Winter began its journey to my neighborhood today.
I’m not a fan.
As I type, the frigid wind is howling outside my window. The temperature has dropped twenty degrees in just a few hours. Snow is predicted. Thousands of folks are without power tonight. We, Michiganders, are bracing ourselves for what is predicted to be one heck of an onslaught–for the next, oh, five ridiculous months or so.
Really, when it’s January here, and we have carved our car out of some ridiculous ice-encrusted snowbank to drive through winds that blow the blinding snow into such a frenzy that we cannot see our hand in front of our face let alone use that hand to attempt to wipe the snot-cicle dangling from our nose so that we can fetch some variety of food that doesn’t need to be cooked in case the ice has frozen the power lines–AGAIN–while we huddle together in the house with mittens and hats and oh-so-sexy thermal underwear under layers of blankets and ten pairs of socks…
…all we’ve really got is that high-five to the other surviving Michigander, and the ability to brag to each other about how gosh-darn hearty Michiganders are.
I’m so excited.
(Insert sarcasm here.)
I wanna be a baby snowbird, and fly away to warmer climes where vitamin D is given in a daily dose of sunshine, and people high five each other for outsmarting the system and escaping the ridiculous north. The place where you chuckle at the old guys in their stocking caps and scarves when the temp dips to a nippy 55 degrees.
I find myself feeling that way, too, lately when it comes to the kind of emotional struggle that whips my metaphorical hair back and forth (sorry for the badly used song lyric, but it makes sense as I write.) I sometimes just wanna run away–as if it’s really possible to escape.
I was reading a fictional–yet accurate enough to also be somewhat nonfictional–account of the life of John Bunyan. No relation to the big guy with the ax and a big blue ox. Rather, the one who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Fascinating story. One of those books that taught me more in story form than all of my years of history put together.
It also appealed to my sense of anti-establishment…ism (pretty sure that’s a new word), as it dealt with the religion of the day and its polluted grasp on lives.
Before you hate, please read some of my other posts regarding the difference between religion and faith. Faith is what makes my heart beat. Religion isn’t even for the birds.
Anyway, the woman in this story was wondering how so many things could go wrong in her life when she had dedicated herself fully to serving and living the very best life for God that she knew how. She kept claiming the verse about all things working together for good for her, yet stuff happened. The winds kept blowing her nice orderly world around like they probably are my garbage can at this very moment.
She was challenged by a friend who asked her if the only blessings in her life were the good things. Wait. What? Like, let’s consider for one second that the bad things that have happened to us could be–BLESSINGS?
Well, this is how she explained it. She said, “Hardships are the Lord’s greatest blessing to the believer. Without them we would love the Lord only for what He does for us. Our troubles teach us to love Him for Who He is.”*
That’s it–in a hard-to-look-at-nutshell. Troubles either turn us into blamers looking every which way to blame, and become bitter, and excuse bad behavior; or they bring us to our knees where we seek out our only true source of love.
Take our kids for instance. No matter how old or young they may be, if they get caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, what’s the first response? Blame. Excuses. Hiding from the ensuing trouble.
What if, instead of those options, our difficult, mouthy, teenager with every answer fell weeping and genuinely remorseful at our feet and pleaded with us to hold them and make it all better? Wouldn’t we melt? Isn’t that where they should be? Safe with the one who loves them unconditionally, and has the power to comfort and help heal their broken heart?
When my world got rocked, I fell down. And the only face I saw was the only One Who could hold me close enough to heal my heart. He’s not some
“man upstairs” waiting to hand out consequences to His badly behaved children. He’s not a genie in a bottle passing out blessings to the best little brown-nosers in the class.
He is the love of our lives–waiting for us to catch on to that.
That’s what I learned. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. No one, ever, in this whole wide world can take that from me. That love is right there waiting on the other side of all the blame and excuses.
It’s like finding a tropical paradise, complete with a lazy river, in the middle of your living room on January 15th in Michigan. Priceless.
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…
…None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Excerpt from The Preacher’s Wife by Jody Hedlund
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