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Through All Of It

A dear friend recently turned me on to the song “Through All Of It”, performed by Colton Dixon.

Sometimes the lyrics or melody of a song hit you right in the gut.  In this song, both of them do for me.

Here are the lyrics:

[Verse 1]
There are days I’ve taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn’t make again
I’ve had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

[Chorus]
I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

[Verse 2]
You were there when it all came down on me
When I was blinded by my fear
And I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments
You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story’s always gone

[Chorus]
I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Through all of it

[Bridge]
And this is who You are
More constant than the stars up in the sky
All these years of our lives, I
I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I’m always going to

I have won
And I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy
I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/c/colton_dixon/through_all_of_it.html

I can relate to almost every word in this song, as I assume most of you can also.  The second verse really gets to me, especially given all that we’ve journeyed through these last four-and-a-half years, “when it all came down on [us]” and “[we] struggled to believe”.  God was there, and continues to be, through all of it.

Through the pain of intentionally bad choices and unintentional disaster, my God has been present in my life.  I could always feel Him, faithfully and patiently waiting for me.

I hope that you can experience Him today, no matter what mountaintop or valley you may be in.  He has demonstrated His love for you through His Son Jesus.  God loves you, through all the circumstances of your life.  Be encouraged…

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Faith

This past week I listened to someone preach through Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible.  I began to think about what faith really is and looks like.  I thought that I could write a post about faith, Hebrews 11, the faith “hall of fame”, and so on.  But as I recently laid down and had a few moments to meditate, the thought came that I should write about what faith means to me.

First of all, how do I define faith?  Well, let me use the Biblical definition:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

If I could put this into my own words, I would say that faith is my conviction to trust God’s promises, that I have a future hope better than this world, which hope I cannot see at this present time.  I can understand that there are things invisible through observing the things that are visible.  I understand that there is a Creator by observing the things that are created.

My faith comes from believing that God’s Word is true and that He demonstrated His love for me by sending Jesus Christ to take the penalty for my sins in his flesh.  Through believing in His Son, I receive the Holy Spirit of God, who helps me and strengthens my faith.  Through believing that, on God’s accounts, I am now crucified and raised with Christ, I now have guaranteed eternal life and victory over sin.

As I read through Hebrews 11, I see many great Biblical “heroes” who demonstrated great acts of faith.  I read about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and so forth.  I read that people subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, escaped peril, received ones back from the dead, and more.  But then I read that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in half, tempted, killed, or were nomads.  The Scripture says that the world was not worthy of this later group and that they did not receive the promise of their faith during their lifetime on earth.  However, they, along with us, will receive something better from God.

Faith is not just mountaintop experiences, although such experiences are wonderful.  Faith is also walking, well faithfully, though the valleys of life and still trusting God’s promises even when we cannot see.  In Scripture, I don’t see the faith that some of these preachers on television and the radio speak about.  I don’t see God instructing us to speak the word and believe without wavering to get a new car, house, job, or money, money, money.  I once heard someone say that the world will be drawn to God when they see how he causes us to prosper.  I could understand the point trying to be made, but wouldn’t unbelievers also consider God when they see someone trusting Him when their world is falling apart around them and they have a worldly reason not to trust Him?  I’m not saying that the only way to point people to God is through suffering, and believe me I am not going about looking for more, but I want us to consider what would really make a lasting testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in someone’s life.

My faith in God has caused me trust Him even while in the darkest valley of my life.  Faith has helped me to realize that God knows what is best for me at all times, even when evil happens to me.  He can turn that evil around to work good in me, if I don’t fight against Him.  Faith has led me to trust God at a deeper level and to set my eyes more on the unseen than the seen.  OK, that part is not always true because there are days when what I see pulls at me to indulge in…well whatever.  But through faith in believing God’s Word that says I am crucified with Christ and dead to sin, I can overcome the temptation and press on towards Christ and my promises awaiting in Heaven.  If I do stumble, I also read that even the great “heroes” of the faith stumbled at times, but God was merciful to them and he is also merciful to me.

