Dry Bones

After being prayerful about what God would have me discuss in this blog post, I was lost. I had no ideas and felt that no topic was “the one” He was leading me to write about. Then I was peeling boiled eggs, talking to God (don’t act like you don’t talk to God while you peel your eggs!), and explaining that I was really trying but coming up empty. I said to Him, “God, I am trying to hear from you about this blog, but I’ve got nothing. My idea tank is bone dry.” And God replied, “How about you start there, with dry bones?” Can you believe that mess? He’s amazing. So I got out my Bible, turned to Ezekiel, and guess what? God led me straight toward what I felt He needed me to say in this post.

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones, I highly recommend that you take a minute or two to read it for yourself. It’s a quick chapter but speaks volumes about the power God bestows in us when we speak His Word over our circumstances. The portion of the Bible we’ll focus on today is from Ezekiel 37, and before we start talking about what it means for you and me in today’s world and in everyday life, let’s look at the first few verses:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. (2) And He caused me to pass around among them, and behold, there were very many [human bones] in the open valley or plain, and behold, they were very dry. (3) And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! (4) Again He said to me, Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. (5) Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live.”

Clearly, our friend Ezekiel was in a bad spot. You’ll notice in verse two that the bones surrounding him were very dry. I think it’s fully worth noting that God takes time out to specifically address the condition of these bones. These are not the bones from recent deaths. These are bones that have long been without skin and sinew, bones that are no longer in the process of drying out but that are very, very dry. We, too, find ourselves at times within our lives surrounded by our own “very dry bones.” What “dry bones” do you have in your life right now? What elements of your life have you essentially given up on, deeming them unable to be revived:

  • your love for your spouse?
  • your attraction to your spouse?
  • your marriage?
  • your health?
  • a friendship?
  • a relationship with a family member?
  • your finances?
  • your job?
  • your future?
  • your compassion?
  • your attitude?
  • your personal relationship with Jesus?
  • your gratitude?
  • your belief?
  • your trust?
  • your hope?
  • your belief in yourself?
  • your purpose?

You know what, no matter which of these areas you find that have dried up in your life (or some other area not even listed), Ezekiel teaches us exactly what to do. It’s time to quit living in the desert and start using God’s Word and His promises to bring life back to our circumstances. Let’s learn from Ezekiel, shall we?

Take a look back at verse one. No doubt that being surrounded by all of this death and dryness and barren landscape was a scary place. We’ve all been there–and maybe you’re there right now. It’s lonely. It’s isolating. It’s even terrifying at times. But notice what Ezekiel says from the very start: “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” Guess what…the hand of the Lord is upon you, too! He’s right there, waiting to guide you through your own personal desert, just like He was for Ezekiel. I know it might not feel like it, and I know it probably doesn’t look like it, but God is in the midst of this with you. Ezekiel didn’t see signs of life, either. He didn’t stand face-to-face with God, but he knew to trust God despite his circumstances, to believe that God was present despite the disparity of the situation. So on our mission to bring life back to our dead areas, it seems to me that a good first step is to choose to believe that God is right here with us.

Next, let’s think about our attitudes toward whatever it is that seems dead in our life, our feelings toward our spouse, our jobs, or our marriage, etc. Are we approaching God, asking and expecting Him to revive us? Are we trusting that He can breathe new life into our troubled areas? Or are we grumbling to anyone and everyone who’ll listen, complaining about our spouse or our finances or our coworkers? In verse three, God refers to Ezekiel as “Son of man,” and when we let our doubt and our discouragement and our resentment take hold and dry out various areas of our lives, that’s exactly what we are: sons of man. Plain ole powerless humans, with no ties to the power and supernatural ability of a God who can fix anything that needs fixing. In this verse, God asks Ezekiel a question, and Ezekiel replies by saying, essentially, “I don’t know, God. You’re the one who knows everything. Why don’t you just tell me?” I’ve been there…haven’t you? I’ve been hopeless, convinced of all those lies that the devil has told me, sure of the fact that I’m alone and that there’s nothing that will get me past my set of circumstances. Determined to wallow in my distress and make sure everyone knows just how hard I have it…just how dry my bones are. (Makes me cringe just thinking about my attitude and my serious lack of gratitude during these times.)

