Sunday, December 29, 2013

Testing: A Parent's Perspective

A friend was once describing to me the time in which she took her child in for a medical test. The child was young enough that she didn't understand what was going on. Although the test wasn't painful, it did involve some momentary discomfort. You see, the procedure was necessary to determine whether a problem the child was born with still existed and required additional treatment.

This parent described the scene in which she had to place her child in the hands of others for the test, but was able to remain in the room and nearby the whole time. During the test, the child looked to the mother for reassurance and asked to be held. In response, mom had to look confidently at the child and reassure her with a smile and encouragement. However, mom's heart was breaking the whole time because all she really wanted to do was remove the child from the test and hold this child who desperately wanted and needed her. Yet, mom knew that the test was necessary and that it wouldn't last long, so she hung in there.

After listening to this description, I immediately got a picture of how my heavenly Father might feel when I'm going through a time of testing and gave me a different perspective. He knows a test is necessary to prove something. The test may be unpleasant and may feel like it's never going to end. But tests always serve a purpose and ultimately they bring glory to God.

Although I've written about this topic of testing several times before, I've never viewed it from this point of view. It gives me another perspective of God's love for me. Even if my circumstances aren't pleasant, my heavenly Father hasn't abandoned me or forgotten me. He's right there at all times. He's watching carefully. He's reassuring when I look to Him and whispering words of comfort when I need it.

Yes, our heavenly Father loves us...

"We love, because He first loved us."1 John 4:19 

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; 
just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
John 15:9-10

and allows us to be tested...

"The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him 
with all your heart and soul." Deuteronomy 13:3b

"O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, you test those who are righteous,  
and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets." Jeremiah 20:12

  • to prove that God is working in our lives
  • to prove that our faith is genuine
  • to purify us
  • to demonstrate His love and power
  • to produce Christlike character in us
  • to equip us

But, He's always there for us. What a comforting thought!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pat Benatar Was Right

Yes, love IS a Battlefield. These are the first few lines from the song made famous by Pat Benatar...

"We are young, heartache to heartache we stand. 
No promises, no demands. Love Is A Battlefield."

If you're an 80's music buff, like me, you'll immediately recognize this song and recall the music video.

The music video for this song depicts the messy life of a teenager. It begins by demonstrating the volatile relationship with her parents and ends with the teen living a tough life on her own. But, in the very end she chooses to help others--to be the strong one--by leading them out of a bad situation.

It could happen like that in real life, but more than likely your life will be a little less dramatic. Mine is certainly less dramatic. However, when it comes to relationships, it seems there is always some sort of drama involved.

Loving others may involve stepping in a minefield (hurt feelings) or some verbal sparring (think flaming arrows from the tongue). There may even be an occasional sneak attack (I didn't see that coming!) or confrontational in-your-face attacks (finger pointing or accusations). Then there are the responses from the previously wounded soldier who is heavily armored and fearful (I've already been hurt) and those somewhere in the middle running interference (can't we just all get along??). It's my guess that every family get-together includes one or more of the above scenarios.

No matter how hard we try, relationships are often messy and it's not always easy to love others. It will be that way because we are imperfect, sinful people who are prone to be selfish. Me included! That self-interest causes us to turn inward and suddenly we're like a porcupine. The quills come out and hurt anybody who comes near.

Frankly, love isn't safe.

"Loving someone selflessly is often simple but rarely is it easy."  
~ Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages 

I've been mulling over these thoughts for a few weeks and it's been interesting to see how the Lord has placed biblical teaching about love and relationships in my path. Here are some things I've learned and they apply to any type of relationship:

Feelings come and go and are very unpredictable. We can't always trust our feelings when it comes to love.

Our emotions and circumstances can influence how we love others. But, if we decide ahead of time to love with that agape kind of love and we've decided ahead of time that no matter what someone does or says, no matter how we feel at the moment about that person, we will continue to love them. Trust is built when we love consistently.

So, what does agape love really look like?

It's choosing to love that person who rejects you.

It's choosing to love that person who made a thoughtless remark that offended you.

It's choosing to love the person whose choices are very different from your own.

Please notice I didn't say you had to approve of the thoughtless remark, the rejection, or the choices made by others. Approval is different than love.

I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to be loved by choice and not based solely on an emotion.

After all, God's love is not based on emotion. God's love is consistent. I am so glad for that!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, 
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
 - John 3:16

But God shows his love for us in that while 
we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Maze of My Life

This is the longest I've gone without posting something on my blog. I've taken short breaks before, but those were intentional. I've had a few blog ideas and even started one, but haven't had the time to really flesh it out. So, it just sits here. Frankly, there's probably not that many people who regularly keep up with it anyway. But, today I'll just do a little stream of consciousness writing instead. So the writing may be a little different.

Life--the maze of my life--has gotten a bit crazy lately. I won't go into the details here. Those closest to me know what some of those details are and that's enough. Suffice it to say, I've had some challenging days in the past few months.

When I first chose this blog name, I thought it was kind of a cute word play. But, life is often a series of mazes. Mazes are places that force you from one end to the other. Sometimes you find yourself crossing the same path time and time again. Other times it looks as if you've finally found the way out only to discover that you've run into a dead end. I hear people have gotten lost in corn mazes. Put a mouse in a maze and it sniffs its way to the end where there's a reward for him.

The only thing that remains constant through it all is Jesus. I may not see Him with my eyes, but He's there in the maze with me. John chapter 16 tells the account of Jesus talking to the disciples before the crucifixion. Jesus reassures them and tells them not to be afraid when He had to leave because the Holy Spirit would be here for us. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our "come alongside."

If we believe Jesus to be our Savior, when the road gets tough and the path is dark, we have someone alongside us to show us the way.

I'll leave with a few verses of Scripture...

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take. (NLT)

Isaiah 45:2
I will go before you
    and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
    and cut through bars of iron. 

Exodus 43:14
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”