“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11
I do not believe you can become great at something without conquering the waiting, where patience, perseverance, and above all, endurance are formed.
Mastering those essential character elements takes TIME.
Waiting, and doing it well, is an essential part of becoming all we are meant to be.
If you had asked me at age Thirty, “Do you know who you are?” I would have answered, “Why, of course!” My answer at Forty, or Fifty would have been the same, “I know who I am and have some idea of where I want to go.”
I did not.
I did not know at any of those points in my journey who I was to become, or where I was destined to go, because I was still “becoming” and I had many things yet to learn in the areas of conquering patience, perseverance, and endurance.
I’ll freely confess, I ardently avoided the place where those things are learned.
You begin to master yourself, learn who you really are, and come face-to-face with what you truly believe in only one place—The School of Suffering.
It is my belief that until you and I have graduated with honors from there? We are not ready to assume our destined purpose. Because, it is there, in that refining furnace where the dross of pride and selfish ambition are burned away; where the steel of strength and purpose are formed in us; where we acquire our patience to persevere and endure, no matter what our circumstances may be.
Until we graduate that place? We will not possess the strength of character required to carry greatness. If we want to dance with Destiny? There is a price.
It was Emerson who said,
“The hero is not fed on sweets, daily his own heart he eats; Chambers of the great are jails, and head-winds right for royal sails.”
Let me close with these thoughts from Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert:
To have a sympathizing God we must have a suffering Savior, and there is no true fellow-feeling with another save in the heart of him who has been afflicted like him. We cannot do good to others save at a cost to ourselves, and our afflictions are the price we pay for our ability to sympathize. He who would be a helper, must first be a sufferer. He who would be a Savior must somewhere and somehow have been upon a cross; and we cannot have the highest happiness of life in succoring others without tasting the cup which Jesus drank, and submitting to the baptism wherewith He was baptized.
The most comforting of David’s psalms were pressed out by suffering; and if Paul had not had his thorn in the flesh we had missed much of that tenderness which quivers in so many of his letters.
The present circumstance, which presses so hard against you (if surrendered to Christ), is the best shaped tool in the Father’s hand to chisel you for eternity. Trust Him, then. Do not push away the instrument lest you lose its work.
Strange and difficult indeed
We may find it,
But the blessing that we need
Is behind it.
The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.
“I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you will end up out in the cold—real losers. Those who worked against you will end up empty-handed—nothing to show for their lives. When you go out looking for your old adversaries you won’t find them—Not a trace of your old enemies, not even a memory. That’s right. Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’”
Isaiah 41:9-13 The Message
“… under hopeless circumstances he hopefully believed.” Romans 4:18
Be willing to live by believing and neither think nor desire to live in any other way.
Be willing to see every outward light extinguished, to see the eclipse of every star in the blue heavens, leaving nothing but darkness and perils around, if God will only leave in thy soul the inner radiance, the pure bright lamp which faith has kindled.
—Thomas C. Upham
Are you in a storm?
Is it dark?
Are you running low on hope?
Does it feel like you’re all alone or that Jesus has gone to sleep in your boat?
Well, if that’s you, I want you to know I’ve been there!
I’ve been in storms that I believed would finish me off!
(They didn’t. But at the time I sure believed they would!)
The reason they didn’t is because of The Light, who is also called the Holy Spirit. He is not intimidated by any storm, and part of the reason is because He works with a Saviour who is a water-walkin’ Master Mariner!
Just between you and me? When the storm is raging? They are the One’s who are willing to come close, whispering the words of hope-filled-Light and encouragement that we desperately need.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t get through a single day in my life without Them.
So, if you’re tired of bailing on your own? If you’re ready for Someone else to row for awhile? Then move over and let Them take the oars!
(They have been hoping that you would.)
Why don’t you come with us?
We’re all going to the other side of this storm!
I didn’t believe anything could shipwreck my beliefs but I had never been in a storm like this one.