Look at what God tells Ezekiel to do: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (vs. 4). Y’all, nothing is going to change in our lives, no life is going to reenter these dead areas, until we tell these areas about the might and promises of our God! We must be active; we must speak the Word of God over these problems. Grumbling and complaining removes our power, keeping our hopes and our lives dry. But as we can see in the Word, we’ve been given the power to speak life back into our hollow hearts and/or circumstances. Use it! Don’t let Satan fill your head and your heart so full of lies that God’s promises turn to dust. Fuss right back at him. Declare the power of Jesus and the might of His blood over your desert! Remind that devil and those dry bones in your life what the Bible says. With our faith and our decision NOT to give in the those feelings of death and hopelessness, we are promised that God will be there, that His presence will reinvigorate our lives: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live” (vs. 5). So that attraction for your spouse that you swear is gone and will never get back? Nonsense. God can and will breathe life back into that relationship. That job that you feel is going nowhere, that you dread going to every morning? God can rectify that dryness, too. Have a health concern that you’ve been dealing with for months or years without any relief? Speak those promises of God over yourself and your condition. Believe in the presence of the Lord and His ability to make those dry bones stand up and walk.

Friends, there is nary a situation, no matter how destitute it might appear, that God can’t breathe life back into when we ask and truly believe. However, we can’t ask God to work while also holding tight to a “woe is me” attitude, full of grumbling and complaining. Take a lesson from the Israelites in the desert with Moses: their journey was one that should’ve taken 11 days, but because of their poor attitudes full of ingratitude and their choice to focus on their problems instead of their God, they spent FORTY YEARS in their wilderness. Thankfully, you and I do not have to do the same. We don’t have to passively wait around for our situation to change. We don’t have to spend our time trying to figure out why it’s happened or what we did wrong or which aspects we can blame on someone else. If we are surrounded by dry bones in any area of our life, it’s OUR job to breathe new life into it. It’s OUR job to read the Scriptures and learn what God says about His promises for our lives, and it’s OUR job to speak those promises out loud over these desert-like conditions we’re facing. It’s very, very hard to hear God, to sense His mighty presence, when our heads are so full of the noise of our own complaints. You are better than that. You deserve better than that. And you serve a God who provides blessings so much better than the dry, brittle bones of our lives that we’ve allowed to remain for far too long. Let’s decide that this stops now: our poor attitudes, our hardened hearts, our hopelessness. Speak life over those dry bones, and watch God bring life anew back into these previously dead areas. Go ahead. Do it. I dare you.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the promises that are in Your Word. Thank you, God, that when I call on You, I get answers and solutions and new life breathed into situations that seem dry and barren. Lord, help me to trust that You are with me, even when I look around at all the dry bones and feel despair. I no longer want to complain and grumble, Lord, for I am grateful for my life and all that is in it. Thank you for breathing life and spirit into every single aspect of my life, and help others glorify You when they see big, wonderful changes happening in my life and my attitude. You are great and You are powerful, and I choose to believe that You are currently working supernaturally on my behalf. I believe, Lord, that Your blessings for my “dry bones” of life are right around the corner. Thank you for hearing me, Father, and for guiding me with Your Word. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

“If you had been the only person on the earth, Jesus would have gone through all His suffering just for you.” –Joyce Meyer

Not Today, Satan!

As I write this post, the noise level right outside the wall of this room is insane. We are having some home repairs done outside, and it apparently involves jet planes landing ON MY HOUSE and drilling through incredibly thick steel. I’m pretty certain that at any given minute this outer wall is going to cease to exist. Lord, help!

