Saturday, March 15, 2014

But...what if He doesn't bless us like you say?

I've had many friends lately who have wrestled through infertility and miscarriage. It's one of the most heart-breaking things to walk with someone through, but also one of the most beautiful. The faith and trust of these brothers and sisters have grown beyond what they ever imagined.

A few of those couples are now pregnant. When they were in the midst of adoption or foster care, the Lord chose to answer their prayer. When people hear these stories, the majority of the response is, "You know that's what happens! Your body needed to just relax and you just needed to trust God! And now you're pregnant! God is so good!" And it's true that God is so good! I rejoice so deeply with them!

This same thing applies to prolonged singleness. I've had close friends who struggled deeply in singleness, surrendered it to the Lord, and all of the sudden someone unexpectedly came into their life and they were married just a few months later. People would say to them, "As soon as you're content, the Lord will bring you your husband. You're proof of that! God is so good!"

But this is the question I want to ask them. What happens when there is a couple who has fully surrendered their infertility to the Lord, are in the midst of adoption, and they don't get pregnant? Are they not relaxed? Are they not trusting God? Is He not good to them?  What about the single, late 30s friends of mine who are some of the most godly friends I know, are truly trusting the Lord in their singleness and desiring to be married, yet the Lord hasn't brought them their spouse?  Are they not content enough? Is God not good?

We are all prone to approach these subjects with a "do this and God will give you this" mentality. Although we don't mean it, we're essentially saying, "God won't bless you until you love Him enough, trust Him enough, are content with Him enough, and follow Him enough." We are operating out of the belief that our actions merit His blessings. This is not true.

What if God chose to bless us because of HIS character and nothing else? What if His goodness and love was reason enough to give gifts to His children?

Even a harder question, what if His blessings and grace are in the form of a "no" to our pleas? Would that make His goodness less or our faith obsolete?

Scripture is clear in saying that God desires to give good gifts to His children. Matthew 7:7-11 and Luke 11:1-13 touch on this. These verses, however, are not tied primarily to earthly treasures, but more so heavenly ones; the treasures of knowing Him deeply and approaching His throne with a boldness and confidence because of His grace. Does He give temporary gifts to His children? Yes yes and yes! But He first and foremost desires the blessings of eternal joy for His children.

Psalm 37:3-5 says, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act."

I have had that verse given to me in regards to singleness. "Trust Him, Rebekah. Delight yourself in Him; and He's promised to give you your desires. He'll give you your husband as soon as you're truly content in Him." My answer to that is vs. 6 of the same chapter, "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday."

That is what He promises. He promises to sanctify us and make us more like Him. He promises righteousness and justice. He promises peace and comfort and joy when all around us is anxiety, tears, and sorrow. He promises His presence. And that is so much greater and more engulfing than any temporal, human blessing.

He uses a myriad of circumstances and experiences in each of our lives to love us and sanctify us, make us more like Him, and increase our hope and confidence in His promises. Some of the huge experiences He uses in people's lives are marriage and parenthood- and singleness and infertility. They are equally given from a Father who loves His children and desires to give them good gifts. He doesn't "pick" the most qualified Christian to accept the blessings of marriage and children, and He doesn't "punish" the "discontent" Christians with singleness and infertility. Praise His name He doesn't operate that way! We need to stop assuming this belief ourselves.

As believers, deep down in each one of us, is the ultimate desire of our souls, and that is to know our Father God- to know Him so intimately that the experiences of this life (whether joyful or painful in the moment) pale in comparison to His love and the depth of our relationship with Him. And that is where joy and blessings and hope and love come.

"One way (God) works is allow our lower dreams to shatter. He lets us hurt and doesn't make it better. We suffer and He stands by and does nothing to help, at least nothing that we're aware we want Him to do. In fact, what He's doing while we suffer is leading us into the depths of our being, into the center of our soul where we feel our strongest passions. It's there that we discover our desire for God. We begin to feel a desire to know Him that not only survives all our pain, but actually thrives in it until that desire becomes more intense than our desire for all the good things we still want. Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. And that begins a revolution in our lives."
(Shattered Dreams, Larry Crabb)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rejoice with those who rejoice...

In Romans 12, Paul exhorts the church in what the marks of a true follower of Jesus is. We read and re-read, quote and re-quote these commands, but it's different when you're put in a position where you truly have to practice them. Vs. 15 says,

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

The first half of that verse, I have found, is the most difficult for me. It's easy to rejoice with those who rejoice when they experience something or are blessed with something that you yourself have never longed for. But it changes when those around you get the exact thing that you want, when they are on the receiving end of blessings you've begged the Lord for. That's when the rejoicing is hard. And that's what we, as disciples of Jesus, are called to.

In my life and in the lives of those close to me, I've seen how hard this is specifically with singleness and infertility. With each engagement, each marriage, each pregnancy announcement, each new child-- there's a deep joy, but there's also another feeling, a sting, that happens in the heart and mind of someone who has unmet desires. That's a real pain. I know because I've experienced it. And that's okay that the pain is there.

But I want to challenge us to not sit there and dwell on the things we don't have. I want to exhort all of us to stop complaining about seeing engagement announcements on facebook. I want to ask you to slow down on the sarcastic remarks and stop making fun of your friends who are "that mom" who posts every picture of their baby. I want to beg of you to not allow seeds of bitterness and envy to settle in your heart. Those seeds will sprout into full grown plants that will, in turn, drop fruits of disunity, hate, impatience, and unrealistic expectations. 

The pain is real. I know it is. I've been in 19 weddings and each wedding holds a new and different pain. But that doesn't mean I stop going to weddings or say "no thanks" if I'm asked to be in a wedding. I've had close friends struggle through infertility and miscarriages. That's a pain I don't fully understand. I know it is so difficult. But that doesn't mean we roll our eyes when our friends talk about the nausea that comes with the first trimester or throw away every baby shower invitation. 

The pain itself is not something to be ashamed of or feel guilty over. It's what I (and you) do with that pain that matters- I can either press it down, become numb and jaded, and mask any real emotion with a false sense of strength, while inflicting pain upon others because of my hurtful, selfish, and inconsiderate remarks and actions... or I can lay it at the foot of the cross and trust Jesus and His wisdom, knowledge, and love. I've done both, and I stand here today praising God for His phenomenal grace and complete forgiveness when I act a complete fool- and I praise Him for the way He has deeply and genuinely filled my heart to the brim.

I'm so challenged by Colossians 1:15-17. Listen to what Paul says,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Is this not the most beautiful thing? In HIM- our sovereign God- everything is held together. That means your story and my story- they are in His hands and we are not forgotten. That means we are free to worship Him for HIM and to praise Him for what He gives- not only to us, but to others. We are free to stand in awe at the gifts we do have, namely the redemption of our souls and the life breathed into us by God Himself. We are freed to celebrate the blessings of this life; marriages, babies, new jobs, friendships, new homes, vacations, serving opportunities, etc... Whether they come to us or to others, we celebrate.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Trust that He is good.