It seems to never fail. Whenever we have a week of special joy and blessing and we are walking on the mountaintops, the very next week we are embroiled once again in spiritual battles that would rob us of our joy and cast us down into the deeps once again. Last week we were rejoicing in the birth of a new little granddaughter. This week we are fighting discouragement and hurting for different ones in our family.
Today is Julie’s birthday and that in itself is a cause for joy. Julie’s name means “youthful spirit” and we couldn’t have named her more appropriately. She was a giggler as a little girl, and even now as a wife and mother and thirty-seven year old woman, laughter and fun and just the sheer joy of living come easily to her. She loves to play games with her children. She still has a sense of adventure and is ready and willing to take on a challenge. Julie finds a childlike joy in the little, simple things in life and in God’s creation. She is mature and a beautiful example of godly womanliness, but when it comes to entertaining her children (and her mom!) she is not too mature to resort to silliness and occasional song and dance!
Julie and her husband David are two of the finest, most godly people I know. They walk by faith and strive always to keep the Lord first in their lives and family. To see them discouraged this week is unusual. They have been on the journey to adoption for three and a half years now and, although they have finally been approved in El Salvador to adopt up to three children, things have seemingly come to a screeching halt once again. They are waiting to be matched with a sibling group, or even a single child, out of the thousands of orphans languishing in orphanages in that country, but it has been months since they have heard a word, and even their adoption agency seems to have dropped the ball. They are wondering—will it ever happen that they will finally bring home the children they are so willing and ready to make a part of their family?
Anyone who has tried to adopt internationally knows what a long, arduous, emotionally (not to mention financially) draining uphill road it is. Julie and David understand God has a plan and a timetable for His will, and they are perfectly willing to wait for that time if that is His will—if they only knew that eventually it would happen. So far it has not seemed as though God has closed the door on the adoption, but if that is His plan they, in their humanness, wish that He would close it sooner than later so that they could move on. They feel like the family has been on hold for the last few years, and now the three children they already have are growing up. Family dynamics are changing as it would relate to bringing in new siblings. Their hearts and their minds have not changed in longing to adopt, and they would joyously wait, but this week at least, the uncertainty is getting to them.
Laurie and Fernando are going through similar battles in a different vein. Satan would love to destroy the work they are doing for the Lord in Ecuador, and lately the slings and arrows have been especially hurtful. It has always been a constant struggle there, but when some of the worst things the devil bombards them with are betrayal and unjust attacks by those who are supposed to be Christian brothers and sisters, it is especially difficult to not be heartbroken and discouraged. Those who are trying their hardest to serve the Lord and who are bearing fruit for the Lord wear the largest targets on their backs for Satan’s attacks. The road for those servants of God is often the most difficult, filled with trials and sorrow. God uses those things to refine them into gold and to help them to grow, but it is not easy or fun to go through.
They, too, are struggling with uncertainty—not knowing how the Lord is working or if He is changing their path or ministry. They are due to come home in June for a short furlough and deputation, but are unsure how long it will actually be. There are decisions that must be made about their house and belongings—should they leave it all as is, in the hope that they will be able to return in less than six months, or give up the house and put things in storage in case it stretches out to be longer than that? The uncertainty on top of the hurts lately has them crying out to the Lord for strength and hope and joy.
When my children are hurting, I hurt as well. All week I have been trying to encourage them (and myself) with the promises of God. It has been a blessing to me to have so many of His promises in Scripture come flooding back to my mind, and to see in His Word the examples He has given to us of great men and women of God who were discouraged and how God uplifted and strengthened them. Jesus Christ Himself, of course, who was unjustly accused and persecuted and ultimately crucified. The apostle Paul who has a whole laundry list of things he suffered for the name of Christ in II Corinthians 11. Elijah who was so discouraged he sat down under a juniper tree and told God He might as well kill him. Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah who pleaded with the Lord for years for a child before He finally gave them their heart’s desire. David who was pursued and persecuted by Saul and other enemies. Daniel and Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego who stood up for God and were unjustly punished because of it. Joseph who spent years in slavery and prison in spite of being a righteous man. Job who lost it all because he feared God and walked with Him.
Two of His promises that echoed through my mind all week long were Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” and Romans 8:28 – “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 a blessing to be reminded that God is not at all uncertain of our future! He has a plan for us and it is good!
God’s promises are true and sure. He cannot lie. He is faithful to keep His word. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” (II Corinthians 1:20) Some other promises in which I found comfort and encouragement this week are:
Deuteronomy 31:8 – “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
1 Thessalonians 5:24 -“Faithful is he who calls you, and he also will bring it to pass.”
Romans 8:37-39 – “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Philippians 1:6 – “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
My husband used to like to quote Oswald Chambers when he preached. One of his favorite quotes came from this passage in My Utmost for His Highest:
“Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says – ‘Well, supposing I were in that condition . . .’ We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, ‘Except ye become as little children.’ Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.
‘Believe also in Me,’ said Jesus, not – ‘Believe certain things about Me.’ Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.”
“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” The nature of the spiritual life is to walk by faith. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. Do I trust Him? Can I trust Him? Of course, I can. I can stand firmly on all the promises of God. Promises for good. Promises of love. Promises to comfort, lead, protect, provide, strengthen, and never forsake me. Promises that are rock-solid honest and true and that will never fail.
Praise God — I am standing on the Rock of Ages today and all His precious promises!