Despite all the noise distractions, let me start by being totally honest: this post isn’t actually for you. This topic isn’t actually for the purpose of public consumption. It’s 110% for me personally. God has really been working on me lately regarding the amount of security I place on the money in our savings account. I know that the Bible teaches us that God wants our all. He wants us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to rely on Him first and foremost and above all other things. In some ways, I do this; I get it right. However, where money is concerned, I absolutely do not. More often than not, my comfort and my security come straight from the dollars accumulated in my account. My tension eases any time that number increases. (Or at least I assume it would. That number never increases, so technically, I don’t know for sure.) What I do know is that when I stopped working five years ago, our savings account looked WAY healthier than it does now. And this latest hit to it, this home repair project that we’re currently undertaking, has got me feeling every single thing but joy and peace. I so desperately want that to change, and so today’s post is my attempt to remind myself of God’s promises and His plan, of His power and His presence, and to maybe help anyone else who finds himself/herself overwhelmed by the stresses of this world.

Just to give you some idea of how much God has been working on me about this, let me tell you what all we’ve had to have done to and around our house since we cut our income in half (literally) and went to one income:

  • new hot water heater
  • new thingamajig for the new hot water heater that helps it work better and brings it up to code (isn’t my knowledge remarkable?!)
  • new dishwasher
  • new roof
  • new garage door
  • new garage door opener/motor
  • replacement of various parts/plugs in the Trailblazer and truck, along with multiple sets of new tires
  • large medical bills, mostly from our sweet girl’s early years, including our two-night, multiple-tests-inclusive stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital a couple of years ago

And this latest project involves siding removal and replacement, gutter removal and replacement, fascia board replacement and repair (don’t worry, you don’t need to know what this is. It’s expensive and labor intensive; that’s the gist of this story), new gutter downspouts (FIVE of those suckers!), and within the first hour and a half, 500 additional dollars were added to our overall cost because the problem was bigger than they initially thought, reaching all the way to the framing boards. What in the actual world?! Needless to say, the stress dreams, tension headaches, and stomach pains have arrived as expected.

Because I have felt my peace and sense of security evaporate over all this mess, I have spent some time trying to remind myself what God promises in His Word, about taking care of us and providing for us. I know, deep down, that I will NEVER feel at peace financially if my security comes from dollars, because life is really dadgum expensive. There will be continual bills and unexpected costs for as long as I live. I also understand that if I place my trust in things other than God, I will forever be disappointed and left with this aching stomach and clinched jaw. I don’t want to live in the “I’ll be happy as soon as we make _______ amount per year,” because as soon as we make that, we’ll find a need for just a little bit more. Life involves living, and as it turns out, living costs money. Scam!

It’s become clear to me over the last few years, thanks to the guidance and clarity of the Holy Spirit, that God has allowed these expenses in our lives because I must give up my grasp on the almighty dollar. If you know me, you likely know that I am a very, very frugal person. Large costs mess me up, especially now, when we’re all living on one income. But God has shown me that as soon as we add a second income, we’ll also have a kid who is older, who’s involved in costly activities, wearing costly clothes, and who will apparently expect to drive her own vehicle one day and attend that wallet-emptier called college. No matter where we are in life financially, if that bank account is where I turn for my peace and my security, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN because there will ALWAYS be costs we can’t anticipate and plan for. And guess what else I’ve learned…Satan knows this! He is such a complete jerk that he knows and exploits just how much peace I derive from knowing my account is cushy. He sneaks around and as soon as we happen upon another repair or expense, he’s there whispering in my ear about how much this costs, how draining this will be on our savings. But he seldom stops there, deciding to up the fear factor by encouraging me to catalog every single thing around this house that might go wrong or that might stop working.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to live like this. I am an adult. I own a home, some vehicles, and I have a child. There will NEVER EVER be a time that something isn’t costing me money. That’s literally all there is to it. I refuse to live in this up-and-down peace that fluctuates to the point of disappearing any time I have to pay money for something. Remember that phrase that Abraham and Sarah used to refer to God: Jehovah-jireh. It means “the Lord who provides,” and my Bible tells me that the same God who provided then is the same God who WILL provide for me now. But because I’m a headcase, I need to see those scriptures; I need to read those promises straight from God’s Word. I need to be able to yell, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!” when he tries to steal my peace and joy via money, and be able to back it up with scripture that proves why I don’t have to stress and worry about a thing.

