Father, lead my soul on level ground.
Hold my hand where my heart grows faint.
And when the world about draws near,
To tempt and make its loves my muse,
To rend and fill my soul with dread,
Father, lead my soul on level ground.
Today’s devotions brought with it some pretty cool thoughts.
Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, but if we lost our saltiness, we would be fit only for throwing out. There are two things I noticed here – one, is that we would not be fit for Christ’s Kingdom if we didn’t have His flavor in our life. The second one is that the world really does see as fit to be thrown out, because we are different from them.
Jesus continues to say that we are the light of the world, and that a city on a hill cannot be hidden. The world rejects us, but they cannot ignore us when we have Christ’s light shining in and through us.
Therefore, we are to shine this light, so that those around us will see and turn to glorify God.
One thing my family has been learning about both in real life and also through one of our homeschool curricula is loving our enemies. This light we have is like a torchlight. Picture yourself on a campground at night. It’s dark, but you have a torch and you turn it on to help both you and your companions to find your way. This is like God’s light in us- we are not the source of the light, but we can control how we shine the light. We shine it, and anyone can see it, whether friends or enemies, and that connects to loving our enemies too – we help them just the same way we would a friend. Through these, we can turn those around us to glorify God because, a) people wouldn’t say we are producing the light, but that we have a torch – we have Christ- and, b) when we love our friends and enemies the same way, that stands out and turns people to the One who gives us strength to love as He loves.
What has God been showing you through His Word recently? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
This post is a continuation of last week’s post, In the Storm. You can read it here.
That conversation with my friend got me thinking. In order to pray that prayer, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” I need to trust Him and believe that He has His plans for me.
Growing up in a Christian family, something I’ve always struggled with is having a real relationship with God. My birth certificate says I’m a Christian, but does my life say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I relate to people say that I’m a Christian? Does the way I respond to trials say that I’m a Christian?
For years, I contended with myself over the issue of whether or not I was a real Christian. I went to God when I had problems and didn’t know what to do, and that worked, but when I tried to do my devotions I never had the energy to hold through anything longer than a week.
People said that when they became Christians, they were so full of joy, they were changed, their mindset underwent a paradigm shift, they were energized with wanting to know God better, and sought Him with a hunger and thirst that I never seemed to be able to experience. What was this? I had the desire to know God but my efforts seemed to simply vanish.
Other times, God just felt so inexistent. My prayers seemed to hit the ceiling and fall back down. I would wonder if my prayers went unanswered because everything was just a coincidence, and I would wonder about why Christians seemed to go through more sufferings than others. I wondered about which “religion” was really telling the truth – all religions claim to lead to heaven, so what if I had chosen the wrong way?
Now, even as I share this with you, I continue to have my questions that have yet to be answered. But something that I have discovered and decided to cling onto is this: Faith is not feeling that something is true. Faith is choosing to believe that something is true.
When it comes to trials and difficulties, I’ve come to realize that they, like the Bible says, are all a part of God’s plan. God is our Father, and like most earthly parents, He wants the best for us. Sometimes, our parents allow us to make mistakes, get into trouble, or experience challenges. Why? It’s not because they couldn’t care less, but it’s because they want us to learn. Likewise, God allows trials in my life because they will teach me lessons that can’t be taught from textbooks and lectures.
In Psalm 34:18, the Psalmist writes, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” and that’s a comforting thought to me. I often find it hard to believe, that God actually understands what I’m going through. But when I take time to slow down and think, if He created me and all my emotions and everything else in between, why should He not know how I feel?
In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
God’s love for me is everlasting – it’s never going to die down. He’s never going to get tired of loving me.
So, if He’s not going to give up on me, I can trust that He will bring me through my storms.
Sometimes, I think that when I face storms, it’s God saying, “Hey, girl. I’m here. Your storm is meant to show you that I’m real.”
And I think that’s true. Through the storms I face, God is giving me a way to make my faith real for myself. Love is not a feeling, it’s a decision. So is faith. I don’t need to feel that I’m close to God to be a real Christian. I only need to make the decision to entrust my life to Him and to seek Him as I walk this journey of life.
