You are utterly enjoyable.

You know every ugliness.-2
Stopping in my tracks, I reread the simple statement. And it whacked me in between the eyes like a two-by-four.

“The infinitely self-sufficient God has come not to be assisted, but to be enjoyed.” – John Piper. 

Enjoyed.

God doesn’t need my help. Jesus came to be enjoyed.

Questions formed. Do I enjoy God? Or do I merely enjoy His things?

How easy it is to love the marvelous gifts I receive from God—life, provision, protection, salvation, comfort, adoption, reconciliation, and on and on. It is good to enjoy God’s gifts. He is a Father who delights to give good things to His children.

But do I enjoy Him more than His gifts?

Had I merely enjoyed the things I received from my husband, I’d rightly be labeled a horrible wife.

But my relationship with Jon was much more than things. I enjoyed his goofy child-like enthusiasm and passionate pursuit of anything he set out to do. I cherished his quirks and all the things that made him distinctly JonI even came to love his “no writing in books” ban.

I adored evenings curled up on the couch together and the warmth of his hand folded around mine. He chose me and loved me despite my flaws. I appreciated his wisdom and discernment. And I savored how his smile could light up a room.

Oh how greatly I enjoyed him! Moreover, how great was our mutual enjoyment!

What about God? How quickly I forget. Often I relish His things more than I relish the Giver. I could rightly be called a horrible daughter.

Ever the writer, I set out to make a list.

“Lord remind me how I enjoy you.”

I enjoy your masterful artistry. The sky is a multifaceted painting, each day ushering a new design. You expertly blend varieties of blues, grays, pinks, and oranges. It’s stunning because you are stunning.

If I enjoy anything beautiful and good, it is because you enjoy it first. Gorgeous sunsets. Music. Laughter and singing. Love. Affection. Deep conversations.

All of these reflect your character.

I enjoy you in the quietness of a rainy day. For you are rest and peace.

I cherish our constant conversation, the ebbs and flows, the picking up right where we left off. Your words flood my heart in seasons of fear and doubt. You are trustworthy. You are comfort; scripture tells me truth when I cannot tell myself.

I love to tell you who you are. Sovereign protector. Redeemer. Provider. God you are holy, merciful, and just.—At the cross they collided harmoniously!

Sustainer. Satisfier. Exalted above all. Refuge. The list is exhaustive!

Furthermore, who I am flows directly from who you are. I know myself accurately only when I first know you. My identity is thoroughly wrapped up in your identity.

  • You adopt.
  • You guide.
  • You lead.
  • You cherish.
  • You secure.
  • You shelter.

Therefore, I am adopted, guided, led, cherished, secured, and sheltered.

I enjoy being thoroughly known and thoroughly loved. You know every single ugliness, even the ones I dare not let others see. Yet you stay. More than that, you enjoy me too! What an unfathomable thing, Lord!

You are the subject of every sentence, the main character of every story.

“He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:25

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

With vibrant clarity rings the truth about God.

O Lord I do enjoy you! You are utterly enjoyable.

Advertisements

Brave Because He is Brave

I've BEEn adopted-2I have an unabashed love affair with children’s books. One of my favorite genres, I adore rich illustrations, flowing language, and whimsy. Words evoke emotions, and stir the imagination. I love when authors paint masterful imagery amid simplicity. A story well told is a fresh spring breeze.

Several nights ago I awoke to a peculiar though instantly recognizable sound. I listened in the stupor of the half-asleep, not sure I hadn’t merely dreamt it. There it was again, and I smiled at the unmistakable call of an owl. No joke. Despite my residential neighborhood, an owl must have been right outside my window! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an owl in the wild before.

One of my favorite picture books sprang to mind.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is the story of a little girl who goes “owling” with her Father. She’s waited her whole life for the privilege, and the night spreads before her quiet and mysterious.

“It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling. There was no wind, The trees stood still as giant statues. And the moon was so bright the sky seemed to shine. Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.” 

