Sick Kids, Sovereign God

sickchildIn my book, sick kids always trump ministry or work.

On the days when I have a child come up sick, I know that whatever I was thinking I was supposed to do that day, I wasn’t.

We recently served with a group of high school students on an intergenerational mission trip to Honduras. Mid-week, my 15-year-old daughter became very sick. We had to miss out on that morning of ministry and an afternoon with a very special outing, and we were both very disappointed.

Several of the wisdom-seeking young girls had asked among the adults that week the question we all long to have answered, “How can we know God’s will for our lives?” Whether in choosing a college, or finding a husband, these girls were on a quest to know how to know what God wants them to do. The day my daughter was sick made for a good example of how God often uses the circumstances He allows into our life each day to show us His good, pleasing and perfect plan. For that day, my child was sick, and I needed to forego my ministry service role and fulfill my nurturing caregiver role with her.

Early in my motherhood journey, my mother said to me, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” And I think it has also gone like this: “You’re only as well as your sickest child.” A given mom-trait is empathy, the ability to share someone else’s (especially our child’s) feelings. When our children are sick, our hearts are broken, and we would rather take their place suffering than watch them suffer through.

Having a sick child is exhausting physically and emotionally, but are we able to see God’s hand in it? Are we able to sense His presence on those hard days? Are we able to tap His power for strength beyond ourselves? Are we able to trust that He is sovereign even over our child’s illness, whether it be acute or chronic?

In my not-so-theologically-equipped mind, I struggle to put my mind around the sovereignty of God, especially when it comes to the very difficult trials that come into our lives. A sick child is clearly one of those. And though this may be over-simplified, the question it comes down to for me is this: “Is He on His throne as King of kings and Lord of all the earth? Or is He not?”

Years ago a local youth group had a terrible tragedy on a weekend retreat. A pickup truck filled with sleeping bags and duffle bags was heading from the church to the home where one group of students was to spend the night. The students followed behind on the freeway, and all saw right away when one sleeping bag flew out of the pickup truck onto the freeway ahead of them. Apparently, they pulled over, and one student went out on the freeway to pick up the sleeping bag. Then, very tragically, the student was struck by an oncoming vehicle and killed.

I heard the senior pastor trying to offer counsel for the students and parents the following morning. And while it would be very difficult to know how to comfort those in the face of such a tragedy, I didn’t feel like his words went in the right direction. Some of the words he spoke were, “God didn’t plan this. This was not in His will. This is not what God wanted to happen here last night.”

Again, in my simple mind, it sounded to me like he was suggesting that God had taken a short break from His throne while the accident occurred. Which brings that question again, “Is He on His throne, or is He not?”

Remember the childhood song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands?” It gives me a picture of God as sovereign Creator of the universe, holding all of creation, especially man whom He created in His image, in His strong hands. If we are held within His strong hands, then only what He allows to come into our lives can get through to us. Whether He is the source of the difficulty, or if our sin, other sinners or Satan are the source, God allows it to come to us for a specific purpose that we may or may not ever know. We can know for certain, though, that His purpose is always to draw us closer into Himself, and shape us closer into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

Does God know when my child is going to be sick?

Yes- He is omniscient, all-knowing. He knows everything about everyone.

Is God able to make my child well?

Yes- He is omnipotent, all-powerful. Whether He does or not, He has the power to.

Is God here to help me through this hard?

Yes- He is omnipresent, ever-present. And He draws near to the brokenhearted.

The gospels tell of us several parents whose children were sick. Where did they turn? They turned to Jesus. One father cried out to Jesus with a very simple, yet honest and profound prayer. “Help me overcome my unbelief!”

May we learn to trust God with our sick children. Whether our plan is interrupted for a day or for years, may He grant us greater faith to trust that He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent through it all.

Hope Surrenders to God’s Will

HandsThough He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.  Job 13:15

Job surrendered to the will of God, even at the loss of his fortune, his family, and then his own health. His hope was in the God whose character He had known to be trustworthy for many years. He knew He could surrender to God’s will and God would prove faithful.  Job held on to God even in the hard. His example is a strong one for us as we try to hold on to hope in our own hard.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Surrendering to God’s will begins in our minds, when we make a conscious choice to move from the world’s patterns to take hold of what He has for us instead. As that transformation happens, we are able to know God’s will for our lives. His “good, pleasing and perfect will” becomes clearer as we remove the old ways of thinking and “let this mind be in you which also is in Christ.” (Philippians 2:5) His Spirit makes His will known to us.

Many struggle with the idea of “God’s will.” If we are honest, we may ask questions like, “Was it God’s will for my child to get sick?” “Was it God’s will that she was born with this disability?”  “Did He will for my husband to leave us?” This can become a complex theological discussion that would take many pages. For our purposes, though, I think we start by asking the question “Is God sovereign?” Does the Creator reign over all His creation?  We can be sure from scripture, from history and from our own experience that He does. We can be sure that all power and glory and honor and praise belong to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then as Job did, we can surrender to what He allows to come into our lives and trust His will to be best- for His glory and for our good.

The illustration I like best to help understand this is from the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Picture God’s hands held together holding your life inside. As He protects and provides for you, any blessing or trial that comes your way must come through His hands first. What gets through to you has been allowed by Him, even if that be sin’s consequences or Satan’s schemes. And if He allows it through, it is according to His good, pleasing and perfect will.

We can be sure that God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself as Lord of all. We have seen how that happens even in life’s most difficult circumstances. His presence, His power and His peace through our trials all bring honor to Him.

A second purpose we can be sure of is His will to conform His children to the image of Christ. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). We can surrender to His sovereign hands allowing tests and trials to come our way to shape us into His image. As a potter pushes and prods his clay to conform to his beautiful plan, so does God push and prod His children to become more like His Son.

Jesus Christ demonstrated total surrender to God’s will through His death on the cross.  Knowing the great sacrifice of suffering He was near to enduring, He prayed this profound prayer.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Luke 22:42

The scripture goes on to tell us that an angel came to Him and “strengthened Him.” Then we learn how difficult that prayer of surrender was for Christ to pray:

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  Luke 22:44

If surrendering to God’s will was that painful for His Son, we can expect to struggle with it as well.  He understands the fight to surrender our own will for His. And He will be faithful to be near to help with the letting go. He knows that the letting go is the very best thing for us. He will give us faith to hold on for God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

Because of Christ’s surrender, we can surrender to God’s will for our lives.

        

Hope Rejoices in the Triumph

victoryBut thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57

We can have hope because we know we win!

We are on the winning team. God has proclaimed that the battle has been won in Christ’s victory over death. We can rejoice knowing the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is on our side. And though we may pick up some battle wounds along the way, we will reign with Christ in His victory in the end.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  1 Corinthians 15:19

Paul writes in length to the Corinthians about our lives being resurrected after death. He differentiates our natural bodies and our coming spiritual bodies, our perishable bodies that will become imperishable, our imperfect bodies to be made whole. Our hope is not only for this life, but for the eternal life still to come.

The hope of heaven gives great encouragement as we struggle with our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses of our loved ones. What is broken here will be restored in heaven forever. There are no wheelchairs, glasses, therapy sessions, or medications. There is no disability or disease, illness or injury, sin or sickness.

And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorified body.  Philippians 3:20

The flesh and bones that we dwell in for this life will be transformed to be like Christ in the life that is to come. And that brings us great hope. We can hold on through the difficulty of this lowly body- ours and that of those we love- knowing He will by His power bring every imperfection under His perfect control. Paul says, “We will all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51).

With God we will gain the victory, He will trample down our enemies.  Psalm 60:12

We face many enemies, all working to bring defeat into our lives. The enemies of fear, pride, ridicule, and shame seek to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). There may be people in our lives who for any number of reasons can be counted as enemies. We may view our child’s disability or illness as an enemy as well. A friend of mine fighting cancer referred to her cancer as “the monster.”

Knowing that God promises to defeat all of our enemies brings a joy and strength for the present battle. We can know He makes good of the evil that comes our way. Joseph said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). We can know He is with us fighting for us. “The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). And we can know He will triumph in the end.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:13

We rejoice that Christ holds victory in store for His children. He wins!  And we win with Him.

May we endure through the trials of this day, holding on to the hope of the triumph to come. May we strive to see the little victories He gives us along the way as glimpses of the great victory He promises for eternity.

If we endure, we will also reign with Him. 2 Timothy 2:12

Fit to Give a King

GivingGift

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, as an adult, the songs I’ve sung since childhood take on a whole new “grown up” meaning.  And this week “The Little Drummer Boy” has been one of them.  I find myself relating to the little drummer boy in several ways.

Come, they told me. A newborn King to see.

Our finest gifts we bring, to lay before the King.

So to honor him, when we come.

This child was invited to come honor the King. I too was invited to join a procession of praise when Christ called me to follow Him. Like him, I wasn’t really sure where the procession would take me, but I knew I didn’t want to miss out.

 Little baby, I am a poor boy too.

I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a king.

This child recognized His shortcomings and felt his offering would be inadequate. So too do I feel an inadequacy with the responsibilities God has called me to. I don’t feel like what I offer could be fit to honor a holy King. My offerings seem broken and stained.

Shall I play for you?

Mary nodded. The ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for him.

This child loved the King enough to offer all he had. So I want to serve motivated by love for my Savior and King. May I offer all I am to give Him thanks and praise.

I played my best for Him. 

He took what He had- what he had been given- and gave His all to serve the King. I want to serve in this way, taking what God has given me- maybe a skill, a gift, a talent, a blessing- and offering it back to Him with all the strength I have.

Then He smiled at me.

He watched for the approval of the King. As a recovering people-pleaser, I so long to live only for the approval of the King. I think of the “audience of one” that I want to focus on, leaving the approval of man behind.

Several scriptures come to mind as I ponder the truths in this song:

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of man? Or of God?  Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Romans 12:1 “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship.”

I am also reminded of the widow told of in Luke 21 who gave two very small copper coins as an offering for the temple treasury. Jesus commended her, saying she had given more than all the others. “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Lord, I come as the poor little drummer boy to offer all you’ve given me back to your service. I come as the poor widow with all I have to live on. May I serve you with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. Take all that I am for Your Glory. May my offering please the King.

Hope Rejoices in Trying

volleyball-pic

Seventh grade volleyball tryouts are brutal. The stress of 80 middle school girls trying out for a team with only 30 spots is almost unbearable- for the girls trying out, and for their mothers. I remember this from my own middle school experience, and I have recently relived it with my daughter. I remember my father cheering me on by saying “all you can do is do your best,” words I spoke to my daughter as well. Go out and give it your best shot, and whether you make it or not, you will know you gave it all you had.

Unfortunately, this time around, my daughter’s best wasn’t enough to make the team, and she was devastated.  (So was I). Both our hearts were broken, but we could begin to find peace in looking back knowing she had done her best. She had tried her hardest, and she could wrestle back to accepting the outcome knowing she had given her all. Thankfully her young faith could begin to see that God must have had another good plan in mind. She could rest knowing she had learned from the experience, trusting God to bring her to a better place.

There is a line in the song “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman that says, “I will be here when the laughter turns to crying, through the winning, losing and trying.”  Winning, losing and trying. A simple view of our lives, but yes, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, all the while we just keep on trying.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

Scripture clearly calls us to work, to try, to give our best shot at honoring Christ with our lives. As we are faithful to put forth our heart, soul, mind and strength to love and obey Him, He is faithful to carry us through.

On this parenting journey, I have definitely seen some wins, and I have definitely seen some losses.  I can look back and rest knowing I learned from those experiences, and grew in faith to trust God to bring me to a better place.  Even on days of defeat, there is peace in faithful trying.

We can sometimes look back and get discouraged by those days of defeat. We can be tempted to blame and doubt and heap guilt on ourselves wishing we had done something different. But we have to remember that we did all we knew to do at the time. When it comes to our children, of course we gave it our best shot at the time.  We have to trust the outcome to God, knowing He had another good plan in mind.

Our walk with the Lord is just that- a walk. Not a sprint. We have to settle in for the long haul of walking through life in His grace. Along the journey we will encounter many ups and downs. We can find greater joy as we see glimpses of His glory in small victories along the way.

Finally, brothers, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.  2 Corinthians 13:11

The NIV translates “be made complete” with “aim for perfection.”  We are called to set our sights on following the holiness of God, while knowing that only He is holy. We can rejoice on the journey of striving to do our best, while accepting His grace that covers our sins and shortcomings.