It’s easy to seek God and feel close to Him when everything is going well – after all, He’s the One Who provides all that goodness right? But when the storms come, that’s when my faith is tested. And I know, if I can trust Him and seek Him by asking, “God, let me see You IN the storm,” one day, my faith will be found to be tried and true.
Some time ago, I was talking to a friend about life and its challenges. Our discussion continued deep into the night, and when we finally went to bed, it was nearly three, but despite the general fuzziness that ruled my head at the time, I remember what she said.
And I quote:
“Sometimes, the way God works is… He doesn’t change anything about the situation and we battle on wondering what on earth He is doing and cry out for relief in the storm. And our prayer shouldn’t be, “God, take away the storm.” It should be, “God, let me see you IN the storm. Don’t take me out of it – draw me to you IN it.” And that’s what He does! He doesn’t take us out of the storm. Nothing might even change. Like literally nothing. But He changes US in the storm. Into someone we never imagined we could be. I mean, someone with the grace and strength that we could never create on our own… how can we possibly be gracious and strong in [such] situations…? How could they ever be anything but negative? It’s literally impossible from the human perspective. Literally the only thing that can keep us going is when our hearts have been transformed IN the storm as we are completely and utterly broken before the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but that spoke a lot to me. Each of us has experienced our fair share of trials and heartbreaks, and it’s no small feat to get through them.
I think back to times when bad things happened to my friends and family, times when I was betrayed by people my heart held dearest, times when misunderstandings turned things upside down, times when I lost people I loved.
And I think of now. I have friends going through the same things, experiencing the same pain, struggling with the same questions…
And I realize that truly, God has a higher plan for me. And for you, too, whether it seems believable or not. I know there were periods of my life when I felt I could no longer trust Him. Days, weeks, and months on end…
But as I take another step in this journey called Life, I have been shown through my friends that He put me through those tough times for a reason- so that I would be able to understand, empathize, and encourage.
Jeremiah 29:12-14 says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
It just reminds me of how God uses hardships in life – yes, even those that make you feel like giving up on life – to turn us to Him, so that we may strengthen our relationship with Him, and that we may find Him a true friend and Father – the only One Who truly understands us and Who can help us through our fiercest storms.
So together, as we journey through life, let us not pray, “God, take me out of this storm.” Instead, let us turn to Him and pray, “God, let me find You IN this storm. Never let me go, because You made me. I am precious in Your sight, and I want to discover a whole new depth of my relationship with You.”
Together, let us look to Him, to find Him IN THE STORM.
Yes, I’m back! After more than three weeks of hectic schedules, travel time, lesson preps, people, people, and more people…
I’m back here, alive and healthy!
Okay, you’re probably wondering what on earth the trip was about. 🙂 Basically I joined a team of youth to teach children in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta. This year’s theme was the Love of God. Here’s a quick run-through of what we did those three weeks.
WEEK 1- Kuala Lumpur
This week, we met the rest of the team (well, of course). We had teacher training every day except for Friday and Saturday (Friday was outing day and Saturday was a full day of seminar). My small group teaching partners were all first timers, like me. 😀 But they were awesome, and they made KL week the best one for me. We had eight kids in our team. This week was a little chaotic because we had no prior experience and there were unforeseen circumstances that affected our schedules every single day. But that aside, KL was a great week! I acted in a skit about a modern-day version of the demon-possessed girl of Matthew 15. I was the “crazy-girl” in the story. It was a lot of fun acting, and despite all the craziness and excitement of acting in the skit, I was also struck by something which I feel is very relevant in everyday life. I am not exactly one to go out and show the world how crazy I can be, but when I saw how amused the kids were, I was really encouraged and heartened, and slowly, the nervousness and fear ebbed away, and I was able to better portray my character. This really reminded me that it is not just being a good communicator or a good speaker that matters; it is also how I behave as an audience member that shows the respect and support I have for the person in front.