And so we’re whisked along through eyes filled with wonder.

“I didn’t ask what kinds of things hide behind black trees in the middle of the night. When you go owling, you have to be brave.” 

How vividly I imagine a little girl clomping through the snow, trusting her strong father to lead the way. Perhaps she is a little nervous, a bit afraid of things that hide in the night.

But “when you go owling, you have to be brave.”

Brave.

Once I asked my kindergarten students, “Why was the little girl brave?”

Without hesitation and with full confidence, a small voice eagerly replied, “Because her Dad was there.”

What a gentle reminder of a bigger Father! As with any great story, Owl Moon points to the biggest story. Why do we love heroes? And redemption? And family? And good versus evil?

We long for the ultimate Hero. We long for the ultimate Father.

The little girl was not afraid because he was brave. She trusted her father. He was enough to face the “kinds of things that hide behind black trees.” He protected. And she was safe to enjoy the beauty of the night rather than fear the unknown.

How clearly the gospel rings from the pages of a simple children’s story!

I have a Redeemer who protects, provides, and is infinitely brave. I’ve been adopted, and I have a Father who loves me and makes me dwell in safety.

He knows the unknowns.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3

But I don’t always trust my Father perfectly. Sometimes I fear the things that hide behind black trees. I forget to enjoy His presence. I forget to marvel at the adventure.

But He remains the same. Strong. Trustworthy. Brave.

Jesus trusted, therefore I can trust.

Jesus was brave, therefore I am brave.

“I knew then I could talk, I could even laugh out loud. But I was a shadow as we walked home. When you go owling you don’t need words or warm, or anything but hope.”

The owl continued his song in the night, and I drifted back to sleep–safe, warm, and protected.

And they shall be radiant.

My 30th birthday was epic. Yep, I know it’s a totally overused, dumbed down by pop culture kind of word, but I distinctly remember Jon’s enthusiasm.

“Babe your birthday is going to be epic!” 

I think he embraced the words “go big or go home” long before they ever became a catch phrase.

“Mrs. Atkins,

Your full cooperation is needed both today and tomorrow as we celebrate the epic milestone of crossing over into a new ‘decade.’ Your assistance is required. Please DO NOT leave school when you get out at 11:30. There will be a driver arriving to pick you up and transport you to the next stop on the birthday weekend. Your vehicle will be picked up at a later date.

Thank you for your cooperation and have a nice day.
Sincerely,
J. Atkins Cab Co”

And so it began. He had planned an entire weekend of surprises. New boots. Earrings. An afternoon seeing “Wreck it Ralph.” Dinner at The Melting Pot. And the next day, we took a trip to Galena, one of my all-time favorite, quaint towns. He also planned a surprise dinner with friends on another night.

The birthday fun never seemed to end.

Reminiscing about my favorite birthday mingles with a word that tumbles around my mind like clothes in the dryer.

Radiant.

And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden and they shall languish no more. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow…and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 31:12-14.

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

Life felt radiant on my 30th birthday. Glowing smiles and twinkling eyes fill every picture. I was cherished, immensely loved, and I was excited.

598387_10151144580148269_581628599_n

But there came a day when I wondered if I would ever be radiant again.

In the early weeks emotions were lava. “Lord, these words “they shall be radiant” magnify my sorrow and even make me a little angry. How could I ever be again? I want to reflect your goodness, but how will brilliant light reflect from a shattered life?”

I tumble the word over and over. Beautiful, flourishing, stunning, dazzling, and brilliant: connotations vividly spring to mind.

“Ami you seem exceptionally well these days.”

“Thank you. I am well.” 

How marvelous that others notice! My friend’s recent words penetrate my heart with joy.

I am well. 

The tumbling word greets me like a warm blanket. Radiant A healed heart, gladness, joy and dancing: I am well.

From whence does brilliance come? “Those who look to Him are radiant…”

True radiance results from beholding Christ. Because Jesus is light unimaginable, the gospel spoken and believed has the power to make my life shine.

