Purpose

Greater Outcomes

Blog_CaveWaterfallWhen Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, it must have seemed impossible to believe any good could come from it. When he was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, the thought of God redeeming his circumstances surely seemed a distant dream. And when his only two friends forgot him in that jail cell, Joseph could easily have given up all hope.

But at some point in his endlessly nightmarish story, Joseph learned something that sustained him to the turning-point.

God is a God of greater outcomes.

Joseph emerged from nearly fourteen years of bondage with a faith stronger and more certain than he started out with. Beyond his confinement, he found not only the fulfillment of his dreams but the enduring faithfulness of God to redeem any circumstance for measureless good.

When his guilty brothers came to him in time of famine, Joseph could easily have poured out the full measure of vengeance. Instead, he spoke these words: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

This hour in which we live is one of inexplicable darkness. We live in a world where the ravages of sin plague every corner of existence. Violence, sickness and calamity strive to rule our days. And in the thick of the chaos, we cry out for some glimpse of good, some sign of God’s intervention.

How could a greater outcome emerge from this current pandemic?

This is the realm in which only the God of the impossible can work his greatest wonders.

In Joseph’s situation, human free-will and the brokenness of nature were allowed to run their course to a near-dismal end. A brother in slavery. A family in crisis. A world in famine. Nothing can shroud the suffering Joseph went through, but nothing can veil the glorious outcome.

And so it is today. Nothing can shroud the lives lost in this horrific time. But that doesn’t negate the truth that good can and will inevitably emerge, in its time.

I recently read that every year, over 4.5 million people die from complications resulting directly from air pollution. Some have estimated that with major cities on quarantine, the decrease in air pollution could save possibly hundreds of thousands more lives than have been lost through the current pandemic.

And what IF. What if someone or multiple someones had been plotting mass shootings or other acts of terrorism in the near future, which are now thwarted with no large crowds to target? We may never know.

And these are only possible physical outcomes. What about families once broken, now drawing together and irreversibly strengthened through hours alone, together? And workaholics on the brink of heart-attack or worse, now forced to slow down and breathe?

But I would say that God is into even greater outcomes than these. Because this imperfect world is not our home, and maybe we’re finally coming to realize that. Maybe this shaking is truly an awakening that will at last open blind eyes to see the things of earth are not our end goal. Salvation and eternal life are found in one who suffered far greater injustices than Joseph, with far greater outcomes.

Maybe multitudes of treasured souls will find enduring hope and everlasting life, which far outweighs anything this world can bring.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 2:7-9)

 

Photo Credit: Waterfall from a Cave @ goodfreephotos.com

Hope’s Victory

Spring_SunriseTreesThe streets were eerily empty as I walked my dog today. Save for the hopeful songs of a few lone, rebel birds, the silence calmed as the sunset shed golden light on the trees, unrelenting in glory despite its lack of audience.  It would almost have felt peaceful, if not for the pandemic behind it all.

My dog pulled me along, grateful to be the beneficiary of extra long walks during this unusual season. And as she did, I caught sight of something that nearly slipped by unnoticed. Tiny buds pushing through branches of the bushes lining our walkway announced the arrival of another season that entered uncelebrated amidst the current plague of unwelcome news.

Spring.

It arrived humbly, almost forgotten though so anticipated after the relentless winter. Shrouded by the pall of a world of uncertainty, spring came with a gentle reminder. Hope lives on after the coldest and bleakest of seasons.

Could it be that there will be such a glory to follow this time of worldwide grief?

While it may seem that nothing could soon out-measure the loss so many are now experiencing, hope is waiting to emerge. Just as winter births the beauty of spring, this hour of difficulty will bring forth something inexplicably beautiful, in its time.

While uncertainty claws at us, fierce and persistent, spring reminds us of a greater certainty behind it all. The sun continues to rise and set, as promised from the beginning. And winter gives way to spring despite the surrounding opposition. Flowers will yet bloom. Brown grass will soon awaken in glorious green splendor. Barren trees will unveil branches adorned with fruit.

Certainly if a season harsh as winter can yield the unhindered allure of spring, God can take the most hopeless ashes of our lives and fashion something of immense beauty.

