What would have been

Psalm 139:16 tells me that God has a great plan and it will come to pass. A book of what has been, what is, and what will be.

This verse brings hope and comfort to me for the days that are and will come. It also gives me hope for the day that would have been.

Because today would have been my uncle’s 60th birthday.

Today would have been my friend Rebekah’s 30th birthday.

Today would have been a day my friend could laugh with her dad instead of burying him.

Like many others, I have shed tears over my book of “days that would have been”. And I wonder how the hard and even devastating days could be written in God’s book, a book I cannot yet see and know.

It’s then that the Holy Spirit whispers heart reminders- words from the book God has given me to know.

Words…

  • From Psalm 139 that say even the greatest distance and greatest darkness cannot diminish his hold or guidance.
  • From Psalm 23 that even in the valley of the shadow of death he is present.
  • From Isaiah 25 that promise one day that God will swallow up death forever and he will wipe away all tears.
  • From John 11 that God wept with his friends over the death of their brother.
  • From John 14 that promise his peace and love.
  • From Revelation 22 that the Alpha and Omega is coming soon.

In the certainty of his unfailing love and promise, I can rest in the certainty of the days he has planned. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I can submit my “days that would have been” to his greater “days that are and will be”. I can even grieve, knowing that His heart toward me is tender and that one day he will wipe away my tears. That day is planned for me and it will come to pass. So I trust Him with the days He has written for me… and the days He has written for others.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:12

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭

Saturday Song: He Giveth More Grace

“How was your week?”

“It was very good. Long. I’m quite tired.”

There is always a hidden story behind polite conversation. And Instagram. I’m guilty of that this week. How was my Friday? Let me show you!

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#teacherlife #ihavethebeststudents #ajoyfulclassroomisasafeclassroom

And it’s true. I love my student kiddos. And they love their teacher. And I’m so thankful for them.

But the truth is, this year is hard in ways that years in the past haven’t been. The truth is, I’m exhausted and discouraged.

But the truth is, God is gracious, as he always has been.

So, how was the other side of my Friday?

Thursday I came home from school around 6. After cooking dinner, I had no energy left to translate more documents, finish Friday’s PowerPoints, grade the growing mound of student work, or do anything else for that matter. So I went to sleep. At 7:30. Even I knew that was a mistake, but I couldn’t help it. I simply couldn’t work any more.

So I was awake from 11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but the bad dreams kept interrupting me. The emotional stress of our grade level meetings manifested in the gripping fear that at 1 am one of my teacher friends was overdosing. One of the little first graders from hall duty was being harmed. Many other false, oppressive fears of the early morning hours met with real-life difficulties and their anxieties. And I simply couldn’t sleep any more.

So, I did the only thing I could: practice the presence of God in the face of my exhaustion, stress, and fears.

Last Saturday, I heard this song (Psalm 91 Eagles’ Wings) by Shane and Shane for the first time. It was a gift of God that began to quiet my spirit early Friday morning.

So I read the words of that song in the other songs that sound melodious, unfailing truth:

Psalm 91 —

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”…

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night…

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 37 —

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him…

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
  he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
     The Lord helps them and delivers them;
             he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
             because they take refuge in him.

Isaiah 40 —

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

 

It’s a miracle from the Holy Spirit that calms fears and worries in my heart — even at 2 a.m. — and let’s me sleep again. Not to dreams of despair, but to dreams of hope and waking to laughter. What a grace.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint

He Ordained Peace

 

 

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us; you have done for us all our works. Isaiah 26:12

Peace.

I doubt whether there is anything so sought after or valued in this world. Peacemakers are commended, both in Scripture and by society.

Why, then, is there not peace? War and conflict spread overwhelmingly and unceasingly around the world, which begs the question, “Is complete peace possible?”

And yet, God promised peace in Isaiah. Even more than that, the Sovereign Lord decreed, commanded, ordained that it should be so. Peace for us.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

Around 700 years after Isaiah told of God’s promised peace, angels descended on the hills of Bethlehem to declare that peace had come to those of God’s favor.  What peace was this? This peace was Jesus, the Christ, who did our works for us. The Messiah who was our righteousness, became our sin, took our judgment, and delivered us from death.