WEEK 2- Singapore
This week was a really tough week for me. I was a team leader for this week, and my assistant was great, but we didn’t quite know how to work with one of the children on our team. He was interesting, to say the least, but we couldn’t understand him or how to communicate with him. On top of that, I was recovering from a cold I had caught in Malaysia and wasn’t feeling very well. As the week progressed, I became more discouraged, and it came to the point where my assistant and I were on totally different pages. We didn’t know what the other was thinking, and it made working together really hard. But after a whole outing day of avoiding her (yes I was that foolish), we sat down to talk, and after clarifying all the misunderstandings, we discussed ways to work with the kids. I remember my assistant’s voice clearly: “It’s the last day. It’s too late to actually get him to remember any of the songs or verses. The best thing we can do is just to show him all the love we can, so that one day he can look back and at least remember that those two teachers showed him God’s love.”
And here, I learnt the greatest lesson of the trip: to let go and let God.
WEEK 3- Jakarta
Yay! This was my first time in Indonesia, and except for some mild airsickness at takeoff and landing, the flight to Indonesia was good. 🙂 This week, we met a new group of people who would be working with us- the translators! I was in team seven with one of my childhood friends. She was a wonderful leader; she challenged me and helped me to step out of my comfort zone while teaching the children, and was very supportive even when I didn’t do well. I got sick again this week (stomach problems and headaches and whatnot), but the entire team was great! They were so flexible, and for the first time during the trip, I actually got to sleep during nap time, because our translators took care of the kids for us. 😀 Since some of our kids spoke Indonesian, I’m not sure how much of the lesson they actually understood. Some of them were hyper and all, but I remembered that I needed to let go and let God, so I just went on, trying to find new ways to communicate with the kids (thank God I could speak some Malay *:D) and making the decision to not stress out over things that didn’t happen the way I planned or expected. 🙂
And… we ended the trip with a short retreat together with the families of some of the kids in Jakarta. 🙂
It was a fun trip. 🙂 That’s all I have to say.
Okay, I know this post doesn’t exactly fit the title, but well, the biggest lesson of the trip was let go and let God, so it’s all right. 🙂
Okay, I gotta run and continue my work!
Thanks for reading, and God bless!
Love in Christ, Szen
A lot has been happening the past week. And as I look back, I realise how God has a purpose for each trial that He has put into my life.
There are certain challenges that our family has been facing. I won’t talk about that here, but I’ll say that it is often extremely tough and we wonder how we will overcome our trials. Sometimes, I question why we experience all these things from the rough side of life.
Last week, during a meeting, we had to make a decision on a certain matter- something we were unable to do- but God provided the means for us through a thoughtful friend. Shortly after, I noticed a young child. This child’s family, I knew, was also unable to do this.
I contemplated. I hesitated.
The child needed it.
But, I thought. Will this child want to accept my help?
I looked at the child again.
That innocent face, those pleading eyes.
And I decided to give the child some of what I had.
The child didn’t know anything about the situation or the decision-making. At least not that it was obvious.
The child was happy that someone had decided to share.
Nothing more than that.
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
That was enough for me.
I didn’t need a thank you. Just watching the child’s happiness- that blissful ignorance.
That was enough for me.
I looked around me. No one else had noticed the child.
And now, as I write, I realise that the situation my family had been in had enabled me to see the child’s need and do my part to meet it.
Aren’t God’s plans intriguing?
About two days later, we ran into a sticky situation. I was left reeling in shock.
I’ll be honest, I was having my doubts about God before that. I was questioning why God put me where I am. For a moment I even thought about turning my back on God.
That incident? It was God kicking me in the back. There was nothing else I could do. The only thing left for me to do was to rely on His strength to bring me through.
I was stunned. Unsure of how to respond. Scared. In fact, it would be an understatement to say I was terrified.
I had no choice but to rely on Him with every bit of me. Every drop of blood in me cried out to Him to have mercy. To be gracious with us. With me.
God sometimes has a sobering sense of humour. The incident turned out to be nothing very big, but it has left its mark on us, and I know I will remember that kick in the back that God gave me that day.
It’s a tough battle to fight- keeping one’s faith in the midst of trials. But I look back at what God has done, and I see His mighty hand, working out His plan.
And I’m comforted. Yes. It’s hard.
But He has His plans for me. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give me a hope and a future.
As I’ve seen in the past week, sometimes the most uncomfortable circumstances can be used by Him to fulfil His purposes.
The plans He has?
I’m choosing to allow Him to lead me. Yes, to lead me according to His plan.