The grain. He is the Bread of Life.

The wine. He is the Vine.

The oil. He is the Oil of Gladness.

The flock. He is the Great Shepherd.

A watered garden.  He is the Living Water.

My life might have felt radiant 3 years ago, but if it was, birthday fun and being spoiled didn’t cause it. If there is ever radiance, it emanates from Christ alone. It’s not found in circumstances, relationships, money, or things.. Rather, radiance resides in all Jesus is, all He has done, is doing, and will do

“My people will be satisfied with my goodness.”

God is good.

“And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the LORD who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18

The more I see Jesus, the more I am transformed. O Lord, that my life would be a stunning reflection of you!

33 today. It may not be an epic day, but better than epic birthdays is to be satisfied with the goodness of the Lord. My heart is glad.

I don’t know if my life radiates Christ. Certainly there are times when it doesn’t! I struggle and sin just like everyone else. But I want it to.  

Lord this is my prayer. Make me more like you. Transform me. May your reflection shine more and more accurately from my life.

Radiant

Just a Recipe

Recipe

Guest post by Jill Neff.

I know every word by heart, but today I look at the card as if I expect it to speak to me. Flowing handwriting, faded with time, passed down from one generation to another. The ingredients sit silently in a line on the counter, like little toy soldiers, waiting for me. And I know if I don’t start soon, this pie will not be finished in time.

I linger, letting my mind wander back in time to a young bride. She walks through the field to the house next door. A gentle woman she now calls mother-in-law waits to teach her the intricate secrets of baking so the bride can indulge her new husband’s sweet tooth.  Her recipe book quickly fills with everything from sugar cookies and date nut cake to chocolate and coconut cream pies!

Reluctantly, I’m drawn back to the present, reminded by my “little toy soldiers” that I need to get moving.  How quickly time goes by.

The new bride is now white-haired, and those hands that so eagerly worked in the kitchen are quiet now.  No more enticing smells rise from the oven and no sweet treats cool on the counter.

I should not dawdle, but today I am compelled to consider this faded old card.  The white-haired, long since bride is my mother, and her recipes are now my recipes.

But time is not my friend. Yesterday we sat together, quietly talking as the world flowed by around us. These days, I gently provide context when she can’t remember, but I do most of the talking. And try to imagine what it will be like when the last ray of recognition leaves her eyes.

I wonder how long my brother and his sweet wife can continue care in their home and how my siblings and I will manage.  I try to be brave, but I am not.  I try to trust, but it’s hard.

And I try to pretend she will not forget me, BUT SHE WILL.

Dementia. It splatters paint with a broad brush with no regard for the subject or the canvas. There are good days. And there are bad days lurking just around the corner in the shadows. Changes and questions without answers abound.

“Will she stop loving me when she no longer recognizes who I am?”

A quote shared by a sweet friend burns deeply in my heart, “Forever remember me loving you!” 

I cling to them like a drowning man to a life preserver.  My biggest fear exposed, yet in five little words, I find my answer.

My mom won’t stop loving me.

She just won’t remember that she loves me.  There’s a big difference.

The Holy Spirit has a deeper lesson for me today.  Walking this path may bring constant changes, but I am walking with the One who is UNCHANGEABLE!   I am walking with the One whose love is everlasting and who will never forget that He loves me, even when my fainting heart thinks otherwise. 

Unchanging promises and never-ending grace. 

There is no other way to do this journey, but with my God. Truth brings peace, and my soul is quiet.

All this. From a faded recipe card.

Lord, when the journey seems unbearable, help me to walk closer and cling harder to you. When the path is rough, give me grace and strength for what comes next.  And I will trust in your everlasting love and rest in your comforting presence!

~Jill


Check out another post by my awesome mother-in-law:

Love the Unlovely?

And for my own thoughts on in-laws:

I won’t shut them out.

Adoption and the County Fair

 

I don’t have to be tough.

toughI got up early, showered, straightened my hair, and overall just looked cute. I thought about corporate worship, and couldn’t wait to be with the church. What snow? I’d be just fine.

