God is ALWAYS better than we think He is

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

This is a famous quote from the Hiding Place, a true story written by Corrie Ten Boom.  She and her sister Betsy had defied the Nazis by hiding Jews in their home.  When their house was raided, the Jews were never discovered in the expertly designed hiding place, but Corrie and Betsy were taken into custody and eventually put into a concentration camp.  Corrie experienced the horrors of a hell on earth.  She witnessed the death of many, including her beloved sister.  Yet she learned that in the darkest pit, God was there…and He was good…so incredibly good.

She came out of that experience more in love with Jesus, more devoted to following Him.  She spent the rest of her life encouraging other people to love Jesus.  That is a testimony that no one can deny.  No imaginary God, no fairy tale God, no boring or religious God could work a miracle like that; placing a life into the crucible of suffering and making it a joyous offering.

I have often pondered Corrie’s life and wondered what I would have done in her place.  It is unlikely that any of us will have to make the choices she had to make.  Yet each one of us will have our own personal hell on earth that we will have to navigate through.

On Thursday night, I heard the stories of five women from my church; each I knew well; each had faced their own crucible.

propel

Kristi is a wonderful deejay on the local Christian radio station.  She lives in my neighborhood and I sometimes see her pass my house, taking a walk with her little boy in a stroller.  She told how just months after their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Years later cancer was found in her body as well.  In addition, the doctors told them it would be impossible for them to have children.  Her story wasn’t about the seven long years of treatment and tests, sorrow and disappointments.  Her story was about the goodness of God, His healing power, and their miracle baby!

Bobbie is the mother of one of my first youth leaders, and one of the hardest working, sweetest ladies you will ever meet.  She faced breast cancer and multiple cancer scares after that. Does she live in fear?  No!  Her life is full of joy because of her amazing God!

Tiffany was just a junior higher when I met her.  I was in senior high and would sing on stage with the youth worship band.  She wrote me a sweet little note at one of the youth retreats that said something like this, “I see you on stage with such grace and confidence, and I know that God does that.”  Well, my singing voice is not what it used to be, and I have faded into the background.  Now I watch Tiffany on stage worshipping with a clear and powerful voice, singing songs that she has written and recorded, and I am looking up to her in admiration!

Tiffany told the story of suffering a blood clot in her lungs, dying twice, and surviving a surgery that would have killed 499,999 people out of 500,000.  Her story wasn’t about the pain and suffering she had to enduring during the recovery process.  She didn’t complain about the interruption in their lives with two little girls and a newborn baby boy.  She told of how God’s goodness was there every step of the way.  She said, “You can NEVER exaggerate the goodness of God.  He is ALWAYS better that we think he is!”

Sharon was a leader in youth group when I was in high school.  A few years later, I actually saw myself in her wedding album.  She and her husband were honeymooning in Boston.  I just happened to be there on a missions trip with YWAM, and we randomly ran into each other on the street and snapped a picture!  I admired both her and her husband, and when I heard the news that he had left her for another woman while she was pregnant with their second child, I was heartbroken for them.  She was devastated and was a single parent for almost 15 years.  Yet her story is not one of loss and betrayal.  It is a story of learning to love herself, learning to forgive, and learning how much God loved her.  Now she sees restoration in all the broken relationships and just married a man who is better than the very best she had ever imagined for herself.  God gave her more that she had asked for!

Sue is a powerful woman of God at our church.  I first met her when I volunteered to help out with vacation Bible school when I was in high school.  I was assigned to help in her room which was the dancing room.  Each day, four different groups of children would rotate through our room.  Sue led them with a microphone (which she really didn’t need) and tireless energy. I had never had so much fun at vacation Bible school before!

Sue told of her battle with cancer.  She was in so much pain that she wished for death.  She survived the surgery that took out her entire stomach, part of her esophagus, part of her intestines, and her gallbladder.  Her doctors were so surprised, they hadn’t developed a follow-up plan.  Cancer free six years later, she doesn’t moan about how unlucky she was.  She sings and shouts and passionately tells of her beloved Jesus!  She looks like she would explode if she didn’t proclaim her love.

How can this be?  Shouldn’t all these women be bitter and cynical, wondering why a loving God would lead them through the valley of the shadow of death?  All of these women have a real relationship with a real God who never left them for a moment.  In fact He was always right there with them, carrying them, listening to them, speaking to them, and healing them.  He was sending answers, giving provision, working miracles and loving on them until they were filled to overflowing with that love.

This is a God that we just cannot deny.  I pray that you and I will be encouraged to trust more in His great love for us and have the courage to say in our own trials…

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

The Power of Praising Through Pain

Doris

I attended the memorial service for the mother of a dear friend of mine.  This friend is my age, and we have known each other since junior high school.   It was much too soon for her to have to say goodbye to her mom.  I was deeply touched by everyone who shared memories and thoughts and prayers.  I marveled at the joy and pain mingling together as we sang songs of worship.  Our pastor stood up to share. He began to talk about how we each encounter situations in life that don’t make sense, that seem too difficult to be God’s best for us.  We all ask God the question, “Why?”  He listed the many famous men of the Bible who asked why.  Then he made a statement that cut to the core of my being.

why

“There was one ‘why’ that swallowed up all the other ‘whys’,” he said, and I instantly knew what he was talking about.

Jesus, hanging on the cross, became sin and cried out from the anguish of his soul, “My God, WHY have you forsaken me?”

Jesus knows how we feel as we navigate through this journey called being human.  We all suffer pain, heartbreak, sickness, and loss.  We all have our faith shaken and our knowledge stripped and our understanding emptied until all we can say is, “Why?”  Jesus was at the very same place Himself, and He put himself in that place on purpose so that we didn’t have to be there alone.  He is always right there with us, whispering, “I understand…and someday you will too.”

And love’s voice answers from a cross:

I bear it all with you;

I share with you in all your loss, I will make all things new.

None suffer in their sin alone,

I made – I bear – and I atone.” – Hannah Hurnard

 

God made us for Eden which means “delight” and “pleasure.”  We were made to live in perfect shalom; peace, nothing broken, nothing missing.  But our world was plunged into darkness and put under a curse because of sin.  The effects of that gloom always seem so wrong and unfair and foreign to us.  That is because they are.  We were created for something better, something perfect.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While we are here in the Shadowlands, we have a unique and very short-lived opportunity that we will never have again once we have crossed over into glorious eternity.  We have the privilege to have faith in something we can’t see.  Faith in a good and amazing God.  Faith that all things will be redeemed and restored.  We have the chance to touch our Father’s heart as we praise Him through our pain.

Rick Joyner received a vision from God in which this was shown to him in a marvelous way.

“I saw the Father.  Millions and millions were attending Him.  His glory was so great and the power of His presence so awesome that I felt the whole earth would not have even measured as a grain of sand before Him…His robe was composed of millions and millions of stars which were alive…I knew I could dwell before Him forever and never cease to marvel; there was no higher purpose in the universe than to worship Him…

“Then I was in a different place, beholding a worship service in a little church building…Everyone in the battered little room…were experiencing severe trials in their lives, but they were not even thinking of them here.  They were not praying about their needs.  They were all trying to compose songs of thanksgiving to the Lord.  They were happy and their joy was sincere.

“I saw heaven, and all of heaven was weeping.  I then saw the Father again and knew why heaven was weeping.  They were weeping because of the tears in the eyes of the Father.  This little group of seemingly beaten down, struggling people had moved God so deeply that He wept.  They were not tears of pain, but of joy…

“Jesus turned to me and said, “When you worship without seeing His glory, in the midst of your trials, this is worship in Spirit and truth…Do not waste your trials.  Worship the Father – not for what you will get, but to bring Him joy.  You will never be stronger than when you bring Him joy, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

One Sunday at church I was inspired by a testimony of a woman who had been miraculously healed of cancer.  I love it when God’s power is so visibly demonstrated here on the imperfect earth among broken humanity.  I clapped and cheered for this one soul who had received a death sentence and then had that terrible pronouncement revoked.

But I was deeply touched and moved and undone by something else.  A man who had recently lost his wife to cancer was raising his hands to praise God for the healing of another.  I felt my heart deepen and stretch to try to contain the grandeur of that one small act.  I thought I heard heaven weeping because this man had so touched the Father’s heart with his praise.  The greatest victories of the Christian life occur when we suffer crushing earthly loss and still praise God!  The “Whys” get swallowed up by such praise and we get catch a glimpse of the world we were really created for.

praise