Sometimes, when I look at how hard I have struggled to only advance a step or two, I start to feel rather discouraged. As I look around me and see how far those who have put forth half the struggle, who barely gave 50 percent of their effort while I pushed my pain ridden body until it could not take another step, yet they are the ones with a comfortable home, family, and a job. And for all my persistence, my determination to give 100 percent so that I might reach my goal, I have nothing to show except a few bruises and an AA degree that can open no doors.
When I look at window and watch the cars go by, and think of all the dreams that will never be, of the family that I longed for, but will never know, and the country home that will never be mine, I must admit that for a moment or two, my heart drops, and hope seems so far away. As I look at my long list of failed dreams, and the success of others, I have to struggle to keep back the tears.
Why are others allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and although I give my all, every attempt seems to end in utter failure? Why are my dreams always denied? Why cannot I find love? Why am I not allowed to have my own home and family? Why am I not allowed to have any real hope? Or is that the case?
As my broken heart looks upon the tattered remnants of my dearest earthly dreams, I am gently reminded to look up. To look up toward heaven and by faith behold the true hope. The hope that is free of sorrow and disappointment. The hope that is free of pain, suffering, want, and any taint of sin. To look up and by faith behold the wonderful day when sin will come to an end and as promised all my years of emptiness will, in one moment, be swallowed up, and transformed into an eternity of unending possibilities.
I was watching this video today and I thought it was fascinating. Could it really be that elements of the gospel are actually interwoven within the Chinese language? I know that there is quite a fair list of languages where the seventh day of the week is a form of Sabbath such as Spanish where Saturday or the seventh day of the week, is called Sabado. But to think that elements of the story of the flood, the fall of man, and even the salvation story have been memorialized in language is quite exciting and faith building.
Faith, it is a very small word containing only five humble letters, yet it certainly is a mighty word. When everything is going right, and the road of life is quiet and well paved, it is really easy to say I have faith and think that you understand what that word really means. But how can you? What faith is required when life is at its best and want and fear have no place in your life.
What faith is required to walk on plush carpets and eat ice cream by the pool? What faith do you have to rely on when your life is like a romantic postcard or an add for a tropical resort? What exercise of heart and mind is called for when your life could be flashed up for the poster image of successful because your every want and need is met for years to come. When your beliefs line up with the crowd and are excepted at every turn as the only way to live, saying I have a measure of faith takes neither courage nor self-denial.
It is not until trial and adversity hunt your steps, when discouragement and disappointment hunt you down like a pack of hungry hound dogs that you really get a glimpse of the depths and power of faith. Because it is then that you have to chose to hold on to faith. It is then that you have to chose to grab hold and cling to faith, that it become more than words.
From our comfortable arm chairs it is easy to look back at the mighty men of faith and say, I would do the same. Or to look down at those who fell short of the mark and say, I would never do that. Nothing would make me lose my faith. I would never chose the comforts of this life over faith in Jesus. If I were in that garden, or if I had been King Saul, or if I had been so and so I would have done this and not done that.
Is it just me, or should the saying it never rains, but is pours should be changed to it never rains but it hurricanes. Because that is the way that it feels like right now. First it was a string of severe health set backs, and before I could catch my breath, it was six painful losses, one right after another.
Now, when it seemed like I might have time to catch my breath and finally begin to grieve, the bad news hits that it looks like my little puppy is following my Father’s footsteps. His sugar is high and his liver and kidneys are not doing so good. They are beginning to fail him. He has lost 8 or 9 pounds and that is a lot for a 28 pound little dog.
We have gotten the medicine and started treatment. Right now there may be hope, at least we hope that there is some hope. But it is too early to tell. For the next few weeks it will be a waiting game to see how Happy responds to the treatment.
During times like these it is so easy to get discouraged. To feel like all hope is lost and that joy is forever dead. Knocked down and tested to the point of breaking it seems like tears and sorrow are your undesired lot. In moments like these, where the pains and sorrows of life press down upon the heart seeking take away one’s breath, it is easy to forget that the pains of this life are for a moment. To forget that there is hope, because one day soon, sin will become a distant memory.
In the hour of darkness it may seem like sin is wining. That it is quickly going about swallowing up hope and happiness. But the good news is that the hour is quickly approaching when the tables will turn. Sin and its cruel companions, want, hunger, pain, sickness, and death, will be swallowed up. Truth, justice, hope, mercy, grace, and life everlasting will win the day.
