Divine Love placed you where you are

One of my favorite quotes by Charles Spurgeon is one I think of weekly, sometimes daily. It’s easy to forget in the midst of trials and suffering that we are exactly where the Lord would have us to be. He is doing a good work, even when it doesn’t look or feel that way. His loving hand prunes us, allowing us to bear fruit.  This quote has become engrained in me, it’s a part of the way I process and think about my circumstances.  After sharing it with a friend yesterday I was reminded that I should post it here.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” ~Charles Spurgeon

The context of this quote, one of Spurgeon’s “Evening” devotionals, is just as rich, reassuring and comforting to the hurting and feeble soul.

“Believer, if your inheritance be a lowly one you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you. Unerring wisdom ordained your lot, and selected for you the safest and best condition. A ship of large tonnage is to be brought up the river; now, in one part of the stream there is a sandbank; should some one ask, “Why does the captain steer through the deep part of the channel and deviate so much from a straight line?” His answer would be, “Because I should not get my vessel into harbour at all if I did not keep to the deep channel.” So, it may be, you would run aground and suffer shipwreck, if your divine Captain did not steer you into the depths of affliction where waves of trouble follow each other in quick succession. Some plants die if they have too much sunshine. It may be that you are planted where you get but little, you are put there by the loving Husbandman, because only in that situation will you bring forth fruit unto perfection. Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, “Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.” Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Down busy self, and proud impatience, it is not for you to choose, but for the Lord of Love!

‘Trials must and will befall-
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all;
This is happiness to me.'”

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Your sweet way, Lord

It’s been many months since I’ve updated or posted.  I am in a season of life where almost all energy the Lord grants is poured out into the care of my sweet family.  I’m tired and extremely foggy, but truly thankful.  The Lord impressed on me a sense of purpose in suffering at an early age.  I was born with 2 heart malformations.  At the age of 2 I had one of the malformations, a coarctation of the aorta, surgically repaired.  Without the surgery I would’ve only lived into my teenage years.  In the future I may need a 2nd surgery on my aortic valve which has 2 cusps/leaflets instead of 3.  I realized as a young child that the Lord was incredibly merciful when he granted my first surgery a success.  When I was baptized at the age of 15 I remember thinking, “He must have a plan for me.”  Little did I know that much of His plan for me would be to keep me fully reliant on Him for the strength and grace for each day.  My health struggles multiplied into adulthood beginning with a mono infection at the age of 23, just months into marriage.  I now battle with POTS, Chronic fatigue, allergies/asthma, chronic migraines, seasons of anxiety, insomnia, neck/shoulder pain, etc.  After living in this reliant position for many years I must say that although it’s very difficult and my sinful heart wants to fight against it at times, living humbly and fully reliant is a wonderfully refreshing place to be.  Where else can I be and see daily displays of His grace, strength and resulting peace?  At the age of 35 now, I see all the more clearly that in my weakness, He is faithful and uses weakness/trials for my good and to remind me of my helplessness.  He is so gracious and knows my heart better than I do.  He knows that I constantly need to be reminded that I have no strength apart from Him and that He is glorified in my weakness.

Last night I read this devotion from Susannah Spurgeon.  Her words resonated with me.

“My blessed Lord, how tender and pitiful are you to me!  What a delight it is to tell of your mercy and grace to one so unworthy!  Yet it is no singular story, for this is your sweet way and will, dear Lord, towards all who put their trust in you.  When depression and sadness come to me, by reason of the sin within, or the discouragements without; when the thorns and briers of daily cares and vexations prick and tear the weary pilgrim’s feet and hands; then you turn my footsteps to where the pines and myrtles of your loving mercies grow, and in their shelter and fragrance my troubled spirit finds rest. 
No, more than this, dear Lord, your power is so great that you sometimes transform the very things that hurt and grieved me into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life.  Disappointments in my work, obstacles to its performance, the estrangement of friends, conscious incompetence and weakness, and often an overpowering sense of deepening responsibility — these experiences are all like thorns and briers, which irritate and worry by their persistent and close contact; yet all these vanish when you, my gracious God, give the word, and I wonder as I find myself walking peacefully among the fir trees, where the pine needles lie thick upon the ground, spreading the softest of carpets under my tired feet; and where the myrtle’s snowy blossoms and glossy leaves promise perfume and sweetness even to those who bruise them.  Your ways, O Lord, are past finding out, but they are very gracious and tender; and this turning of seeming evil into good, of making your children’s trials grow into triumphs, and their pains into pleasures, is a wonderful proof both of your pity and your power. 
‘It shall be to the Lord for a name.’ My Father, can this be really so?  Does your great Name receive added glory when you thus manifest your sovereignty on my behalf?  When I come to the next sharp thorn hedge in my path, will it honour you if, instead of trying to force my way through it, and getting wounded for my pains — or attmepting to avoid it by some roundabout course, and plunging deeper into the thicket, I should just calmly sit down before it, and pray, and wait for you to wither it up, or turn it into a myrtle grove?  Yes, I believe it will, and I seek faith and grace from you to do constantly this otherwise impossible thing.  Past mercies and deliverances should strengthen me to expect yet greater displays of your marvellous love.                                                                                                                                      Dear Lord, when troubles come, I should like to learn to look upon them as ways and means of glorifying you, to accept them as tests and trials of my faith, and to meet them with a brave heart, expecting the salvation of God!