I found many verses in the Bible regarding what God promises about our prosperity and/or finances. There were several that helped me see just how involved in my monetary life God is. I couldn’t find room to embed them all in the post, but I thought that those of you struggling with something similar might appreciate seeing several of those promises for yourself. I encourage you to read them out loud. Read them multiple times even. Take a quiet minute to do this, and I know that you’ll feel God speaking to your stresses, just like I felt Him speaking to mine.

Deuteronomy 8:18–But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…

Deuteronomy 28:8–The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and all that you undertake. And He will bless you…

Deuteronomy 28:11–And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity

Psalm 34:10–…they who seek [inquire of and require] the Lord, none of them shall lack any beneficial thing

Luke 6:38–Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…

2 Corinthians 9:6–He who sows generously will also reap generously and with blessings.

Philippians 4:18-19–I have everything I need and am amply supplied…And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

All of the aforementioned scriptures certainly got the message across, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew 6:25-27 again, in the midst of my stress and angst over money worries, that I really felt myself letting go of at least a little bit of my desire to control my money and my life. These words are straight out of the mouth of our Savior, so read them carefully: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life? (AMP). You know what? I am more important to God than a bird. You know what? I have never had to go without because God has always provided. You know what? God promises not to neglect us at any time in any way, and He is a promise keeper. You know what? Worry is a sin, and it cripples my faith. Worry doesn’t grow money; it doesn’t eliminate those unexpected costs and expenses; it doesn’t ease my mind. It is a deterrent, keeping me focused on my problems and the situations I’m facing instead of on God and His powers to provide exactly what I need when I need it.

In speaking with a friend about her own money worries recently, I told her to pray about it and let God have it. Needless to say, I also told her to do as I say and not as I do when it comes to this lesson. I encouraged her and her husband to do four things: 1– to pray specifically about their finances, 2–to tithe, 3– to spend their money wisely, and 4–to let God take care of the rest because HE WILL. Now, if I can just get this lesson into my own stubborn brain, I’ll be in much better shape for the rest of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all that you continually do for me and all that you continually provide for me and my family. I am so grateful that you are a Provider and that I don’t have to worry about finances because you will lead me and safeguard me. Lord, I ask that you please help me to set aside my worries in all areas but especially right now regarding my finances, and I ask that you help me to focus on you and your promises instead of my anxieties and the lies of the enemy. I will not go without, God, and I know this because you have promised it. Also, Lord, I want a pure heart whose focus is You, not money. In Matthew 6:21 you tell me that wherever my treasure is, there my heart will be also. You, God. You are my treasure. You are my safety and security, and I ask you to please help me recognize this truth and live this truth more and more. You are kind and loving and a giving God, and I am so grateful to be Your child. Thank you for hearing me, for loving me, and providing for my every need. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

Busyness Business

Before we begin, I need to ask you a question, one that no one has probably ever asked you. How much do you like your toes? Yes, you read that right–there is no typo there. I’m asking you about those nasty little digits attached to your foot. You know, the ones that are beyond gross on like 90% of people? Your toes. Now that we’re clear, let me repeat my question: how much do you like your toes? If you REALLY love your toes and are rather sensitive in temperament, I’m going to tell you straight: you might want to find something else to read. The topic that I feel God has really laid on my heart lately is one that I can guarantee will stomp on several sets of toes. For some of you, I’m likely to step on only one or two toes (you’ll be fine. You have several others…probably.). For some others of you, though, there’s a chance I’m about to step–maybe even painfully–on nine or ten of those suckers. While I certainly don’t ever aim to upset anyone, I trust that what God says in the Bible is Truth. That means that I believe that all the lessons taught to us in the Bible are the ones we should follow, not this pick-and-choose-to-suit-yourself-and-what-you-want mess that we so often do. If you feel sore in the toes (or spirit) after reading this, I highly recommend that you spend some time with God, asking Him why, because I’d be willing to bet there’s something in this that He’d like to discuss with you. And better Him than me, am I right?

