“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

It’s so easy to look at the circumstances right in front of us and then live accordingly. For me it so often seems like the only thing I see is the situation right before my eyes.

My husband and I have recently decided to sell our house. We believe the Lord is asking us to sell what we thought would be our “forever” home. We’re very excited but this particular circumstance has left my emotions and actions bouncing all over the place. One minute I’m excited and hopeful, one minute I’m discouraged, as there haven’t been showings in a while. The next moment I’m scared that the house we have under contract will be snagged up and then where will we go. On another day I am annoyed that I have to get my house spotless again for another showing. I could go on, but I am sure you get the point. Looking at all the circumstances involved in selling our home, wondering what comes next and hoping for a certain outcome, have so easily distracted me from the reality that God asked us to do this. The immediate call of the circumstance can so easily distract me from the Lord.

When I feel like I’m in a temporary situation such as living in a temporary home, as this no longer feels like our home since we’re anticipating another, my mind drifts in general (as you see from my many fleeting emotions above). Sometimes when I have ended the day not even knowing what occurred, I begin to feel apathetic and frankly just lazy. This effects even small things in my home. For example, not switching my kiddos’ clothes for the next season or not cleaning out the disgusting pantry. I know these things seem small, but I’m learning that the Lord can give me views into the state of my heart before Him, when I see how life is being lived before me. I think becoming apathetic to the tasks the Lord has laid before me on a daily basis is a sin, it’s not me walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. It is not me seeking to glorify His name. It’s really only to serve the last ounce of comfort and control I can muster since everything else is “outside” it right now.

The Lord reminded me through this passage in 2 Corinthians that we are always in a temporary position here on this earth. I love the way Paul begins these few verses with “so we do not lose heart.” Whatever your circumstance may be right now, Paul is reminding us that it’s temporary! We do not have to lose heart. I’m encouraged because even in something so seemingly small as a nasty pantry God can use to draw us nearer to Him and to point to truth that it is Him alone we rejoice in, not the circumstance, not the outcome of a situation, but HIM! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;” (Philippians 4:4-5).

The other night as we were putting our boys to bed we read from their children’s devotional about one of the names of God being “the LORD is there.” The story was about Jacob and His dream of God in Genesis 28. Jacob wakes from his dream and he says, “Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it” Genesis 28:16). The Lord, our eternal dwelling, is with us. At first it may seem like our circumstance is the only thing before our eyes, but the Lord is challenging me all the more lately that He is with me, He is with us and it is Him that our eyes can be on every moment, “but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 3: 18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

I feel like the older I get the more aware I become of the brokenness of this world. Life is truly hard. I see the brokenness with the news notifications popping up almost daily of some shooting that has happened in our country. I see the brokenness in our bodies as I watch a best friend struggle with infertility, another having a miscarriage, another struggling after her husband was laid off, another who can’t pay her bills and feed her four young children. And I see my own brokenness in my impatience towards my children, my apathy towards the Lord in the gifts of grace He has provided in a home, etc. etc. (I could fill up pages of my own sin). Life as we know it now is not what it was meant to be and we feel it and see it all the time. Right after Paul’s encouragement in 2 Corinthians 4, he continues in chapter 5,

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened….So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-4a, 6-9).

We groan and we are burdened, but this world is temporary, so we do not lose heart. May we earnestly seek the Lord who is eternal and ask for His grace to make it our aim to please Him. Be encouraged, dear friend, the Lord’s steadfast love ENDURES forever, may He give us the grace to endure with Him till the end when He will make all things new. And until then, may we REJOICE!

Planted for His Glory

Have you ever read Psalm 63? If you have or have not, here is a brief summary of what took place in this Psalm. David was on the run from his son Absalom so he fled into the Wilderness of Judah. Being an extremely visual learner, I started doing some research on the Wilderness of Judah. I wanted to get a better idea of what David eyes would have seen during this time. One source describes the Wilderness of Judah as being, “Bleak, inhospitable, stark, and harsh.” A lot of places have changed in Israel but the Wilderness of Judah has for the most part remained the same for thousands of years. The beginning of Psalm 63 starts off with David saying, “O God, You are my God. I will look for You with all my heart and strength. My soul is thirsty for You. My flesh is weak wanting You in a dry and tired land where there is no water. So I have seen You in the holy place. And I have seen Your power and Your shining-greatness. My lips will praise You because Your loving-kindness is better than life. So I will give honor to You as long as I live. I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul will be filled as with rich foods. And my mouth praises You with lips of joy…” (vv. 1-5 NLV).

