Recently, I had a long conversation with a really good friend. I’m talking about an actual face-to-face conversation with only a few (ok, more like 5-6, but still) interruptions from our kids and we talked about real things. As mamas to young children, these types of conversations can be few and far between, so I treasured the opportunity to stand across from one of my girls and talk for 20 minutes about things that actually matter. Topics that matter because they cut to heart of how the Gospel intersects our real lives that we are actually living.
Here’s one of the things that I love about this friend, and why I constantly go to her for sound advice – God’s Word doesn’t just sit on a shelf in her life. It’s not wrapped up in a leather-bound cover, kept pristine. God’s Word is alive and active within her. She allows His Word to spill out onto the messy and difficult parts of her life. She allows His Word to expose the dark places around her and even within her. She realizes that the beautiful work that the Gospel achieves always involves hard heart-work that can seem to go on forever. And currently my sweet friend is in one of those long stretches of hard heart-work, and as you might expect it‘s been hard.
She longs for a reality quite different from the real reality of her everyday life. She has a husband she adores, and beautiful children, and she is grateful for these graces, yet still, the ins and outs of where they are right now whittles and wears her down. Life is not bad, but it has been difficult lately. (Perhaps you can relate to this.) She longs for a vision from the Lord regarding His plans for her because she can’t make sense of why she is where she is, but (and this is the thing that struck me most during our conversation) in the midst of her struggle she is confident of this: That it is the Lord who has her there. It is the Lord who has her in the tough place. Take this to heart today –
Sometimes it hurts to be exactly where God has called you to be.
The presence of pain is not necessarily an indication that you’re in the wrong place or doing the wrong things. (Can it be? Yes. But is it always? Definitely not.) If you need proof of that just see the Bible. There are any number of stories in the Scriptures that could make this point, but seeing as I’m knee-deep in a study of Abraham right now, chances are you’re going to be seeing a lot of him around these here parts.
We’re first introduced to Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. The Patriarch of the Patriarchs, Abraham is best known for two things – his faith and his obedience. (I would argue that the latter is simply a product of the former.) Abraham’s story begins with God calling out to him, asking him to leave everything he knows, everything that is familiar and comfortable and safe to go to a “land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). The Lord gives Abraham no indication of where this promised land is, or what lies between where he is and where he is to go, God simply says “Go.” And do you know what? “Abraham went, as The Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:4).
Abraham does exactly what God has asked him to do.
Abraham continues on in this way for quite some time and then, in the midst of his obedience, a famine hits the promised land. Struggle might not be exactly what you are expecting when you step out in obedience to the Lord, but Abraham runs into hard times in the exact place God has called him to be.
God wasn’t punishing Abraham for his obedience. God was teaching Abraham to rely on Him. God was calling Abraham into a deeper faith – a faith that would one day define him. This resonates with me, because one day, I’d like to be defined by my faith, instead of my propensity for second guessing God’s involvement in and intentions for my life simply becasue I’ve run into struggles, difficulty and pain along the way.
Perhaps my propensity to do just that is why Abraham’s knee-jerk reaction to the famine resonates with me as well. Abraham’s first impulse when faced with the tough situation was to get out of it as fast as he could. His default was to self-preserve at any cost and in so doing, he missed God’s abilty to save him out of those particular circumstances (and got himself into a whole other mess of trouble to boot). Abraham, who would be come to known as the “The Father of Our Faith”, fled at the first sign of trouble, and if you’re familiar with the story then you know that choice didn’t go well for him. (Read for yourself in Genesis 12:10-20.)
Sometimes God intends for us to sit in the difficult place and just wait on him there, instead of desperately trying to claw our own way out of it.
Back to my friend – the one who God has in the tough place – she may not know that she knows all this, (in fact, she would probably say that she doesn’t) but she does. As she and I talked the other day, I took such heart from her steadfast hope in the Lord in the misdst of her difficult circumstances, and I thought you might, too.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138