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in the book of Luke, I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s literally only five verses (Luke 10: 38-42), but there’s so much wisdom and guidance in it, especially for a world like the one we face today. I’ll give you a quick summary, but it’s only five verses to begin with. Come on, people, you can handle that!

While traveling with his disciples, Jesus came upon the village in which Martha and Mary lived. Martha welcomed him and his fellow travelers back to her home for a meal. At her home, Jesus meets Mary, Martha’s sister. While Martha hustles into the kitchen, focused on the task in front of her, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet in order to focus on Him and His teachings. So to clarify, Martha’s goal was to do; Mary’s goal was to listen and learn. (This is highly important. You’ll want to remember it for later.)

The Bible tells us, though, that things went wrong quickly. Martha, bothered and frustrated and stressed, essentially asks Jesus to scold her sister for choosing to sit instead of helping her in the kitchen. Verse 40 finds Martha approaching Jesus and saying, “Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Oh the variety of times I’ve thought this in my life…times when I thought Nathan wasn’t doing as much as I was around here, and I wanted my “greater contribution” recognized. Times that I thought other moms didn’t have kids as needy and high-maintenance as mine, and I wanted someone to recognize just how much work I was doing. Times at work when I thought other teachers were being recognized for hard work but whom I felt had much easier students than I did. And this list could go on and on, I’m sure.

Before we go forward and see Jesus’s reply to Martha’s demand, let’s take a minute to pay careful attention to Martha’s behavior. We know Martha was upset with her sister. We know Martha felt she was left doing all the work while Mary relaxed and enjoyed leisure time with Jesus. But let’s read between the lines for a moment, really look closely at our friend Martha. First, I feel it bears noting that this whole “come over and eat…I’ll cook for you and all your friends” idea was actually Martha’s. The Bible specifically tells us it was Martha who brought Jesus and his disciples into her home. Mary is never even mentioned until after Martha returns home with Jesus. Second, Martha gets upset with her sister for not helping her serve the food to their guests. Anybody been there before? Anybody ever gotten mad at someone for not doing something you never asked them to do, something you just sort felt they should intuitively know you wanted them to do? Hands up, wives! (Why are women so bad about expecting their men to just read their minds??) We’ve all been where Martha is, regardless of gender. We’ve all expected someone to help us without ever being straight-forward about our need. Let’s not stop at this little mini-lesson, however. Let’s look a tiny bit closer.

The true motivation behind Martha’s upset is unclear. Maybe she was very, very set on impressing Jesus (haven’t we all fallen into this trap?) and was distraught at the thought of trying to handle that task without her sister’s help. But maybe it was a true goodness that caused Martha’s upset. She knew about Jesus. She knew He was the Messiah, and I feel pretty safe assuming she was beyond honored to have Him in her house. Maybe, just maybe, the reason she was so upset with Mary was because she was jealous of that time Mary was getting with the Savior while she slaved away in the kitchen. While Martha’s behavior in this story isn’t the kind for us to emulate, I can certainly understand and admire her desire to be so near Jesus and to hear His teachings and His words that she’s irritated by the other demands on her time. So maybe a sincere desire for Jesus, when it’s not accompanied by judgment of or anger and bitterness toward someone else, isn’t such a bad things after all? You mull that one over, and we’ll continue on with our Bible story.

After Martha asks Jesus to scold Mary, we get a chance to see His reply to her. In verse 41 it says, “But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” HOLD THE PHONE!!! I AM MARTHA! You take out Martha’s name and insert mine, and this exact statement of Jesus’s would apply to me and my life more than daily. You are anxious and troubled about many things. Wow. I feel certain that if I could take a poll and ask those of you who feel this description fits your life right this second, all the hands would raise. “Lindsey, Lindsey, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Yep, no doubt Jesus has spoken exactly this so many times. Look closely at that response from our Lord, at the tender way He says her name twice before getting to the real issue: Martha, Martha. When I picture this exchange I see Martha red-faced, sweating, hair askew from all of her frazzled preparations in the hot kitchen. I see her, hands on hips, standing in front of Jesus with that accusatory index finger aimed straight for her lazy, unhelpful sister. And then I see Jesus. I see Him reach for her, taking her hot, damp hands in His while calmly saying, in an almost whisper, “Martha, Martha.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He explains to further help Martha see the error of her ways: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42). The teachings of Jesus: the one thing worth being concerned about. Boy, do I get this one wrong so very often.

