Long-term Care

When I was younger, long about high school, I would read or hear the story of the Exodus and all the signs and wonders of the plagues (Exodus 7:1-12:30) and crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31), followed so quickly by the golden calf incident (Exodus 32:1-6). And I’d be dumbfounded, “How can these same people who saw such miracles ever have wanted to abandon God for this ridiculous idol?”

More recently, I’ve been reading the promises and curses for the people of Israel 40 years later as they are about to enter the promised land (Deuteronomy 28), and I’m getting that same feeling of dismay. God is very clear in promising the good that will come if the Israelites follow Him and the evil that will come if they don’t. Still, having read the rest of the story, I know they choose don’t.

Of course now, 20-some years after high school, I can see a little deeper into the story. God has worked in some amazing and unexpected ways in my life and the lives of those I love. Yet, when I face difficult and uncertain circumstances, it is disheartening how easily I fall into the deception that God must not really want to bless me and perhaps I’d be better off striking out on my own.

Today I’m giving you a choice. You can have life and success. Or you can have death and harm. I’m commanding you today to love the Lord your God. I’m commanding you to live exactly as He wants you to live. You must obey His commands, rules and laws. Then you will live. There will be many of you. The Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to take as your own. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, NIrV)

Disbelief is exactly what it comes down to, isn’t it? God states His desire very clearly throughout the Bible: He wants to be with us. He wants to love us and to bless us. The issue is my choosing to believe that His blessings are only those things wrapped up in pretty paper and topped with a shiny bow. Or only when He gives me what I want. Or only when He keeps me from being hurt.

Yet, that’s not the way blessings are described in the Bible. James put it this way, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12, NIV). Or how about Jesus’s own words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit …. Blessed are those who mourn …. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst …. Blessed are those who are persecuted …. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:1-12, NIV). The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians to take heart, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV). It’s good to bear in mind those troubles Paul said were achieving glory included shipwrecks, imprisonments, brutal beatings, sleeplessness, hunger, and death threats from Jews and Gentiles alike. Those don’t sound much like what I’d want to follow with a hashtag reading soblessed.

God blesses us for our eternal good. He gives us what will be of the most benefit over the long term, even though it may be hard or painful now. In the same way I require my kids to learn math facts or clean up their rooms, even though they struggle and say they’re bored and tell me I’m mean, because I know such knowledge and practice will serve them well later in life, God chooses to be momentarily “mean” to us and require more from us than we feel is strictly necessary to make our lives better in ways we can’t yet fully understand. And on some long days, that is hard to believe.

Lord,

You promise the best to us. You promise more than we could ever ask or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). But You also require that we trust in Your goodness and love for us. That is hard sometimes, God! When life looks bleak and nothing seems to be going the way I want it to and I’m tired of the lessons You keep leading me through again and again and again, I just want to throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. And perhaps I should. Maybe if I gave up my own determined misunderstanding of Your ways and Your truth, I would find it easier to recognize the eternal glory for which You are preparing me.

Thank You that, in the meanwhile, in the muddle, You never give up on me. You are good. Your love endures forever. Your faithfulness lasts throughout the generations (Psalm 100:5). Amen.

For Me

DH was up for a promotion at work this week. I spent most of the last several days being excited because it seemed he was the top candidate for the job and while the hours weren’t any better, the increase in pay would have been substantial. We found out yesterday afternoon that the position went to someone else. DH was a little disappointed, but I felt crushed.

I was sad for him, but, I’m ashamed to admit, I was more sad for me. Tossing and turning overnight, I found myself chatting with God about my feelings. I realized that I’d expected Him to bless us financially through this promotion, but He hasn’t. That bothered me, but I wasn’t entirely sure why. Getting out of the shower this morning, it finally came to me. “God,” I said, “I thought this new job would mean I wouldn’t have to trust You every single month to make ends meet.”

Bingo.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19-20, NASB)

My old friend Lacktrust has been visiting again. There’s a Gershwin standard she likes to sing called, “But Not for Me.” It’s a pitiful tune about how great life and love is for everybody else, but not for me. Too often, that’s what I find myself thinking as I consider God’s promises. I start to believe that He has all these great plans for everyone around me, but my life? Well, maybe it’s slipped His mind.

Father God,

I have a terribly short view of Your grace toward me. Forgive me for the arrogance of believing I’ve been singled out to miss the grace and blessings You lavish on other people, but I don’t think You’ll pour on me. Even when I can look at my own life and see Your provision. Even though there have been more months than I can count when the debit column didn’t match up to the credit column in our budget, yet we still had plenty. In spite of every way You have already blessed me, I persist in fearing that Your bounty is not meant for me.

Thank you for this continued opportunity to grow in faith and trust. Please give me eyes to see Your hand at work. Give me the heart to believe Your promises are always true, even for me!