I want to settle in to the long haul of walking with Christ through this temporary life. I want to be faithful to what He has for me here. I want to find joy in the journey of trying.

In Everything Give Thanks

cornucopia

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

This week we are giving thanks. Thanks for family. Thanks for food. Thanks for faith.

For many of us the holidays are truly a time of thanksgiving. And yet at the same time, the stress and tension of family relationships or circumstantial difficulties can make this time a great challenge. Paul makes quite clear to us in this scripture that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in everything.

This is hard.

I’ve found on this parenting journey a great blessing comes in framing life’s challenges in thankfulness. I am learning to thank God in the struggle, even if I can’t yet thank Him for the struggle. Trials are easier to endure and find peace in if I can keep a close gaze on God. He is above and beyond the trial, yet chooses to come walk with me through the trial.

I will give thanks to God because of His righteousness. Psalm 7:17

In difficulty, there is always something worth giving thanks for. And we can start with the very character of God Himself. He is God no matter what we are facing. And He is still on His throne. He is still “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8). He is still light, and He is still love. When we focus on His righteousness, we see our circumstances through very different lenses.

With this new perspective, then, I find three reasons we can give thanks in everything.

Glimpses of His presence and glory– Even in the midst of the most difficult times, God will reveal Himself and make His presence known. Our first born daughter was born with a blocked intestine and had to have emergency surgery on her 8th day of life. All of our family spent Thanksgiving Day that year in the hospital with her. One of those nights we left to get good rest in our own beds, and as we got in the car, the Christian radio station there announced a prayer for “a new born little girl Katelyn having surgery on her intestines tomorrow.”  God gave us a glimpse of His presence that night- a glimpse we needed to keep clinging to Him and to each other to get through the hardest time of our lives. Look around and see the beautiful sunset, a friend’s encouraging phone call, a Bible verse hung on the wall, a caring doctor as glimpses of His presence and glory to keep you going. And be thankful.

Gifts of His love and strength- In moments of fear, frustration, helplessness and loss of hope, listen for the whisper of God’s love over your life. Remember again His perfect heavenly Father love that completely and unconditionally loves you, His beloved daughter. Remember His Fatherly protection and provision. The Christian group Plumb sings the lyric “How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?”  Clinging to His love we can find strength to keep breathing and to keep walking even just one small step at a time. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). And we can be thankful.

Grace for today and hope for tomorrow- I’ve found on my hardest days that God’s grace comes in different ways. It is grace that brings comfort, wisdom and strength to the present, and gives peace in the midst of the raging storm. It is grace that reminds me who I am and whose I am. It reminds me that God has authored each day I face before time began. But it is also grace that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Hope is holding on to the truth that this is not our home. Our eternal home is on high in the presence of God, and there with Him there is no weeping, no broken bodies, and no more sin. And we can be thankful- for the now and for the coming.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

Of all the things we can give thanks for this week, we can give thanks for Him and to Him- for He created everything, He is over everything, He is in everything.

In everything, give thanks.

Hope Rejoices in Trials

girlwithbrokenarm

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.   1 Peter 1:6-7

Can we find a joy in knowing there is a purpose to our trials? Is there a hope in knowing God has a greater goal in allowing these trials into our lives? Does a peace come in the midst of the refining fire of life’s challenges?

There are two phrases of this scripture that can give us a better perspective for facing trials:

“Now for a little while”- The translation literally means “now for just a few minutes.” Elsewhere in scripture (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8), we learn that “a thousand years are like a day” in God’s sight. If we work the math on that (which would be easier done on a white board), and say that 1,000 years in our time is like 24 hours to God, then we can work back and say 500 years to us is like 12 hours to God, and 250 years is like 6 hours, etc.  If we live an average of about 80 years, then we will only live about 1.9 hours in God’s eternal perspective. 1.9 hours. Then if we estimate how long a season of trial may be, we can see the perspective of “now for just a few minutes.” Even our greatest difficulties last just “a little while” in light of the eternal time we will spend worshipping God in heaven- free from all pain and suffering.  Seasons of struggle can seem endless, but in light of eternity, their time is short. We can hold on through the hard, knowing the hard lasts only a little while.

“Praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed”- I see two meanings for the end of this passage. First, we can rejoice in knowing that in the end, when Jesus is fully revealed and reclaims His Kingdom reign here on earth, we will overflow with praise, glory, and honor that will overshadow all of this life’s temporary sufferings.  Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) When the glory of Jesus Christ is fully revealed, we can be assured our sufferings will pale in light of Him.

A second meaning for this passage that I see is the revealing of Christ that happens not only in the future, but in our present circumstance. The word “revealed” here literally means “to be laid bare, to uncover, to lay open what has been veiled or covered up.”  In the midst of great trial, Christ can seem hidden. We can struggle to find Him in the hard. But if we hold on, He is faithful to unveil Himself to us, and bring in peace and joy. His light can penetrate even our darkest moments, and the revelation that He is with us restores hope. His presence can bring us to a place of praise, glory and honor even as we “suffer grief in all kinds of trial.”

My soul will boast in the LORD, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:2, 18

We can rejoice in our afflictions because of God’s nearness. He does not leave us to suffer on our own, but rushes in close with His great strength and comfort. I can look back on my most challenging seasons as a parent, and can testify that those were the times when God was closest. He was there growing my faith, leading my steps, working in my life as He worked in my child’s life as well. And for that awareness of Him, and the work that He did deep in my soul, I would not trade those times. He really can bring us to a place of rejoicing, a place of thanking Him for the trials.

Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Psalm 51:8

Bones that are broken heal up stronger than they were before. So too are our hearts made stronger by God’s healing hands when we have been through grief, disappointment, loss and hurt. Our faith is refined, our peace is restored, and our hope is renewed.

Because They’re His, Not Mine

BoyRockClimb

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  For his whole life, He will be given over to the LORD.  I Samuel 1:27-28

Because my children belong to God, and not to me, I can find freedom, peace and rest as I trust them to His strong hands and perfect love. If I live in this faith and keep this perspective, my parenting journey is changed for His glory and for my good.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I know He loves them even more than I do. The great love and endless grace of their Heavenly Father are poured over each child as He protects and provides for their every need.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can trust them to His care. Whether they are sitting close at my side, or travelling far across the world, our omnipresent God is with them. His eyes are always on them, even when my own are not.

Because they’re His, and not mine, my own worth is not based on their choices. Whether they are shining in righteousness or struggling with sin, I resist taking the credit or the blame. I choose rather to set my own worth on who I am in Christ, which has not changed since my children were born.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I’m free to serve them with unconditional love. Each one is a gift placed in my care by their Creator. May I love them as He would have me. May I serve them with His patience, His grace, His discipline and His wisdom.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can be their parent and not their best friend. Seeking to please God, and not to please my child, I can keep my place as parent in their lives. I can parent with purpose training their hearts and minds for Christ.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can see past who they are today to who He is shaping them to be. He has begun a good work in each one of them, and I can rest knowing He will be faithful to complete it. I see His hand working even in the hard. Each glimpse of His presence gives me more patience and grace.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can live with healthy boundaries, respecting their emerging independence. As they grow, may they take on more responsibility for their own decisions. May I model that responsibility as I live my life before them.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can keep myself healthy to best serve Him in this role. I can seek to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In doing so, I am best fit to honor God in this role. I can live with balance and an eternal perspective.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can parent for His glory rather than for my own accolade. I can resist the temptation to compare and compete with others. I can seek the contentment that comes in living for the Lord, and not for myself.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can stand in awe of who He has made them to be- today. When I set aside pressures to perform and pretend and be perfect, I see each child as an amazing creation shaped not by my will, but by the will of God. Each heart, mind, body and soul is a treasure who is worthy of great care.

Lord, forgive me for where my parenting has been centered on me, or centered on my child, and not centered on You. Make me a faithful servant of the children you have placed in my care. Give me your heart to love them as you would. Renew in me the wonder of who you have made them to be. I want to be faithful to you.

 

Hope Rejoices

happygirl

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Let all who take refuge in you be glad. Let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Psalm 5:11

When we rejoice in the Lord, we raise our hearts above our current circumstances to praise the goodness of who He is. Rejoicing is lifting our souls to see God’s unchanging faithfulness and goodness. As we rejoice, we reach out to hold on to the hope we have in Christ.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.   Psalm 42:5

The Psalmist articulates transferring his soul’s hope from the despair of his circumstances to praise for his God. Though I can’t find dictionary or root word proof of this, I have always seen the word rejoice as having the prefix “re-“ which means again. Add that with the “joy”- and I see it meaning to find joy again. Rejoicing is taking our soul back to that place of joy with the Lord again.

Shout for joy, O heavens, rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains. For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.  Isaiah 49:13

Isaiah commands all of creation to rejoice because God comforts and has compassion on His people. So even in affliction, we can rejoice. Why? Because God is near with comfort and compassion. We are not commanded to rejoice because of the affliction, but to rejoice because God is near in the affliction.

Joy comes second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we are filled with Jesus, we are filled with joy. And it is Christ’s joy within us that enables us to endure through life’s hardest challenges.

Children very often have an incredible ability to hold onto joy. Their world may be filled with great pain and difficulty, yet their spirit holds onto a joy that overrules. As mothers, we can set aside our own pain to take in the joy of our children and hold on through the hard. We can rejoice because our children rejoice. Their simple, trusting faith and hope can encourage us to do the same.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

An acronym for JOY is Jesus, Others, and You. We can find JOY in seeking Jesus first, then serving others, then thinking of ourselves last. In our difficulties, we often turn those around. We look first to ourselves and our own strength, then possibly to others for help, and lastly to Jesus. The problem with looking first to ourselves is that self-pity often overtakes us, and robs all joy.

My college roommate had a note on her mirror that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Looking around at all the good others seem to be experiencing keeps us from trusting God with where He’s placed us and how He’s blessed us. We can easily look at mothers of “normal” children and get caught in self-pity, losing sight of the goodness of God in our lives. We focus on what we do not have, rather than rejoicing in all that we do have.

As beloved children of God, we can rejoice in God’s presence and His peace, His care and compassion, and His help and hope. Let’s learn to lift our souls to Him and rejoice in Him- even in the hard.

Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.  Psalm 51:12

Hope Trusts God’s Compassion

MotherBandAid

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all. He has compassion on all He has made.  Psalm 145:8-9

We have seen that God’s character is trustworthy. And we have seen that He created all things for His glory, and is faithful to care for all that He made. He is worthy of our full trust for all that He is and for all that He does. We see more of His heart for His creation as we look at God’s compassion.

One definition for compassion is “to see, care and act on another’s need.” God who is the all-knowing Creator of all sees every need that we have. And when He sees those needs, His response is one of compassion- He cares about what He sees. But His response goes beyond seeing and caring, to having the power to act on the need.  He moves towards us to help with power and love.

We have all passed a homeless man or woman on a busy street corner. We may have seen the need, but did we really care? And if we cared, did we do anything to help? If not, then our response was not one of compassion. Compassion is seeing, caring and acting on another’s need. I’m so thankful God has compassion on all He has made. He doesn’t glance and keep driving, but instead He stops and extends His mighty hand of help.

Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him.  Lamentations 3:21-25

In the scriptures above, we see several characteristics of God’s compassion that are closely related. We see that God is gracious, slow to anger and rich in love. Gracious means that He gives grace and favor to those who don’t deserve it. He is slow to anger- He doesn’t look at our sin and react hastily, but moves compassionately to respond. And above all else His love for us is great.

A mother’s love for her child is to me the closest taste of God’s love for us that we can experience here on earth.  As we experience the rich unconditional love flowing from us to our child, can we feel God’s love flowing towards us in the same way? When our child makes a mistake, commits a sin, or otherwise acts in a way we wish he or she wouldn’t, and we feel that faithful love and forgiveness still pouring forth, can we accept it from God when we fall short? When our child is hurting, and our heart sees, cares and acts with compassion and help, can we trust God to move towards our hurt in the same way?

Another aspect of God’s compassion is empathy. Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s pain. It is knowing and understanding another’s pain, usually gained from having had the same experience.  Scripture assures us that through the incarnation, Christ experienced the same hurts as we have.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15

Though Christ did not have a child with special needs, we can be assured He experienced doubt, fear, grief, loneliness, disappointment and loss, just as we have. And we can be assured He is able to help us respond to those hurts in a way that grows our faith and honors God.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. We can trust His tender response to His children. He is good to those whose hope is in Him.