I don’t believe that Mary had nothing to do but sit there. I don’t believe that Mary was oblivious that her decision was one that irked her sister. I do believe, however, that Mary chose quality over quantity. I believe that she weighed it all out and determined that no matter what was expected of her socially, her first and foremost priority was Jesus Christ.

(PSA: Hide those toes…here we go!) Y’all, we are messing this up BIG TIME. This busyness business that we all have going has got to stop! We are all Marthas. We are all overstressed and overworked and overscheduled and overdrawn and over it. Why are we constantly doing this? What are we giving up so that we can put our kids in 17 different sports each season WHEN THEY’RE FOUR?! What are we giving up so that we can checklist to our friends and post pictures on social media of all the things we do with our kids throughout the year? What are we giving up when we say yes to every single offer made on our time? I’ll answer these questions for you because they all share the same answer: Jesus. People, we are literally giving up Jesus–the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the Word of Jesus–so that we can put more of NOTHING eternal on our plates. This busyness that we so idolize, these full-to-bursting schedules that have us eating out every night and exhausting ourselves, our kids, and our marriages, these things are NOT the things of Jesus. Being still, listening, resting in the presence of God…these are the things of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Do that thing you never have time to do anymore because you have no free time: read your Bible. You’ll be surprised at what you find in there that instructs us to settle ourselves so that we don’t miss God moving and speaking in our lives. Maybe you can’t give 30 minutes or an hour a day to reading your Bible right now, and you know what, that’s okay. God can speak to you in less time than that. BUT. It’s important that we get really honest about our time and our priorities before determining what we can and can’t do. Isn’t 5 or 10 minutes spent with God far better and infinitely more beneficial to you and your family than those 5 or 10 minutes you spend on social media? (And let’s not pretend you’re only spending 5-10 minutes on social media daily.)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Don’t give Jesus reason to say your name over and over again, concerned because you are so stressed, so distracted, so distant from Him and such a stranger to His Word. I know I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I can promise you this anyway: nothing you enroll your kids in, nothing you haul them all over creation to participate in, nothing that you yourself volunteer your time for will impact them and the rest of their lives like watching their mom and dad carve out precious, necessary time with Jesus. Be a Mary. Stop the hustle and the excess of everything, and decide daily to sit at the feet of Jesus. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that you give of yourself so that I can spend time in your peace, your presence, your Word, and your wisdom. Help me, please, Lord, to re-prioritize my busy life so that instead of an afterthought, you are my main priority. I want to spend time with You and then fit other things into my schedule when/if time allows. This is not easy for me, God. Please help me to heed the Holy Spirit’s guiding so that I can rearrange my life and become more like Mary. Thank you, Lord, for helping me and for hearing me. When it’s all said and done, Lord, I want to desire you and time with you more than anything else. Help me to slow down. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

Jehovah-jireh

I admitted it openly with my first post, and I’m continuing to admit it now: I have NO IDEA what I’m doing with this blog. My formula for deciding what to write about each week is uncomplicated to say the least. I consider all of the various aspects that a relationship with God entails, I pay attention to the struggles in my own life in those areas, and I pray (alone and with Nathan), asking God to guide me not only to the topic He’d most like me to address, but also that He’d speak through me. After a day or two, I usually find myself clearly directed to a new topic. This past week, however, has been very different. While the reception of that last post, “Aggressively Patient,” was luke-warm, I felt like God never really moved me past the topic it discussed: patience and faithful expectation while praying for something long-term. I did feel, however, that maybe God was suggesting I add on to what we’d already discussed. In praying about His plan, I kept coming back to the story of Abraham and Sarah. Theirs is a story that’s been so precious to me for many years, and it’s one that’s served to teach me a multitude of lessons. Hopefully it’s one that for you, does exactly the same.

