Lottery Tickets and Life Lessons. The odds are in your favor!
While getting dressed one morning, a woman in perfect shape notices a seemingly insignificant mole on her skin that doesn’t look normal. Although she can’t remember the last time she had any health concerns, she schedules a Dr. Appointment to get the sore checked out. The woman’s life is shattered a few days later when she is informed she has melanoma. The disease has spread throughout ther body and though she appears healthy and feels fine, the prognosis is grim, she is dying.
Death is cruel, but a disease that eats at the body, silently stealing the precious life of the unsuspecting victim seems even more ruthless. No normal human enjoys pain. Our first reaction when we feel it is to recoil away from its source. The Creator made us this way as a means of physical preservation. Though pain is unpleasant, it becomes an alarm that captures our attention demanding change. When our physical bodies suffer, we immediately want to know what is wrong and how we can fix the problem. Without pain, our bodies would be broken and overcome before we ever had a chance to live. In this bizarre sense, Pain is a blessing.
In medicine, pain is approached in a methodical manner. Doctors look at symptoms, environment, and other factors to determine its source. They don’t simply treat the pain, they search for its origin.
When I broke my wrist, I told the Doctor I was playing basketball, was fouled making a jump-shot, and then broke my fall with my hand, which had absorbed the impact of my body when it hit the ground. With that information gathered, my pain was no longer the focal point. The Doctors focus shifted to the source of my pain, a bulging, disfigured, purple, swollen wrist. The doctor did not try to rid my wrist of the blue hue by applying makeup. He did not use a knife to cut the grotesque bulge away. He did not simply hand me medicine to make my brain and pain receptors oblivious to the discomfort. His job was to go as deep into the anatomy of my wrist as possible pinpointing the source of the pain, so he could fix what was wrong. In my case it was a broken ulna. Once the diagnosis of a break was made, a splint was not put on my foot, balm was not rubbed on my chest. The doctor did not sever the nerves in my wrist and arm so I could not sense the pain caused by the break. The goal was not to rid me of the pain but to deal with its source. The wisdom of the Doctor reasoning was this, “Fix the break and eventually you will get rid of the pain.” My wrist was straightened, the bone was set, and my entire arm from elbow to knuckles was wound inside a protective cast to protect and keep it immobile. I was given a sling, a list of do’s and don’ts, and four weeks later I walked out of the Dr. office with a weak, but perfectly healed wrist.
What Do I Do With My Pain?
Have you ever been held captive by any of the emotions below? Do you relate to any of them right now?
Lonelinees, Fear, Rejection, Sadness, Betrayal, Confused, Discouraged, Insignificant, Invisible, Rejected, Unimportant, Misunderstood, Angry, Worthless, Guilty, Forgotten, Powerless, Weak, Terrified, Skeptical, Violated, Taken Advantage of, Imprisoned, Unloved, Unwanted, Untrusting, Cynical, Cheated…..
All these are pains that torment our souls. As Beth Moore illustrated in her book, “Get Out of that Pit”, sometimes these pains are the result our own sinful actions. Sometimes they are wounds viciously inflicted at the hand of another. Other times they are the result of innocent decisions we have made.
No matter which emotions oppress and crush your heart, there is a reason for the pain, and there is a liberating hope and power at your disposal. It does no good to bury the pain, or to distract ourselves from an oppressive emotion. We can not swap out relationships, activities, and pursuits to find freedom. This pseudo releif from our pain is only a temporary respite. This season of quietness will only last until the disease we have ignored grows larg enough to destroy even those things capeable of still bringing joy, pleasure, and happiness.
When our hearts are broken, our spirits overwhelmed, and our emotions smothering us in a pit we can’t escape, there is but one thing to do, run to the Great Physician. Fall into the arms of your Abba Father, your Daddy. There is a purpose in the pain. There will be an end to the sorrow. Beauty will arise from the ashes. Pain screams there is a problem and the pain demands action.
Over the next few weeks I would like to focus on the topic of pain, it’s source, its purpose, and its cure. I know so many single women struggling with loneliness and the fear they will be alone for the rest of their lives. I am overwhelmed by the number of wives reeling and incapacitated by the pain of betrayal. Our churches are filled with brothers and sisters so weary from battle they wonder if there will be anything left, anything worth fighting for.