A southern girl living in the midwest is bound to have some angst about five months of winter (as I’ve noted before), but I feel like I’ve conquered many of my snow issues. I’m not afraid to drive in it; I think I can handle a snowy road like a champ these days. I’ve learned to accept it, dress in layers, and buy thermal socks. Therefore, when the forecast called for a blizzard, I was not alarmed.

I backed out slowly. All was well; there was no getting stuck in this driveway.Opening my garage door, I wasn’t surprised to see several inches of the white stuff and more still falling. “No problem. I’ve got this.”

Well, until I got stuck, that is.

The wheels spun, and the engine revved. But it was just a show. Hmm, that was futile.

First action step, call a friend, of course. A true gentleman, he offered to come get me. Meekly, I accepted. In the meantime, I shoveled with determination and perhaps stubbornness. At least I could get it back in the garage, right?

I’ll spare you all the grizzly details, but I ended up wet, freezing, covered in snow, mad, crying, and no closer to getting the car unstuck. The wind was unforgiving, hurling snow at places I’d already cleared. And you can forget that lovely, straightened hair.

mad

Tears stung my face. I was angry I no longer had a husband to take care of such things. I was angry I couldn’t do it, and angry I had to ask for help. When I called my friend back, I felt like an incapable wimp.

“Don’t come get me.”

“Why?”

“I’m so angry and upset that I can’t get my car out. I’m mad that I have to, and not at all in the right place to be at church.”

“Ami, you’re being ridiculous. I’m coming to get you,” my guy friend calmly replied.

Later during worship, he slipped me a note. “I need your car keys. Several of us are going to go over and get you unstuck.”

Tears formed again, yet these were full of gratitude. I’m strong in many ways, but it’s okay to admit my weaknesses.

I am weaker in physical strength than men, but that’s not a bad thing.

So, here are the lessons.

Culture says, “be a strong, tough, independent woman.” But God honors women as the “weaker vessel.” I don’t mean that women aren’t capable, but our Lord says be honored, cherished, protected. Be the fine china. My pastor put it this way, “A chivalrous man takes the bullets, does the nasty work, and gets dirty because he realizes a lady shouldn’t have to.”

“…showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel.” I Peter 3:7 ESV

“Weaker vessel” doesn’t mean it’s inferior or any less valued. Rather, it is to be protected, esteemed, more highly valued.

That’s a difficult thing for widows to hear. “Who’s protecting me now? Who is doing the nasty work? Quite frankly, I have to do it a lot these days, “ my heart cries.

Yes, that’s often true, but it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes it’s even needed. I know that’s a challenge, but people may not know the need until we ask. While Peter is speaking specifically to husbands in the verse above, there’s broader application within the church. Men can still honor the women around them with appropriate boundaries.

More importantly, Christ already did the nastiest of work. He already provided the ultimate protection. What’s a little snow compared to my need for salvation? When I remember my ultimate weakness, it more drastically contrasts His ultimate strength.

Being cared for is a lovely thing. I miss my chivalrous husband dearly, but I’m thankful God still puts chivalrous men in my life- family, friends, pastors. I’m thankful for men who help with home repairs, lift heavy objects, and pick me up in a blizzard.

I’m most thankful for Jesus, the ultimate chivalrous man.

I don’t have to be tough.


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

Bringing His Bride with Him

Once upon a time there was a king.

Now, this king was everything a good fairy tale wants. He was powerful, but also good. He was just, but also merciful. He was wise, faithful, and fiercely protective of his kingdom. And he loved his citizens, not as one aloof or stoic, but with passion and vehemence, as if they were sons and daughters.

One day the king called for his son.

“My son, and true heir, with whom I share all glory and dominion! My son, united with me in heart and purpose!” the king proclaimed at the sight of the prince, embracing him with delight.

