Saturday I had an experience that I never really recommend to people, but for whatever reason seems to reoccur in my life in kind of an absurd number of times: I returned the good old (somewhat cliche?) standby "I'm-at-such-a-loss-that-I-am-just-going-to-pray-and-read-whatever-page-of-the-Bible-I-open-up-to."
And lo and behold, I was hit with truth from a faithful God.
I read in Ecclesiastes 5:13-6:12, and then jumped over to chapter 11.
And pretty much, the gist of it all is to live with what circumstances you have, know it's from the Lord, count it a blessing, but do not let it define you.
And chapter 11 had these words of wisdom to shoot straight through to my stubborn, self-centered soul: "He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. (v. 4) " AKA nothing is going to just happen for you because you want it to. "Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things." You don't know why things happen, how things happen, heck, you don't even know the things that happen, so you most certainly are not going to understand how God is working the unfathomable mystery of the Gospel into your heart.
But. He is.
After this beautiful encounter with a wonderful, relevant truth, I quickly forgot it. (That's what humans are supposed to do right?) And by the time I went to church the next morning I was already in a pity-party because I was alone and unconfident that this is my home. And when unexpected circumstance piled up on top of challenging circumstance, I ended up in a big, self-pitying, victim-mindset that made me want to revert back to my days as a 4-year-old and throw a big nasty tantrum, and this was all before the sermon even started.
As I am NOT a 4-year-old, I refrained. At least until after church.
But then J.D. started preaching. He introduced a new series he'll be doing on 1 Peter. Want to know what the first thing he said about this book was? "First Peter is written to a group of people who are in the midst of suffering."
Okay, Lord, you have my attention.
He continued to blow my mind with every line of the sermon. I felt like he was talking to me, the one in the congregation who was already on the brink of tears because things have been hard since I got here.
I could write three posts about this sermon, but instead you should just listen to it here: http://sermons.summitrdu.com/sermons/?series=38
After the sermon, I was thinking heavily about verses 6-7 in 1 Peter 1:
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
...and I was thinking about their implications for my current situation. And how beautiful it is that I am the gold.
My faith is the gold! Gold can only be refined by fire, otherwise you'll never see the impurities. The good stuff has to be melted down in the heat of the flame so that the bad stuff will float to the top to be removed.
J.D. said, "Trials reveal the places where you don't actually trust God."
And then in a conversation afterwards in the midst of my simplistic cries of "I just want out of the fire" and "what do I need to do?" and "how do I get out of this?!"
and a pretty darn wise man pointed out to me, just as simply:
Maybe getting out isn't the point. Maybe the point is just being in it, and learning how to be in it.
Finally in a blast from my past, I was reminded of how we taught the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego at camp last summer, and one of the more brilliant things I ever heard anyone observe from that study was on Daniel 3:25-26 (go re-read the story, it will bless you!). She said "I think it's interesting how God rescues the three in the fire, but not from the fire."
Stay in the fire.