Right now the enemy of soul’s is angry. He sees that his time is short, and like a roaring lion he is going about trying to turn the eyes of all from their only hope. He is trying to crush the hearts of men and keep them from looking up and through the eye of faith beholding the approaching promise of the great day of salvation.
He sees that final battle is getting ready to begin. He knows that it will not be long before the last decisions will be made, before the last heart will take their stand for or against God. And then the final crisis will begin, and just when it seems like he has gotten the victory, Jesus will appear and fill the heaven’s with His great glory.
Oh right now it is so easy to lose sight of that wonderful day. The pain and fears of this life seem like they are going to swallow us up, and there is no reason to smile anymore. But it is at this very moment that we need to look up. We need to look up with the eye of faith and behold the promised day of salvation. Because when we do our burdens will be lifted and our pain eased. Yes, the tears will flow and the heart will ache, but even in this fearful hour peace can and will fill our hearts as we set our sights not upon the darkness of the tomb, not upon the fearful uncertain of sickness and want, but upon the glorious day when this world will pass away and Heaven with its wondrous, unspoiled, and unfading glorious will be our home.
If one were to describe the news cyle of the past few weeks, it would be that it is doom and gloom on steroids’. Fear of the invisible, fear of getting too close, fear of going outside, fear of breathing, fear of touching, fear of work, fear of not working, to fear of fearing fear, has filled the headlines for the past few months as through the news we live and breath the pandemic.
Locked away inside of the same four walls, wondering when and if life will ever get back to normal, it sometimes seems like life has been permanently put on pause. Bombarded day after day with words and images of fear, filled with worry about what bad news tomorrow might bring, and how close to the brink of financial disaster we might come, it is easy to forget the little pleasure that life once held, and to think that sorrow and worry will forevermore be our unenviable lot. To believe that the pandemic has forever wiped away hope and joy from our hearts. Deprived of the warmth of gathering together with our loved ones, of sharing time with our best friends, and the simple comfort of an encouraging hug, it is easy for fear to caste its devastating shadow and take over our weary hearts.
In this hour of unprecedented trial, it is tempting to think that God has left us to suffer on our own. That He has abandoned us to be consumed by the contagion, bankruptcy, hunger, and fear. Yet in His word God promises that
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13
Promising us that no matter what, He is there, holding our hands in the hour of trial, and helping us to safely make it through the hour of trial.
In the book of Psalms He gives us the encouraging promise,
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Psalms 34:7
telling us that in our time of need, He will send His angel to stand guard over us, and shield us. Protecting us from any needless sorrow or woe. Allowing only the hardships and trials, that with His aid, will remove the dross from our characters and transform us into jewels fit for the heavenly kingdom.
And while it is not easy to endure the refiners purifying touch, we can take comfort in knowing that like Job, there is a hedge about us protecting us from many unseen arrows. And set our hearts firm in the promise that although unseen, as we walk through the treacherous valley of death, we can take courage knowing God is by our side, holding our hand as He promised. And like the Paslmist we can declare
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalms 23:4
And one day soon, when we victoriously come out the other side of this depressing valley, we can fill the heaven’s with God’s praises. Our faith stronger, our hope brighter for the realization that God’s promise is true. And if it is true that He will hold our right hand in our hour of need, then His promise that one day He will come again,
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John14:1-3
and bring us to live with Him must also be true. And then what joy, what rapturous joy will fill our hearts, as with great longing will look forward to the day when the heaven’s are filled with His glory, and our best friend, our brother in sorrow, and our glorious Redeemer, comes to rescue us from this world of pain, to bring us home to live with Him in a land where death, sickness, and sorrow are unknown!
It has been an exhausting but amazing few days since I posted Waiting to Make Our Dream Come True. When I wrote that post late Thursday evening, my family and I were digging in for a three long weeks of hoping and praying that our land would finally be cleared. After months of dead ends, unexpected delays, and a seemingly endless round of excuses we had reached the point that we were ready to call it all quits and put our dream land for sale. Confident that by the brick wall we seemed to hit each time that we attempted to get our lot clear, the Lord was telling us to stay where we were.
After a heartfelt round of prayers we finally made the call to the realtor who had found our small slice of heaven on earth that we had been postponing for months. To our great surprise, and relief, instead of jumping at the opportunity to earn a commission, he not only personally offered to find someone to clear the land for us, but had personally met each one at our lot to show them where the markers were and get their quotes.
