But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son. In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love. Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months. I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello. When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak. I stood there sobbing in her arms.
It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla. I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family. I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation. I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters. And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God. It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials. Because those trials produce good fruit in us. And that fruit becomes something for us to share.
I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried. What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life. With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring us great joys. I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more. I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”
I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions. To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone. I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off. I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.
The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.Psalms 118:7
When I was in college I took a speech class. Each week we were given a different topic and had to write and deliver a speech on that topic. At the time I was not a Christian. I had a belief in a God but that’s as far as it went. In my class was a young man who said he wanted to become a pastor. Each week he took the assigned topic and made his speech into more of a sermon. It really annoyed me at the time. I felt like he was always discussing the same topic – God. It seemed like a “cheat.”
What I didn’t expect (and the young man probably would never have assumed either) was that 40 years later I would clearly remember one of his sermons, I mean speeches. I have since heard variations of the same theme. A man takes ill and as a steady stream of people come to help him in various ways he turns them away, waiting for God to intervene. And when he dies, he asks the angel in heaven why God never came. And, of course, the angel answers, “I sent you a lot of help but you turned them all away.”
Today I praise God that even when I feel He isn’t present in my trials I can know He truly is.He is my helper. I know, because in retrospect I’ve been able to see more clearly when He has sent help my way. When He has placed people in my life that showed up with the right message at just the right time.
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”Hebrews 13:6
Even when we seem so far away from God He sends us help – like the aspiring pastor in my junior college speech class. And during the last few years I’ve made it my goal to shrink the timeframe gap from when I need His help to when I recognize He is working actively in my life. In the past it has taken me years to see how He was with me during difficult trials. But because I have embraced the truth of His promises, I now try to find God in every situation I face.
A couple years ago my husband and I were set to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado. We were to meet up with both our daughters and my husband’s family. We hadn’t all spent Thanksgiving together in years. At the time I was going through a lengthy process of diagnosing a parathyroid problem. The Thursday before Thanksgiving I underwent what I was told would be a simple office procedure to take a sample from my parathyroid.
The next day I was having trouble swallowing. Two days later my neck had swollen to almost twice its size. By Sunday afternoon I was in the emergency room. They called in surgical specialists so I could undergo emergency surgery for a bleed in my neck, caused by the “simple” procedure. And Monday afternoon, the day before we were to leave for Colorado, I sat in my hospital bed listening to my doctor tell me we needed to perform another surgery to remove my parathyroid. In other words, I wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.
I was missing my daughters terribly. They were both living away from home for schooling. And I had imagined all the hugs and kisses I wanted to dole out. And now I sat in that hospital bed knowing those hugs and kisses would have to wait. In years past I would’ve sat sobbing. Crying out in anger to God. But my faith progression – knowing about those promises and believing in them – had brought me too far. Instead, I praised Him and thanked Him for getting me to the emergency room that day. For the quick work and able hands of the nurses and doctors. For the funny surgeon that got called in to fix the bleed. For the outpouring of love my family bestowed on me. For the first doctor, who months prior, was suspicious about my symptoms in an urgent care clinic visit and requested an unusual blood test that led to my initial diagnosis. For the view from my room. For the steady stream of God’s helpers.
He is with me. He is with you. It may be hard to see Him right now. But that kind smile when you need it, the annoying person who leaves you with a message in your memory, the open or closed door – it’s all Him. Look for His work and you will find it.
For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name. 16 I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
When we picture warcraft during the United States Revolution we typically envision lines of soldiers from each side marching toward each other. Here’s a description by the American Battlefield Trust:
“Under normal circumstances, 18th century combat entailed that two armies march toward one another, shoulder to shoulder, and usually in ranks of about three men deep. When the opposing sides were within range, orders were given to halt, present arms, to fire, and then to reload.
After several volleys, one side gained the upper hand, and they would begin to close the distance with the enemy, bayonets lowered. This typically culminated in a full out charge at close quarters; sabers, bayonets, and rifle butts were used to sweep the enemy from the field and claim victory.”
And how did one side get the “upper hand?” The lines would break down either by death, injury or desertion. The battle would be won or lost based on who could hold their line the longest.
We Christians have been in a similar battle since the time of Christ. We link arms in communion and espouse the greatness of God to unbelievers. We are tasked, by God, to go out into our communities and battle against evil through our works, our testimony, and our telling of the Good News of the gospel.
However, from my, albeit, limited experience so many of us have chosen to desert our place on the battlefield. I live in a very liberal state within the United States. Church and Christians are not valued members of many communities. In fact, we are frequently described as racist, hateful, bigots because of our adherence to the teachings in the Bible. And that, I believe causes us to shirk our duties as soldiers for God.
I know too many people who feel uncomfortable sharing the Word of God. Some are afraid to even mention their faith in the course of conversations at work. And yet, it is this responsibility that Jesus gives us. We are not called to be closet Christians, afraid of what to say, how to say it and when to say it. God himself promises to put the right words in our mouth at the right time. We just need to be willing to do the one thing that we are called to do – obey Him.
My BSGs did a study on The Armor of God (Ephesians 6). What stood out to me is the preparation we are admonished to complete before taking up the final Word of God.
Therefore, put on the full armor
of God, so that when the day of
evil comes, you may be able to
stand your ground, and after you
have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of
truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness
in place, and with your feet
fitted with the readiness that
comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up
the shield of faith, with which you
can extinguish all the flaming arrows
of the evil one. Take the helmet
of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:13-17
Once we have studied and learned the character and promises of God we need to pray to have Him send us out into the world and speak His words. Each morning when we rise, we should ask God to place someone in front of us that day to whom He needs to say something. And be watchful and ready for that moment. He will give you the words to speak.
Do not merely listen to the word,
and so deceive yourselves.
Do what it says.James 1:22
A few years ago, I held on to that promise of God’s words when my daughter and I were in a great battle. We were pushing and pulling constantly. She was off at college and her faith was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the organization Athletes in Action. But each time we would talk it would end in a fight or tears. I finally prayed to God to give me His words to bring this battle to an end.
One day as we talked, the Holy Spirit gave me these words to say, “I’m so glad your faith is growing. I can see that you have learned how to give a lot of grace and forgiveness to your friends and teammates. I know that I fail you frequently in trying to not hold on too tight to you. What I’m asking for is some of that same grace and forgiveness.”
God’s words, spoken through me, began our path toward reconciliation. I just needed to stop trying to speak my thoughts and my desires and instead let God do the heavy lifting.
God needs us to fill our spot on the battlefield line. He can give us all the tools we need – including the right words to say. We just need to show up and hold the line.
Join me starting January 11 for my next series! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help create a vision of you! The words we speak and think and pray have a great impact on our life. We will embark on a journey of praying changes into our lives. New Year’s resolutions have nothing on what God can accomplish when we ask for miracles to transform us!