What do you do when your world falls apart and there is no way to put it back together again? Is there a way to redeem what has been lost? These questions come up during times of extreme loss, and I recall that healing comes through Father God alone, the only One who can identify with our losses. He demonstrated what love looks like—redemptive love—through His Son, Jesus. Words cannot answer our questions; the answer is Jesus, The Word!
Jesus relates to us in the lowest places of our lives. He sits with us in our pain; He suffers as we suffer. The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of this in chapter 53 of his book. "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces; He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:3-5) For the love of God, Jesus endured the Cross. Why? Love makes a way for us to have relationship with Him and for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
The Lord came to earth to demonstrate the love of God and to experience what it was like to live like a man. He told us that our lives would be like His and that we are to live like He lived. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 1:5. "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." Jesus Himself told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b) Remember that God has not left us without promises. I am greatly touched by the promise He made to Israel (and us as His children) through the prophet Isaiah. "...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Graham Cooke has an interesting perspective on the difficult seasons of our lives. This prophet of the Lord says, "Every circumstance is an opportunity to experience new levels of favor and faith in relationship with God. Our circumstances are not the problem. Our perception of our circumstances is the problem. Ask, 'What is God's truth in this situation?'" The Lord ordains victory for us in every situation. In Isaiah 42:3-4 and Matthew 12:20-21 we read this: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out till He has brought justice through to victory. In His name the nations will put their hope."
As we go through trials and tribulations, sorrows and difficulties, sickness and death, we have an advocate who leads us in mercy and truth. Jesus said, "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth..." (John 14:16-17) We must learn to trust in the unfailing love of the Lord to pull us through our difficult seasons. Make peace with the truth that we may never have our questions answered with words but know that The Word will be with us to comfort, strengthen, and love us. It is love that makes a way where there seems to be no way.
Let's look back in history to the time when the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai. It was the month of Tammuz, the fourth on the Hebrew calendar. Moses went to the top of the mountain to talk with God and was long in returning to their camp. Impatience set in as the children of Israel were eager for immediate gratification. They asked Aaron to help them "make gods" who would go before them. What could have possessed them to sin in this way? They went so far as to give Aaron all their gold earrings received from the Egyptians as plunder so they could be used to form a gold calf.
We are presently in the month of Tammuz and must learn from the mistakes made by the children of Israel. Their desire for immediate satisfaction was so strong that they forgot to look back at the last three months and remember the way God performed miraculous wonders among them. He had freed them from bondage in Egypt, arranged for them to plunder the Egyptians, led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, and opened the Red Sea so that they could walk through it unharmed. They watched the Lord fight for them as the Egyptians who pursued them were covered by the waters of the Red Sea. After their crossing, Miriam and Moses led them in a victory song that asked, "Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" and declaring, "The Lord reigns for ever and ever!" (Exodus 15:11, 18) As they traveled, they saw the Lord make bitter waters sweet and were fed manna and quail from heaven. They watched water come from a rock when they camped at Rephidim. And they witnessed the defeat of the Amalekites and the building of the victory altar named "The Lord is My Banner" or "Jehovah Nissi." The Psalmist mourns their forgetfulness: "They did not remember His power--the day He redeemed them from the oppressor." (Psalm 78:42)
There is a reason why God's Word repeats over and over again the word "Remember." Deuteronomy 32:7 is one of many such verses: "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you." Yet, God is a Redeemer and continues to encourage us to remember His power and His compassion. He wants us to use this month of Tammuz to look back on our own lives so that we can remember what He has done. This is important for us as individuals and for us as the nation of America.
As we review and contemplate the events of our lives, we can see how they are linked together. In doing this, we can discern the plan that God has for our lives. It is important to remember the battles we have fought, the blessings we have received, and the prophetic words that have been spoken over our lives. Each of us has a story that is to be included in God's plans and purposes for our lives. We want to avoid the snare of the golden calf by remembering the things that God has done and the promises that He has made. We cannot allow fear, insecurity, or impatience to overtake us for God is a covenant-keeping God, unchanging and faithful. He does things in His way and in HIs perfect timing.
Jonathan Cahn, a voice of wisdom for our times, wrote about remembering in his monthly devotional. In the May issue he wrote: "If an individual loses his memory, then he also loses his identify, and his ways, and his future. Thus, by erasing the past, one can create an altered future...And if you can rewrite the history concerning God, His Word, Messiah, the Gospel--you can create an un-Christian, anti-Christian future...In a time such as this, with massive forces seeking to erase remembrance, the past, and the foundations of God--we must all the more consciously set our task at remembering, all the more grounded in the Word, all the more rooted in our faith, and closer in prayer. This month, make this your aim."
Let us "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) Let us remember our past and trust in God's goodness, faithfulness, and power. Let us be assured that God is using our life stories as testimonies of His goodness and faithfulness. And while we wait for His perfect timing, let us worship Him. As we worship the Lord, we affirm His perfect plan for us and declare to all of heaven and earth that He alone is worthy of our praise.
