Bad News

Life keeps taking crazy turns. Each day the news interrupts life; revealing the darkness of the world we live in. Headlines scream across the screen of the next new terror that’s come to light. Not wanting to see it, we turn inward and end up looking at self and see the us we don’t want to see instead. Because the evil one is like that- he takes that evil he distributes through this world and makes it personal. He shows us all that is wrong in an attempt to blot out all that is right.

But darkness will never blot out the light. Can’t happen. Never. Ever.

When that personal attack comes- and it will- (he is nothing if not relentless in his accusations) how do I handle it? I sometimes think it might be easier if it was a once and done attack; however, the attacks are life long in this world; after all, that’s what he does- attack, again and again, over and over, until we are defeated or victorious.

Sometimes the attacks eat me alive. I dwell and dwell; blaming myself for all the miseries of the world and my world. At other times, I lash out at those I love most and lay the blame at their feet. I make rash decisions that I bitterly regret later. Regardless of my choice of response, there are consequences in this messed up world.

The emotional consequences are so hard for me. It’s difficult to remember that the here and now is just that. It is a blade of grass that fades away when its time is done. I remind myself that eternal life began the moment I believed. (John 3:16-17) That my life will continue long after this shell I now live in is consumed.

We all have moments, days, weeks, months, years we would obliterate completely from our lives. If only we could. So many things gone wrong. Where is the “do-over” for them? But would you do those things over that served a purpose in shaping who you are?

They are signposts, milestones, events that i will remember for the rest of my life while I draw breath. I don’t feel thankful that those things are part of my life most of the time. Yet, I realize that without them and the restoration and forgiveness that comes through Christ I would be useless. To God, to others, to myself.

I look to my God for help. He is the One who rescues me. The One who knows me better than I know myself. We are all broken vessels and He knows how broken we are. In those inward moments, we only see the brokenness in us. When we only see death and despair and destruction all around us He sees so much more. He sees what He intended He sees the way things were  as He designed them. His is the only validation we need. His creation, made in His image, for His pleasure to have fellowship with Him.

Because we believe, we are forgiven. Our sin no longer tips the balance in our lives. He grieves when we grieve, He holds on when we can’t and He loves us still through all things without regard to our actions, our thoughts, our preferences, our anger or our frustration.

He Loves Us.

Warts and all.

And in these days of frustration, anger, confusion, danger and despair He walks the wilderness with us.

In the silence He is there.

When we listen, we can hear His voice whisper on the wind:

I love you.

You are mine.

I call you by name and you are my precious one.

Never forget that.

Forget everything else but not that.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

Out in the Wilderness. Again?

Or have you never left it? 

We often perceive being out in the wilderness while on our journey here as a negative experience. We want to know: “How long?” “Why am I here?” “What is it I’m supposed to learn while I’m out here in this dry and thirsty land?” 

I’ve come to a new appreciation of that wasteland that usually makes me very sad, and stirs up hard memories. I learned something a short while back that was not new to me, but it was a seed that had not sprouted; nor do I think it would have while I was wandering in the wilderness.

I had the opportunity to sit and learn from Michael Card, the musician, at a Biblical Imagination Conference. If you are not familiar with him or his work, he wrote the Christmas song “Immanuel” and about 400 other songs.

At the conference, he taught from the Gospel of Mark. Part of our experience involved sitting down with the book of Mark in one hand and a highlighter in the other- seeing The Word.

I came away with knowledge that has been available to me since I was a child; but the seed had been fallow in the dusty crevices of my heart waiting for the rain of understanding. My eyes were opened. I focused. No glossing over the reading of the words one more time. Now I searched for specifics.

The one thing that kept leaping off the page at me is this:

When Jesus, in His man body, was overwhelmed by the crowds, the noise, the wants, the needs, the gimmes that people kept asking for- He left. ran away to the desert, the wilderness around Galilee, to the quiet and the space and the peace that it afforded as a respite.

He knew that being in the crowds and providing for their needs was necessary. However, the message He brought to them that would heal their hearts and minds was not what they sought. It was not Him, but the “WIFM” that brought them-“what’s in it for me?” that propelled them to seek him out. They wanted to see miracles, to be fed, to hear a famous prophet. They did not see the Messiah sitting in front of them.

At the end of Mark 1, Jesus healed a leper and told him not to tell anyone; but to go to the priest and fulfill the requirement of the law. Overjoyed at his healing, the leper runs off and tells everyone he meets-no one ever recovered from leprosy, but he has just been healed! Mark tells us what happened immediately after in verse 45: As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

The wilderness became His refuge.

Many times I have felt God’s hand heavy upon me when I felt I was sent out to the wilderness in my walk with Him for what I thought was for punishment or to a place where He sent me “to learn a lesson.” Immediately, Job comes to mind when I think about the wilderness. I feel Job’s pain, not the physical pain- but the hurting of his heart. I’ve been out there in that dustbowl of a wilderness, my heart in the same state as his- dry and devastated at what I’m going through. I’ve said words just like these:

“What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.” Job 7:17-21

My experiences in the wilderness were quite bleak at the time. Yet Mark tells us Jesus willingly went back to the desert after just going through 40 days of being tempted by the devil out in that wilderness. Now I see that the wilderness is not my enemy. With new eyes I wonder if it was not for my protection and the preservation of my sanity instead of the isolation and destitution I felt. 

Have you been out to the lonely places, the desert, the wilderness? How do you see the wilderness? Is it bleak and imposing? Or has He shown you a refuge, a place of restoration, a time of preparation? What does it feel like when you are out there?

“He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.” Deuteronomy 8:15-16