runs through the lives of every single individual. There is the promise of redemption, if we trust the only ONE who can redeem.   But, I doubt Jacob, Joseph and his brothers were thinking about that redemption in these moments.   How often, do the circumstances in our life feel so arbitrary, such needless suffering and loneliness and pain and heartache.  Is there a purpose in all of this?   It’s easy to look at Joseph’s story (knowing the whole story) and see God’s hand at work.  It is so much harder to look at our own stories when we are IN THE MIDST of the pain and suffering and see the bigger picture.   And yet, it’s in these places where we learn to trust, to trust in the ultimate HOPE that is to come… the kind that doesn’t disappoint,  the kind that’s found in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  He’s our hope.  And he’s at work in the darkest places, in the bleakest circumstances, in the places where it seems all hope is lost.   Still he is there.   Many days, this story God is writing for us doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We are in the midst of it, like Jacob who thought he lost his beloved son and Joseph who probably thought his life would now be defined by pain and suffering, we are moving forward wondering simply how we will survive the days and months ahead.   We don’t know what perspective a year, 5 years, 10 years or even our view from heaven will give us, but we are confident that it will be a far greater perspective then we could have ever dreamed possible.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

-John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

Questions of Reflection

1. What circumstances in your life, pieces of your story seem to make no sense?

2.  What would it look like today to know that “God is for us in all these strange turns” and to live in light of that?

3.  Ask God to help you know His presence and to “teach you what you cannot see” (Job 34:32).

Tomorrows Passage (Day 30)

Still with Joseph in Genesis 40 to however far I get :)

and p.s.  Thanks to all those who have commented/emailed/messaged me the hidden treasures God is showing you along the way.. I’ve loved reading them and finding even more treasures with you as a result!