Friday, April 17, 2015

"I love You! Always!"

            “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me? . . . But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”  (Psalm 13:1, 5-6)

            “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him, . . .”  (Job 13:15)

            “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  (Job 1:21)

            Years ago, I saw the movie Facing the Giants.  And it was a good movie.  Last night (April 16, 2015), I saw it again . . . and it was a great movie.  It touched my heart in ways it didn’t before.  And I pretty much cried through the whole thing.  (Good thing the lights were off so my family couldn’t tell.) 

            I cried during the “death crawl” scene when the coach had the football player crawl across the football field with another guy on his back.  The coach had blindfolded the player so that he could push him as far as he could go, using up every last bit of strength he had left to crawl as far as possible.  If the player could see where he was, then he might give up early, at a certain point when he thought he had gone far enough.  And I cried as the coach pushed him for a few more yards, just a few more yards.  And when the guy finally collapsed in exhaustion, he learned that he had made it all the way to the end-zone, much farther than he thought was possible. 
            I cried because I see myself in that player right now.  Exhausted.  Spent.  Struggling.  Doing the “death crawl” across an endless field with the weight of the world on my back.  And yet God keeps saying, “Don’t give up.  Just a few more yards.  Always a few more yards.  Keep going.  I believe in you.”  Like that player, if I could see where I am on the path and how much more there is to go and the obstacles ahead, I might just want to give up early, too.  And so God, in His wisdom, blindfolds me, only allowing me to see the very next step He wants me to take.  Always saying, “Just a little further.  Just keep following the sound of My voice.”  And I have to believe that someday, when God takes off my blindfold, I will learn that I have crawled successfully all the way into the end-zone.
            I also cried during the scene when the old man walked the halls, as he did for years, touching lockers and praying for revival at the school.  I desperately want that for our country, too.  We desperately need it.  And so I keep praying that God touches hearts and opens eyes.  There are far too many lost and wayward people out there (and wayward Christians) to not pray for revival.  Oh, that God would send His Spirit to ignite the hearts of people all over this country, once again turning us back into a nation “under God.”  A world under God.
            “Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”  (Psalm 83:18)
            I cried every time the wheel-chair-bound dad of one of the players looked at his son with pride, told him how proud he was of him, and gave him words of encouragement.  And I cried when the dad struggled to stand on his feet by the goal-post so that he could raise his hands over his head in the “touchdown” symbol and give his son the boost he needed to kick a very important field goal.  And when someone asked if they could help him, he said, “Don’t touch me.  I’m doing this for my son.” 
            I always wanted a father that would look at me with pride and give me words of encouragement and who would show his support and love by standing up for me and with me.  A father I could lean on.  A father I could need.  But that’s not been my lot in life.  And every time I see that kind of father – a little girl nestled in her dad’s arms, a grown daughter going to her dad for a hug, parents and their adult children laughing around the table – I get misty-eyed and it touches my heart deeply and I am thankful that others have that kind of dad.  But I am thankful that I have that kind of heavenly Father.  One that loves me, encourages me, supports me, and stands up for me and with me.  I have been so blessed!  (Even if He is so silent sometimes and makes me walk in deserts to refine my faith.  It’s hard, but I know He’s there with me and that He loves me.) 
            I cried during the scene when the coach overheard people wanting to get rid of him, to get him off the team.  They considered him “dead weight,” a failure.  Oh, how I feel that way right now in life!  Incapable of succeeding at just about anything.  Not able to contribute anything to anybody.  Overlooked.  Unappreciated.  Unimportant.  Unsupported.    
            I cried when the coach was at his lowest - overhearing that he was a failure, afraid he would lose his job, the owner of a broken down car, unable to have children.  Everything seemed to be going wrong.  And yet, he still asked his wife, “If God never gives us children, will you still love Him?”  And they cried together, over lost dreams and a failure of a life.  And yet, they both still decided to cling to God, no matter what, and basically said, “I will love You anyway.  I will praise You, whether we win or lose in life.” 
            I cried when the wife simply knelt by her bed in silence with a hurting heart and helpless feeling, bowed before the Lord.  I’m having a hard time praying lately.  I don’t know what to say.  And I don’t want to ask for much, other than that God helps me be okay with the heart-aches, helps me find my joy only in Him, and that He refreshes my soul.  And so there isn’t much to say.  But over and over again, I find myself saying, “Lord . . . Oh, Lord.  Just help me.  I need You.  I just need You.”  (And “Come back soon, Jesus.  Just come back soon.”)  Words are failing me, and I am finding my heart bowed lower and lower before the Lord in humble silence.  And like the wife in that scene, I simply want to kneel before Him in reverence and humility and sweet admiration, and say nothing. 

            “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”  (Habakkuk 2:20)
            “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”  (Ecc. 5:2)

            I tell ya, life can be brutal, heart-breaking, disappointing.  Yet, there is something incredibly sweet – bittersweet – about learning that you can praise God anyway in the midst of heart-ache and pain and trials.  It’s one thing to be joyful because you finally got what you wanted.  But it’s another thing to not get what you want and to find joy in the Lord anyway.  It’s a much deeper, tender kind of joy.  One not based on circumstances but on God’s presence and goodness and love alone.  And this can only be learned – you can only get to this point – when your heart aches, dreams get shattered, prayers go “unanswered,” you lose all hope in yourself and your abilities, the future looks dark and scary, and yet you still bow down before the Lord and say, “It’s okay!  I will still trust You and praise You, whether You give or take away.  You are good!” 
            To discover the joy that is not found in any gift but is found in God alone (deep, true, lasting joy, not “happiness”) is an incredible treasure.  One that can’t be taken away from you.  And once you find it, no earthly pleasure or treasure can compare.  And you will redefine all the trials that got you to that point as “blessings.” 
            And it disarms and defeats Satan. 
            We might “fail” in life and everything might go wrong, but we can still win the spiritual battle.  Because it’s not about what happens in life but about our response to it.  You see, if we let the disappointments get to us, discourage us, and make us bitter then Satan wins.  But if we can praise God regardless of what life throws at us then God wins.  Every time.  And we win the spiritual battle and disarm Satan, thwarting his attacks on our faith.  Turn Satan’s attacks into victories by praising God anyway, even for the trials.  Whereas Satan intended to draw us away from God in bitterness, we can defeat his attack by drawing closer to God in trust and thankfulness.
            I am learning the incomprehensible joy that comes with praising God for His goodness – of saying “I love You anyway!” – even when things don’t go the way I want them to go.  It’s a joy that Satan can’t steal because it’s not based on anything that Satan can destroy or take away.  It is so refreshing to my soul to have found this hidden well of joy in a desert of discouragement.  And to be able to say, “This is enough for me!”
            And even if God never fulfills my dreams here on earth or grants me the things I ask for – the things I think I “need” - it’s an amazing honor and blessing to “suffer” for Him and to still say, “I love You!  Always!”  I basically cried through the whole movie.  Tears of sadness.  Tears of heart-ache.  Tears of joy.  It was a good cry.  And it was just what I needed!