So be of good courage and look beyond what your eyes see today. Spring has broken through and will continue to make its mark despite the overwhelming decay that seems to have overtaken our world. You will see goodness come from the tribulations of today, and our trials of now will seem light and momentary compared to the glory that “far outweighs them all.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)

A Simple Prayer

blog_snowywoods“Live simply, love generously, serve faithfully, speak truthfully, pray daily. Leave everything else to God.” I saw this quote while sitting in a café the other day. As I consider the direction of my life, these words speak to me about a simple yet profound calling. So often, we’re looking for the big, the extravagant, the noticeably noble. We want to be significant, and we perceive significance as something evident to the masses.

Yet what if greatness has a humbler definition?

And that’s why this has become my prayer, and my desired life-theme. To truly live simply—not bogged down by temporary things, unnecessary work, trivial concerns, or excessive material endeavors. To love generously: that my love for all would be abundant, honest, and overflowing…not in word alone, but in action and in truth.

Father God, remove every ounce of selfishness from within me: my self-centeredness, self-preservation, self-exaltation. Move in my heart to make me someone who thinks of others more than I think of myself.

Let my service be for the motive of honoring you by helping others. Let it be pure and untiring, all-encompassing—infiltrating all I do and done with all my heart, soul and strength. I confess I’ve grown weary in well-doing. Please renew my strength.

Tame my tongue to be still when I need to be silent and to speak truth boldly and always with love. Strip me of the veil of the fear of man.

I’ve been prayerless, so move me to pray. Prayerlessness is the root of all my trials, or my misunderstanding of your purpose in the midst of trials. Release me from bondage to laziness and unbelief, that my prayers may flow unwavering, unhindered, and unceasingly to you.

Build up my faith to know with confidence that when I’ve done all you ask of me, I can be at peace and leave all else to you. I want to live at ease with you, knowing you alone hold my life and I will stand before you alone at the end to give account for my thoughts, words, and actions.

This is my simple prayer.

 

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Through the Fire

There are greater outcomes when we endure the furnace of affliction with grace, allowing God to birth in us a deeper compassion through the fire.

 

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The Most Hopeless Pieces

A skilled artist can transform the most useless items into something of matchless worth. And that’s what our loving God is able to do with the most hopeless pieces of our lives.

 

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One Day

One day, whether here on earth or in the glory of heaven, we will see. God, the master designer, weaves good from every thread of pain wrought on this earth. That’s what makes him God.

 

Photo Credit: File:Colorful Threads (3965274345).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Blessed with Battle Scars

Blog_DepressionIf given the option, would you choose the path of suffering? I would guess the average person would answer “no.” Were it up to me, suffering would not be on my radar, and most definitely not on my bucket list.

Compared to most of the world, I can’t say I’ve suffered much. But I do have my share of battle scars. There was a season in my life when it seemed I’d escape the fires of one trial only to encounter the next. And while it wouldn’t have been my first choice to endure what I did, in retrospect I’m grateful for that season.

If anything, I’m more real now than ever before. There was a time when I lacked genuine empathy when someone else was struggling. I wanted to understand, but couldn’t. Now I can say, “I’ve been there.” Maybe not in the exact circumstance, but I’ve been in some deep valleys and survived. And because of it, I can not only relate, but I can encourage others through their own valleys.

Going through the adoption process has given me understanding for anyone waiting for something they’ve always longed for. Having a special needs child has given me greater love for other parents in a similar situation, and for children who are uniquely created. Having another child with health issues and dealing with my own chronic fatigue has given me deeper compassion for the sick. And enduring a long season where we didn’t know where our basic provisions would come from has given me empathy for the unemployed, the homeless, and anyone struggling.

The list could go on. I admit, there was a time when I’d rather pull the covers over my head than face another trial. But I can now say that my faith has been refined in the fire, and I’ve come out stronger. I’ve seen the depths of some pretty dark caverns, but I’ve also seen the point when light breaks through and darkness is overcome. My battle scars are blessings in disguise. Because of them, I can say with confidence, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Quote by: Corrie ten Boom

Photo Credit: Free stock photos of depression · Pexels