Can you picture running for your life in a land as unforgiving as the enemies that have arisen against you? For a minute, can you imagine the emotions that would have captured your thoughts? Here, David’s first words to the Lord were not “Why! How could my own child betray me?” or, “Lord, give me water, food, and shelter.” Here, he opened his mouth, and what came first were words of praise and thanks so deeply felt in every part of this man for His God.

When reading Psalm 63, I kept coming back to this idea. Here was this mighty king and warrior who knew what it felt like to be satisfied financially, emotionally, and physically. Yet, when he found himself running for his life in a desert land he DID NOT long to be reunited with his riches. He was physically aching for more of what his soul and flesh were wanting–God.

As I was looking through pictures of the Wilderness of Judah, I sat and wondered about all the possibilities that he would have encountered on his journey. How hot would it have been in the Wilderness of Judah? Would his skin be burning from the heat of the sun beating down? How long would it have been before his lips began to crack from the desert air? And from those lips, how was David able to open his dry mouth to tell God that his flesh was weak wanting to be in His presence once more? More sources say that this wilderness went on as far as his human eyes could see, and yet we don’t read that he even placed his focus on his surroundings. David was able to direct his eyes on things above.

I had to go back and re-read Psalm 63 because for the first time I was understanding for myself what it meant for God to be someone’s all in all. David’s eyes, heart, soul, mind, and flesh were fiercely loving God as one. Yes, David was an imperfect man. Nonetheless, in the book of Acts Paul explains concerning him: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22). Even though David had committed many sins, was still “a man after God’s own heart.” I love the MSG version of this: “He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.”

Friends, I want my heart to beat with God’s heart. When I say, “O God, you are my God,” I want to say this with all my heart, mind, and strength. I want to obey Him despite what I feel or what my eyes may see. No matter what may come while I live in this world, I want to worship Him with abandon and speak truth to my soul in every moment. He is my refuge and reprieve no matter where I many find myself in this life. Like David, I want my God to be my all in all.

All for His Glory

Oh, Christmas time! There are many parts of this season I love! Decorating. Putting up the Christmas tree. Visiting and sharing meals with family. Enjoying festive lights. Receiving Christmas cards and hearing from friends and family. Giving gifts. Singing and listening to Christmas music. Celebrating Jesus’ birth.

This Christmas, as I thought about Advent — a time of anticipation and longing for our Savior’s birth — I became more aware of the word “yearn.” I started to think about yearning and longing as we studied Psalm 63:1 in our last Bible Study, Falling in Love Again with Your Lord. The psalm starts with David longing for God: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You” (Psa. 63:1 NASB). “Lord,” I asked, “what does it mean to yearn for you?”

The Lord, in His lovingkindness, opened my eyes to how hard it is to know what longing looks like unless you have experienced the opposite: not having, not wanting. The example He used for me was through my children this Christmas. When I asked them what they wanted for Christmas, neither of them could give me helpful guidance. Parents with small children are still in the phase of their kids wanting a long list of toys, games, or electronic devices. But my children are teenagers. The “magic” is long past. And the truth is there is nothing they really want because they already have it.

Humans are experiential creatures. It is hard for us to understand that which we have not experienced. God, our loving Father, our Creator, knows this about us – and so He sent Jesus, His only Son, to come in human likeness so that we could relate to Him. Jesus’ life, His actions, His words, His death, His resurrection – all were observed and experienced by real people and recorded for generations to come, so that we, too, might experience Him, encounter Him in the written record of the Scriptures.

After thinking through all of this, I am beginning to develop gratitude for the valleys I’ve endured in my life. I’m grateful for the trials and the sorrows. I’m grateful I have known times of suffering, because without them, I would not know what it is to long for change, for deliverance. I am grateful that the Lord has opened my eyes to my sin or I would never long for the Lord to rescue me from that sin. I can relate to Paul as he writes: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).

I am in a season of life in which I do not yearn for God. It saddens me to admit this. I think the reason I do not yearn for Him is because I am too self absorbed, too dedicated to serving my own wants and needs and feeding my flesh. I yearn for what is easy and comfortable. I do what I want to do, and as a result, serving God and others are distant priorities. A.W. Tozer said, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.” I am guilty of the sin of complacency.

I need the Lord. I need time with the Lord. These statements are facts, they are truths. I am guilty of trying to remove God from His throne and sit there myself. I make time to text and email family and friends but not to spend time in God’s Word and pray. God tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psa. 16:11)! Why do I not believe Him?

A friend told me about a book called One Word That Will Change Your Life. She explained that the purpose of the book is to help the reader choose one word to establish the core of the reader’s focus and intention for the coming year. I have not read the book, but I already know my word: yearn. I pray that God will give me a fresh desire to know Him. 2016 has been a very hard year. But I trust God will use the hard times to carve out in my heart a deeper need for Him, to help me yearn for Him, first and foremost.

Growing in Grace