God has taught me that plenty of hard things will happen to you in this life. Jesus told us plainly that they would, right?
“In this world you shall have tribulation…”
But perhaps the most difficult for me to learn, and endure, has been the knowledge that these “hard things” happen, even in the CENTER of His will.
Try that idea on, and then recall the rest of the verse.
“… but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Good cheer? Overcome? Like this?
Yeah, that is definitely a very HARD thing!
For instance, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been robbed. Not an easy thing. The violation you feel whether you have been robbed physically, emotionally, or intellectually, is difficult to endure let alone, “be of good cheer!”
I confess. It took me years, many of them, to GET to the “cheer” part. And there are days, even now, I still struggle with this. I don’t think anyone enjoys being victimized.
So, how do I get to cheer?
How do I make the leap from feeling like a victim to actually being an overcomer?
I think it comes in steps.
First, I remember that if anyone knew about victimization it was Jesus Christ. The innocent spotless Lamb of God who suffered torture and death for me. For my sin. He paid my debt. He knows how I feel.
Second, He overcame by laying it all down. All of it. Again, for me!
I don’t remember who said it but I remember reading once, “You can trust the Man that died for you.”
If He says by laying my life down I will find it?
I choose to believe until I feel it.
I have chosen to follow Him anywhere—even through the hard things!
Yes, still I will follow because…
Every MOUNTAIN is making me a climber. Every GIANT is calling out a fighter! Every HEARTACHE only makes Your love go deeper and deeper.And, I’m just getting started!
“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” John 16: 1-4 The Message
Simply put God has called me to the Prodigal-Church.
Yeah, you know.
The ones referred to as:
The Wrecked and Wounded.
The ones who have heard it all before and just ain’t listenin’ anymore!
These are the “ones” who are severely bruised, deeply disappointed and pissed off at God, The Church, or all of the above.
(Nope. Not an easy crowd.)
But, you know what else?
God passionately LOVES these that many folks just privately hope will “Go away.” leaving us in ‘The Good Church’ to our sleepy tranquility.
I know because I was one of these prodigals, and truth be known? Sometimes I still am.
Ticked-off that is—not prodigal.
I still get angry because many of these folks have been brutally beat-up good-n’-proper.
Perhaps they “once upon a time” believed. But, now?
Now they ain’t havin’ anything to do with it!
They have hit the dusty trail, and now have turtle-shells thick-n’-crusty around once trusting hearts.
Yet they are STILL HIS. And are perhaps MORE WANTED than they were in the beginning.
(Before it all went wrong in their lives.)
Make no mistake about it—He still calls them BELOVED, and He longs for them to come home to Him.
These the Saints consider rabble-rousers, and futile-flotsam, He calls with infinite tenderness, “My Beloved.
I believe this because—I was one of them when He came after me.
(And I do understand how “The Church” feels.)
I fondly remember the days of easy crowds and occupying easy chairs. (Yeah, I confess.) All gone now, and it’s okay because I believe someone needs to reach Wounded Sheep! All those Prickly-Prodigals with crusty shells around hearts that have stopped believing in anyone calling themselves Christian—walking away from our churches—taking the back door out.
Yep, they’re my assignment. My mission. My project.
As a self-confessed Prodigal, I will confess I craved it all of my life.
My father’s blessing.
I would even go so far as to say it was the deepest craving in my heart.
As a child, I longed to make my Father smile.
(It was not a simple task.)
Dad came from Quaker roots with German overtones. In our house “the Papa’s word” was law. Period. No other options. So, to make my dad happy was always foremost in my thinking from as far back as I can remember.
My problems arose when I failed to do so, which was often the older I got. Partly, because my dad was so hard for me to “read,” and partly because he encouraged me to “think for myself” as long as my thinking didn’t conflict with what he wanted from me.
Made for days of confusion with even greater conflict.
Question: How was I to think for myself and please my father?
Answer: Most of the time I couldn’t!
I could do one, or the other, but rarely both.
Maybe it was because I was a Baby-boomer who came of age in the turbulent Sixties. By the time I reached adulthood the Vietnam War was in full swing, protests on college campus’ were the rule, not the exception, and funerals of lost boys from the war were becoming a regular event in our small town. I remember “Women’s Lib” as just taking off, and I believed that my parents were dinosaurs, and just didn’t get me. (An affliction of every generation I think.)
In a way, it was true, because my father was a child of what has been called, The Battered Generation. He, being raised during The Great Depression when families had to pull together just to survive from one day to the next. My dad just didn’t “get” my heart-speak, and I certainly did not get his. I believe we both wanted to, but the gulf between us eventually bred a profound and abiding silence that was to last all of my teen years, and on into my adulthood.
Only one time do I remember even coming close to receiving his blessing. I was well into my forties, and I was in the middle of a ten-year marathon, caring for my mom. I had taken up writing as one of the ways to cope with my stress. I was in my home office working on the computer one day, when my father came into the room, stood behind me, put his hands on my shoulders, and began to pray, silently.
I cannot even begin to convey how painful it was that my dad kept the words of that prayer to himself. I begged him one time to share it with me, but he would not, and indeed, he never did.
Those words whatever they were, went to the grave with him, and to my way of thinking, I remained unblessed.
That silence of his became one of the deepest wounds in my soul. Though I wouldn’t admit it for many years and even today (now in my sixties) I write this with tears. How could my dad say he loved me, bless me, and not share those words with me? Was that even a real blessing?
For some of you, the only “blessing” you received from your dad was the back of his hand.
You not only feel unblessed, you feel like the cursed, and may have been just that.
For others, you never knew your dad.
There wasn’t a father—let alone a kind and loving blessing from one.
The absence of the father’s blessing can leave empty spaces in our hearts. Big black holes we try to fill up with lesser things in a desperate hope that they will make up for our absent blessing. We go chasing after anythingthat we believe might alleviate our pain and make us feel truly valued.
I did that for years. I used my work and accomplishment, alcohol, prescription drugs, anything I could find, to remove the hurting in my wounded empty heart.
Ah, but God saw; knew all about my prodigal heart and He longed for me to know:
He is a Faithful Father who doesn’t give up on us.
He is a Father who doesn’t let go.
He is a Father who doesn’t walk out.
He is a Father who doesn’t purposelessly cause us pain.
He shows up for us even when we don’t want Him to. And He shows up determined. He is relentless in His love for us. He speaks. He reaches down, and reaches out, with compassion, with tender love, and often when we least deserve it.
He’s like that—He’sfaithful.
He’s the Dad-love, the Dad-kindness, the Dad-blessing, we all desperately want and need, and can’t avoid… not when He’s made up His mind to come after us! And be sure of this, He knows right where you are. Knows everything you’ve done. And still, He is head over heels in love with you.
I believe there is a tremendous power for us, and our lives, in The Father’s blessing. I also believe, there is a deep pain “the unblessed” carry all of their lives unless they receive The Father’s Blessing from above; the one they missed from their earthly fathers. So, please. Believe these next eight blessings are meant for you.
Receive the gift of your Heavenly Father’s blessing.