"It was God who sent me here…"

I’ve been through a few hard things in my life, and I firmly believe that God has allowed me to walk those roads for my good.  I never thought much about the fact that He might use my challenges for someone else’s good as well.
I was reading in Genesis today and this struck me…
Joseph says to his brothers at their reunification, “And now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.  8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Genesis 45:5-8
Joseph was able to see God’s bigger plan in his brothers’ jealous act of selling him into slavery.  He was a slave and spent two years in prison because of their sin.  Yet he was able to say, “it was not you who sent me here, but God.”  When I’m hurting as a result of another person’s actions am I able to forgive them and trust “it was God who sent me” there? Can I withhold my frustration and pity party in the midst of a terrible life circumstance and trust that “it was God who sent me here?” He recognized that God sent him there ahead of others to preserve life!
We’ve struggled with infertility, thus far unresolved.  We have long-term depression in our family that has us wading in deep waters.  I have three sets of food allergies to cater to in the kitchen. I’ve had extended family upheaval I never thought I’d see.  But you know what?  The Lord has allowed me to be in places to share this hurt with others who are in the thick of it themselves.  He’s brought me women begging God to carry their own little one, friends and family stuck in the shock of a new diagnosis as they try to navigate new (very long) lists of foods to avoid, friends I knew long ago who are going through family situations the likes of mine, and the list goes on.
Because I’ve been there, I can share that it gets better.  God will draw you nearer to Him if you allow it.  He will shape you in a way you’ll never imagine, if you’ll give Him full reign in your heart and hang on with all your might.  He will give you wisdom in places you’d never look.  And then when it’s time, He’ll use you to share His love with another hurting child of His.  It will be your turn to say, “it was God who sent me here” so you can bless a sad heart and be a balm to a troubled soul.
Let Him take you there.  Press into Him and let Him heal your wounds.
Let Him use the horrible place He sent you for His glory by loving others who are there too. He just may have sent you there first for their sake.

My New Understanding of Grace

So I told you that was my word of the year.  I’m still mulling it over.  I think what’s happening is that God is slowly morphing my understanding of Grace into what He really wants it to be as opposed to what the Western Americanized church has taught me it is.  Interestingly enough, I don’t believe He wants me to read any form of teaching on it.  I have checked out books from the library, purchased books on the subject and done searches online.  But every time I get to man’s explanation of grace, I have felt strongly compelled to put it away.  So I have returned the library books, stopped books mid-chapter and clicked on the X.  And prayed.  Dug into the word, scratched notes in random places, sought His heart on the matter, asked Him to reveal His definition of Grace to this seeker.

I’m not sure what I’ve really been taught about grace, but I’ve always believed it to be God giving us things we don’t deserve.  And when I think of receiving things I don’t deserve, I think of good things: salvation, mercy, breath, life, children, water, loving-kindness… “Unmerited favor” is the Sunday School answer, I believe.  To me that means He likes me when He doesn’t have to.  But I really believe there’s more to it than that.

This is where it gets tricky.  We know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” (Hebrews 13:8) and that “[Jesus] and the Father are one,” (John 10:30).  In Exodus 34:5-7 we see “the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with [Moses] and proclaimed His name, The LORD.  And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;'”  In Matthew 5: 45 “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

So this God in the Old Testament who is the same yesterday, today and to the end of the ages is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving.  Yet He commanded the deaths of “innocent” children of rebellious fathers in many battles, His Earth opened up and swallowed 250 rebellious men (Numbers 26:10), He watched His Son go through unimaginable pain and descend into hades, and He told  Jeremiah to wait 70 years before His promise would be confirmed (Jeremiah 29).  None of that sounds good, merciful, or full of favor to me.

So where have we misunderstood? 

I think it’s all right here.  For this is what the LORD says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me  and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you and I will restore your fortunes  and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you.  I will restore you to the place I deported you from.”  Jeremiah 29:10-14

It seems to me that God is making it clear that there is reason for their exile.  In this case it is discipline, but He makes it clear it’s not going to be over for a while and that His people will seek Him and find Him.  He knows hardship will move us to Him.  It’s not always an action of discipline, but any hardship can be responded to by drawing near to Him.  In the long run if our heart’s response is desperation for Him, then the hardship seems like grace to me.  

Unmerited favor:  Because He loves me, He affords me the opportunity to come into a relationship with Him where He will change me, love me and save me.  If that’s the bottom line, then anything that undergirds that greater purpose is a good thing.  So if depression, infertility, financial pressure, hurt feelings, food allergies, betrayal, heartbreak, exhaustion, and sin create in me a desperation for Him, then they are good.  When seen in light of the big picture, they are good.

So it’s all grace to me.  It seems as if I have no other way to see it.

Grace

Grace today is my heart being loving, understanding, forgiving and willing to move forward when without His reformation I would have been angry, hurt, fearful, self-righteous and critical.
Thank you, Lord, for the second chances You give to show me that You’re changing me!

Word of the Year

Many people in my online circle of friends have gone to a “Word of the Year” sort of thinking as opposed to a New Year’s resolution.  The first year I saw it was in 2009.  Honestly, I’ve prayed about it for two years now and have never felt the Lord give me a word.  I didn’t want to just pick one just to have one like everyone else, because it wouldn’t last anyway.  So because I didn’t sense His leading, I just decided it was not for me at that time.  The funny thing is that there have been two years that I could easily define by one word, but that was after the fact.  One year would have been “gracious” and one would have been “Healer.”  I remember specifically many lessons where the Lord revealed these words to me throughout the year, changing me or helping me change my perspective on a given issue.
This year I feel like He’s given me a word:
~ Grace  ~
I feel like He’s leading me to delve into the word… the meaning of it, the application of it, the etymology of it, the weight of it, the finality of it, the gift of it, the Giver of it…
God has whet my appetite using a church service at my sister’s church the day after Christmas.  The songs and the sermon have been replaying in my head ever since.  I’m rounding up the pieces so I can revisit them and study each piece.  Right now I feel like I have all of these disconnected molecules that need to be locked together into the right molecular formula, and that the bond will be made as He reveals to me the understanding He wants me to have.
So this is the year of Grace.  I can’t wait to see what He has for me!