Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Love of God Displayed

A few weeks ago, as we faced the prospect of two surgeries, one to replace the tubes in Wesley's ears and one to repair my umbilical hernia, the thought of caring for our boys while also attempting to maintain our daily schedule of therapy and school seemed daunting, if not impossible.  But it was in the midst of this that God displayed His love and care for us.  God provided far and above all that we could have asked for, through ladies in our church who love Him and as a result have a heart to serve those in need around them.  We were so blessed to see firsthand what the love of God looks like as displayed through these dear ladies.

Love is offering (last minute) to leave your house by 5:15 in the morning to care for boys all day while their parents take their brother to the hospital for surgery.

Love is graciously following specific guidelines to bring delicious meals to a family full of picky eaters.

Love is spending a week full of twelve hour days caring for three boys while Mom lies nearby and watches.

Love, especially for a college student, is arriving at our house promptly at 6:30 every morning, ready to serve the moment you walk in the door.

Love is changing explosive diarrhea numerous times with a smile on your face.

Love is being slapped in the face more times in a week than you've been hit in your entire life and responding graciously each time.

Love is leaving your family to fend for themselves and coming over to watch the boys for an hour and clean up the house before Daddy walks in the door from a long day's work.

Love is emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen when you quickly notice that Mom is too weak even to lift a plate.

Love is joyfully playing with three boys even when you're weary and they have been pulling you in three directions all day long.

Love is playing games over and over and over again with a three-year-old who adores you and won't let you leave his side.

Love is stopping everything you are doing to comfort that same three-year-old who is in tears because he couldn't find you and feared that you were gone.

Love is rushing around to get boys from school to therapy to school to therapy to lunch to naps every day for a week with energy and a cheerful countenance.

Love is selflessly serving those in need, showing them the same love that Jesus has shown to you.

(And, it's possible that as you love this family, you will find that a sweet three-year-old little boy has carved out a little spot for himself in your heart and wrapped you around his little finger. While the family you are serving will never be able to thank you enough for everything you have done, you may just find it to be true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finding Refuge Through God's Word

This post is part of a series. Click on the following links to read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

I want to conclude this series by introducing a woman who has been an example to me of what it looks like to find our refuge in God.

Krista Horning is the author of my favorite book on disability.  As she has walked through life with Apert Syndrome, God's sovereignty and goodness have become a refuge for her soul in the midst of a life she did not expect to live.

I had the opportunity to meet Krista last November at a conference on disability, and God's glorious grace radiates in her life.  This young lady has suffered much in her life.  She has fought hard to believe the promises of God, and she has found refuge in God as she has come to know Him through His Word.

At Desiring God's Disability Conference, she shared her testimony.  I was undone as I listened to her words:
Disability says ugly things to me.
It tells me I am alone.
I am different.
I am worthless.
I am weak.
It tells me my life is hopeless.
Disability lies to me, and sometimes it is easy to listen and believe.
Sometimes I don't want to live with a disability.
Sometimes I don't want to be who God made me to be.
She went on to share how God's word is a refuge to her soul, and what it looks like for her to cling to this refuge.  Then Krista concluded with these words:
For now I live with disability.
Disability still says ugly things to me.
Disability is a part of this broken sin-filled world.  
But God has so many beautiful things to say.
And so I’m filled with hope.
God’s words grow louder and louder in my life.
The glory of His grace and mercy grow stronger and stronger.  
I need to listen to His words.
I want to listen to His words.  
God's words change everything.
God’s beautiful words have changed my life.
And that is how I live with disability.
If you have ten minutes, listen to her testimony and be encouraged.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Do We Find Refuge In God?

This post is part of a series.  Click on the following links to read Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

God is always our refuge, whether we are aware of it or not.  What changes is whether our eyes are on the storms of this life or whether we set our eyes on him and see who He is, what He has done for us on the cross, and what He promises to give us for all of eternity.  The question is not whether or not God is our refuge.  For those of us who have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, God has already promised that He is.  Praise God, that will never change.  The question is whether or not we are taking advantage of it.

So, if God is our refuge, what does it look like to find our refuge in Him?

I have heard it said that we find our refuge from the Lord when we set aside time to get away from our lives and spend time with Him.  But I don't think that's what it looks like.  I don't just find my refuge in the Lord when I am in my closet praying before the sun rises and I step out to face the day on my own.  I find my refuge in the Lord when the three boys and I are at the doctor, no one has eaten lunch, everyone is missing their naps, the boys are all crying, and yet, I am not overwhelmed.  In that moment, God is giving me a peace that surpasses understanding.  In that moment, He is my refuge.  My circumstances have not changed.  He has not removed me from the hardships of life.  But He has answered my cry for help.  He is with me.  And He is protecting my heart from crumbling to a state of being overwhelmed, anxious, and angry at my children.

But God is also my refuge when I don't see it.

He is my refuge when one of my sons receives another heartbreaking diagnosis that leaves me feeling like a failure of a parent.

He is my refuge when I am paralyzed with fear for the life of my husband.

He is my refuge when we are facing two (possibly three) upcoming surgeries, are struggling to find childcare help, and I am faced with the possibility that I will be unable to care for my family for three weeks.

He is my refuge when we add four therapies a week to our already packed schedule.

He is my refuge when I'm weighed down with guilt because I am not faithfully working with my boys each day to reinforce things they work on at therapy.

He is my refuge when I stagger under the weight of my responsibilities.

He is my refuge as I work unceasingly to help Wesley play appropriately rather than stimming.

He is my refuge when I wallow in self-condemnation for all of the times I ignore Wesley's behavior so that I can have a moment of quiet and rest.

He is my refuge when I weep at the affects of disability on our family.

He is my refuge when the words of Psalm 22 echo the cries of my heart.  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest."