We learn from Genesis, Chapter 3, that God had a habit of walking in His garden in the cool of the day. I would imagine that He looked forward to this time of the day more than any other because He could look at the beauty of the garden and "catch up" with Adam and Eve. He must have loved talking with them and learning about their activities of the day. My husband (Jac) and I also delight in walking through our neighborhood during the cool of the day. We talk with one another, speak with our neighbors, and look at the plants that are blooming around us. Our walks are filled with peace.
Last week we had such a treat as we walked down a residential street of townhomes that back up to a wooded area. We, and the man walking in front of us, came upon a young buck standing on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and street. The deer seemed calm and unafraid of us. He was so intent on eating a clump of clover growing in the grass strip that he allowed the man to come within two feet of him. As we approached, he pulled up the clump of clover and began chewing it as he calmly walked across the street toward the homes, looking for more clover.
Isn't it fascinating that God gave the deer peace to be in our presence and intelligence to find a plant that is not only tasty but healthy for him as well? Clover is a short-lived herb with fragrant flowers that appear in the late spring. Farmers may plant a crop to feed their livestock because it is high in protein, phosphorus, and calcium. The clover must have been so delicious that the deer thought it was worth taking a chance staying in our presence. Not until he had his treasure in his mouth, did he move on.
Actually, the deer was extremely vulnerable in staying close to us because his velvet antlers were growing. At six months the Whitetail deer grows "buttons" from what is called the pedicle or the frontal bone that protects his skull. The antlers grow from the buttons in the spring and early summer and are covered with an exceptionally fine and soft membrane called velvet. During the growing season, the antlers are high in water and blood content and are easily injured before they harden. Somehow the bucks are aware of their vulnerability during this season. Bruises and cuts to the velvet can impact the formation of the antlers. It is not until the end of summer that the testosterone levels in male deer rise to initiate the hardening of the antlers.
Psalm 91 comes to my mind: "Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High can rest in His shadow." We can say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." (Verse 2) In The Passion Translation, verses 9-11 say, "When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm. How could evil prevail against us or disease infect us? God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm." Verses 15-16 (TPT) continue to assure us of the Lord's presence and protection: "I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast. You will be satisfied with a full life and with all that I do for you. For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!"
Psalm 42 talks about the deer that pants for streams of water and how our souls thirst for God in the same way. Yet our hope rests in God and His love for us. He is our shield, protector, and peace. Just as our friendly deer felt secure in our presence, we should feel the security of the Lord in whose shadow we dwell.
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a) We were placed on earth for purposes that God determined before we were born. Our commitment to the pursuit of a relationship with Him and His plans and purposes for us show the depth of our devotion to Him. As we all know, however, we battle against "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12) who want to wear us down so that we are not successful in glorifying the Lord.
When we are in the middle of a long and difficult battle it is easy to want to give up. During these times we must remind ourselves that every battle presents us with earthly opportunities to glorify God and collect crowns to lay at the feet of Jesus. Once in heaven, we will never be able to do the things we do on earth that bless the Lord. Could we go so far as to say that our time here on earth is a gift from God? I think this is why the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 these encouraging words: "Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus." (TPT) The foot note in The Passion Translation Bible says that these three virtues (joy, prayer, and giving thanks) combine to form a wonderful expression of Christ's life within us.
Let's consider some of the opportunities we have on earth to bless God. The first one that comes to my mind is the privilege we have to give Him the sacrifice of praise and worship in the middle of pain, sickness, sorrow, and trials. When we chose to tell of His goodness and praise Him for His never-ending love, heaven is drawn to earth. God cannot resist drawing near to those who rise above difficulties to declare His faithfulness and love. I have seen this displayed by family members and friends. When my dad was dying, he asked me to bring my guitar to the nursing home where he lived so that we could sing "It is Well with my Soul" together. Recently, my heart was touched by a friend who is in the middle of a battle with cancer. HIs prayer request was this: "Please pray that I am strong enough to be able to play on the worship team at our church." Can you feel the Lord's great delight in these sacrifices that place Him first?
How about when we live by faith? When we go to heaven faith will become sight, and we will see what we believed. Earth is the only place where we can demonstrate faith. We have the gift of being able to stand with God even though it may cost us something. Such a sacrifice is a delight to the Lord! Don't you think that the Lord's heart must burst with pride when we turn away from temptation and sin? Or think about when we share the Gospel with an unsaved person and lead them to Jesus? These are gifts to the Lord.
In heaven, we will not be able to help someone in need and, in turn, bless God by doing so. Remember those times when you have won victory in a battle. Battles are over in heaven. Earth is the place where we can overcome. God ordained that we do so. There are quite a few books that have been written by people who have had "near-death" experiences. These people have been able to see their lives on earth from a heavenly perspective and were given the gift of a second chance. James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights..." Our time on earth is preparing us for the time when we will go to heaven. We have divine opportunities to demonstrate our love for the Lord while here on earth. Perhaps we should change our perspective during times of difficulties. It is our time to bless the Lord and earn crowns.
Joan E. Mathias