In October of 2006, Nathan and I decided that it was time to start our family. We’d been praying about it, and we felt like God had helped us get our marriage back on track (seeĀ  my post “This Means War” for details on that), and now it was time for us to go forth and multiply. Fast forward to October 1, 2012, the day our sweet baby girl was born, and we saw God’s promise fulfilled to us. Hopefully you caught those date discrepancies. The date that Mission: Make A Baby began–October 2006. The date that Mission: Make A Baby completed: October 2012. Um, hello. That’s SIX YEARS. And you don’t even need your cell phone calculator for that math. So what happened during those six years? A nasty little word that far too many people are experiencing for themselves: infertility.

To put it in a nutshell, our infertility struggle consisted of the following: more doctor’s appointments than we could even begin to count, lots of ultrasounds, lots of tests, a doctor change, lots of medicines, additional doctors added to the “team,” one surgery after an endometriosis diagnosis, lots of confusion, more new doctors, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” lots of shots, LOTS of prayer from us (years!), LOTS of prayer from our families and friends (years!), three unsuccessful IUI procedures, and finally one successful IUI on our fourth–and final–attempt. So that, that’s what we were doing during those six years while we waited on God to fulfill His promise.

I can’t speak for Nathan, but I spent some time during those six years doing some other things, too: doubting, questioning, hurting, believing, doubting again, listening to Satan’s lies, deafening myself to Satan’s lies, worrying…I think you get the picture. Shortly into our infertility process, I came across the story of Abraham and Sarah again. It was a story I’d read before, but reading it as someone praying for a child, as someone who’d been praying long-term without seeing God move, it changed my relationship with God. It changed how I saw God and the power He held to bring about what I was beginning to think was an impossibility.

Before we go forward, I want you to take just a second (play along, friends!) and call to mind that one thing you’ve been praying for and wishing for for the longest. Think about that one request that you’ve found yourself making over and over and over. Keep that long-running prayer in the forefront of your mind; focus on it while we discuss Abraham and Sarah so that you can learn from their mistakes and their example, and apply it to your own attitude toward this seemingly unheard prayer.

We begin learning about these two Biblical giants when their names are still Abram and Sarai. At this time, Abram has been visited by God, who promised him an heir via his wife, Sarai. Despite their advanced age, we see Abram and Sarai fully believing in and trusting God, maybe even to the point of readying their home for the baby that God promised them. Unfortunately, though, this was not quick promise fulfillment. In fact, ten years later, God still has not given them a baby. So, Sarai does what you and I have likely done several times ourselves: she takes matters into her own hands. You see, Sarai’s faith had started to wane. She began to feel doubtful that God would ever do what He’d said He would. She decided that He probably needed her help. How many times have you and I decided that God just really can’t do whatever it is we need Him to do, so we’ll need to step in and do it ourselves? Exactly how well has this gone for you, because for me, it’s NEVER worked out well. No plot twist here–it didn’t go well for Sarai either.

Sarai decided that no matter what, there WOULD be a baby, so she convinced Abram to impregnate her handmaid, Hagar. Her plan worked. Abram became a father, Hagar became a mother, and Sarai became a jealous, bitter woman. Think back to that prayer request you’re still praying over. Have you considered going down a road that God didn’t direct you toward, just because you, too, are feeling uncertain that God can/will show up? Are you currently mid self-fix? Look closely at this part of the story–read it for yourself. Do whatever you have to to remind yourself that God’s solution is the only one that doesn’t result in negative consequences for you, with more problems afterward than those you had when you began. Instead of that baby that Sarai so longed for, she birthed resentment, bitterness, jealousy and heartache. That’s NOT what you’ve been praying for, I feel certain.

