Friday, December 31, 2010

"Brighter Days Will Come"

My mom was once dumped by a guy who, after breaking her heart, offered her the callous (and egotistical) consolation of "Brighter days will come." That line has survived as somewhat of a family joke during hard times, providing much-needed comic relief. Though, whenever it's said, deep down I kind of hope it's true.

I have wrestled with the fact that there are no "guarantees" in this life. Some people emerge from trials with stories of victory, and others continue to struggle and endure difficulty all their days. It's ok for me to ask God to deliver, but the fact is that he is God Almighty, sovereign over all creation (including me), and it may be his will for me to remain in difficult circumstances while I continue to trust Him.

As the new year of 2011 approaches, I'm torn between fear and hope. Will things get better, worse, stay the same? Are there any guarantees left in this life?

As I watched TV the other day, I heard a preacher refer to Ephesians 1:13-14:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

What I love most about this verse is that it doesn't offer false hope. It's not that God "might" bless me or "perhaps" things will get better. No. God the Father who sits on the throne of Heaven has given me a very personal guarantee - proof of his love - a certain sign of what is to come. And this guarantee is not a vision that someone could misinterpret or a letter that someone could fake.

When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, the most important part of their identity was having God dwell with them. Moses said that they could not move forward unless God went with them (Exodus 33:15). When I read this, I realize that I take for granted the awesome gift that God now sends his Spirit to dwell in each believer. I don't need to go to a temple to seek him in prayer. I don't have to find a priest who can go to God on my behalf. Because of Christ's sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit, I can now fellowship freely and continually with holy God. I also receive an iron-clad guarantee from God that I will one day acquire a mind-blowing inheritance - inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. (1 Peter 1:4).

That passage of 1 Peter reminds me that though I may suffer here for a while, the testing of my genuine faith glorifies God and is of greater worth than gold. It's important to keep my eyes on the prize this new year. In 2011, there may be great triumphs or more dark valleys, but the Lord God is with me every second and has given me a guarantee - that by believing in his only Son as Savior, my marvelous inheritance is signed for, I've been sealed, and now I'm just waiting for delivery.

For those who accept God's offer of his Son, it is only a matter of time before the brightest days do indeed come.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Encouraged (and Giveaway Winner)

I was deeply touched to receive this comment from a reader last week. It was a difficult week for me physically as well as emotionally, due to illness in my family, and the power of that person's encouraging words brought tears to my eyes, renewed my strength, and made a big difference in my life.

Over the next several days, I received five other messages out of the blue that lifted me up as well. I could feel God's comfort through the loving words of others.

Today, remember that God uses us as his conduits to bring compassion and love to the lives of those who are hurting. Don't underestimate the power of a kind and healing word spoken at just the right time. You just may be God's messenger of hope for someone battling the darkness.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

**Anonymous - Please contact me with your address at colorsofqavah (at) aol (dot) com so that I can send you the book "Perfect Trust." And thank you for your message of hope and encouragement!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Anxious Thoughts (and a Christmas Giveaway!)

During a particularly anxiety-ridden night earlier this week, I prayed for comfort in the lonely, dark hours of the early morning. I suddenly remembered a particular book called "Perfect Trust" that I heavily relied upon for comfort years ago, so I pulled it off my shelf. The little book is by Charles Swindoll, and though it is tiny (a bit larger than a 4x6 index card), the words in it are mighty, powerful scriptures combined with just the right encouragement for a hurting, troubled soul. I thought I would share a passage that particularly helped me:

You may be going through some of the hardest days of your life. You may be wondering Why? Why me? Why this trial?

James wrote to Christians who were enduring great persecution. They were probably asking those same questions. He answered them in this way. "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12). He was saying that when you persevere through a trial, God gives you a special measure of insight. You become the recipient of the favor of God as He gives to you, and those who suffer with you, something that would not be learned otherwise.

That word persevere is very important. It's an archaic word and we don't hear much about it in our day of bailing out and giving up. We don't hear much about hanging in there and persevering...about staying power! But there is more to it than merely enduring. It's one thing to stand grim-faced, tightfisted, and staring at God with anger, saying, "How DARE YOU! What right do You have?" or "Look at what I've done for you! And look at what I get in return!" That's one kind of perseverance. But there's another kind. The kind that stands with an open hand and open arms, that looks into the face of God and replies, "I submit myself to You. I'm trying hard to hear what You're saying. I wholly and completely admit my dependence. I've run out of answers. I'm waiting."

You may be going through a trial so overwhelming that it's borderline unbearable. You want to see the end of the tunnel. Which is only natural, because once we see that little speck of light, we feel we can make it through to the finish. But God's tunnels are often twisting, too complex and dark to see the light for many days. In such settings He says, "In that dark, twisting, seemingly endless period of time, trust me. Stop running scared! Stop fearing!"

This message reminded me that in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, God repeatedly asks me to trust Him and wait with hope and expectation. He assures that at the end of that long, dark wait, there will be great reward.

As a special Christmas gift, I will be giving away one copy of the powerful little book "Perfect Trust" by Charles Swindoll. Just leave a comment below, and I will use to choose a winner on Friday December 17th.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mythbusters Tornado Shield

As a kid, I was always fascinated by tornados. Ok, it was more utter fear than anything. But now that I'm older, shows like Storm Chasers on Discovery kind of intrigue me. I mean, the whole premise is people purposefully driving as close as possible to the biggest tornados they can find. Now that's worth watching.

Imagine my delight when I saw one of my favorite shows (Mythbusters) team up with two of the Storm Chasers crew in order to test how their vehicles would fair in maximum tornado-force winds. Tornados + Science + TV = DVR this now.

After the TIVs (tornado intercept vehicles) were tested in up to 250 mph winds behind the jet engine of a 747, Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters attempted to construct a "personal tornado shield" for protection outside of those specialized SUVs.

The shield had to be portable, so at first glance, it looked like a flimsy tent with some panels on the front. Jamie crawled inside to test his invention, and this video shows what happened:

When he emerged after surviving 180 mph winds, he talked about the raw power of the wind, how terrifying it was to be in the dark, and feeling like he was being beaten. Yet, the shield was a great success, having withstood the intense force of the jet engine at full throttle.

It occurred to me as I watched that this experiment illustrated a greater truth than just how much wind a man can endure. During this time of intense trial and spiritual attack, I've found that I don't stand a chance against the storms that rage against me unless I have a shield to protect me. My church recently taught a vital series on the armor of God, reminding me of how the Bible equips me to withstand the powerful attack of the Enemy.

Hanging on for dear life, I cling to my shield of faith, trusting that no matter what debris comes flying my way that I can withstand the hit. Having faith in Christ doesn't necessarily take away the feelings of powerlessness, fear, doubt, or even physical suffering, but what it does do is cover me with peace that doesn't depend on circumstances. It gets me through the trial intact, as a survivor.

When you are suffering strong storms in your life and it feels like God is letting Satan push that throttle forward so that you can't stand on your own, remember to cling not to what you feel but to what you know - the truth of God's Word. Trusting the Bible relentlessly through trial is what anchors us to the Rock of Christ, our foundation.

Through faith in Jesus and relationship with him, he gives us his strength to endure, enabling us to withstand far more than we could by ourselves. With His protection, when the wind is finally shut off, we will be led home safely, intact, as blessed survivors.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27