If my path were always smooth and pleasant, with never a thorn or brier to vex and trouble me, there would be no opportunity for the glorious exercise of your love and mercy in deliverance from them. 

Courage, my soul!  Your God will give you grace to say as did his servant Paul, ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’.”

Oh how I pray Lord that your “great Name will indeed receive added glory when you thus manifest your sovereignty on my behalf.”  Your power is indeed so great that you  “transform the very things that hurt and grieved me into means of grace and blessing to my heart and life.”  What a great and merciful God you are!

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Asking for healing?

I found this sermon, by Kevin DeYoung really challenging and convicting as I’ve been convicted lately that I’m lacking in faith.  I’ve been wondering if the root of my lack of faith is the sin of unbelief.  It’s not that I don’t truly believe that the Lord can heal me, because of course when it comes down to it, I believe He is all powerful and able.  On the other hand, it seems that unbelief kind of creeps in and manifests itself in unexpected ways.  After 9 years of living with extreme fatigue, dizziness, etc., I’ve just gotten used to the trial before me and I forget to pray and ask for God’s healing.  I face each day, prayerfully relying on the Lord’s strength to get me through.  In a sense I’m more reliant than a healthy person because I carry around with me a constant reminder that I need help from my powerful God just to complete basic daily tasks.  Oddly enough, when someone is acutely sick, I am quick to pray for God’s healing hand to be about that person.  Honestly, I rarely think to pray for complete healing for myself anymore.

Early on in this battle the Lord began to graciously show me that I could find complete contentment in Him, no matter my circumstances.  I could either embrace my lot and seek to glorify God in the midst, or I could become embittered and frustrated, letting my circumstances rule my life.  By God’s grace, I’ve, for the most part, chosen the first way.  Maybe in a way I’ve grown too comfortable in this trial.  I wonder if I don’t ask for healing because I don’t want to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. If I’m battling hard for contentment and (usually) winning the battle, why upset things by dwelling on healing?  On the other hand, I think I am called to ask my Father for good gifts and to believe that He indeed can heal me.  It may not be His will to heal me, and I must prepare my heart for this, but receiving a possible “no” as an answer shouldn’t keep me from asking.  It is good and right for me to be asking the Lord continually for healing.  He desires to give good gifts to His children!  I think this is one way where disbelief has certainly crept in, do I truly believe this?

I wonder how many of you wrestle with some of these thoughts/battles?  How do you strike a balance of good desires and asking for good gifts while at the same time humbly submitting to the Lord’s will in all things?

If you’ve wrestled with any of these thoughts, I’d encourage you to listen to this sermon by Kevin DeYoung.  I think it will encourage your heart and you may even find yourself bringing your requests before the Lord with a sense of urgency and confidence!

Matthew 7:7-11

  7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.    9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Hindered, or not?

Tonight as I re-read a chapter and poem by Amy Carmichael, I began to think.  My reality is that my illness prevents me from doing so many things on this earth.  Things I used to love to do (run, snow ski, hike…) and things I’d love to try or adventures I’d love to go on with our family.  Although these realities are difficult, and often bring about a sinful battle for contentment, I’m thankful that my weakness doesn’t impair the ability to fulfill my calling (my sin surely does, but that’s for another blog post!).  My single purpose and goal in life is to bring my Savior glory.  What a relief!!  In God’s kingdom, the one that truly matters, my frailty isn’t a hindrance to living the life that I’m called to live.

