Great is Thy Faithfulness

Nearly a year ago, I praised God in this post. It was written in celebration of some mighty answers to prayer for my friend, Sarah, as she and her husband, Matt, were walking through a very difficult pregnancy and delivery. I continue to be in awe every time I remember God's goodness to them and I asked Sarah to share their story here with the re:flect-I readers. Be blessed. Love, Wendy

clematis of God's faithfulness

Last year these flowers were a great comfort to me. This year they are a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

I snapped the above picture on the one-year anniversary of a discouraging and difficult doctor’s appointment. The previous year I walked through my yard the evening following the visit and saw these flowers. The pink and white clematis quickly caught my eye and a wave of comfort washed over me.

What comforted me WAS NOT the naïve or Pollyannaish belief that if God could make these pretty flowers in my garden then He would fix me and the baby and make us all better. While it’s true that He could, God doesn’t always choose to work that way. In fact, Lamentations 3 and Hebrews 12 speak of God allowing His people to walk through hard times, not to mention the examples we have in Scripture -- Sarah, Joseph, Ruth, Elijah, and Daniel to name a few. Even if you and I are not presently dealing with hardship, we know people who are. Marriages have problems, parents get sick, children have issues, jobs have difficulties and relationships are strained. These are not hypothetical or out-there situations. In fact, they all exist within my close circle.

I also wasn’t operating under the impression that going through this would be super fun if only I was spiritual enough about it. While Scripture tells us to be joyful in all things, it doesn’t say that everything’s a joy. I’m pretty sure that all things being equal, Paul would rather the ship had not run aground. Christ asked if the cup could be taken from Him. And me? Like any other sane woman I’d rather have a typical delivery with sips of Sprite in between contractions and a healthy full-term baby at the end.

So, why did seeing those flowers comfort me and bring me peace? They reminded me that the same God who created the universe is intimately acquainted with me and working things for my good. He doesn’t lack vision, run out of supplies, or lose interest in us. He is always, absolutely, and abundantly working for our good. I knew there was no way I was going to understand all of that in this situation. At least not on this side of heaven. Instead, I decided my job was to trust in that knowledge and look for its outworking in my circumstance. I was in the thick of it but I wasn’t alone or lost. I was where I was supposed to be and God was right beside me.

In my life, God rewarded this step of faith quickly through the response of my children. The more I looked for God’s goodness in my life the more I saw it. He used His body to care for my family’s needs in a variety of ways. Most remarkably, I experienced peace and joy as I waited to see what would come to pass. That could have only come from Him.

During this time a good friend urged me to write down one thing a day I was thankful for. Whenever my mind began to wander in fear or worry, I was able to whip that list out and remind myself that God was working and that He was faithful.

So...what happened? Well, not much and a whole lot. My baby ended up being quite healthy and incredibly feisty. On my end, the most serious complication was completely mitigated. When one of the many medical students lining the walls of the operating room shouted, “What happened?” my doctor shouted back, “I’ve been praying, she’s been praying, her church and friends have been praying. God worked here.” I praise God for her response.

A year later, as I reflect on my son’s birth, I am amazed at the unexpected, merciful and overwhelming way that God worked in the operating room. However, I am most blessed and encouraged by how He sustained me in the months preceding that day. Our God is always faithful. He can’t not be. If you are going through a hard time I encourage you to look for His faithfulness and goodness to you. The challenge you’re dealing with may very well continue but I trust that in the midst of it He will bless you with the same comfort, peace and joy that He gave to me.

Blessings, Sarah

New Life

This past holiday weekend was enjoyed outside because the weather was absolutely perfect in these parts.  I kept waiting for the rainstorm, though.  The turn to colder temperatures.  Something that would ruin the joy of being in the warm surroundings.  Who can blame me for thinking such things?  I mean, I live in an area whose weather suffers great confusion from day to day.  Not only that, but we achieved "Number 1 worst winter city" this past season!  There is good reason to fear the beautiful warm temperatures are merely an illusion. Because of the loooooong and frigid winter, though, I have a very different perspective of this year's spring.  Yes, part of me just can't believe things are green and alive after being buried in the white stuff, but what I really notice this year is how appreciative I am of the new life after such a hard season.  Some shrubs and trees are dead or puny and that is a real loss to our beautiful landscapes, but most are vibrant and thriving.  It seems unbelievable to me that anything could have survived the minus 40 degree temperatures, but they did!  And, it just seems surreal now to see the lush green grass, the ample trees and the scrambling vines.

new life

While I was enjoying the new life in my gardens this past weekend, I was struck by a few things.

