Posts Tagged ‘trusting God’

My Theory of God And Miracles: Why He Does Them Sometimes And Not Others And For Certain People Over Others

November 21, 2014

This won’t be a long article, and I won’t try to reason through each statement with Scripture as I often tend to do in articles dealing with Christian faith.

This is about an existential question that every Christian experiences at some point: why does God act?  Why doesn’t the God who acted before not act now?  Why do some people experience more miracles than others?

Let me begin by answering all of these questions this way: ultimately, I don’t know.  Only God will be able to answer all of our particular questions.

But I have a theory that I thought I would briefly share.

I have experienced many miracles.  There have been times when things have happened to and in my life that no one on this earth will ever be able to tell me wasn’t God directly intervening on my behalf.

And I have also experienced moments when I felt like I was twisting in the wind.

One might begin to feel as if God is a switch with a faulty circuit: He might come on for you, He might not.

I’ll put the question this way: if God intervenes for me, why doesn’t He ALWAYS intervene?  Why sometimes and not others?  Why in certain situations but not in every situation?

At the macro level, God is sovereign.  That means that God is ALWAYS working and ALWAYS in control.  But sometimes God allows the universe to continue its natural cycle – He created a causal universe for a reason, after all – rather than entering in directly and intervening for His children.

But why?  If He’s going to act on our behalf, why doesn’t He always act on our behalf?

What occurs to me is that God is like a parent: should a parent constantly intervene for his/her kid every single time in every single situation?  Or would that not produce a spoiled kid with rather enormous issues?  I dare say that kid would turn out to be soft, self-indulgent, refuse to ever take responsibility as everything would be daddy’s or mommy’s problem to fix, self-excusing, hypersensitive and narcissistic to the point of ridiculousness.  Because everyone would supposed to be really, really nice to that child who would never grow up and always drop their own lives to help them to do everything they needed.

I can here provide an example of truly “bad” parenting when a too-nurturing mother gives her child all he wants rather than the medicine he needs:

In February 2007, Yale clinicians identified in Adam Lanza what they believed were profound emotional disabilities and offered him treatment that they said could give him relief for the first time in his troubled life..

But Adam was angry and anxious, and he didn’t want to go. His mother, Nancy Lanza, constantly placating her son, was inclined to pull away from the treatment, prompting a psychiatric nurse to reach out to his father, Peter Lanza, in an urgent email.

“I told Adam he has a biological disorder that can be helped with medication. I told him what the medicines are and why they can work. I told him he’s living in a box right now and the box will only get smaller over time if he doesn’t get some treatment.”

Nancy Lanza rejected the Yale doctors’ plan. Adam was 14.

Six years later, Adam, now an emaciated recluse and fixated with mass killers, murdered his mother and massacred 20 children and six educators before turning a gun on himself at the elementary school he once attended in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown.

We have in God the One who created both male and female in His image (Genesis 1:27).  The God who had man and woman within Himself in His image has all the attributes of perfect Father as well as perfect mother all in perfect balance.  He will give us the nurturing care that we need; He will also give us the corrective discipline that we need.  He will not allow us to become basket cases due to His excessive care or His excessive neglect.

Miracles and the withholding of miracles are part of that balanced care.  God gives us what we need and not more.  God gives us everything we need and not everything we want.

But there’s more: God CAN’T come to us every time and answer our prayers every time for another reason: because He wants us to have faith in Him through good times and through bad times.  And if we always have faith in Him only through the good times because we’re never allowed to have bad times, where would our faith be?

In order to truly, fully learn to trust, I believe we need to go through difficult, hard times.  And when we truly develop that “hard times” faith, what we’ll see is that God is in our situation with us, giving us just enough, being our daily Bread, as we hold on to Him in our adversity in a way that we could NEVER hold on to Him in our pleasure and in our pleasant places.

Then there’s those people whom God always does miracles for.  What’s up with them?

Well, God has ALWAYS worked in the lives of particular people.  Read the Bible: did God work more in Moses’ life than in the lives of all of his people?  Of course.  And the same with Noah and with Abraham and with David and on and on.  You just see that throughout the Bible: God picks out certain people, and works through them to reach the rest of His people.  He reaches out to people through people.  And those people see things that other of His people don’t see.