So, what is faith?  Is it believing that God will give us our wants, or that He provides us with all of our needs?  What is our greatest need?  Is it not to have His forgiveness and mercy?  I believe that is my greatest need.  Through faith, I believe that all of my sins are forgiven and I am completely righteous in God’s eyes, not because I feel like it (because I don’t) but because God says so.

I don’t believe that faith can be stagnant.  I heard someone say that faith is not like a pond but is like a river.  We can’t rely on a one-time faith experience, but should exercise it daily to keep it vibrant and growing.

Blessings,

Andy

 

 

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Ambushed by Grief

We are blessed again this year to be able to attend a local GriefShare support group.  The second session in the GriefShare video series explores the concept of being “ambushed by grief”.  Last year, when we went through this series the first time, this concept did not capture my attention as much as it did this second time through.

To further examine this concept, let’s first define the word “ambush”:

1. an act or instance of lying concealed so as to attack by surprise: The highwaymen waited in ambush near the road.

2. an act or instance of attacking unexpectedly from a concealed position.

3. the concealed position itself: They fired from ambush.

4. those who attack suddenly and unexpectedly from a concealed position.

verb (used with object)

5. to attack from ambush.

ambush. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved February 03, 2013, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ambush

An ambush involves the elements of surprise, concealment and being attacked.  Have you ever experienced grief in this way?  Does grief surprise you at the most unexpected or inopportune times?

Any given circumstance can result in me being ambushed by grief.  Commonly, a grief ambush occurs when I see a boy around Isaac’s age, between the ages of ten (his age when he died) and twelve (the age he would be now if he were still living here on earth).  My typical response is to either cry, imagine that boy as Isaac, withdrawal from the situation, become emotionally paralyzed or any combination of these responses.  I also occasionally experience disorientation and confusion and am unable to make a decision for a short period of time.  The symptoms may pass relatively quickly, especially after I consciously determine to pray to God for help through the event.  Although, before I reach the point of consciously praying to God, I feel as if my heart is turned God-ward anyway, lifting up inaudible and unintelligible words and thoughts to Him.  I am reminded of the following Scripture verse:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Rom 8:26)

Recently, a situation occurred that triggered a grief ambush.  Someone was injured and for a few moments the severity of the injury was uncertain (the injury turned out to be minor and the individual is quite fine now).  In those moments of uncertainty, I became emotionally paralyzed and felt faint and my mind was cloudy.  I immediately withdrew from this situation and cried out to God for help and sanity.  He gave me the strength to return to the situation and assist, although I felt guilty for retreating in the first place.  I felt that I had to retreat at the time in order to gather my senses, but I wish I could have immediately drawn on the Spirit to help me in the first place. All of this over a minor injury – I was ambushed indeed.

Even as I write now, I continue to learn that grief is not a short-term spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical struggle that you just “get through”.  Perhaps, this will be a lifelong journey until I reach my eternal home.  I don’t understand any more of “why” we are one this journey, but I am learning more of who God is.  I realize that He is beyond the box that I tried to put Him in.  I know that He is good, trustworthy, gracious and merciful, even when my life experiences would tempt me to conclude otherwise.

Just this past week, I heard the following song on the radio.  The song is titled “Who You Are” and is performed by JJ Heller.  I think you will appreciate why this song impacted me and I hope that it causes you to reflect more on who God is, no matter what you are facing in life.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Coincidence?

I believe that God is intimately involved in the details of our lives.  I don’t believe that He is some sort of 161cosmic puppeteer, but I do believe that He works in mysterious ways and could even provide signs to encourage His children.  Something happened yesterday that I am “choosing to see” as divine encouragement rather than just mere coincidence.  You may choose to see otherwise.

Please allow me to provide some background first.  Our son Isaac really liked trains.  Someone who worked for Norfolk Southern gave him a gift bag of various train-related items, which included the “Toys for Tots” train hat that he frequently wore and a bumper sticker that read “I brake for trains”.  Isaac had placed the sticker on the side of one of our toy containers.  Below is a link to an example of that sticker:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jritch/2698131993/

Yesterday I was faced with a rather difficult situation.  As I was driving and asking God for wisdom and that He would be glorified through me in handling the situation, I imagined a conversation in Heaven.  I imagined Isaac watching these events unfold along-side of God.  I then imagined that God told him “you see, your dad’s heart is to glorify me in how he conducts himself”.  I finally visualized a satisfied smile across Isaac’s face as if to say “I’m proud of you dad – keep going on for God”.

As I closed my prayer, I intellectualized that it is nice to imagine such a conversation but I can’t be sure that such a one would take place.  Actually, I can still not wholly make that claim.  However, immediately after closing my prayer, a white truck passed me on the left – and guess what bumper sticker was pasted on its tailgate!

So, a divine sign or merely coincidence?

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Christian Studies

 

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What Helped Us Through

Two evenings ago, we attended a “Blue Christmas” service at a local church.  The intent of the service is to minister to those who are hurting at this time of year, either due to the death of loved one or some other difficulty in his/her life.  The main theme of the service is to focus our hope on the God of all comfort, Who sent His Son Jesus to this earth to redeem mankind.

There was a family at the service who lost a daughter within this past year.  She died suddenly in a tragic accident.  Several extended family members also in attended the service.  We could see the bewilderment in their faces and were reminded of the early part of our journey after Isaac died.  One of the extended family members, who was aware of our circumstances, asked us how we made it through the first year.  After a careful pause, I replied that we made it through by trusting God at a deeper level than ever before and talking with other people, especially those who walked this journey before us.

As I reflected further on that person’s question and my response, I really noticed three keys that were integral to us making it through that first year after Isaac’s death:

1.  God

Who else but Almighty God could lead us through?  Yet, there were times when we didn’t feel His presence.  There were times when we doubted in His promises.  There were even times when were angry at Him.  Even so, deep inside our hearts we heard a still small voice that told us we should trust Him.  Looking back, we can see His loving care throughout the entire experience.  In my heart, I believe in the truth of His Word, even when my circumstances seem to be in contradiction.  God is not a liar – He will fulfill His promises and keep His Word, even when we can’t see so in the natural realm.

2.  People

The support that we received from others was tremendous.  Though we felt alone and that nobody could relate to what we were going through, we were loved upon by family, friends, co-workers and strangers.  Very few tried to offer explanations.  Most were reassuring in their words and acts of kindness.  When we did want to talk, we found that most were willing to listen.  Many were the hands and feet of Jesus.

We also were helped through reading books and blogs written by other parents who have experienced the death of a child.  Although our shared circumstances are undesired, the bond that is formed between grieving parents is unique and runs very deep.

3.  Time

I choose to contradict the saying that “time heals all wounds”.  I don’t believe that time in of itself heals wounds – only God can truly heal a wound deep in the soul.  However, having time and even space to grieve was very important for us.  I was blessed by my employer to be allowed off work for an extended period of time.  This time allowed us to grieve together as a family.  We were able to process our emotions and talk through our thoughts.  We had time to read God’s Word and the other books listed here.  I had time to write about our journey, which also allowed me to process my thoughts and emotions.  When the time felt right, I was able to return to work feeling refreshed and prepared.  I am not saying that I was over my grief (I am still not “over” it nor expect to ever be).  However, I had healed enough to be able to take that next step.

So now, what is the next step for us?