The first person had given a fairly decent quote and even a small discount if we accepted that day and allowed him to start Monday morning. Nearly giddy from the idea of the land being cleared so soon we were instantly ready to accept even though the price while fair was pushing our already bulging budget. But there was still one more estimate which when it came in over a thousand dollars cheaper than the first was a positive delight to our reeling budget, only we would need to wait about three weeks before the work could begin. But with a tight budget what other choice did we have but to accept the cheaper offer and settle back and hope that at the end of three seemingly endless weeks we would not hear the dreaded words, I have fallen behind so it will have to wait a little longer, and the land would finally be cleared. And that is where that Thursday evening found us, stuck once more in the rut of hoping, praying, and waiting that another delay would not come our way.
Friday morning our minds were one place as we imagined the joy that would hopefully be ours as we finally enjoyed the privilege of a clean lot devoid of a forest of trees. The work of the day moved sluggishly as our minds naturally gravitated to the topic so dear to our hearts. Yet amidst our hopes was the nagging fear that for the sake of our budget we had made the wrong choice, and that at the end of three weeks we would hear the dreaded put off that we circumstances had risen which would require us to wait longer. And that despite our real estate agents kind efforts, we would once again be sitting on the train to nowhere, and our land would have to go for sale.
With our thoughts jumbled and our emotions running every which way focusing at mundane task was nearly impossible. Every thing took a hundred fold longer than what it should as our thoughts and conversations repeatedly returned to the mixed bag of soaring hopes and heart dropping fears. Unable to focus, we decided that it was senseless to keep spinning our wheels at home, but would clear our heads by getting the necessary grocery shopping out of the way, and with a clearer mind could devote the afternoon to working around the house.
After several unexpected delays, that included me mildly injuring my ankle, we arrived home well past lunch time. Our hungry stomachs weary at its delay we were rushing to empty the car and put together a quick meal when the phone rang. My heart racing from a strange confidence as I hobbled over the table, I was already certain I knew who was calling and why. My expectations met I did my best to rush from the family room to the garage where my parents and sister were still bringing in the groceries. My confidence was so certain that I simply handed the phone to my Father and returned to fixing our meal. Certain that our unspoken prayer and that at last we would have a concrete date for when our land would at least be cleared.
But even though I sensed that our prayers had been answered, I was not prepared for the magnitude of the answer. For I had assumed that the second person who had given us the lower of the two estimates had at last settled his schedule and we would finally have a date that we could circle on our calendar and look forward to with complete confidence. With that hope firm in my heart I had not bothered to hang around and listen to the conversation that ensued. So it was with great amazement that a few moments later I listened to my Father as he revealed that we not only had a date, but that thanks to the never failing love of God and the extreme kindness of our real estate agent, a miracle had been worked that not only put us on the schedule for the very next Monday, but would decrease our cost by several hundred more dollars! So that for six hundred dollars less than what it had cost a nearby neighbor to clear one acre, we would have all three of our acres cleared!
The burst of joy and thankfulness that filled our hearts at that moment far outweighed the sorrow of the last few months. As with trembling hearts we thanked the Lord for caring for us so much that he would move upon the heart of our real estate agent to first turn down a chance at commission, then lay aside his work to personally travel to our land so he could assure that we got a fair bid, and then even after we had accepted an offer to quietly work one bid against the other so that we could get an even lower rate.
Even now as I look back at the sudden and wonderful change in circumstance and my tired muscles remember the long, daily drives to watch the trees fall, my eyes tear up with joy as I think of the love of God in bending low to help my humble little family. For there is something about human nature that we do not think it such a big deal that God would help a rich family or one with great prestige, but that the King of the Universe should take His time to help one of limited means and whose name is unknown to the masses somehow still manages to come as some sort of surprise to us. Perhaps it is because we are accustomed upon this earth mankind rush to move heaven and earth moved for the rich, the famous, and the royal, yet without a second thought push off the needs of the quiet, the poor, and the humble, that without meaning to we figure that the Heavenly King would have no time or interest to intervene on our behalf. Yet in spite of our unworthiness and lowly place upon this earth, He had listened to and answered our prayers. And only a four days after writing the article about waiting to make our dreams come true, the very first of several hundred trees fell victoriously to the ground.
I thought that since my iron deficiency anemia has once again raised its ugly head, draining my energy, causing my heart to race, and leaving me in a mental fog, that I would share this little poem inspired by my battle with chronic health issues.
Tired, Tired, I Feel so Tired
Tired so tired!
My body feels so tired.
Like a weary shorn out rag I walk around in a worn out daze.
My hallow body feels ancient and weighted down from some unseen place deep within;
As if an indivisible foe is sucking the energy from deep within.
I struggle to stay focused.
I desperately push on,
But my endurance is gone.
Even my hunger is diminished,
As my empty stomach trembles at the wearisome
and draining thought of food.
Oh who would believe that an invisible bug could cut a grown being down so completely?
Could bring them crawling to their knees.
That a microscopic organism could invade a body composed of billions of cells,
And bring it halting to the ground.
Robbing the body of its vital fluid and nutrition,
Stealing the vibrant glowing spring from its once happy free flowing step,
And freezing the elastic stretch that gives life and freedom to the body.
Such a miniscule molecule,
But the power to debilitate is locked so cunningly and curiously within.
The power to slow down expansion,
The power to make humanity so ill,
The power to destroy instead of uplift,
The power to devastate and destroy nations,
The power to kill both big and small.
What a little molecule,
What a little virus.
So insignificantly microscopic,
Yet it can hold the fate of many under its whimsical rollercoaster control.
So the sad story goes with sin.
It is just a miniscule microscopic sin.
It is just a wee small fraction of a dot to hold onto.
It cannot possibly kill or maim.
It is too small to do any real harm.
You cannot possibly compare it to any of the real killers like stroke and heart disease.
Mine is just a small unnoticeable little cherished blot that it cannot possibly lay down roots and smother my heart.
Why I have it so well stuffed and tamed that it cannot go anywhere.
It is so confined into that back corner that it cannot possibly reproduce and do anyone or anybody any harm.
How can you claim that one little sin such as mine is so wrong?
How can one little miniscule germ kill hundreds,
How can one virus bring one metropolis halting with heart pounding fear to its knees?
One little sin,
One little stain,
One little stubborn willfully cherished corner,
And some day the day may come when just like an out of control mutant toxic virus it will flourish and spread,
Overflowing and choking out the fresh healthy cells that stand between it and sunshine,
Killing off all the noble and pure desires of the heart.
Destroying your longings to live a pure and righteous life.
But even if that day should never come.
One longingly cherished sin,
What is the price?
What is the cost?
At whose ultimate expense will the price be paid?
How many will see and walk away?
How many will see and stumble?
How many will see and follow your example?
When the day of reckoning comes will you want to turn and walk away?
Will you finally want to part company with it then?
If you have not begun the struggle now,
Will you suddenly be ready just because Jesus has shown up in the clouds of glory?
Or will you find that you have paid the ultimate price for living with and flittering with a deadly virus?
Whenever I hear this hymn I am transported back to my childhood. It is Friday evening, the sun is setting, and I am sitting on my Grandparents sofa. My Great-grandmother is sitting on the lazy boy rocker. Her hair is white as snow and her memory is in the first stages of fading away. My Grandmother is sitting to her right on a wooden rocker and my Grandfather is on the sofa nearest to the light.
With hymn books in hand we have gathered in the small living room to join together in worship to welcome the Sabbath. The fact that my Father, sister, and I barely know a word of Spanish does not matter, because unlike my Great-Grandmother and Grandfather, my Grandmother can only speak a little bit of English.
Our ability to communicate with her without the aid of my Mother or Grandfather to translate is limited. Making it impossible to sit down and freely speak with her as we would like. But for that one moment, as we sat down for worship and lifted our voices in song the communication gap was gone.
It is true that we did not understand all words, but that did not matter because we knew that it was hymn of praise to God. And oh what a glorious moment as we lifted our voices. For that brief moment the language barrier seemed to fade as our voice united in praise to God and by faith our hearts were carried to that glorious day when Jesus would return and at last we would be free to sit and talk. The language barrier would be no more, and the words that we had spent a lifetime longing to share would at last be able to freely flow.
As I listen to the words of Cantad algres al Senor, my heart beats with delight as I remember those precious few evenings. With cloudy eyes I think back to the joy that filled my heart and how I miss those Friday nights. For sadly those evenings are no more as both my Great-Grandmother and my Grandfather now lay quietly in the tomb waiting for that longed for day when Jesus shall call them forth to take part in that glorious family reunion wherwe shall once again lift up our voices to sing praises to our King.