But as the king stepped back, his eyes were fierce with righteous anger. Yet in a swirling, torrent of emotions, staggering sorrow etched his wrinkled brow and aged-lined face. His hands weighed heavily on the prince’s shoulders. And the prince, so radically connected to his father, knew the emotions as well.

“Oh my son,” The king was grave, “I must send you on a perilous mission, one so perilous it is such the world has never seen. Were there another way, I would have it so. But you alone can be the rescuer. You alone are anointed.”

His voice was still thick with grief and outrage, two sides of the same coin. “Your future bride has been deceived and stolen by our ancient foe! A dragon most formidable and full of rage and fury guards a tower that reaches heaven, a tower formed from impenetrable stone. In it he keeps her, captive.”

And the son felt the equal weight of wrath and agony. How could this possibly be?

perilous“But there is more. What I ask is more than you know. To rescue the fairest, most lovely, most gentle, beauty in all the land is one thing. However, this is not your feat. Rather, your lady fair is not fair at all. She is crushed by her oppressor, lower than a slave. But she has no understanding– he’s beguiled her so. She thinks she’s free. Yet she is filthy, dressed in rags. Her heart is broken, torn apart by guilt and shame. She is blind. And lame. And her body is wracked with leprosy. She is utterly destitute. Day by day she sits in ashes,clothed in despair.”

“There is more. She hates you with malice so violent, so hostile, and so deeply rooted, it consumes her. My son, I send you to rescue one who is thoroughly unlovely. But she belongs to the kingdom, a citizen. I love the unlovely. And I want her back.” As he said the last, his hand clenched in an emphatic fist.

“My son, still there is more. Our ancient foe is no ordinary dragon, and you’ll not slay him by ordinary means. To defeat the master deceiver, you must become as the one you rescue. You must exchange your resplendent, spotless cloak for a threadbare rag saturated with the stench of human waste. You must put on her blindness. You must become lame. You must see your body wrapped in rotten, leprous flesh. You must wear her ashes and take her despair. And after all this, you will surely die. My dearest son, I love you more deeply than language can describe, but I love my citizens too. I love this wretch. Son will you lay aside your glory? Will you lay aside your fame and renown for a time?”

you must
The prince weighed his father’s words in a balance. The father’s glory was his glory. The father’s kingdom, his kingdom, but his father asked a task almost incomprehensible.

Become a leper, unclean, cast out? Be blind? Be lame? Dress in filth? Die?

He returned his father’s gaze. He loved his father with loved that encompassed all, and he would do his father’s will.

Without hesitation, the son knelt, and presented his sword.

“Yes father, this thing you ask, I’ll do it willingly. I will go. I will redeem the unlovely one, taking her blindness, her leprosy, her ashes, her despair. I will wash her. I will bind her broken heart, and it will be whole. I will set her free. She’ll be liberated, no longer captive! I will clothe her with a beautiful crown and a splendid garments. No longer will she sit in ashes. I will give her the oil of joy. I will comfort her gently. I will provide for her needs. I will love her with unquenchable love. And yes, father, to defeat our ancient and formidable foe, I will die for her.”

“My son! Oh my marvelous son, how I delight in you! You will destroy the foe! You will crush his head. And you will rise and come again to me, bringing your bride with you. And she will be yours. And she will be beautiful because you will make her so.”

Now time will not suffice to tell you all, but the prince did embark. And the journey was exceedingly perilous. The cost was exceptionally high.

It was an extravagant rescue mission, such as the world had never seen. All came to pass just as the Father said.

All came to pass.

The son died.

Yet he did also rise.

And he returned to the king, bringing his bride with him.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning and splendid clothes instead of despair, and they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him. Isaiah 61:1-3


This post by Ami appeared first at Intentional By Grace.

Tell me God’s not good

A family’s house burns to the ground, while another family sleeps, blissfully unaware. A woman faces years of infertility, while a second questions what “to do” with a child unwanted. Some face cancer. Some lead ostensibly charmed lives

A newborn fights for her life, bacterial meningitis ravaging her body. Her mother is a widow. To lose a husband and potentially a child, does this not seem beyond the threshold of human endurance? Isn’t it too much for one person to bear?

Poverty. Riots. War. Hurricanes. We stagger under sorrow’s heavy weight.

At first blush it seems so arbitrary; some suffer more than others, the roll of the dice perhaps. Or worse, is it the product of a fickle god sadistically dealing out pain for his own pleasure?

I imagine your recoil. Be honest, you’ve thought it. For a fleeting second, in a moment unguarded, a terrifying whisper creeps into your consciousness. “Maybe God is cruel.”

Immediately you push it away…

Is God cruel?  Find the rest of the of the article at jenthorn.com

 

When I long to be held by human arms

The room was cold.

“Oh well, better cold than hot for sleeping.”

I crawled into bed bringing the covers snuggly to my nose, leaving only eyes exposed to the elements. My feet quickly cocooned themselves in the down comforter. I lay on my side, knees bent, arms clutching a pillow. Everything was customary. But something was wrong. It took me a minute, but then I remembered; I was on my left side.

“Quick Lovee, huddle for warmth!” 

His strong arms circled me, his knees tucked behind mine. He held me close, heat radiating against my back from his very solid, very physical presence. He prayed aloud. There was security. We lay that way for awhile, content.

“Ok switch.” 

He rolled over, and I turned also, both of us now on our right sides, my knees tucked behind his knees. I held him close. And he was asleep within seconds, his chest rising and falling in a slow, gentle rhythm. I nestled behind him, warm and secure. Night after night we followed this pattern. He held me for awhile. Then I held him. Then he fell asleep. And I lay there soaking in his warmth, taking in every detail. Finally I slept.

But I have not started the night on my left side for almost two years. Perhaps it hurts too much to imagine him there behind me, knowing the reality that he’s not. Who am I kidding? It hurts regardless which side I face. I guess last night, however, realization hit me square in the eyes; what used to be such an integral part of my life no longer feels customary.

As I lay there on my left side, I welcomed the sorrow. Sometimes that’s an ok thing. Sometimes it’s a necessary thing. Nobody tells you that grief even affects the side upon which you sleep.

“Lord, how long must I be alone? Please be near me. Help me to know the security of your presence when I long to be held by human arms.”

As I continued to pray, peace flooded in, remarkable and true. I was warm and secure. I knew the very real presence of the Lord; God was near. Sleep was not an unwilling guest that lingered in the shadows. Rather, it came sweetly, and I drifted off without turning over.

I have learned much about dwelling in the presence of God. Let me say it this way, I have learned to be aware. Tragedy and grief taught me to run to Christ, to slow down, to listen, to hear His voice echo from the pages of His word, to know the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to know that my heart and mind can be guarded with incomparable peace. (Philippians 4:6)

Likewise, prayer has become a continuous, flowing conversation. I’m learning to talk to God through the mundane: showering, driving, folding laundry. And I’m learning to talk to Him when my heart is filled with sorrow. Or anger. Or fear. It’s totally safe because I have a great High Priest who intercedes for me.

Through Jesus, I have unlimited access to the Father, and I can run to Him with any emotion. He is big enough.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:15-16

Though I once was a stranger, by the blood of Christ I have been brought near. (Ephesians 2:13) Therefore, I may come boldly. I can expect grace. I can expect mercy. To be near Him, is to be in His very presence.

Through Jesus’ finished work, the Holy Spirit comforts. He draws near. He hears my pleas, and perfects my weak, inept, and often selfish prayers.

And so I say with confidence “Before the throne God above, I have a strong and perfect plea. A great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is written on His hand. My name is graven on His heart. I know that while in heaven, He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

Yet it is not every night that I welcome peace so easily. Sometimes, I must wrestle. Sometimes I must cry out. Sometimes the longing for human touch seems much more real than the presence of God.

I don’t pray perfectly. But I have Someone who does. When I long to be held by human arms, He reminds me that His arms are stronger, His security infinite. He holds me close. The safety He offers is far beyond what my husband had the ability to give.

He is near.


This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net

Before the Throne ©1997 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

God is Sovereign. I am not.

Sovereign2“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

As the jet ascended, Chicago’s city lights overtook the night, light saturating the terrain. It engulfed the darkness, and I marveled at its radiance. Cars became pin pricks in the distance. A clearly designed grid, created by humans minds, glowed against the black sky. From above there was order in neat squares.

To the right I could still see the rise of giant skyscrapers. Straight ahead the light ended abruptly; Lake Michigan was ink against the line of fire. It was an ethereal beauty, a peaceful calm, far removed from the congested streets, the homelessness, the hundreds of thousands of stories, the real-life struggles. Too soon though, the city’s brilliance receded into the distance. And there was darkness. How feeble was the light of much smaller towns. Light no longer engulfed the night.

But at 30,000 feet, I understood that darkness existed only in pockets. The inky patches didn’t frighten me because I could tell they didn’t last forever. Other cities, other towns slid into view. The light of one city emanated like spokes of a wheel, illumination concentrated at a central hub. Over other cities, light sprawled without any discernible pattern but still in magnificent contrast to the night.

From my vantage point, light interrupted darkness, darkness interrupted light, a constant ebb and flow. It reminded me of life- joy mingled with sorrow, sorrow mingled with joy.

“I could stay here, removed from the grit and messiness. I could stay in the place where I can see the grand design.”

Then my thoughts funneled to a single truth. God is sovereign. I am not. He is above all things. He understands all things. He is in control over all things. He sees the beginning and the end, the dark patches and the light.

Unlike a pilot, He doesn’t merely know the final destination, He sees the entire journey at once. I cannot claim to fully understand, but I know He guides all things. Through grief, I’ve learned to mine the depth of God’s sovereignty, and I’ve found it immensely comforting. God was sovereign over Jon’s death.

God knew the number of his days. (Psalm 139) My husband was supposed to die.

A high view of God’s sovereignty keeps me grounded in the reality that nothing could have thwarted His will. There were no imaginary days. The “what ifs” don’t exist. Likewise, though I long for an aerial view, God’s mercy limits my sight to the ground-level path in front of me.

Perhaps if I knew the future I would run away, afraid to face what is to come.

Of course, I would never trade loving and being so deeply loved by my husband! But had I glimpsed the future, would I have even started down the path with him. Would I have looked across time and accepted becoming a widow at 30?

Probably not. I might I have said, “Well Jonathan Atkins, you’re a wonderful guy, but there’s too much pain in that path. I’m not heading toward a world shattered and turned upside down.”

I might not have cared about the magnificent, radiant light that is following my the sea of ink. I may have said, “That darkness is too big, the night encompasses too much.”

Praise God I cannot see the aerial view! At ground level, He teaches me to trust Him. The One who sees the final city, will lead me safely to it.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” II Corinthians 4:17

Because I know God is sovereign, I know He has purpose. Nothing is arbitrary. No circumstances are futile. His plan is good, even when it includes immense, dark patches of suffering and trial. I know that’s a hard thing to hear. I’m right there with you! But let our frightened hearts rest in radical truth. For the Christian, darkness is swallowed by light. Through deepest black, Jesus is incomprehensible light.

He is peace that passes understanding. He is joy even in sorrow.

Though He is transcendent, He is also imminent. He is here. He is close. My Lord is not content to dwell far removed from the grit. Rather, He is also personal, deeply intimate, and close at hand when darkness seems to overwhelm. In His goodness He gives seas of ink. And In His goodness He gives cities of magnificent light.

Lord you are sovereign. You are in control over all things, and no one can thwart your plan. You are transcendent, but you are also personal. Thank you that my Savior is intimately acquainted with grief, and walks through darkness with me. You are radiant light. You are joy. I rest here today.


This post by Ami, appeared first at anewseason.net.