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The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-deeply distressed.
~Ezekiel 3:14-15 (NIV)~
From where I sit, it is easy for me to say that God is in control and that there is a reason for what happened in Boston yesterday. It is easy because I didn’t lose someone. I didn’t lose my sense of security. I didn’t have the rug jerked out from under me as I attended an event that was intended to celebrate the endurance of the human spirit. The impact of this tragedy for those directly involved in it is in no way diminished by the fact that I know my God and how powerful He is and that I’m sure He has a plan for every single thing that happens in this world; the good, the bad, and the horrific. This fact only makes it easier for me to cope with hearing about what happened. But for those who were a part of it, God’s presence and involvement in the thing can be very confusing.
As it happens, there are many horrible things that happen outside the boundaries of my bubble of faith each and every day. People experience pain and loss and try to make sense of it from where they are at the time of impact. Sometimes they are at a place where they can trust that God has it in His hands; sometimes they cannot fathom how God could ever let something like this happen. It really depends on our perspective and on what we have come to know about Him and His desire for us when the thief shows up to kill, steal and destroy.
There have been many tragedies in my life; some that I have brought on myself and some that I was involved in through no real fault of my own. Through these times, I remember asking myself why these things were happening to me. I remember being very confused about why God would allow these things to happen to me. I also remember that these questions came at times when I had put such distance between He and I that it was as if I had entered the Witness Protection Program. How could I ever expect Him to find me when I spent much of my time and energy running away from Him or putting up roadblocks wherever I suspected that He was pursuing me?
When I came back to Him, I found that the things I had once blamed Him for and even hated Him for were actually quite necessary to bringing me full circle in my journey. Had I never experienced that grief and pain, I never could have appreciated the grace and mercy. I never could have seen the blessings that He had bestowed upon me even in my darkest hours. The very fact that I woke up every morning was no testimony to the life that I had lead. It was all due to the magnificent grace of an ever-merciful and patient God who wanted nothing more than for me to gain redemption. His tolerance of my inability to accept the salvation that Christ died to give me is unparalleled. And if He has been so forgiving for just me, what does that say of His willingness to wait for the whole of humanity to come around?
There are many things which we cannot know; we cannot see the reasons why things play out in the manner that they do without acknowledging God’s hand in all things. Yes, He wants us to be happy. Yes, He wants to show us His love. But by the same token, He expects our devotion to Him and He is angered by the lack of that devotion that He sees in this world. Undoubtedly, we are approaching a time in which there will be many unexplainable events that represent God’s wrath on a disobedient nation. But His wrath is reserved for the ungodly; for the evil that exists in this world. It is not God who seeks to destroy us. And for all who are caught in the crossfire between good and evil; know that He will protect His children. For those beautiful spirits who are lost in the darkness, He seeks to bring you out by any means necessary. If this be through grief or loss, then please know that this is necessary and that He will bring you beauty for your ashes.
My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones yesterday. I pray that you find comfort in the arms of the Lord and that you not seek to blame Him, but to see and understand Him in all of this. That you take solace in the fact that your loved ones are in God’s hands and that He will avenge your loss. To everyone who has witnessed yet another act of violence at the hands of the wicked, I say that it is time we start to see these things for what they truly are; signs of end times. Not so that you would lose hope; but rather that you would run, full throttle into the arms of Jesus and accept Him as your Savior. Because our tendency is to commiserate with one another when there is any sort of threat or attack; but in reality, the more effective thing to do would be to accept those things as a call to arms. It is time to rise up and fight against those things which permit evil to thrive in our society. He is waiting patiently for us to turn back to Him and allow Him to take us all home. All we need to do is trust Him.
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
~Romans 9:22-23 NIV~
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
Sometimes the very things we use to help us deal with the pain in our lives become the biggest source of pain that we will face. I’m talking about our addictions. Our fixations. The strongholds that get in the way of our dealing with the real issues. At what point does the medication become the contaminant? What would happen if we just threw out all of the coping mechanisms and stared our problems right in the eye? Could we prevail? Could we overcome? The answer is YES!
Contrary to popular belief, God is not a crutch. His word is not a coping mechanism. The Truth is not some sort of spiritual band-aid. Those who come to know Him will find peace like they’ve never known and if we are willing to lay down our idols and bring our wounds to Him, He will heal us every time. What we often fail to understand is that in order for us to receive true healing, we have to allow the sickness or injury to truly take hold of us (we have to admit it exists) and then we have to have the courage to give it all to God. We can’t look at our situations and become frustrated because God isn’t working as fast as we would like Him to work. His timing is always perfect and if we feel that there is a delay, we aren’t understanding something that He needs us to see before true healing can take place.
The other night, I came face to face with my former self. Not literally, but in a manner of speaking, I met a young woman who reminded me so much of the girl I used to be before I knew Christ. She was loud, angry, sad, mixed-up and just lost. She started talking about her life and before I knew it, she was in tears. All I could think of when she was talking to me was how hard it had been for me and how scared I had been when I was her age. She was twenty-five years old and she had been a victim of molestation and many other terrible things. She was in an abusive relationship with a controlling boyfriend. She was drunk. She’d had significant loss in her life which included the death of a mentor and estrangement from two siblings. She was in a state of utter brokenness and as she spoke to me through her tears, I couldn’t help but feel her pain. This was me. This was what I had felt like all those years ago when I’d been lost in sin and broken into so many pieces that I was sure I could never be put back together.
The girl told me that she prayed every night. She told me that she wanted to go to church. She told me that she needed someone to talk to and that she was thankful to have someone listen to her. My heart breaks for all of the women out there who are in the same situation. Looking around, I can see that she is probably representative of a much larger population that exists in our midst. Women who have no hope. Women who are afraid. Women who haven’t been beaten up enough to get help according to the standards of the agencies that are set up to help them. Women who don’t even realize that they are being abused. Women who have been brought up to believe that this is okay. Women who have been self-medicating with alcohol or drugs in order to feel strong enough to face their abusers or simply get through each day. Women who put on their best tough girl costume to take on the challenges they must deal with. Women who have such a hardened shell that they cannot even allow the love of Christ to come into their lives. This is not His plan for us. This is not okay.
Cheating husbands who have no idea how to value us, children broken as a result of either our poor choices or the abuse they have seen us suffer, continued persecution at the hands of abusive parents, friends whose only motivation is to have a little company for their own misery; all of these things are attacking us every day. All of these things are standing in the way of Jesus until we have the courage to set aside those self-destructive patterns that have become our way of life. Beth Moore said that our lives are often a reflection of the memories we hold onto or the perceptions of ourselves that we have come to cling to. We can become so used to the person we are that we forget who we can be.
I’m reminded often of the story of the woman with the alabaster box of perfume who came to Jesus and proceeded to wash His feet with her tears and with the perfume and then dried them with her hair. She had come to the end of her rope and was finally ready to turn away from what had been her sinful lifestyle and all she felt she had to offer Him was this gift. We don’t have to give Him anything but our attention. He doesn’t require more than our acknowledgement that He is Lord and our belief that He can and will restore us. His love is more valuable than any perfume and it washes us clean.
By coming into relationship with Christ, He can restore our memory and His love will remind us of the wonderful creature He designed us to be. Our horrible experiences don’t have to become trophies. Our failures don’t have to define our futures. We are more than conquerors and we must trade our fears for the love that is poured out freely and unconditionally by the Creator. He loves us so much that we don’t have to settle for last call, ladies. If you know a woman who is struggling with an addiction of any kind, please reach out to her. Help her to understand that Christ can heal every affliction. He can break every chain. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing this for her, then maybe you need to reach out to someone as well. We have got to start lifting one another up in Jesus’ name if we ever hope to restore the brokenness in this world. This is the only way to bring light into the darkness.
“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you.”
~Job 5:17-19 NIV~