As Christians we base our eternal lives, our very souls, on things unseen.
2 Corinthians 4:18
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.
We believe not just in God, but every truth He reveals to us through His word, prayer, worship and Spirit. I believe He raised mountains, parted seas and tore down walls; though I didn’t see it happen. I know people who lived thousands of years ago. Their struggles, failures and the way God used it all to reveal Himself to me. I believe His Spirit lives within me to help and guide me, though it is a still, small voice to which I’ve never laid eyes on.
But I struggle with unbelief every day in a myriad of ways that might not be as obvious. Because I have yet to see. I worry about my family’s future because I have not seen it. Though I know His plans for us are good.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I push to the back of my mind the suffering of others because I have not heard firsthand their cries. I have not felt their tears, smelled the smoke, felt the earth shake beneath my feet or the gnawing hunger in my stomach. I have not seen their trauma or felt their particular broken heart and the hopelessness left in its wake.
It begs the question then. Do I believe in God, or do I actually believe Him?
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
What makes my belief different than that of a demon? Do I believe everything He reveals to me? Do I truly believe it as if I’ve seen it first hand? And if I’m truly believing Him, what does that look like?
To truly believe is to follow. It is to take every God breathed word of the Bible as truth regardless of whether I’ve actually seen or known personally the people within it and to respond in a way that I’ve been instructed to. It is to hear the cries of God’s children whether they are within my own home, in my community, or half a world away.
2 Corinthians 1:4
4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
It is to give freely the gifts of grace showered upon me by a loving, generous Father because I know that He will provide for me. I have received His comfort in more ways than I can count. But have I given it as well?
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
It is to take up the great commission and share hope to the hopeless.
Some of us are called to the mission field into our own home, serving in a hundred ways no one but God will ever see. Some of us are called to serve our own communities, neighbors written off by the world. Still others are called to mission fields far away from the comfort and privilege of Midwest America. But all of us are called to believe and live a life broken and given to Christ. To live free of the chains of this world. This is great news! But it takes a commitment from us to live a life of belief. Believing the ultimate in unseen suffering, the suffering of Jesus, and staking everything we know and have on that truth.
Sometimes I am deeply grieved by the products of my own unbelief. Selfishness, pride, worry and fear can keep me shackled to this world without me even being aware of it sometimes. But thankfully there is no need to despair of the condition of my heart! Thanks to Christ’s willingness to live broken and given for me, this condition is not terminal! In God’s infinite loving kindness, He even gives me a treatment for this condition. A way to help me experience the true freedom of the Gospel and sharing that healing freedom with my neighbors. Both seen and unseen.
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Please help me listen to and be guided by Your Spirit. Please give me Your eyes to see and soften my heart to feel for all of Your children. Reveal to me these things I’m holding more dear to me than You. Show me how to honor You with the time, gifts and resources You’ve given me. Help me to see beyond me, to hear above the noise and to run hard after You. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you see, and if you are feeling so lead to believe in the unseen suffering in the images above, I’d ask you to prayerfully consider helping! You can find out more about the need, and how you can help by visiting the link below.
I know that as followers of Christ we are to expect trial and suffering. But I find that expecting it and being prepared for it are two different things for me. Part of me conveniently forgets this truth until I’m staring at it, blinking in shock because it’s happening again.
A dear friend of mine, who has walked through no small amount of trial and suffering herself, recently was hit with more. Her walk through trial has so greatly encouraged my own and her wisdom, support, and encouragement have been such a huge blessing to me. My heart literally hurt to hear she was facing more. Yet through her pain, I was blessed yet again. This time through a conversation we had about cups (Yes, cups) and the resulting picture I was given.
I’m in a large upscale banquet room filled with tables covered in crisp white linen. Rows upon rows of us are seated. Expectantly waiting. Suddenly, there’s a shifting and murmuring as hands start passing along cups. From left to right and around to the other side, each table passes them one by one. Intrigued, I examine them as they pass through my hands.
Some are fine china, light and delicate with gorgeous, hand painted designs and gold rims. The handles so fragile I hold them on the bottom to pass them along. Others are of sparkling crystal creating orbs of prisms as they move along catching and throwing the light from the overhead lights. Still others are ornate goblets with designs that tell stories and inlaid with precious stones the size of robin’s eggs. I’m in awe of the differences, the uniqueness of each one, as I pass it to my right. Eventually I’m holding an earthen cup, more of a vessel. It’s edges are crude and it’s surface so rough and porous I’m sure that it can’t possibly hold anything. It’s ugly and it weighs far more than I think it should. In no small hurry, I look to my right to pass it along. Only to find their hands are still full. Looking around, I realize that everyone now has a cup. They aren’t moving anymore. Uneasy now, I glance to my left, hoping to pass it back the way it came. They actually lean away, protectively holding the cup they have. Increasingly alarmed, I look for sympathetic eyes, someone who might be willing to trade. I see pity and judgement in eyes averted. Overwhelmed, unable to bear holding it any longer, I place it on the table. My own eyes overflowing, I think if this is my cup, I don’t want one at all.
Head bowed, I rub my hands on my legs to try to rid myself of any remnants of that cup and I feel a hand on my shoulder. A gentle pressure. I look up through blurred lashes and make out an arm reaching in front of me and taking my cup. Startled, I look up into merciful, kind eyes looking straight into mine. “I don’t want it.” I whisper in explanation.
And His understanding kindness undoes me and I weep anew.
“It’s okay. Follow me.”
And because there is hope there, I do. Past curious glances I follow Him through the maze of tables and people and cups and I realize, they don’t even see Him. Puzzled and out of sorts, I follow Him through a doorway, into another room. The light is somehow softer here, but no less bright. There are people here too, but the tables are not covered in linen and they’re seated close together on benches. These eyes look right at me, and shift to my cup. But they’re not afraid. Instead, they shift to make room. Uncertain, I hover behind Him until He holds out a hand, calloused, yet soft, with remnants of clay under His nails. I take it, and my place at this table.
The people here, they lean in close while He dries the tears from my eyes. Through the open doorway I can hear music and too loud laughter. There’s clinking of dinnerware piled high with food and beautiful cups filled with drink. I can smell the abundance and see the chandeliers hanging high and glinting in florescent light. There’s a woman standing in the doorway with one foot in each room, her eyes distracted and pulled to the merriment next door. And I see Him get up, and hold out the same hand to her. Uncertainty and longing flashes quick in her eyes but she remains still.
“When you’re ready, follow me.”
The warmth here is greater than that next door and has little to do with the fire blazing in the hearth. There are no plates piled high with food or waiting in silver warmers. Instead, the fare is simple bread and wine and fills more than my stomach. I watch these people at the table with me as they share what they have and what they know. You see, it’s a work table and they’re looking up instructions in the books at their sides, helping each other. And their cups?
They’re being transformed by a master potter. Expertly washed and painted, they’re made new. Rough lines and crude material are made into the most beautiful of creations. And the fire? I’m now kneeling with a friend next to it, holding her hand. While He is reminding us that though it burns destructive hot to the wood within it, it’s bringing out incredibly unique colors and patterns. And when our cups emerge they will be more beautiful for the process and hold far more than they did before.
In the waiting, we’ll grow together and closer to Him. And maybe someday, when complete, we will no longer want to pass on these cups?
Jesus commands Peter, “Put your sword away, shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
This week marks the anniversary of what I think of as my personal D-Day, or diagnosis day for our daughter. The day our world seemed to turn upside down and no longer made any sense. The repercussions causing me to land in the dark, and the next year learning how to rest in God, over and over again.
Reflecting on the last year, it has been on my heart to share some things with those of you who have, or are, experiencing your own trauma and suffering. Who may still be in that dark place. This letter is for you.
I see you. Always a compassionate person, I can now feel you in a way I never could before. The pain you emanate is palpable. I see the blank look in your eyes in a crowded room, not really taking in anything around you because the darkness you’re caught in has swallowed up the people and conversations around you. Your shoulders are hunched forward, curled around the pain and grief trapped in that place with you. Your smile a mere up turning of your lips. You’ve turned completely inward in the upside down. I don’t know if you’ll hear me, but I want to gather you in my arms and whisper past the shadows under and in your eyes. You’re not alone in there. Keep looking for the light and call out to Him.
Be careful. There may be bright sparks of anger, resentment and blame. Don’t follow them.They may lead you out, give you fuel to keep going, but they’ll only lead you to a life trapped in a place similar to where you are. Void of hope and truth and love.
Wait for His light. Maybe just soft at first, teaching you truth on your way to the surface, or for some people an all enveloping ride full of grace and love.
Whatever that looks like for you, you’re bound to run into the hard but necessary truths. How utterly fragile, helpless and weak we are on our own. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you are unloved, or worthless. Just the opposite. You are so precious and loved Jesus will be with you through all of this. There’s no need to do it alone. When you look to the Lord for your strength, lay all your fears and pain at His feet, you can do all things through Him. Even THIS.
There may be friends and family that, unable or unwilling to absorb the shock, will distance themselves from it. But He will take that anger and resentment you may be tempted to and instead lead you to your knees in prayer for them and thanksgiving for those He’s placed in your life for this instead.
I assure you, His perfect sovereignty has the power to reach down and save you from this dark here and carry you all the way home. When you’re ready, He’ll be waiting. His love so powerful, perfect and faithful, He’ll take it all. And His yoke is infinitely lighter than yours.
There, in that place, you’ll find indescribable joy. The joy that comes solely from Him and has nothing to do with your current circumstances.
Dear one. I don’t know what your personal D-Day is. I don’t know if it’s a child’s diagnosis, your own, loss of a child or loved one, a life changing phone call at 2 a.m. I don’t know why God has allowed this in your life, but I know that He does. That regardless of how this feels now, His plans are to prosper you and give you hope and a future. Even if you can’t see any possible way for that to be true.
Look for, embrace and give thanks for every gift of grace. Big or small.
Hold onto Him, as He is always holding onto you. Remember His promises written on your heart and commit them to your mind.
Love and Blessings,
I wish I could say that this particular anniversary came and went without any unwanted or uninvited memories for me. It didn’t. I woke to fresh memories of that day a year ago. Fear and pain springing up in place of my hope and faith. Sure that despite the blessings rained down on me over this last year I still didn’t have enough faith.
But in the remembering, I realized just how far from the dark He’s brought me, and how much joy I’ve found in His light.