If I were to say that my doctors didn’t take my response to their diagnosis well—that would be putting it mildly.
These guys were men of science.
They thought my faith was absurd!
I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not follow their diagnosis their would be consequences!
Prayer—What is that?
My beliefs only made them angry.
Their threats became nastier.
They informed me I couldn’t leave the hospital until they ran more tests.
More tests? The bills were already in the stratosphere and now there would be no job and no money?
How had my beliefs brought me here?
My life was spiraling out of control!
So I called for the Patient Advocate because even in the hospital we have legal rights.
I asked him for a clear explanation of what my legal rights were.
He told me my options and I checked myself out of the hospital A.M.A. which means “against medical advice.”
I went home still experiencing all of my negative symptoms.
That’s when God “showed up” in an interesting twist of events.
The hospital wouldn’t let me check out without giving them the name of a personal doctor.
So I gave them the first name I could find but they faxed all my tests to the “wrong” doctor. Except he really was the RIGHT doctor!
He told me what was wrong with me, prescribed the correct medication, and most of my symptoms disappeared in a few days.
And my angry doctors?
They made good on all their threats.
I lost my freedom because they revoked my driver’s license.
Losing my driver’s license meant losing my job.
The hospital costs for all their tests put me into medical bankruptcy which meant my five-star credit rating was gone!
My family whispered in corners looking at me like, “What did you DO to make God so angry?”
What about my remaining symptoms?
I still could not walk from room to room without leaning on the walls for support. I had blinding headaches that stayed with me all day. It was tough to focus my eyes to write; forget about reading or TV.
I sat on my couch each day in stunned, hurting, lonely, silence. I was numb with pain, both physical, and emotional. Forget about feeling anything “spiritual.” I didn’t want to read my bible. I didn’t want to pray. I did not call for the church or pastors to see me. I didn’t want to talk with anyone.
I had nothing to say to God or anyone else.
I was angry and afraid.
My life as I knew it had been destroyed. I felt as if I had been shipwrecked.
How was I supposed to fix this mess if I couldn’t work?
I thought each day about ending my life. My anger, doubts and uncertainty made everything look darker and darker as I stared into that black hole called hopelessness.
Questions kept circling in my mind like, “What had I done? Where had I messed up? Why was all this terrible stuff happening?”
Wasn’t obedience to God supposed to equal blessings?
I was caught up in one of the worst spiritual storms of my life.
Just when it seemed that the darkness would swallow me whole—God showed up—again.
But now the Lord who created you, O Israel, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you… you are precious to me and honored, and I love you.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Isaiah 43:1, 2, 5 TLB
Have you ever been in a severe storm?
Man, I have. It was driving back from the airport in Wichita to Hutchinson, Kansas to stay with friends.
It was my first time in a “tornado watch.”
We left the airport under sunny skies but soon after a storm began to brew. It looked like we were driving into the wrath of God with pitch black skies in the middle of the afternoon. Lightning was hitting the ground all around us and the peals of thunder were so loud I thought the sky was splitting in two!
A storm unleashing its fury can be terrifying.
But what about spiritual storms?
They can be just as terrifying.
We can be motoring through life with our destination firmly fixed in our minds and “Wham!” we can find ourselves unexpectedly hurled into a cyclone of emotional devastation wondering, “Where is God?”
That’s how I remember January 1999. My life turning upside down and inside out with all of my nice neat expectations shattered and in broken pieces all about me—caught in my own Hurricane Andrew.
Remember Andrew? Not only did Andrew erase everything in his path as he swept through central Florida, the tornadoes that spun off the main storm created all kinds of chaos and collateral damage.
That’s what I want to talk about.
Storms that catch us off guard. Storms that flatten and confuse us. Storms that test everything we believe and then leave us asking questions like, “Will I survive this? How will I survive this? Do I even want to survive this? What will I believe afterward even if I do make it through this?
What will survival look like?”
I want to take you on my journey through a personal hurricane.