In the midst of our winter season, I kept imagining the blooms of spring.  This is how hope works.  When you are struggling in a trial or feel overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions, re-align your viewpoint.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.    Colossians 3:2

Each time we look inward or at the problem at hand we are guaranteed a sense of fear.  Setting our minds on things that are eternal, on Christ Himself, will help us to trust the One who not only sees the bigger picture, but is in charge of every minute detail.

It can be difficult to pry our eyes off of our present situation, though.  But, the Truth of God's Word is helpful with this.  As we open the Bible and read God's promises and the truths within, our struggles and our viewpoints start to become replaced with hope.  Seeking others'  godly wisdom is a real encouragement as well.  Their objective outlook can help us look eternally with purpose instead of dwelling on our present losses.

Instead of fearing that all of the green beauty around me is just an illusion, I needed to come to grips with reality. This is truth for the beauty God has done in me as well.  Regardless of the weeds in our past, the blustery storms we've endured, the depths of sin we've accumulated...He makes us new.  It can be tempting to think our new creations won't last or something will take this from us, but the Truth is this:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.   2 Corinthians 5: 17

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5: 21

And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.  John 10: 28-29

Unlike my gardens, which will see death again when this season fades away, those who are in Christ will never taste death because of His victory over the grave.  Spiritually, we are saved from the wrath of God and we are alive forevermore!  When old memories of past sins creep in, remember the facts of Jesus' work on the Cross.   When we are tempted to think 'this is all too good' or something will take it away from us, preach the gospel of Christ to yourself.

As we believe that we are forgiven and have received new life through Christ's death and resurrection, we will walk worthy of the calling we've been given.  We will be earnest to put off the old man and put on the new man (see Colossians 3).  And, we will glorify our Father in heaven as we flourish in this new life.

Love, Wendy

 

Re: flect-Ing on Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus said to her,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."  

John 11: 25

In chapter 11 of the Book of John, a seemingly sad story unfolds.  Martha and Mary's beloved brother Lazarus had died.  They sent for Jesus to come.  After waiting two days, Jesus began the two day journey to Bethany.  He arrives to the tomb where Lazarus had already been placed.  Many Jews had come to console Mary and Martha at the death of their loved one. While Mary remained in the home, Martha headed out to met Jesus near the tomb.  She states in John 11:21: “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  Martha knew Jesus.  She knew His power.  She knew His presence.

Jesus tells her “Your brother will rise again.”  In her faith, she replied, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Certainly, her perspective  of life and death was evident in her response.   She was focused on eternity.

Jesus responds, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Martha replied to Jesus “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

 

The phone rang.  I picked it up to the muffled sound of sobs.  My best friend was on the other end.  Her older brother, who had so much life to live, had died unexpectedly.  Being a sophomore in high school, I had NO idea how to respond. I said what all good Christian girls would say “I will pray for you and I am sorry.”  His funeral was one of the saddest services I have ever sat through.

I went over to her home about a week after the burial.  Her house was sickeningly quiet and despairingly sober. She showed me the Bible given to her family from her church with her brother's name inscribed on it. It was still entombed in heavy plastic.

My friend was never the same.  She had no hope in eternity - no hope for her brother. I tried to tell her the story of Jesus many times before. But unlike Martha, my friend didn't know Jesus. She didn't know His power. She didn't know His presence.

 

So now, Jesus stood just outside of the tomb.  He called, "Lazarus, come forth!" The dead man came out! (John 11:43.)  Not only did Jesus claim to be the resurrection and the life, but He actually demonstrated it by raising Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus had the power to change this sad day into a joyful one as He brought Lazarus back to life.  His presence was evident in the lives of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

 

Life for the believer doesn't end at death. Life for the believer in Jesus Christ continues on into eternity in Heaven.  Death has no ultimate control or hold over Him. If we believe in Jesus Christ, death will have no ultimate control over us. We, too, will experience resurrection and live for eternity in fellowship with God.

 

Do you know Jesus as the Resurrection and Life?  Do you have confidence and hope in Jesus for eternity? Think of one way that you will apply this amazing truth in your life today.  Perhaps it is to spend time praising Jesus with a hymn or song, praying for an unbelieving friend or loved one, telling someone the Easter story or  telling them your own personal story from death to life in Jesus Christ.

Love, Julie