And he ordained for us peace. Peace with God the Father through forgiveness. Peace because Christ has overcome this world — including sin and death. Peace that guards our hearts and minds. He is the Prince of Peace. Since it is his sovereignty that has ordained peace, peace must, therefore, be ours.

That must also mean, then, that wars and sin struggles are not the end. Senseless violence will not endure.

God has ordained peace.  By His Spirit we have peace with our God that our hearts can feel even in this war-torn world. By His perfect peace and strength may we persevere as peacemakers even as we await the fulfillment of time when the people at peace with God will live in a world of peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 

The Desire for What is New

The desire for newness seems entrenched in the human soul. Not mere newness for the sake of being new, but newness in the sense of a better, pure, hopeful rebirth. Looking forward to the new year, we set goals for how the next year will be better, how we will have new adventures, how we will be healthier and happier and more organized, how we won’t repeat past mistakes. So, we welcome the new year and gladly relinquish the old year that has passed.

As this year comes to a close, I find myself meditating on this idea of newness. I’m convinced this desire for newness is a reflection of the newness spoken into the hearts of believers in Christ:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The promise is not only that new comes, but also that the old, the broken, the harden, the impure, and the worthless is gone. And we are saved to walk in newness of life. Are not my new year’s hopes a shadow of this grace-filled reality?

But, as happens every year, we realize that while there is new, much old is repeated in this year as in the last. What happens when the sayings of the sage resonate deeply in our hearts? Is there really “nothing new under the sun”?

In the believer’s failings, we read that the new self itself “is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:10)

That in our old troubles, the Lord’s mercies are new each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

That in the world full of the old hate, injustice, suffering, and death, there is a new world coming.

“For behold, I create new heavens
And a new earth,
And the former things shall not be remembered
Or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
In that which I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
And her people to be a gladness.
… No more shall be heard the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
And infant who lives but a few days,
Or an old man who does not fill out his days…
They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat…
They shall not labor in vain
Or bear children for calamity…
Isaiah 65:17-23

The all-powerful, trustworthy God is the foundation of all hope in a new future without any stain of the old. So, while I clean out my house, plan a budget, and set goals for a new year, I do so with hope, not discouragement that old will settle back in — as we all know it will. I remember that what I do at the end of each year is not my hope for a better future, but merely an imperfect reflection of the perfect reality that is coming with Christ’s return at the end of all years:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, ” Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

With that hope, Happy New Year!

Waiting…

One of the themes that has resurfaced during our study in the first part of Isaiah is that of waiting.  In chapter 8, Isaiah writes, “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.”  People who read this (even today) would be waiting for the day of the Lord when he comes to gather his own.  Waiting for death to be swallowed up forever.  And the waiting comes with promises:

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.” Isaiah 25:9

Judgment is coming on Israel, and so they wait for it.  Redemption is promised, and so they wait for it.  The day of the LORD is promised, and even today we wait for that final day.

In our day-to-day, we wait for other things, too.  We wait for jobs, for spouses, for children.  We wait to see if a loved one will pull through a health crisis.  We wait for a friendly face, for relief from pain, for a letter, for a phone call.  We wait to see the salvation of family and friends.  We wait to see if there will be enough money to pay the bills.  We wait for reconciliation.  We wait for forgiveness from others. We wait for healing.  When the time comes, we even wait for death.  Job seems to echo the heart of anyone who has waited when he said:

What is my strength, that I should wait?  And what is my end that I should be patient?

Job 6:11

And by the living, good, and gracious written Word of God, the believer has their answer:

I wait for your salvation, O LORD. Genesis 49:8

Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.  Psalm 25:3

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:5

May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Psalm 25:21

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! Psalm 31:24

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! … For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. Psalm 37:7,9

Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:34

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. Psalm 38:15

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. Psalm 52:9

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah Psalm 62:5-8

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.  Psalm 130:5-8

I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Isaiah 8:17

In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. Isaiah 26:8

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble. Isaiah 33:2

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:26

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.  Habakkuk 2:3

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed. Zephaniah 3:8

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:4-9

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5

And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.  Hebrews 6:15

As a believer, I wait because God is Good, because he answers, because he is a stronghold, because he is faithful — his strength is my strength.  My end is one of glory and joy with him, and it is eternally secure.