A bruised reed shall He not break: the poorest shepherd boy on our South Indian hills is careful to choose, for the making of his flute, a reed that is straight and fine and quite unbruised.  But our Heavenly Shepherd often takes the broken and the bruised, and of such He makes His flutes.  But life, like His book, is full of parables of tenderness; and one of these has often come into this room of late.  For he whose name means God’s Peace has brought his autoharp to play to me, and has first tuned it while I expectantly waited for the music which I knew would follow the tuning. 

    Is music to come from our harp?  Music of prayer, of praise, of consolation?  The strings are relaxed, or perhaps too tensely stretched.  Illness can cause either condition.  But we have a Tuner.

Tune Thou my harp;
There is not, Lord, could never be,
The skill in me.

Tune Thou my harp,
That it may play Thy melody,
Thy harmony.

Tune Thou my harp;
O Spirit, breathe Thy thought through me,
As pleaseth Thee.”  ~Amy Carmichael, “Rose from Briar

2 Cor. 12:9  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

My Testimony – The Lord is good!

I was recently asked to share my testimony at a women’s retreat at my church.  Although public speaking is not my thing I felt as if the Lord would have me to share of the great things he’s done in my life.  I thought I’d share it here as well.

I grew up in a loving, Christian home in Harrisonburg, VA.  Although we had our share of problems, my parents were faithful and taught me the Truth of the Gospel from an early age.  The Lord called me to Salvation at the age of 8 when I realized that my sin deserved God’s wrath and that a relationship with Jesus Christ was the only way to be reconciled to a Holy God.

The Lord continued to grow me into a passionate believer in my teenage years.  My greatest times of growth were when I stepped out from under the safety and comfort of my parents home (which I found difficult) and went on a 3 month missions trip at the age of 16 and then when I went away to college.  These challenging times were where I began to understand what it meant to rely on Christ.

The Lord used my college years at Liberty (where I majored in Vocal Music) to challenge and build me up in His word through a better knowledge of Scripture and through numerous Godly peers / professors He placed in my path.  I met Keith during my junior year in a New Testament backgrounds class.  I had been praying for and desired a husband who was full of passion for the Lord and along came this energetic, passionate, and spunky man who kept asking me to join his study group.  I’d like to say that my knowledge of Hellenistic kingdoms really caught his attention but his version is a little different (you’ll have to ask him for that).  Needless to say we were married the year following graduation and were off to seminary after being married a week.  We quickly adapted to life in Louisville, KY and were blessed with an amazing church family at Third Ave. Baptist church.

The plan was for me to help put Keith through seminary and I began working as an administrative assistant when things suddenly changed.  I came down with mono, an infection that most people fully recover from, but for me this wasn’t the case.  After a few months of intense fatigue and weakness, I began to black out while standing and noticed my heart rate was twice as fast as normal.  I tried to continue working but couldn’t.  I often felt in a fog and disconnected from my surroundings. After laying on the floor in the grocery store a couple of times we decided to see if something more was going on with my body. It was a scary time and definitely stressful being newlyweds and in a new city.  After numerous tests, we learned that the virus had damaged my autonomic nervous system and I was diagnosed with POTS syndrome, a form of Dysautonomia.  One difficulty of POTS is that people tell me I look rested and healthy but I’m usually feeling dizzy and fatigued.  While receiving a diagnosis was helpful, there is no cure.  A few medications improve a couple of the symptoms but it’s a condition that often causes major lifestyle changes.  Naps, water, salt and chairs became crucial tools to help me make it through the day without passing out.  This was an emotional time for Keith and I as everything we had been planning on was being turned upside down.

