Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On the Hard Days

That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.
There were also other boats with him.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, don't you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
“Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other,
“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4:35-41

Dates on a calender should not have the power to have so much control over a persons life. For nearly four decades I was able to enjoy the month of February. It always brought with it Valentines Day, chocolate hearts and cards, and the hope of warmer weather to come. Now the days bring paralyzing grief, a return of tears that won't end, and a flood of memories. I thought goat deliveries and baby chicks would help speed the days and consume me with busyness, but they have only proven to be too bitter-sweet to enjoy.

{Jesus} said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40

I've been reading through the gospels again, my second round in our ninety day New Testament marathon; my anchor of sanity, the words that keep my soul focused.

Do I still have no faith? Rob reminded me that having faith doesn't mean that you don't have tears. Heart wrenching, sobbing, curled up next to the toilet tears. Begging Jesus to meet you there, on that tile floor, so that you can get up, start the day and tend to your other children kind of tears.

The second year is harder, ladies. I've hesitated to write that since I know many of you haven't even finished the first year yet. Satan does a doozey of a job to thwart the plans of God and twist whatever hope is left after the first twelve months of grief.

The kids and I have been reading John Bunyan's book, The Holy War,this week (it's a required assignment, otherwise our children do not usually gladly endure sitting through fifty-five pages a day of Old English language). My eyes have been opened, once again, to the fact that there is a battle raging – a battle for souls. Night terrors, in a girl too big to be scared of the boogey man, only revealed it again. The power of prayer reminds us of who wins in the end.

Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, talks about the liar of all lies, the great deceiver that masquerades as an angel of light dulling our minds to the reality of eternity:

“Our enemy slanders three things: God's person, God's people, and God's place – namely Heaven.

What better way for the devil and his demons to attack us than to whisper lies about the very place on which God tells us to set our heart and minds?

Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn't exist, He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we'll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we'll set our minds on this life, and not the next, and we won't be motivated to share our faith. Why should we share the 'good news' that people can spend an eternity in a boring, ghostly place that even we're not looking forward to?

{Satan} cannot keep Christ from defeating him, but he can persuade us that Christ's victory is only partial, that God will abandon his original plan for mankind and the earth. Because Satan hates us, he's determined to rob us of the joy we'd have if we believed what God tells us about the magnificent world to come....

Sitting here in a dark world, we must remind ourselves what Scripture tells us about Heaven. We will one day be delivered from blindness that separates us from the real world. We'll realize then the stupefying bewitchment we've lived under. By God's grace, may we ... clearly see the liberating truth about Christ the King and Heaven, his Kingdom.”

I wonder, as Jesus sat in that boat with His disciples – the God man who lived not by His own power but by God's, the maker of Heaven and Earth itself – how He had the patience to not rap these men upside the head. They had walked with him, seen the miracles, heard the promises. Yet, so easily, like us, they got flustered at the first test.

God seems to “step away” sometimes in suffering, and makes us depend on His Word alone. Is it sufficient? Will we hinge everything on it? Do we allow it to sustain us? The splitting of hairs is so fine, our sin runs so deep, our understanding of God is so shallow.

We demand of Him, “Give me grace, do it my way, don't let it hurt.”But the hurt reveals. It reveals what we cling to. It reveals that we have not fully surrendered to Christ as King and Lord, sovereign of all, over every aspect of our lives. It reveals that we really don't think He's capable when we are honest with ourselves; that He may not have a master plan in all of this.

But it wasn't until the winds were blowing the hardest, the squall was in its most furious state, and the waves had finally broken over the boat that the disciples bothered to wake Jesus, and in desperation cried out for a Savior.

“The honest cries of a broken heart are better than a hallelujah,” sings Amy Grant. Pain brings honesty that can't be faked. It brings an opportunity to cry out to God. It forces us to figure out who He really is.

Crying on the floor, begging for rather than demanding grace, acknowledging God's perfect ways, waiting for my Savior to quiet the storm, and longing like I've never before longed for Heaven … reminding myself that the glory to be revealed will not even be worth comparing to this trial (Romans 8:18) that this life is as a mist (James 4:14), that my days are numbered (Psalm 39:4), and that my God is fully capable to see me through to the end (Isaiah 46:4), even through the second anniversary date.

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” Mark 4:41