{Side note: But you know our God and how He works. He doesn’t get angry with Sarai and snatch away the blessing of a promised child. He doesn’t blame her and condemn her. He loves her, He has mercy on her. So if you’re all too familiar with finding your own solutions instead of waiting on the hand of God, know that you, too, are offered grace from a loving Father who is still very anxious to bless you and answer your prayer request.}

God fully intended to keep His promise to Abram and Sarai, so 25 years after making his first promise to them, He shows up yet again to reaffirm to both Sarai and Abram His promise of an heir. Let me repeat that just in case you missed it–TWENTY-FIVE DADGUM YEARS LATER THEIR PRAYER STILL HASN’T BEEN ANSWERED!!! I don’t know about your timeline, but I felt very impatient and very uncertain after only 6 years! Although their years of waiting weren’t perfect, Abram and Sarai should be commended for simply maintaining their determination as they grew very old waiting on God’s promise to come to fruition.

And that’s what God did…He commended them. Twenty-five years later after initially promising them a child, God not only reaffirms it, but He blesses them both with new names, names that will usher them into their season of receiving and answered prayer. For their continued faith, Abram became Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude,” and Sarai, the very old barren woman became Sarah, “mother of nations.” If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I’m sure its ending won’t surprise you: after 25 years of waiting, Abraham (age 99!) and Sarah (only slightly younger) became parents to that long-awaited heir, Isaac.

So let’s go back to that prayer you’ve been praying for a long time now. Let’s think about what this Biblical story teaches us regarding those hard seasons of waiting.

  1. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. Abraham was almost 100 year old. Sarah, who would be expected to carry a child, breastfeed a child, was not much younger. It’s safe to assume that their reproductive systems were long past ripe. But what difference does that make for the One who created those bodies in the first place? Whatever you think is supposedly making your request impossible, whatever you see as the largest roadblock to your answered prayer, remind it who’s boss. Nothing in this world, nothing at all, is too big for its Creator to overcome.
  2. God doesn’t work on our timeline. Second Peter 3:8-9 explains to us that “With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness” (MSG). This is SUCH a hard concept for us to grasp because we work on such a limited, human time-table. Those six years I waited for God to bless me with a baby were mere moments to Him. He wasn’t late with His response–He was right on time. Right on His time. And His answer to your prayer will be perfectly timed as well.
  3. God will provide. Not God might provide or God could provide. God WILL provide. During their incredibly long season of waiting, after Sarah had attempted to end their waiting of her own accord, Abraham and Sarah renewed their faith. They began to refer to God as “Jehovah-jireh,” a name that means “the Lord who provides.” That same Lord who provided for them exactly what they needed when they needed it is the Lord you’re praying to today. The Lord who showed up so HUGE for Abraham and Sarah–and throughout the many, many stories of the Bible–is the EXACT. SAME. LORD who is soon going to show up big for you, too. Your Lord is Jehovah-jireh; your Lord WILL provide.

The chances that you’re in the midst of a similar infertility battle as what I faced, what Sarai faced, is pretty slim. But this story isn’t really about infertility–don’t get caught up in that. This story is a warning. It’s a warning about what consequences you can inadvertently bring on yourself and others by choosing to answer your own prayers. That’s not your job. Our job is taking those prayer requests to God, praying sincere, scripture-based prayers, and laying our needs at the feet of a Lord who WILL provide. That’s what this story is about. No, it might not be tomorrow. And, no, it might not be next year. But God is not late. He has an enormous blessing for you, and I promise you, it will be RIGHT ON TIME.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

“We are waiting for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
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Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all of the prayers you’ve answered for me. Thank you for all of the blessings you’ve given. I ask, Lord, that you help me to be patient and faithful during this season of waiting. I believe, God, that you ARE working and that although I can’t see the results just yet, they are coming. Help me, please, to keep my mind stayed on you so that I can rest in your peace while I await my answer from you. You are faithful, Lord. You are good, and I am so grateful for what all you’re doing in my life. You are my God, and because of that, I expect good things. In Jesus’s Name–Amen.