God, what are you doing?

Yesterday I was seeking the wisdom of an experienced a colleague about a new ministry opportunity. I know this ministry will be a challenge, that there will be days when I wonder what on earth I’ve gotten into. He gave me this absolutely stellar piece of advice:

Look for what God is doing, rather than focusing on what he hasn’t yet done.

Simple. Not easy.

I sat with my dad in the wee hours of the morning, as he lay dying of cancer. He had been staring most of the night at the corner where the ceiling meets the walls, hardly even blinking. He hadn’t spoken in a couple of days, so I had no idea what he was thinking (if he was thinking) or what he was seeing (that I couldn’t see). I had prayed for months for healing of his cancer, and now I was left to grapple with what I felt was God’s disregard for my prayer. In my frustration, I remember crying out, “What is going on, God?” The answer came the moment I opened by Bible.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I knew in that moment that God was doing something mighty and eternal for my dad. The cancer would win this battle, but God had the ultimate victory.

God did something mighty in me, too, though I couldn’t see it at the time. My faith was increased exponentially… far beyond what I believe it would have been had God healed that cancer.

Frustration still comes far too easily to me when God doesn’t appear to be answering my prayers, when he doesn’t heal the person I’ve prayed for, or open a door of opportunity I think is such a good fit. But God is always at work! According to Psalm 121:3-4, he never slumbers or sleeps.

Rather than grumbling because God isn’t doing what I think needs to be done, I need to take to heart that stellar Looking over the horizon. (Image from swissre.com ad.)piece of advice! Stop the grousing and arguing and instead look around to see what God is doing. Perhaps he is healing the person in places I can’t see. Perhaps he is doing an important work in a family member as they provide care. Or God might just have someone else in mind for that ministry opportunity who, while I can’t see it yet, is a perfect match.

Oh, Lord, please give me eyes to see where you are at work so that I might cooperate with you in your good and perfect plan rather than insisting you bless my inferior one. Amen and amen!

Hope Denied

Yesterday I was given two opportunities to face my many failings as a parent. Now, it’s important that you know right from the beginning that I do not say this with even an ounce of self-pity. I have lived long enough to see parenting for what it is: a challenging task that doesn’t come with an instruction manual for every possible scenario! So this is not about me. It’s about the way those failings were presented: one was wrapped in healing and the other was…well, raw.

As my daughter led a small group study yesterday, she shared a part of her life journey. As her mother, it was difficult to hear. I remembered well her utter anguish as she tried to make her way through what she refers to as her trainwreck of a life. I also remembered the powerlessness I felt to help her in any way. Some of the ways I tried to help just added more pain to what already felt near-unbearable. But there was hope–so much hope!–as she told the story of her struggle. That hope is the healing power of Jesus.

Later in the day, I got my second glimpse of the anguish of one of my children. This time there was nothing but rage. This time there was no hope in the recounting of the pain. There has been no healing. And wounds that do not heal only fester and grow, eventually becoming putrid and–worst case–lead to soul death.

Jesus came to set free those who have been taken captive by the pain of life lived, those who are bound tightly with cords of unforgiveness. Jesus stands ever ready to take the bitterness and pain from anyone who chooses to release it to Him. I am reminded this morning that we suffer nothing that Jesus has not already endured, overcome, and risen above. Gratitude for this is in itself a healing balm.

What bitterness, what unforgiveness do you need to exchange today for Hope?

Or perhaps you, too, know full well the Hope that results from Jesus’ healing power. In that case, who do you know who needs that same Hope today?

Whichever place you find yourself, doing something about it won’t necessarily be easy. Doing nothing, however, is Hope denied.