Expecting Jesus May Be Difficult

Advent Jesus When my husband first told me that we would likely be moving eight hours away, I resisted.  There was no way I could fathom anything good coming out of this.  But, after several weeks of obstinate wrestling with God , a peace from Him flooded me.  As people prayed over us in the weeks before our departure, I knew I was to expect something from Jesus.  I would not let this life event go to waste.

That was over ten years ago and there have been many other events in my life that have led me to expect big things from Jesus, to fully trust Him in all things.  When we are placed in situations where we are expecting Jesus, often they are difficult situations...a disruption of our hopes and dreams, an illness, a spiritually-wandering loved one.

I used to actually believe that if I was in God's will then all the 'doors' would be wide open and life would be smooth.  But, I've learned that during those life-is-not-smooth times are the precise times I've had to expect Jesus--expect His goodness and sovereignty to reign over the hard times, expect His love to comfort and carry me through, expect Jesus to strengthen my dependency upon Him, and expect Him to work all things together for good.

Can you imagine how difficult things must have been for Mary as she was expecting Jesus all those years ago?  Each Advent season I share a blog post written years ago because it continually challenges me.  I want to share it here again with our readers and pray that you will be encouraged by Mary's submission as you may face difficulties.

In expecting Jesus to do His refining work in our lives, expect difficulties (don't be naive!) and expect Him to carry you through.

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Mary's Submission  (originally written in 2007)

Can you imagine being chosen by God to carry baby Jesus in your womb?  To raise Him?  To witness His complete sacrifice?  As we prepare to celebrate His first coming to the world, may we also be filled with excitement as we anticipate His second advent!

Let it be to me according to your word.  Luke 1:38

When I was preparing for a Sunday School lesson during the Christmas season, I re-read the passage in Luke 1 where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she was chosen by God to conceive a Son, Jesus.  God’s Word was certainly alive and powerful as I was reading this very familiar passage because His Spirit gave me a fresh understanding that I carried with me through the rest of the holiday season.   Here are some highlights…

When God called upon Mary to be the vessel that He would use to bring His Son forth into this world in human form, she was:

  • willing to be used.  We can’t underestimate the sheer shock that Mary must’ve had when an actual angel appeared to her, let alone the message he was carrying!  But, Mary was willing–”let it be unto me according to your word.”
  • surrendered.  Mary didn’t respond to the angel with a list of better ideas or contingencies.  She would’ve known the implications of becoming pregnant out of wedlock.  She would’ve known that this would be a very difficult and lonely road to take.  But, she submitted to God’s plan fully.  I think there must’ve been a tremendous amount of faith and trust involved to do that.
  • full of praise!  Mary’s magnificat in Luke 1: 46-56 shows us Mary’s response to the amazing news she had received.  She responded with awe, praise and worship.

We are so blessed to be used by God in His work here on earth.  He certainly doesn’t need us, yet He chooses to use us.  And in that process we grow closer to Him, get to know Him more and get the honor of advancing His kingdom here on earth.  When we are chosen by God for a particular task, we can reflect upon Mary’s response–one that was willing, surrendered and full of praise.  Sometimes we consider a ‘particular task’ to be a big ministry, but as I let these words sink into my heart I am reminded of how God uses me on a daily basis at home with my husband and children.  I pray that I can be more open and willing, more surrendered and more worshipful as I live out the plan God has for me in this life.  I encourage you, too, in this journey as you depend upon God to do the same.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for reaching out to us.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy.  Thank You for the ministries in our homes, churches, workplaces and beyond.  May our senses be fine-tuned to Your voice as You lead us in Your will.  We echo Mary’s words that were spoken many years ago when we say that You are mighty and have done great things for us!  Holy is Your name!  Your mercy is on those who fear You from generation to generation!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Love, Wendy

 

 

 

A Bigger and Better Plan

My husband, Dave, and I have worked with young people in youth ministry for many years, in fact, twenty years or so.  We have loved it.  There seemed to be a natural connection and many of the relationships with the teens have lasted to this present day.  Even when we took a break from youth ministry, twice God led us back into it.  Because of multiple moves, my family has attended several different churches.  Some were in great need of helpers; others not as much.  But, if you had a gifting, particularly with teens, usually that was welcome in any church. Okay, now fast forward to a few years ago.  There were some changes in the plans for our church's youth ministry and all of the helpers were released to other areas of service.  When my husband first broke this news to me, well, I would like to tell you that I was the picture of a mature Christian woman.  But, I wasn't.  After my sob-fest (which my husband quietly allowed me to have), Dave gently asked me, "When did this become about you?"  Whoa.  Shot to the heart.  But, he was right in asking me that question.  After some soul-searching and pleading with God to humble my heart, I was able to embrace this change with a trust that God was leading this plan wisely.  Here's a verse that really comforted and challenged me:

Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.     1 Corinthians 14: 12

Realizing that any spiritual gifting (this includes ministering to teens, of course) that God had given me was for the church, not for myself, I was freed from hanging on to "my ministry" and was able to encourage the new leadership and move on to whatever God had next for me to do in His Kingdom.

Since assuming leadership in another area, I have been made more aware of the understanding and bigger picture that church leadership has.  They have a vision and they have knowledge that many of us don't have because of the scope of their ministries.  With that weighty burden of shepherding the Body, the leaders and pastors see where certain gifts are best placed and where others need to be changed.  This is such a picture of God's sovereignty to me.  I think most of us, regardless of our particular theology, want to agree readily to God being sovereign--the biggest, the highest, the One who knows all, right?  Yet, how does this play out in real life?  In my situation where I had allowed youth ministry to become my gig, I couldn't see that perhaps there was something better down the way.  (This "better" might be for us, but it is really about the Body, remember)  I thought I knew what would be best, how my gifts would be used best, how my plan was better.  But, I could only see part of the big picture.

If you have children, you may know what I mean because often our children don't see or can't know the bigger picture.  My son wants to eat a Klondike bar right before dinner because he is hungry NOW.  Yet, the bigger picture is that I have planned and prepared a healthy meal for him already.  It may take some waiting and self-control, but he will be cared for properly and in due time.  Or, my daughter wants to imagine and twirl and sing and just doesn't understand when I insist that she come closer to the house because she is moving toward the busy street.  She is in the here and now and doesn't realize there's something bigger out there--like a truck barreling down the way.

Serve gloriously, friends!  Use those talents and gifts that God has given you.  But, believe that God is sovereign and live accordingly.  His plan is bigger and better--He sees the overall picture and whether it be our gifts in service or whether it be the hard trial that He gives us, live knowing that our In-Control God, our sovereign God, has ordained the whole thing and we are only catching a glimpse of the here and now.   This helps us to hold everything loosely and be grateful for what we have been given for the time we have been given it.

Love, Wendy