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2Co 1:3-4)

There are many in our local area who are in need of comfort.  As we take the next step on our journey, we hope to comfort others with the same comfort that we have received.  Lord, please equip us to be Your hands and feet.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Questions

Why? This question has crossed our minds and we’ve prayed over potential reasons, but we are not aware of a clear and specific answer. We may not ever know the reason for Isaac’s relatively short life this side of heaven. We know that God allowed Isaac to have ten good years. Isaac showed us how to laugh and be enthusiastic about life (his name fit him so well) and also showed love, affection and compassion for those who were smaller or weaker (he was such a loving big brother). We learned a lot about ourselves from raising Isaac and may share those lessons in a future post. Even without knowing any specific reason, we are seeking to glorify God through all of this.

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (Joh 9:1-3)

Is God in control? We believe that God is always in control. Yet, He allows tragedy to strike for reasons we don’t understand. One historical example is recorded for us in the book of Job. We know from the beginning of the book why tragedy struck Job, however there is no indication that Job was aware of the heavenly interaction between the LORD and the accuser. Job’s friends failed to provide a sufficient explanation. In the end, God did not explain “why” to Job but rather declared “who” He is. My understanding is that God wants us to draw close to and know Him even more through our tragedies.

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. (Psa 119:71)

There are promises in the Bible about God’s protection for the righteous. However, there are also recorded occurrences of the righteous suffering through trials and persecution, even to the point of death. I consider God’s protection over our eternal souls. If you are His child by faith, then you can trust Him with your soul and not fear what man (or any other power) can do to your body. Who knows how many times God has protected us from some unseen evil or potential accident? He also has said that we will only see the judgment of the wicked with our eyes:

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. (Psa 91:7-8) (Note that according to this verse when the wicked are judged it appears to be in a general, widespread manner.)

Do I believe that Isaac is in heaven? Yes, because he was a child and also because he believed in Jesus Christ. Based on his age and understanding, I don’t believe that he was at a state (not age) of accountability for himself. Yes, “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Pro 20:11), but do you believe he was capable of standing before Almighty God to give an account for his life? Even if he was, he believed in Jesus Christ with the understanding that a ten-year old boy can have. He knew that Jesus died on the cross for his sins. Did he understand what it meant to be justified or sanctified? We were teaching him those concepts on his level; however, what doctrine do you need to understand to be saved, other than faith in Jesus Christ?  “He that believeth on him is not condemned…” (John 3:18a).

Did God allow this accident to happen? Yes, but I don’t believe that he caused it to happen. Does God have a purpose in this? Absolutely, especially according to Romans 8:28-29. God is working this for His glory and for the good of those who love Him and are His. His desire is that we would conform more and more into the image of His Son. He will utilize any means that He determines will best accomplish this goal. We believe that He will ultimately be glorified through all of this, if we continue to honor and seek Him. We are seeing people (including us) reevaluate their lives and read the Bible and pray more. We are thankful for this fruit.  I am reminded of what Joseph said to his brothers:

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Gen 50:20)

Some may say that we are holding onto God as a crutch or that we are guided by some vague concept of a god but not by the true and living God. First of all, the Bible is His Word and no matter how much man and Satan have tried to destroy it, it is still standing! Secondly, there was a man claiming to be one with the Father (see John 10:30) who walked this earth, died a horrendous death on a cross and rose again from the dead after three days. The events and words of his life are recorded for us primarily in the Bible and also in other historical resources. He said some very offensive and divisive words. What do you do with him? You can’t be indecisive because your eternal soul is at risk. Just take a look at what he said – he was either speaking the truth or he was perhaps severely deranged or deceitful. I recommend that you start with the Gospel According to John. Lastly, I submit to you as evidence lives that are changed dramatically by faith. I am one of those specimens. If you knew my past and don’t believe in God or His power to change lives, you probably wouldn’t consider me one bit credible. Well, I am not credible by my own credentials. It is only “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1Co 15:10). Oh, I still sin and it grieves my heart that I bring dishonor to my Lord, but I am not the man who I once was.

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1Jn 5:7-8)

These are some of the questions that we have wrestled with. What are your questions? We hope that you find the right answers.

Struggling, but still trusting and seeking,

Andy

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

(Ecc 7:1-4, 13-14)

 

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