Many people with POTS improve greatly within 3-5 years of diagnosis, but apart from a miracle from the Lord, it’s looking more and more like this will be a lifelong battle for me.  I was never able to return back to work as basic tasks such as taking a shower or fixing dinner drained my energy and I continued to require daily naps.  We waited 7 long years hoping that I would improve enough to have children.  After that time we decided to step out in faith and rely on the brothers and sisters in Christ that the Lord surrounded us with to help us to care for a child if the Lord so blessed.  Praise God, He allowed this miracle in Lillian 2 years ago.  This September will mark 9 years of living with Dysautonomia and the Lord has worked in mighty ways.  I’d love to tell you about a few (5) of these:

1.        The first thing the Lord helped me to see is that I can bring Him glory even while resting.  Early on, I especially battled feelings of worthlessness and wondered how this could be the Lord’s plan.  Wouldn’t I bring Him more glory if I were full of energy and out doing things for Him?  I am slowly learning that the Lord is pleased with my trust in what He’s done for me, rather than what I do for Him.  I realized that if I submitted to His perfect plan for me and faced weakness with the correct attitude, that I could bring Him just as much glory.  This realization led to my next battle.

2.       I am called to Contentment.  I am thankful that I can bring the Lord glory but have had to go to battle with my sin in order to rest in His perfect plan for me.  Jeremiah Burroughs calls contentment the “inward submission of the heart.”  I have had many seasons where discontent has crept it’s way in my heart and I’m realizing this will be a lifelong battle.  One of the quickest ways to an unsettled soul and discontent is to compare myself to others.  I’m slowly learning that no good comes out of these comparisons.  Since I believe in the goodness of my Heavenly Father, I must also believe that His plan for me will ultimately bring about the most good.  As John 15 explains, His pruning will bear more fruit.

Although I couldn’t read for the first 3 years after my diagnosis, as my brain was just too foggy, in the Lord’s mercy I’ve been able to read again during most evenings.  In addition to Scripture, the Lord has used the writings of Jeremiah Burroughs and Jonathan Edwards to help show me where my heart should be.

3.  The 3rd way the Lord has changed me through this trial is by showing me that living in dependence is a blessed state.  I am forced to rely on my Father daily for the physical and Spiritual strength to persevere.  I now see this as God’s blessing as I am sure I would fall into prideful self-reliance if it weren’t for this trial.  I am amazed by the Lord’s loving hand in my life and how he protects His children.

4.  The 4th way the Lord has worked through this trial is I now see Heaven as my true home.  I used to actually fear Heaven and avoided thinking about its reality.  The Lord has miraculously turned my fears and hesitations about Heaven into a true daily longing and is helping me to live with more of an eternal perspective.

5.  The 5th way the Lord has worked is that He has used this to change and soften both Keith and I.  Keith is quick to tell people that the Lord has been working on him and making him more merciful during these years.  We believe that my illness was an instrument of God in equipping Keith to be a pastor.  We pray that our children will have an unusual sensitivity to those who are weak and that the Lord would even use this to draw them to Himself in Salvation.

It’s been difficult and will continue to be, but the Lord is faithful and has carried us through while comforting and giving us strength.  It is in His perfect promises that I am resting and finding the grace to persevere.  I pray that the Lord will in some way be glorified and that I will be found faithful to the end.  He is worthy!

Pursuing Contentment

I recently came across another book on contentment that I’ve been reading through.  I get so excited when I find something on this topic that is full of depth and is written by someone who is/was pursuing Godliness.  In this case, the book is by a Puritan named Thomas Watson (1620-1686).  Interestingly, Watson was living during a portion of Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646) life.  The work, “The Art of Divine Contentment” has been truly encouraging and challenging so far.  If you’re interested in reading it for FREE online just click HERE.

Here’s what stood out to me today,

“Contentment is a flower that doth not grow in every garden; it teacheth a man how in the midst of want to abound.  You would think it were excellent if I could prescribe a receipt or antidote against poverty: but behold here is that which is more excellent, for a man to want, and yet have enough, this alone contentment of spirit doth bring.  Contentation is a remedy against all our trouble, an alleviation to all our burdens, it is the cure of care.”

My friend Jeremiah

Jeremiah Burroughs

So maybe I can’t quite say we’re “friends” but Jeremiah Burroughs, as you know if you’ve read my blog, has played a huge role in helping me in my battle with contentment.  I’ve been so encouraged that some of the ladies at Jefferson Park have been reading him so I thought I’d post a link to the version of “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” that I’ve found most easily readable.   It’s by Banner of Truth and you can find it here.  If you battle with finding contentment in this life, do your soul a favor and read this book!  (If you read it please tell me, I love reflecting on this book!)    Oh, and here’s a list of his works, I’ve got a lot of reading to do!!!

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment