Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"But This I Call to Mind and Therefore Have Hope"

My prayer request for a long time has been asking the Lord for contentment. After quite a few years of “desert-dwelling,” I got tired of asking for all the other things really on my heart—like a full time job in the field I studied, for a husband to love and care for me, for financial stability, for joy. So I thought, “Maybe I’ll just stop pleading with God for these things and ask Him to help me be satisfied where I am right now.” It sounds very faith-filled and righteous of me, but honestly I did it begrudgingly. Asking the Lord for contentment was not as much an acknowledgment of His ability as a pity party raging in my mind.  Rather than praising God for His faithfulness and focusing on the Gospel, I was thinking of my own faulty circumstances.  

But then something interesting began happening. 

In January, after a time of feeling particularly un-worthy, I felt a tug, a whisper, to go back to school. It definitely wasn’t my own will that thought of it. The suggestion and timing seemed to come out of thin air. But I heeded the Advice and applied for an online Masters of Library Science program. When I got accepted to the program and awarded with some financial aid, I felt it must be the start of God answering my prayers. I was pleased and even expectant, but still this internal war of self-pity raged within me. Things I had prayed for years ago were still waiting to be answered, and here was this new hope, given within a few months. 

Around the same time as I was applying to graduate school, I signed up to take the membership class at my church. I have been attending my church since 2007, but had never gone through with becoming a member. The honest reason is that I was tied up on the issue of baptism (I was baptized as an infant, not as a professing believer). My pastor and a few others discussed the issue with me and I recognized baptism as an act of obedience to my church and God, not something to be self-conscious of or insubordinate about. 

So when I became a member, I made the promise to be baptized. As I waited for the day of my baptism, it seemed like everything began happening at once. One of my part time jobs all of a sudden wanted me to work more hours. It was presented to me as a promotion, but one in which others had to be let go. It made me feel like a rug was being pulled out from under me. It shook me to the core. I also knew that once my online classes started, I wanted to work fewer hours, not more. It made no sense. My heart was far from thankful for this warped answer to my prayers. 

As I was trying to pray through my angst, all I felt was a cloud of frustration above my head. Then one day, as I was walking up by the beach (I praise God for that beach!) I felt the Lord say to my heart, “Pain is meant to show where things need healing.” I didn’t really know what it meant, but I felt like He was telling me to accept the promotion, to walk forward in faith. I clearly saw God showing me that while He does not promise a painless, straight path, but He does promise to lead and love me all the way through.

A week later, I was at that same patch of beach, being dunked beneath the choppy Lake Michigan waves. Before I was baptized, I shared a few words with the congregation. I said,

Knowing that it was going to be a windy day today, I was thinking about how we see waves and storms in Scripture. In life, it is inevitable that the waves of  life will lift us high and plunge us down into the depths. But they are not what is in control. I know that God’s love for me is not determined by my circumstances or whether I cry out loud enough from the squall. He is the One who made the sea (the lake), the waves, the wind. He formed my life. I want to read a bit from Lamentations. I know it seems a little weird. But calling out to God in lament is just as important as singing out praise. “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.”’ (Lamentations 3:21-24)

If all these things had not happened in the weeks leading up to my baptism, I doubt I would have felt the same conviction about God’s sovereignty. 

My pastor warned me that the Devil is especially eager in his snarls after a baptism. As the congregation prayed for me, I thought to myself, “I don’t need any more suffering, thank you very much!” But I also felt a great sense of calm. I knew that the Lord had been showing me how He responds so strongly to my shaky ground.

This week, one week since my baptism, I received some news that seriously threatened to crumble my already unstable ground. My dear friends—my Pastor and his family—shared that God is calling them away from Chicago. They are moving to Florida where they will be closer to both their families. They don’t know exactly what the Lord has in store, but they strongly sense His guidance in this tough decision. It comes at a time of much financial insecurity in our church. So on one hand, it makes sense. But it makes my heart hurts so much. They have been my family here in Chicago. 

Would God allow His call on one person cause suffering for another? The answer is an emphatic "no." But I know His adversary, the Devil, would love nothing more than for me to think this. In the weeks ahead, when I am tempted to despair, I must remember that my God is the One whose steadfast love never ceases. He is the King of great faithfulness. And His mercies are new every morning.

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