I want you to meet a God who walks in when the rest of the world walks out and marvel at a Savior who treads on the top of our storms.
I hope you will also hear a Holy Voice whisper, with a Voice so quiet that sometimes He must shut out everything else in our lives, so that only His Still Small Voice can be heard.
Okay, so here is where my story begins.
It’s January in the Central Valley of California. The weather is cold, foggy and miserable, which is normal for our winters.
I love my busy life. I have a job I love with people who are depending on me every day. I am tired most of the time but who isn’t in these stress-filled days we live in? When I’m feeling exhausted (which is most of the time) I chug another diet cola, get a new caffeine fix, and motor-on.
Flu is everywhere. It’s the season for flu. So I don’t think it strange when I wake up one morning feeling like I’ve come down with a “bug.” It’s a pain, but a minor inconvenience, not a devastating catastrophe. I curl up on my couch under my favorite quilt and resolve to endure a week of misery. But you know how flu is. As the day wears on I begin to feel worse until it feels like everything in my stomach is about to hurl, so I run for a bathroom. That’s the last thing I remember until I wake up on my bathroom floor lying in a pool of my own blood.
I’m laying there trying to figure out how bad I’m hurt. What happened and why does my face feel like I’ve been kicked by a mule?
I holler for help so a family member can call 911. Minutes later paramedics are putting me in the back of an ambulance and I am on my way to an emergency room at a local hospital.
After three days of running tests my doctors come to my room to share their results. Starched white coats with grim faces and official looking clipboards begin to paint me a picture black and bleak.
They tell me of the health issues they believe I am facing.
Their findings were all based on erroneous information but that will only come into the light—later.
My doctors get it all wrong but in the meanwhile…
Me? I’m doing my best to listen and not freak out!
I try to listen hard to what these men are saying, but their “conclusions” don’t fit with the facts that I’m remembering and the evidence on my face.
In addition I am missing the most important thing I need. I don’t have the “inner peace” I depend upon when making life-altering decisions.
These doctors are telling me I need to begin a drug therapy program immediately, but when I ask them about side effects, they freely admit these drugs will cause great harm if they are the “wrong” stuff.
So I tell my doctors, “I have to pray about this.”
They just stare back at me in stunned silence. These men are used to being obeyed without question. They do not take it well when I tell them, “No, I will pray first—then we will talk about what to do.”
They argue with me but I stand my ground. They threaten dire consequences but I stand my ground. They storm out in anger but I am still holding on to my ground!
I want to talk to God FIRST.
In the middle of my storm I reach for the Gideon Bible next to the bed, trying my best not to panic.
Praying a desperate prayer I say, “God I am in DEEP trouble. I don’t know what to believe. You HAVE to show me what to do—and I mean RIGHT NOW!”
I don’t usually talk to God like that, but when you’re caught in a TERRIFYING storm flowery prayers are the last thing on your mind!
After I prayed I opened the Bible to Isaiah 51 and this is what I read,
“I, even I, am He who comforts you… so what right have you to fear mere mortal men, who wither like the grass and disappear? And yet you have no fear of God, your Maker? ~ You have forgotten Him, the One who spread the stars throughout the skies and made the earth. Will you be in constant dread of men’s oppression, and fear their anger all day long? Soon, soon you slaves shall be released; dungeon, starvation, and death ARE NOT YOUR FATE.” [Isaiah 51:12-14 TLB]
I closed the Bible and said, “Okay God, that’s good enough for me.”
Always bring your wings under My Grace.
My wings are Omnipotent.
There is no difficulty you face that I will not have an answer for.
Think of your little wings this way:
One is peace, the other is prayer.
You bring Me your prayers—I give you My peace. And, praise arises from the two. Whenever your peace disappears, come to Me in prayer. We will work it out together.
I AM your refuge—Your safe haven.
When you don’t know what to do, come to Me.
Quiet the storm on the inside first. As you do, you will ask and I will give you all the wisdom and favor you need to deal with your outer storm.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV