Tag Archives: trial

Isaiah 59-61; 1 Thessalonians 4

lemon birthday cakeWe celebrated my oldest daughter’s twelfth birthday last night with lemon cake (so yummy that everyone wanted a second piece). The kids took off, sufficiently sweetened, and played. My husband and I sat at the table. A discussion on happiness ensued. And he’s either a patient man or a forgetful one, but he listened to me, as he has for years, tell the story of shame and God’s redeeming, restoring faithfulness.

I’ve heard snippets of these verses before, spoken to me or others in trial and mourning. In context, they were spoken in a different time, to a different people facing very different circumstances. Yet these very words are ones of hope and comfort to generations after–how can we grab hold of messages meant for others?

I told a friend once about a scripture in Deuteronomy that I felt was like a love note slipped to me by a Savior. I was timid to accept it, could I really be so bold to apply the promise to myself? How did I fit in that context?

“I wouldn’t put God in a box,” he said. “Who can know how God will use his Word?”

Living and active.

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3, NLT

For his own glory.

Instead of shame and dishonor,
    you will enjoy a double share of honor.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7, NLT

My husband and I sat and talked about happiness and shame and freedom. My chest felt tight from emotion and gratitude for the journey. This morning I read these words, spoken to a different people in a different time and out of context of my own life. But I sort of wonder if I hear the Lord saying, “See, I told you so.”

Ashes exchanged for a crown. Shame replaced by honor. For his own glory–because he is that big.

Thank you, Father.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Kings 20; Hebrews 2; Hosea 13; Psalm 137, 138

The years of the Sometime-Struggle were a slow descent into depression. It was a constant and tiresome treading to keep my head up. At times, it sapped my energy and my hope. It chipped away at dignity. An enemy placed a sign on my back I couldn’t read, but I could feel it there. It was hurtful and heavy; it grew heavier over time.

When I talked to a seasoned Christian about my trial, she said, “Think of all the suffering Jesus went through. He was beaten and mocked.” Her response did not help me, though I would not have dared to say such a thing. I was probably a Christian for fifteen years at that point, but I had no real understanding of the person of Jesus Christ outside of my salvation. Rooted in rocky soil, I was withering.

I tried to work out the equation: Jesus suffered = I should be able to suck this up (x guilt at still feeling powerless)/there are worse things in the world.

The conclusion was always the same: FAIL.

I picked up my Bible five years ago, and God met me right where I was. These years of pursuing God showed me he has actually been pursuing me.

God moved us here a couple years ago. One day, I met a woman while she was working in her yard. In that first meeting, she told me things I couldn’t believe I was hearing. I said to her, “I think we have a similar story.”

Later, I sat with God and marveled. There are times I wish I had not met the people who had inflicted such pain in my life, but not at the expense of the lesson. When I met this fellow sojourner in her yard, without a doubt I knew if I had a do-over, I would have gone through the Struggle again, so that she would know she is not alone.

Jesus says, “I love you like that.”

And in my heart, I know he does. He is the leader in love. He does his refining work when we’re under pressure. He teaches how to love God, and love a neighbor.

Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. Hebrews 2:9b-10 NLT.

Lord, your suffering wasn’t so I could have a sense of strength in myself, to do life on my own. It was to show me love, to bring me into relationship with you, and to teach me how to love. (And it was so much more!) There is no greater love than yours, that you would lay down your life for your friends. Thank you for the Sometime-Struggle, the lost years that were never really lost. Thank you for loving me, and walking alongside me so I would know I am not alone.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 20; 1 Thessalonians 3; Daniel 2; Psalm 106

Big words.

Soon Ben-hadad’s messengers returned again and said, “This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘I have already demanded that you give me your silver, gold, wives, and children. But about this time tomorrow I will send my officials to search your palace and the homes of your people. They will take away everything you consider valuable!’” 1 Kings 20:5-6 NLT.

Big presence.

27 Israel then mustered its army, set up supply lines, and marched out for battle. But the Israelite army looked like two little flocks of goats in comparison to the vast Aramean forces that filled the countryside! 1 Kings 20:27 NLT.

Big victory.

28 Then the man of God went to the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: The Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills and not of the plains.’ So I will defeat this vast army for you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” 1 Kings 20:28 NLT.

(Ahab didn’t follow through on the victory the Lord had given him–and spared the life of the opposing king.)

When Nebuchadnezzar had a recurring nightmare, none of his astrologers could tell him what his dream was or what it meant.

Big words. Big presence.

12 The king was furious when he heard this, and he ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be executed. 13 And because of the king’s decree, men were sent to find and kill Daniel and his friends. Daniel 2:12013 NLT.

Big victory.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. 15 He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” So Arioch told him all that had happened. 16 Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant.

17 Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. 18 He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon. 19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven. Daniel 2:14-19 NLT.

Troubles will come. Sometimes in the form of big words. Sometimes by the intimidation of a big presence. Sometimes it will be both.

We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. 1 Thessalonians 3:2b-4 NLT.

But God is the victor of the plains and the hills.

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
21 He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.
22 He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors,
    for you have given me wisdom and strength.
You have told me what we asked of you
    and revealed to us what the king demanded.” Daniel 2:20-23 NLT (emphasis mine)

And this is what I need to remember.

God’s got this.

Lord, when I strip away the worries of my thought life and remember your faithfulness through the ages (and even the last years), there is peace. I learn from Daniel, his trials and his faith–I need to fix my gaze on you. You can do what seems impossible. I’m thankful you’re still in the business of marvelous miracles.

Courtney (66books365)

Praise the Lord!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!    His faithful love endures forever.Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?    Who can ever praise him enough? Psalm 106:1-2 NLT

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1Kings 17; Colossians 4; Ezekiel 47; Psalm 103

fall tree in my backyardMy daughter turns eleven tomorrow. I sat in the kitchen with my husband on Sunday and felt the emotional lump growing in my throat as I talked about making her birthday popovers on a day with an early start and a busy pace. I would do it, and do it happily, because these years fly by–this season (motherhood) feels like it’s rushing by me.

The time before seemed leisurely. But these years after our move, time flies.

Fall’s leafy cascade across my lawn, a changing season. Time moves on.

13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here. Psalm 103:13-16 NLT

Today’s passages are a reminder and refrain: Make the most of every opportunity.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:2-5 NLT

Paul was in prison for proclaiming the gospel, and perhaps, too, to proclaim it there. His sight is focused on opportunity–to serve the Lord wherever he finds himself.

In a different time of life, I remember treading the days, waiting with hope for a new season. The Lord would teach me to serve through the wait, that I might say even then: this is why I am here. I learned, more clearly in hindsight, to see opportunity in trial.

17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” Colossians 4:17 NLT.

I don’t look at this season of motherhood as a prison–it is a gift, sticky and messy and loud. It is a piece of the Why I Am Here: to wake to laundry and popovers and homework to do. To trash days and chores and grocery trips. There is more to these days than the tasks I have numbered–there is a mysterious plan that I am to speak about and many opportunities to speak about it, in my home and outside of it.

Father God: Thank you for this ministry of motherhood. I pray that I will proclaim your message. I pray that I will make the most of every opportunity in word or deed. On the best days, or on the worst, let me always point to your grace and great love for the world.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 7; 2 Corinthians 1; Ezekiel 15; Psalms 56, 57

Willingness to endure the hard times, as much as enjoy the good times.

When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it. 2 Corinthians 1:6-7, The Message. (emphasis mine)

I listened to a message on grief by Rick Warren. He said if you’re only living in the party, you’re only living half a life. That in grief, that’s where we grow. (And if you’re not grieving your losses, you’re stuck in that spot until you do.)

We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part. 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, The Message.

In my lowest moments (persecution, exclusion, depression, the waiting), after realizing I had done all that I could do–and all to no avail–I was at a place where I learned surrender. Over the course of three years, I would get lots of practice in learning to differentiate between the things over which I had control, and those that I did not. I learned how to lean on the Lord, and that I could trust him. I learned to pray, and to ask for prayer.

As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.

Thank you, Jesus.

Courtney (66books365)

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