As I cry out to the Lord with a broken heart, I read the words "In you our fathers trusted; they trusted and you delivered them.  To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame."  It is true.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  In that moment, I may not have a tangible sense of God's presence, but I know I have a promise.  As I desperately clutch the promise, I cry out, "But you, O Lord, do not be far off!  O you my help, come quickly to my aid!  Deliver my soul from the sword."  And He will.  He has promised that whatever else may happen, He will deliver my soul.  "For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him."

So, as Psalm 46 instructs us to "Be still, and know that I am God," let us ask the Lord to still our anxious hearts.  Our fretting won't change our circumstances.  It will only leave us tattered and worn.  Instead, let us come to Jesus with our broken and heavy laden hearts and there find rest for our weary souls.  In the midst of the trials that we walk through, let us lay our burdens at His feet and find refuge under His wings.  He will not leave us or forsake us.

God is a refuge for our souls.  He is our very present help in trouble.

Friday, February 8, 2013

God Is A Refuge For Our Souls

This post is part of a series.  Click on the following links to read Part 1 and Part 2.

In Psalm 7:1-2, the psalmist cries out, "O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces with none to deliver."

Here we get a picture of what finding our refuge in the Lord looks like.  It does not mean that the storm ceases and we are delivered from all of the trials we are walking through.  It does not mean that a man fighting cancer will not still slowly and agonizingly die, eventually leaving his wife and kids behind.  It does not mean that a family will not still struggle to make ends meet.  It does not mean that a child with disabilities will not still walk through the struggles of this life for all of their days.  What it does mean is that when the storms of this life hit us, which they will, God will be our refuge by saving our souls from being torn apart.  He will deliver our souls from being destroyed by the storm.

If we go back and look at Psalm 46, we see that the psalmist is finding his refuge in God in the midst of present trouble.  The earth is giving way; the mountains are being moved into the heart of the sea; the waters are roaring and foaming; the mountains themselves are trembling.  But yet, in the midst of this, he gives us a picture of what it looks like within the refuge.  The psalmist has found refuge in the city of God, where there is a river whose streams make glad all those who are within the walls.  Because God is in the midst of the city (this refuge), it shall not be moved.  The nations are still raging outside the walls, and kingdoms are tottering.  Nothing has changed.  But within the walls of the city there is peace.  The people of God have found refuge.  There is peace in the souls of the residents of this city, not because their circumstances have changed.  They haven't.  These people have peace because the Lord of hosts is with them.  They have peace because God will help them when morning dawns.  Morning has not yet dawned.  The earth is still crumbling outside the walls of their refuge.  But God has given them peace within their souls as they cling to the promise that someday, after the trials are over, morning will dawn.  And God will help them when morning dawns.

At the end of Psalm 91, it says "Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."  So then, the promise of this Psalm is that one day, God will deliver us.  In the here and now, it can seem that finding our refuge in the Lord means nothing, for often our circumstances don't change.  We don't feel that the Lord has heard our cries for help and come to save us.  But if that is the case, then our perspective is wrong.  God's promises aren't just for today.  They are for all eternity.  While we may suffer for a little while here on this earth, one day, God will deliver us.  Because we know Him by name, He will protect our souls from being torn apart.  He will guard us from being destroyed by the fury of the storm.

Here on this earth, when we call to the Lord, He will answer us.  In the midst of our troubles, He is with us.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  And one day, when our lives here on earth are over, He will rescue us, once and for all, from the pains and sorrows and trials of this life, and will honor us forever as His precious children.  While the Lord does not necessarily promise to satisfy us with long life on earth, we will be fully satisfied in Him forever as He ultimately shows us His salvation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is God A Refuge From Suffering?

This post is part of a series.  Click on the following link to read Part 1.

The other day I was reading Psalm 91 again, which begins like this:  "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.'"  At the risk of sounding heretical, I would say that at first glance, almost every word in the Psalm following this statement appears to be untrue.

It says that "he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence", but we are not always delivered.  I have not been delivered.

It says that "a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you."  But it has come near me.  The pestilence that stalks in darkness has found our family.  The destruction that wastes at noonday is wasting us away.

The psalmist says, "because you have made the Lord your dwelling place - the Most High, who is my refuge - no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent."  This simply is not true.  Evil does befall those who find their refuge in the Lord, and plagues not only come near their tents, but enter their homes and threaten to destroy their families.

So then, if God's Word is true, what do these verses mean?

Half way through Psalm 91, the psalmist says, "For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."  In the beginning of Jesus' ministry, Satan used these very words to tempt Him.  His response should open our eyes to the fact that perhaps we are not understanding the true meaning of the words in this Psalm.  Jesus did not claim these words for Himself, calling thousands of angels to His side to protect Him from harm.  He could have.  Instead, His own life set an example for us of what it truly means to find our refuge in the Lord.

Jesus embraced the path of suffering.  His foot did strike against the stones.  In fact, his whole body was crushed as He was brutally murdered for sins He did not commit.  Even His own Father turned away from Him.

What then did it mean for Jesus to find refuge in God, His Father, as He suffered more than you or I ever will?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is God Our Refuge?

According to Psalm 46, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

If this is true, then how do we answer the person who says that the term refuge needs to be more clearly defined, because either they were wrong their entire life about what they thought it meant, or they are an exception to the statement that God has always proven to be a refuge to those who turn to Him?

What does it look like for us to find the Lord to be our refuge even when everything is going wrong despite the fact that we are coming to Him (or at least were going to Him) for help?

What does it even mean that God is our refuge? What does this mean that He is or does for us in the midst of never ending trials where He seems to be showing that He is not good?

These questions have been on my heart lately, and I plan to write more about this topic in the coming weeks.