The realization of God’s faithfulness has been pressing in on me of late. I’ve been looking at job opportunities outside of Nashville and feeling sad about the possibility of leaving. We love it here! When I consider leaving this loved place, it is difficult to imagine the blessings of an unknown situation. This is where the steadfastness of God came to mind. The Spirit reminded me that God has blessed us richly in each situation. That does not mean the places have been free of challenges. On the contrary, there have been some very difficult situations. Yet it seems that the richest blessings coincide with the most trying circumstances. Perhaps that has been because I was most aware of my great need for God during those times.
This past weekend I led a Breathe retreat—a silent weekend retreat. God always seems to bring those who most need it and this time was no different. There were about a dozen of us—all weary from the frantic pace of life. We met in the beautiful location of St. Mary’s Sewanee. It’s an Episcopal retreat center in the beautiful Tennessee hills. The weather was perfect! I led a couple of presentations to set the structure and then we set out to “waste time with God.” Along with the prayer forms I taught, I gave the assignment for each person to pick up a symbol of their time with God. We were to share these symbols later that night when we came back together.
When we gathered as a community after dinner, you could sense a settledness—a calmness. The selected items were on the floor—carefully placed in a circle around the candle at the center of the room. We had our time of show and tell and it was amazing to hear the richness that God had brought to each individual. One of the participants brought the petals of a rose. As she had gone out that afternoon, she found herself in a garden with rose bushes. One of the bushes was an explosion of small pink roses. This bush was a contrast to the other rose bushes that were almost bare of blossoms. She sat by the beautiful bush for a time and was contemplating a difficult work situation and the decisions that lay before her. She had been wrestling with this situation for a while and felt the burden of pain and confusion. It suddenly came to her attention that poison ivy and poison oak were intertwined with the bush in front of her. She looked at the other bushes and saw that they did not have the ivy and that they were trimmed and neat. This was the only bush that was not all tidy and it was full of roses! As she noticed this difference, the Spirit gently brought to her awareness that the beauty of life is often intertwined with the difficulties. She sensed an invitation to accept that life was not tidy, and trust that God was working in the situation.
I asked if I could share this lovely image because it so adequately communicates God’s faithfulness. The promises of God are more often of an internal rather than an external nature. Of course God has the ability to give any type of gift, but the promises made to us in scripture and illustrated by the servants of God in scripture are most often internal. God may not deliver me from a challenging situation, but God is with me each moment. God may not heal my loved one, but God will give them a sense of peace that goes beyond understanding. Most of all, in a world that continually questions my significance, God loves me without condition and welcomes me to join into loving this hurting world.
It is not that I am happy that I am being mistreated, but I recognize that difficulty is part of this broken world. God will not give me more than we can handle together. I Corinthians 10:13 reminds us, “There is no temptation that has overtaken you that is not common to people. God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape that you may be able to endure it.” God has given me the strength to endure the trials of life and alongside these challenges has blessed me exponentially beyond the level of hurt. I would not change it for anything. I would not have chosen the difficulties I have experienced, but I would do it again for the riches I gained as a result.
May you experience a rich sense of God’s presence in each hurting moment.
Grace and peace to you,