It’s not that God loves those people more, or that those people are necessarily more spiritual.  It is not those who are called who are special; it is always the God who called them who is special.

God doesn’t pick these people for who they are; often He picks them in SPITE of who they are.  And then He molds them and refines them according to His plan for their lives.

Anyway, God gives me the miracles I need to keep trusting Him and following Him and believing in His provision.  And He gives me other believers and their miracle stories to know that He’s working in the lives of ALL His people rather than just in mine.  And I am not only able to receive the miracles I receive, but also the miracles that other Christians receive as I learn to trust my God and grow in that trust through good time and through bad times.

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God Keeps Telling Me: ‘Trust Me’ (Especially When Things Aren’t Going The Way You Think They Should)

February 13, 2014

When God tries to get your attention, He has a way of making Himself heard.

I have recently gone through a few experiences in which God has beamed it into my brain that He is trustworthy and that I need to turn over my circumstances – and even harder yet my expectations – to Him.

And what can I say?  Sometimes I’m something of a slow learner.

I related my story involving my ruptured biceps tendon and the surgery that I (finally!) had to reattach it.  And how God inserted Himself into the story at certain key moments before finally, gloriously coming through beyond anything I had been hoping for.  I say that last because I had heard the attending surgeon tell me that it was too late to do the surgery and that the way I damaged my tendon – the MRI indicated that it had been torn strand by strand by strand – made the outcome questionable at best from the outset.  He had compared my tendon to spaghetti that had been left out too long.  And on top of that, over time a tendon will shorten and contract and slip down the arm making it difficult if not impossible for a surgeon to find as he literally slices his way down the arm looking for the ruptured end.

In my mind, if this tendon could even BE reattached, I had already counted it a miracle.

And so, imagine my joy and surprise when I woke up from surgery to hear the surgeon tell me that he couldn’t explain it, had never heard about it happening before, but somehow my tendon had become caught or hung-up on the bone.  And as a result of that “coincidence” my tendon had NOT shortened and they did NOT have to slice down my arm to find it.  It was right where it was supposed to be, such that the minimum three-inch incision they told me I’d have is half that long and the two-hour surgery that was scheduled took 45 minutes.  And surprised a surgeon.  And somehow, that tendon that the attending surgeon said was probably inoperable was in good shape.

In my write-up, I pointed out my belief that if we could just know how things would turn out in the end, we wouldn’t mind going through the “adventure” of a difficult process.  But instead of trusting that everything will work out, we become fearful.  And get bogged down in complaining about every unpleasant new development.

Well, I had another such experience with God last night.  And I didn’t even have to go through surgery this time to receive my lesson.  Which you have to agree is an improvement.

As a result of the reattachment surgery, riding a heavy cruiser motorcycle is a bad idea.  I’m not supposed to be lifting anything for a while, and pushing and pulling on those handlebars is a definite no-no for a while.  When I asked the surgeon how long before I could ride my bike again, he said, “I can’t tell you.  I’ve never been asked that question before.”  He’ll get back to me on that one.

So I dusted off my old car that I have kept as a stand-by and got it running again.

“It” is a giant Pontiac 4-door luxury car from the early 1970s with a giant 455 cubic inch engine that is blissfully unaware whether it is going uphill or downhill.

I’m a motorcycle guy through and through.  So I like to have a nice bike – and a car for when “a nice bike” won’t due (such as when I need to bring home lumber or something that my saddlebags just won’t handle).  The last time I drove the car I’d taken my dog to the vet for her shots.  And for the record it’s getting close to time to get her shots again.

Well, anyway, the fuel gauge float got stuck in the gas tank, and when I put gas in, it started working again – but we don’t really know how reliable it is yet.  And you know how fuel gauges are in general: no two are alike.  So I really didn’t know my fuel situation.  I knew I was low on gas, but based on my looking over how much I’d put in the tank versus how many miles the odometer recorded, I figured I should have had enough to get around for a little while.

Or not.

I went to my gym last night, and was among the last people to leave when it closed at 10 p.m.  The janitor admired my car for several minutes – it’s a “cherry” with only 62,000 total/original miles – and we chatted about the old car and old cars in general for a little while.

When I started her up, she seemed fine.  But when I put her in gear, she kind of hesitated in a way that told me something wasn’t right.  But I didn’t connect the dots.

It turned out that I was so low on gas that even had I driven straight to the closest gas station, I would have run empty.  And it’s probably for the best, as I would have run out of gas on the main drag at night.  But as it was, instead of trying to make the gas station, oblivious me turned the other way to go home.

The car sputtered and stalled as I was in the left lane of a two-lane road.  I started her up again and she had JUST enough gas to make it to the curb before dying for good.

Continuing in “oblivious” mode, I tried to crank her over a couple of times.  No dice.  Fortunately I ended up RIGHT under a nice bright street light.  Which in my bankrupt city is actually sort of a miracle in and of itself.

Now I realize I’m in a little bit of trouble.  Because all I had was my driver’s license.  No phone.  No money.

I need gas, but I’ve got no way to call and no way to pay for it.

What else could I do but get out the gas can and start walking toward the closest gas station?  I was hoping I could persuade the gas station to keep my I.D. in exchange for a couple of gallons until I could come back with money.

But as it turned out I ran into ONE guy.  And I recognized him from my gym.  I didn’t know him, but what the heck: I asked him if he had five dollars I could borrow until Friday.

I got the sense that this guy was dirt poor, and that five dollars was a significant sum of money.  But he looked at me – holding my gas can and probably wearing an extra-pathetic look on my face – and he handed me a five dollar bill.

Thank God.  That’s one hurdle leaped over.

It was probably a mile walk to the gas station.  Which meant a mile walk back.  I looked at the receipt for my gas and noticed it was quarter to eleven as I started back.

It occurred to me that I might need to prime the carburetor.  So I was on the lookout for some kind of container that would hold gasoline as opposed to typical plastic that would have dissolved had I poured gas into it.  I didn’t find anything on the way, but as I was walking I noticed one of those little alcohol bottles that they serve on airplanes.  I picked it up.  It was glass.

Thank God.  Another hurdle crossed.  Maybe pathetically crawled over, but cleared.

Putting gas in my tank is never a joyful experience.  Because some brilliant engineer had decided that it would be really smart to put the gas filler tube behind the license plate underneath the rear bumper.  Even when you’re using the fuel hose at the gas station, gassing up is akin to a giraffe trying to drink water from a lake.  It is just AWKWARD.

Was the tube on my gas can long enough to reach into the filler tube?  Don’t be silly.  Of COURSE it wasn’t.

I rummaged through the trunk, saying my prayers.  I found a funnel that was JUST BARELY long enough to allow me to pour the gas into the tank’s filler tube.

It was particularly awkward as I had one functioning arm.  Remember, I just had surgery a little over a week ago and I was told in no uncertain terms DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID.  In fact, just don’t do anything with that arm for a while.

But I got the gas in.

Another hurdle less than gracefully leaped over.

I saved a little bit of gas at the end to put in my glass container that had been tossed by some wino who had unknowingly served as an agent of divine provision.  I was really hoping I wouldn’t need it.  If I had to prime that carb, it meant lifting my hood.  And the hood on that car weighs, well, probably more than your whole CAR does.  The thing is metal and it is massive.

I tried repeatedly to start the car, trying to let it turn over long enough to let the mechanical fuel pump do it’s job but not so long that I flood it.

It was a precarious balance.  And I erred on the side of flooding.

One of my problems at this point was the fact that – in addition to not having a phone or money – I didn’t have a watch.  I had no idea how to gauge how long between trying to turn the car over and how long was long enough to wait before trying to turn it over again.

Anyway.  I couldn’t get it started.  I realized I would have to prime the carburetor.

It is at this point in the story where I might relate that I have a rather badly torn rotator cuff in the arm that I DIDN’T have surgery on.  I was supposed to have surgery on that arm first, but Mr. Biceps Tendon decided to declare independence and that meant having surgery on that arm instead.  Anyway, suffice it to say it was something of a challenge to get that hood open.

Another hurdle.  Clearing them more and more feebly, but getting over them.

Well, there was a couple of ounces of gas.  I tried to use as little as possible in that giant 4-barrel, with the thought that I might have to try this trick a couple of times.

And sure enough, the first time it didn’t catch, the second time it almost started, the third time it started but immediately died.

And I was down to less than an ounce of gas.  One last attempt.

Now, don’t think that I hadn’t already been praying.  But I was down to one last prayer here.

I should probably tell you at this point that situations like this don’t tend to bring out the best in me.  In fact, if I had to have my life broadcast on a big screen for all my friends and family to see, this type of situation would have been like second from the very bottom on my list of “please don’t let anyone see that” moments.  If I’m not shouting or screaming in frustration, well, I’m whining in a high-pitched voice that would be beyond embarrassing if it were coming out of the mouth of a little girl, let alone a grown man.

But I never did that last night.  I took the steps I needed to take, and just kept praying and hoping for the best.

So here I was, down to my last half ounce of gas and my last attempt to start the car before walking three miles home through the desert in the dark.  And I said to the Lord, “If you want me to walk home, I will walk home.  If you want that car to start, it will start.  It is up to You, Lord.  You are in control here.  And I will be more joyful if I’m driving home, but if I have to walk home, I will be open to whatever you have for me as I walk home.”

And I turned the key for the last time.

And the engine roared to life as if it had never been hibernating for the past hour while I tried desperately to start it.

I replaced the air box lid and shut the giant hood and climbed back into the car and drove home.

And the thing that occurred to me was how JOYFUL I was.

God had delivered me.  Oh, He had taught me a lesson in patience.  He had taught me a lesson in trusting Him beyond my circumstances.  But here I was driving home.

I realized something: let’s say the “ideal” happened and I’d made it home to begin with.  I would have got home two hours earlier, true.  But I wouldn’t have been able to experience the joy of that engine coming to life after all the seemingly futile effort and all the seemingly crushed hope.

I realized it’s worth going through a hard time just to watch God come through for you.  Because I was JOYFUL that I was driving home in the dark rather than walking on my very bad knees.

I know as I write this that an atheist would compare my prayers and my thanking God for the car starting to my rubbing a rabbit’s foot and attributing my success to my lucky charm.

I also know that if you’re inclined to see God, you can find Him EVERYWHERE.  And if you’re not, you won’t find Him anywhere.

And I know that I wouldn’t trade my joy that some how, in some way, the Creator of the entire universe was looking down upon me, and teaching me, and caring for me, and ultimately delivering me, for ANYTHING.

And so I say what I said last night as I was driving home, thinking about how a guy with no money and no phone and a two bad arms and two bad knees managed to make it home: thank you, Lord.

God is trying to tell me that I need to trust Him regardless of my circumstances and just count on Him in spite of anything that happens.  And I had this thought: I considered the child whose parents never made time for him, for whom even negative attention is better than no attention at all.  And I thank my God for giving me His attention – even if it DOES come down to a long walk home in the dark.

Hopefully, the next time I go through a trial – and I WILL go through another trial – I will remember how this one turned out.

Ultimately, I’m gong to be with my Lord Jesus in heaven.  What on earth should I be complaining about when I’ve got that kind of eternal future in store for me???

 

 

How To Trust God

February 7, 2014

I just had surgery to reattach a ruptured biceps tendon.  It’s been a difficult time from that first “Dang, that hurt!” moment.  But I’ve learned a lot through this (in addition to being able to answer questions like, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to put your socks on with one hand?”).

I’ve had an audience with God in this.  That’s about the only way I can put it at this point.  And I didn’t even have to endure all that Job did to have that audience.

I’ve been on a real emotional roller coaster ride since the day I busted this tendon.  I remember the pain and the shock and the fear when I felt it tear.  I remember the anxiety when it seemed like my doctors were going to deny me the reattachment surgery (they told me things like, “Brett Favre ruptured his biceps tendon and he didn’t have it reattached – and he’s a professional athlete,” and “In Europe they don’t even do that surgery any more”).  I remember how frustrated I was over all the dithering and all the delays I experienced trying to get myself fixed.  And I remember the worry over the prospect that they may have waited too long and the tendon wasn’t repairable (a concern that the surgeon also had).

None of those memories is very positive, of course.

But I also remember my washer story.  In short, after getting some good advice from a doctor friend and making an appointment with the doctor who would be my surgeon, I was consumed with making my case to him about why I needed to have this surgery that his boss the attending surgeon had pooh-poohed and argued couldn’t be done at this point.  A lost washer from a ruptured cane tip that God helped me find in five miles of desert the day before that appointment got my attention long enough for God to tell me: “I’m in control here.  And the fact that I care about your stupid washer ought to tell you that I care about what the most important things in your life.  And if I want you to have your tendon repaired, it will be repaired; it’s not up to any bureaucrats or even any doctors.  I’m the one you need to trust.”

I was able to trust God the next day when I went to my appointment with the surgeon with the peace of Christ rather than all the concerns I’d been having.  But I was still amazed how easy that appointment turned out to be, as the surgeon said, “If you want me to try to reattach that tendon, I’ll try to do it.  I can’t make any promises about whether the surgery will be successful, but we’ll try.”  After several months of feeling like I’d been banging my head against the wall trying to get that surgery, the day after I found my washer I was finally hearing the words I wanted to hear hopefully just short of too late.

I was – after a lot of wrestling with it – able to trust God with the outcome of the surgery when I compared the various outcomes: during the four months since I’d ruptured the tendon, most of my strength had returned, and if the surgery were unsuccessful, I was told the recovery would be very rapid and I’d be back to my normal routine in no time.  On the one hand.  But on the other hand, I obviously didn’t want to have surgery if that surgery was going to be unsuccessful.  I wanted that tendon attached.  But the recovery will take a minimum of three months of very slow healing due to the fact that tendons get so little blood supply and tendons don’t just anchor themselves back to bones without a lot of time and a lot of pain and rehab.  I finally decided that I wanted to do what was wisest for the long-term, rather than be distracted by the short-term.  And I would have the surgery and put my trust in God, and if it wasn’t successful I would know that I’d at least tried versus realizing ten years from now that I wish I’d had that surgery and regretting that I hadn’t.

I had a similar moment of realization a month ago when I realized I had no idea whether I should zig or whether I should zag.  And I was able to just turn it over to the Lord out of sheer realization that I had no way of knowing what would be best for me.  A lot more of live is like that than we think – and it’s when we THINK we know what is best that we’re usually the most dangerous.

So that was the second thing I learned.  Realize that God is the Creator of the Universe and has a far greater plan than you do.  We think we know what’s best for us, but we simply don’t.  for example, if you don’t get fired from that lousy job you were so afraid to lose, how would you have ended up getting that far better and more satisfying job?  You were SURE losing that job would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to you; but it was the BEST thing.  Or if you don’t lose that lousy, good for nothing boyfriend or girlfriend that you try so hard to please, how will you end up meeting that perfect man or woman that God has for you?  We just don’t know what’s best for us.  And the best thing for us is to trust a God who loves us and knows the end from the beginning.

Well, not long after I finally realized that my best plan was to let God do the planning and turn it over to Him, I had the surgery.  And the surgery was successful.  My parents drove me to the hospital and were the first to hear the doctor’s report after my surgery.  And when I was in the recovery room I heard the report, too.  The surgeon was very pleasantly surprised by something that he’d never heard of having happened: somehow my tendon had been hung-up or caught on the bone and even though it was ruptured it had not slipped down my arm the way busted biceps tendons tend to do.  And while sometimes tendons that have ruptured are simply too damaged – literally in a spaghetti-like state – to be able to reattach to the bone, mine was still in pretty good shape  in spite of the injury and in spite of the months that had gone by since I’d ruptured it.  The surgeon was able to do a good, solid repair right where he wanted to do it, rather than having the choices limited by the location and condition of my tendon.  And he literally finished in less than half the time he thought the surgery would take, because that tendon getting hung-up on the bone like that made it so easy for him.

That tendon getting hung-up on the bone was no fortunate accident; it was the result of a God who was letting me know that He is there and I can trust Him with everything I am and everything I have.

Well, anyway, I was thinking about the idea of praising God for all things, whether seemingly good things or even seemingly bad things, and of course I started out by manifesting the wrong attitude.

I thought, “Lord, if this surgery and all I’m going to have to go through end up being successful, I’ll be able to thank you for everything.  The surgery was successful, but I’ve got to NOT MESS MYSELF UP while the tendon slowly reattaches itself to the bone over and above the surgical repair.  And if I can get back to normal, yes, I’ll be grateful for the whole process.  Even the pain and BOY DOES IT HURT sometimes.  Even the fact that I would give ANYTHING to be able to take my arm out of this stupid sling and just STRETCH it.  Even though I can hardly put my socks on and I can hardly brush my teeth wrong-handed and all the rest of the frustrating things that you find out you can’t do when you’re down to your non-dominant arm/hand to do them.  I’ll be thankful for it all because it was all part of the process of getting to where I needed to be and I had to go through all of this to get there.

And that’s what life amounts to: trusting God that somehow you’ll end up all right, no matter what happens that seems to be really bad at the time.

There’s the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnibenevolent Creator of the space-time universe over there, and there’s little tiny me over here.  And which one do I trust has the better plan???  Particularly given the fact that my entire life has been one long lesson in my propensity to screw things up???

A couple of famous Bible verses come to mind.

There’s Romans 8:28, which says:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

What is “the good”?  How often have I THOUGHT something was best but been wrong.  I didn’t have all the facts, I didn’t know all the angles, I didn’t have the right perspective.  But my all-knowing God is never blindsided by unexpected developments.  He always knows all the angles and He’s ALWAYS got the right perspective.  And He knows that we often just have to go through unpleasant things that seem painful or hard for us because we need to go through those things to get where we most need to be when we need to be there.

We can trust Him.

But there’s also 1 Peter 5:7, which assures me:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

This is the same God who created us in His image so that one day He could assume our image and live a perfectly life so that He could take the blame and literally be tortured and murdered so that He could die in our place and take the penalty that we deserved.

Yeah.  He cares.

My whole life as I look up at the stars at night is the same thing that I’m thinking about in the aftermath of this surgery: as long as it all works out in the end, I can be thankful for everything that happened along the way.

I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.  But that doesn’t matter.  Because I DO know that it will work out.  I DO know that ultimately everything will be okay.  I DO know that in a million years, a billion, a trillion, I’ll be with my God in heaven and everything I went through on this earth will seem very, very small.

There are things going on in my own life, and in the lives of friends who are very dear to me, that I can’t explain and don’t understand and don’t want.  But we’re each of us in God’s hands and God has a plan and unlike me He knows what He’s doing.

A lot of people resent the idea of a sovereign, omnipotent God who is in control over all things.  Because if God is in control over even the smallest things in life, YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL.  And a lot of people simply cannot handle a God who precludes their being able to take credit for how wonderful they think they are and how successful they think they have been.  If you are LeBron James, you didn’t create the body you would be born with, and if you are Bill Gates, you didn’t create your mind that you would be born with.  God did.  And in the same way neither were you responsible for putting most of the fortuitous circumstances into your life that enabled you to be what you are today, for better or for worse.  God is.

So that’s my third lesson in all of this.

For most of us, life seems to come at us randomly.  Good things happen, bad things happen.  And we just muddle through.

God wants us to be able to look past the drudge and past the pain and past the seeming randomness and see Him.

And it really is true what Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).  When you look for God, He has a way of making sure that you find Him.  You’ll be able to see Him everywhere, even in the smallest details.  When you don’t look for God, you won’t be able to see Him even when He makes Himself obvious.  It is as if when you deny the reality of God, you become a cartoon character and live in a two-dimensional world when there is really so much more depth that you refuse to see.  And in the same way, when you trust God, He has a way of making Himself trustworthy, whereas when you keep holding on to yourself and what you can do to change your world for yourself, you will somehow never be able to find a trustworthy God.

Trust comes down to the simple realization that God knows best and He’s able to make things happen in a way that you’re not able to make things happen.  And it comes down to casting your anxiety upon Him, because you know He cares for you.

I of course STILL don’t know whether this surgery will ultimately result in a successful outcome.  I could tear the tendon loose five minutes from now as the result of a fall or some accident, or it could heal to be every bit as stable as it was before I hurt it.  That’s what we call “the uncertainties of life.”  And we tend to fixate on all the uncertainties rather than THE certainty that there is a God at work working all things together for the good for those of us who have placed our trust in Him.  There’s no uncertainty at ALL about our eternal future, and all we’re dealing with down here is rocks on the path to a great eternal destination.

So here’s to being thankful to God and trusting Him.

Discoveries In Prayer And Trusting In The Lord

January 9, 2014

I had jury service this week.

I don’t like jury service.  I NEVER like jury service.  I groan when I see the summons.  And I groan again when I call and find out that I’m confirmed to appear at the courthouse on whatever day during the week.  Oh, I’m prepared to do my duty.  The public has an obligation to serve on juries if they want a decent judicial system, right?  But maybe I would be prepared to throw myself on a grenade to save others, also.  I just wouldn’t want to.  The bottom line is I am willing to serve and I am even more willing that someone ELSE serve rather than me.

And so, being somebody who prayers often, when I am sitting in that jury assembly room and the clerk starts reading off names of people who have to get up and report to the court room to begin the jury selection process, I say a fervent prayer of “please, Lord, please don’t let my name be on that darn list.”

Now, understand.  I believe that God can do ANYTHING.  But I also believe that He has His own will and His own plans and they don’t necessarily jive with my agenda.

Anyway, I’m sitting near a woman whose name was called.  And as she’s getting up and collecting her things to report to the court room, she says, “I’m glad my name was called.  It’s better to get called right away.  Otherwise you just sit here all day.”

So we’ve got a very different take: she’s glad that the thing I didn’t want to happen happened.

And who knows?  Maybe she’s right!  Maybe it IS better to just get called and report and get it over with in terms of getting on with your life and your schedule.

The woman who spoke was older.  She’d gone through the system more than a few times, I’m sure.  Just as I have.  I’m thinking, “If they call me onto a jury, I could be there for two or three days just getting through the Voir Dire (jury selection) process.  Even if I’m ultimately excused without having to serve on that eventual jury.  She’s thinking, “The sooner they call you the sooner it will all be over with.”

And there have been plenty of times when BOTH of us have been right, haven’t there???

The clerk in the jury assembly room gets on the microphone again and announces that the other court room will be reporting their need soon and to stand by for twenty minutes.  And I realize I have no idea whatsoever what to pray for.  Do I pray that my name be called or do I pray that my name NOT be called?  All I know is that I’ve got appointments and a lot of things to do that won’t get any better if I miss several days of my life.  I mean, Holy moly: we’re just starting the New Year and I’M ALREADY BEHIND!!!

So what do I pray for?  I have no idea.  But fortunately, when it comes to praying, I DON’T HAVE TO HAVE ANY IDEA.  Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”  Even, I’m quite sure, the wordless groans of a helpless man awaiting his fate during jury duty.

“Lord,” I pray, “I have no idea WHAT to pray for.  I just surrender it to You.  You are God and You are in control.  I just want to be able to go home, and I have no idea how to make that happen.  I put my trust in You and in Your plan for my day.”

When the clerk comes back on the microphone, she announces that the other court has reported it does not need anybody.  And we are excused.

It’s 10:20AM.  And I have that child when the final school bell rings feeling.

Now, here’s the thing: maybe God would have wanted me to serve on a jury: maybe there was a case that He wanted to help decide.  Maybe my future wife will be one of the other jurors.  Maybe a lot of things I can’t possibly know about in advance but God does know about because He’s God and that’s what He does.

But as I’m racing out of the court-house to get to my motorcycle, I realize that maybe He just wanted me to come to that right place where I was actually desperate enough and unsure enough to turn things over to Him.

There’s a good theory that Israel spent forty years doing laps around the mountain in the wilderness during the Exodus because it just took them that long to finally come to the “Thy will be done” stage.

Dang, how often do we think we KNOW what is best for us???  How often are we completely certain that this needs to happen JUST THIS WAY and THAT most definitely must NOT happen???

I mean, it’s one point to come to that moment where you don’t even know what to do or what you want and finally turn it over to God.  But think of all the times you just flat-out KNOW what is best.

And do we?  Or are we like that woman who said she was happy her name was called when had her name NOT been called she would have been going home in just twenty minutes?  [And realize I’m not picking on that woman, because I realized her pet theory was every bit as sound as mine and it could have been me sitting in that jury room all day and finally getting called into a jury at ten minutes to five o’clock and having to show up again the next day while SHE went home early].

Life is a highway, as the song says.  But on this highway, we’re frequently driving around blindfolded and there are potholes and other cars all around us.  And we often don’t know where to get on and where to get off.  We’ve just got our inclinations and our guesses and our best judgment that often have us zigging when we sure should have zagged.

This is where the beautiful proverb of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” becomes so real.  When we finally realize, “I don’t know.  but God DOES.”  And put that realization into effect throughout our lives.

I’m not there yet.  But I want to be.

There are two ways we can fail to trust the Lord.  One I’ve already discussed; we THINK we know what’s best for us and anything other than that means God let us down.  When of course maybe that’s not true at all because maybe you didn’t have a clue what was best for you.

But there’s another one: are we willing to be shaped and changed and transformed from what we are into something else?

I found and called in a stolen car several weeks ago that was set on fire and abandoned in the desert.  The police had somebody come and tow what was left of the car away.  Left behind was a lot of small pieces of melted aluminum.

I’ve picked up quite a few of those pieces.  For some reason I find them fascinating.

Each of those pieces of aluminum had of course once been some part for the car (the engine block, the transmission, etc.).  Now it’s just a blob of one of the lighter metals.  But you look at a piece and you realize that of course it could be melted down again and become something else.

That’s how we are, too.

Malachi 3:3-4 says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.”

It’s a picture of God sitting over each one of us, refining us, melting away the dross and leaving behind the most beautiful and valuable part of us.

As I’m sitting there in that jury assembly room not being happy about what may happen next, God may have other plans for me.  I may have to do things that I don’t want to have to do and I may as a result literally become something different than what I am and contrary to my own plans and purposes.  So that God can use me for His better plan and purpose.

Do I trust God to do that?  Do I trust God to melt me down and change me into something else?

Often times, it’s just a matter of our letting go and letting God be God.  We go through hard, even bitter times.  Maybe years pass by, maybe decades.  And we finally come to that point where we are willing to be shaped and forged into what God intended for us.  And we’re finally ready to move on to the next, far better and far more meaningful, phase of our lives.

As we’ve had the imposition of gay marriage and the Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson blow-up, I’ve written a few pieces on homosexuality.  I want to be crystal clear: the Bible says repeatedly that homosexuality is a sin and it never says anything other than that homosexuality is a sin.  I’ve met homosexuals who realize that what they are feeling and doing is wrong.  I know what that’s like, because I’ve got my own entrenched sinful behaviors and attitudes and I don’t like them but don’t know how to live blamelessly, either.  And I truly feel compassion for these men because while we’re struggling with different things, we’re all struggling to overcome what we don’t want to be and do and become something we know is better.

But let me focus on the liberal, militant homosexual activist who says, “What I’m doing is NOT wrong!  I am NOT going to change.  I demand that I be able to continue to be EXACTLY what I am and keep doing EXACTLY what I’m doing.”  And of course that attitude and the behavior that flows from that attitude is the essence of what St. Paul describes in Romans chapter one.

But now let’s take this discussion away from militant homosexual rebellion and focus on ourselves: how many of us are defiantly holding on to attitudes and feelings and beliefs and behaviors and activities that we KNOW are not right before God?

Most of us need some refining.  Many of us need some serious melting down.

But God has ordained the universe such that we have to be willing to let Him work His ways and His wonders in us.  He gave us free will and He respects the free will He gave us as part of our being created in the Imago Dei (in His image).  And ultimately, we each of us have to come to that point in that circumstance where we need to realize, to recognize, that we are not where we need to be inside and that we need to be refined and transformed into something different.

Sometimes that process if unpleasant, even painful.  I’ve got to go through a surgery to re-attach a ruptured tendon.  I don’t look forward to it.  I don’t look forward to the whole day.  I don’t look forward to the recovery and the pain I will be in and the difficult rehabilitation it will take to successfully put me back together again.  But I am willing to go through it because I am looking to the (better) end result.  That said, I know a very pretty young woman who has a broken clavicle that literally comes loose but won’t have the surgery to get fixed up because she fears the process too much.  There are a lot of better things she would be able to do if she just went through the pain and had the surgery, but fear paralyzes her.

We’re often like that young woman.  We don’t want to change and we certainly don’t want to BE changed.  We desperately cling to who we are even though who we are is broken.

We have to acknowledge that something isn’t right in us.  We have to acknowledge that we’re broken.  And we have to be willing to trust God and allow Him to refine us and even melt us down and reshape us into what HE wants us to be.

Dr. Phil (a different Phil from Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson) used to say to dysfunctional people living dysfunctionally, “How’s that working out for you?”  If nothing else, let your failures guide you to God’s way.  Stop banging your head against a wall of your own choosing and let God shape you to be something different and better.

That’s my prayer for me.  And I hope it’s your prayer for you.