Merrit from Livesimplylove, will be joining us in our series about overcoming pain, and I am excited about other guests who have graciously agreed to share on this blog. If you are struggling with loneliness, fear, rejection, loss, or any other pain please feel free to ask questions. If you have been through a dark valley and the Lord has brought you through would you consider sharing your story or insight? If you have blogged on this topic please leave a comment with a link to your site. If you wouold like to guest blog on this topic please let me know and I will put you on the schedule.
My February giveaway will include some amazing books I have read which focus on overcoming the pain in our lives. Stay tuned for the start of the giveaway.
As you go, consider this promise, from God, the Righteous, the True, the Faithful.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
John 6:8 “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”
This verse intrigues me. The setting presents Jesus surrounded by a throng of people, most are not true believers, but those seeking entertainment in the form of miracles, and perhaps some even looking for a handout of their own. This crowd came needy and left needy. An opportunity of a lifetime stood in front of them yet their physical needs and selfish desires blinded them to this moment. They wanted miracles and they received one, but their response clearly showed their shallow thinking and spiritual blindness.
The Son of God stood in their midst, but instead of asking for eternity, they vainly grappled to secure a king to rid them of the tyranny of Rome, a momentary and temporal predicament. It would be akin to a billionaire offering a blank check only to have the recipient spend it on a pack of gum. So very needy yet so very blind to their true needs and the power and ability of the one who stood before them.
So Jesus performs a miracle, a shadow of what He had come to do, he fed their bodies. With bread and fish he met their basic physical need, but He yearned to give them water so that they would never thirst again. They wanted freedom from occupiers who threateded to take their physical bodies and earthly lives, while he offered salvation from that which would take their eternal souls and spirit.
Jesus knew their hearts and he knew within moments of feeding the crowd sadly he would be forced to flee from their midst. He had come, not to reign on a mortal throne of man, in a mortal and fading kingdom, but to reign over all the universe in heaven above and in the earth below for all of eternity. Before they made their attempt to crown an earthly king, he made a decree in their midst, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”
Why did he command his disciples to do this? Twelve basket were collected, one for each disciple perhaps? Or was there a deeper meaning?
Jesus Christ had performed a great miracle and its meaning and purpose had fallen on deaf ears, blind eyes, and dead hearts. “That nothing may be lost.” Did he want to keep the leftovers of his blessing and purpose ladden miracle from being discarded like worthless trash and trampled under their unworthy feet when they departed after realizing they were to receive nothing more from His hand?
We may never know what if any meaning laid hidden in these words, yet a lesson can be taken from it. How often do we come to Christ with a need but also a predetermined solution in mind, our spiritual hearts have been darkened by selfish needs and proud hearts? How often do we come to him with a request, yet blind to the true needs our trial has exposed. He stands able and ready to provide an answer propelling us into the midst of His eternal and glorious purpose yet all we seek are bread crumbs.
All trials, needs, blessings, and opportunities are for a purpose far greater and more glorious than ourselves. Our neediness is the doorway to God’s glory and power revealed. The means with which He reveals our true nature, condition, and need is also the means with which He accomplishes the purpose of our existence, the revelation and proclimation of His power and His glory.
He pursued you when you were dying, desperate and needy. In your sin, brokenness and need, His Glorious love, grace, righteousness, and power broke forth. In Him you found a Savior, an Advocate, a Brother, a new life. Would you now come to him asking for bread? Empty your hands of all expectation. Cry out to Him for spiritual eyes to be opened, that you might see past the flesh and gaze instead into the glories of eternity. You can trust the Lord of the Universe with the when, where, how, and whys. He can provide bread, but do not settle for just crumbs when He has promised to hold back nothing of lesser value than His Son!
Your life is no mistake, neither are your present need, trials, and desires. Do not settle for bread crumbs. Do not settle for good. God’s best has been promised. Labor for it, strain for is, press forward, let nothing distract you, or turn you aside. If you can not see it, if your resolution falters, cry out to Him for strength, faith, and power to press on. There is a purpose, there is an end, there is an answer, there is a wealthy plaCe!
Psalm 66:12 Thou hast caused me to ride over our heads, we went through fire and throu water but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
The Lord God is a sun and a shield
The Lord will give grace and glory
No Good thing will he withhold to them that walk uprightl.
O Lord of Host, Blessed is the man that trusteth thee.
Run Headlong into the Arms of Victory-
II Chronicles 20
Beyond the base of the cliff is a nation, as thick as stars shinning in the clear night sky. The rhythmic vibrations of the encampment swell as they dance together in symphonic harmony. Vibrant notes explode from their instruments racing to unite with the voices that flood the crisp morning air. Their offerings of praise soar to the throne of heaven born on the wings of angels, who lay them at the feet of their Creator.
This assembly of has not gathered to celebrate a marriage or observe a feast. Spread just beyond their encampment is an immense army. Three nations have formed an alliance, arraying themselves for battle with the intent of slaughtering every man, woman, and child withing their camp.
Hours earlier, the realization of war had enveloped the kingdom in a thick blanket of terror. Fear had swept from house to house engulfing everyone like a plague, but dread was replaced with hope and rejoicing when they received an unexpected promise. After Jehoshaphat their king received news of the advancing armies, scripture says he “feared” and then “set himself to seek the Lord.” V3 In response to the humble reply of their King, all of Judah followed his example. Unified as a nation, they gathered together and cried out to the Lord for Help. II Chronicles 20 records the desperate yet hopeful prayer of a King, condemned to a bloody and violent defeat, unless the heavens opened and Jehovah God came down and intervened on their behalf. Jehoshaphat walked into the center of camp, fell on his face before the Lord, and cried out for mercy. The Lord heard his cry and the Spirit of the Lord came into the midst of the people and the Lord responded, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s….Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them for the Lord will be with you.” V14-17
Now in the early morning hours, Israel has respond in faith to the promise d victory. They have prepared themselves for battle and the King stands in the midst of them with final instructions. “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”V20 Jehoshaphat then gatheres his entire kingdom together and his next command demonstrates the empowering nature of a faith rooted in power of the true and living God. II Chronicles records that Jehoshaphat “…appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endured forever.”V21
Did you notice to whom the king assigned the task of leading his people into battle? The army has been shuffled to the back of the military procession while those armed with nothing more than the weapon of faith have rush forward. Their battle cry is the praise and proclamation of the beauty and Holiness of the Lord. It is under this banner of faith and praise, not military might,the nation of Judah advances into battle. Fast forward now to the end of this story, one as mysterious and glorious as the beginning. “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten…and none escaped….and the people came to take away the spoil of them…more than they could carry…and they were three days in gathering the spoil, it was so much…..And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of the Israel….”V22-29
Israel was thrust into a conflict they could neither escape or win. With terror in their hearts they cried out to God for mercy and he fulfilled his promise to hear the cry of a humble and contrite nation who calls out to him. He responded to their cry for mercy and gave assurance of divine deliverance. Israel responded to His words of hope with obedience, celebrating and proclaiming the glory of the Lord who would deliver them before they ever set foot onto the battle field. The Lord commanded “Sit still and see”so the king moved their only source of strength and confidence to the back of the line and for once the army was last onto the field of battle. Weaponless, venerable, and weak, those who sang led their nation and the army to the edge of the battle field. As they stood singing, watching, unmoved and empty handed, their enemies were vanquished before their eyes, the spoils of war left for the taking.
We are weak and vunerable. We face battles and enemies we can not escape from or destroy. We serve the same God who delivered the nation of judah and like them, he has a promise for us. He has said when we are weak and afraid, he will be our strength.
II Cor 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
When we are abandoned, left to face our giants alone, he will not leave us or fail to intervene on our behalf.
I will never leavethee, nor forsake thee.
He has promised that trials will come but when we pass through the fire and water, at the end of our struggles and we will find find a wealthy place.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water:
but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
When we lack and have nothing he tells us to open our mouths wide and he will fill them.
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt:
open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Victory is ours to claim, death has be swallowed up.
I Cor 15:55-57
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have no strength, if your hands are empty, He who filled the depths can fill you. If your heart quakes in fear, your body ravaged with scars from battle, He who healed the sick and made whole the lame, knows your pain and can heal every wound. If you are weary and despair life itself, you are where you need to be. Lift your voice in praise and adoration for “the beauty and holiness of the Lord.” Discard your earth bound weapons and abilities and march to the front line of battle. Sing to the Lord and gaze in wonder as He intervenes on your behalf. Grace will rain down, weary hands will be lifted up, feeble knees will be strengthened, victory is assured, and the spoils of war will be yours.
Lift your eyes to heavens, where the source of your help and strength
Resides, and RUN HEADLONG INTO THE ARMS OF VICTORY!
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.