Thursday, December 29, 2011

The One Who Gives and Takes Away

For 2012 I decided that, instead of making New Year's resolutions that I never keep, I'm making a "Things I Want To Do This Year" list.  I will write a post just on that list next week. But as I started making the list I began to reflect on this past year and on the person I am becoming.  And let me tell you, this past year has been one heck of a year!  One I do not care to revisit anytime soon.

A couple of weeks ago, I found a live webcast of The Story.  I had honestly never heard of this but Max Lucado and Steven Curtis Chapman were a part of it, along with several of my other favorite Christian artists, so I knew it had to be good.  So for the next three hours I weeped, laughed, thought.  And God began doing something in me.  Now, I'm not one who believes in coincidence.  I'm one of those annoying people who believes there is a reason for everything and that nothing happens by chance.  Sometimes this can be a good thing.  But sometimes it does cause me to read into stuff way too much.  But I'm working on that.

Anyway, the music and videos used in the presentation were so powerful.  I immediately downloaded the CD and ordered the book (which is the Bible in story form).  And while I watched Steven Curtis perform, I remembered all his family had been through with the loss of his daughter and remembered that his wife, Mary Beth, had written a book about it.  So along with The Story I also ordered her book Choosing To See and his album Beauty Will Rise.  Little did I know how God would use that book and this music to touch my life, to bring healing, to increase my faith and strength, to speak to my heart like never before.

In my previous post I recapped the year and talked about all our family had been through during 2011 as well as some personal stuff I dealt with.  I won't rehash all that can read the previous post for details.  However, 2011 has left me hurt, raw, emotional, broken, confused, angry, questioning, doubting and wondering what in the world God was doing.  But it has also brought a deeper faith than I have ever known as well as comfort and peace and healing.

Along with losing three close family members within six months of each other, my dad having surgery and making a major life change with a move, new job and school, I also dealt with an issue in my personal life.  It wasn't anything earth shattering.  Nothing that doesn't happen to everyone else at one point or another.  But it rocked me to my core...more than I wanted it to and way more than I expected it would.

In the early moments of this heartache I kept thinking it was like God had given me exactly what I had been praying for, the desire of my heart and exactly what I wanted.  And then it was like He snatched it back and said, "nope I was only joking."  And I kept telling myself, "God doesn't work like that."  Surely, God, who loves me more than I can comprehend and who works all things out for my good wouldn't take away this precious gift.  God doesn't give you something and then take it away.  Or does He....

It took awhile for me to get the answer...not the one I wanted to hear...but the one I needed to hear.  The issue I faced reared it's ugly head at the end of October, hid for a few weeks and then came back with a vengeance at the end of November.  I felt as though I'd been the butt of a really cruel know the kind where everyone in the room knows what is going on except you?  Yeah, that was me.  However, exactly a week after that awful night, at about the exact same time, The Story live webcast aired.  Coincidence?  Not a chance!

About halfway through the webcast I was already in tears.  And then the song "Broken Praise" was sung.  It was the song that represents Job and his story.  I have never heard a song so raw and so real that fully expressed how I felt...not only after this bad moment but how I'd felt many times since my mom died in 2008 and certainly how I'd felt many times this past year.  But there was a line in the song that says, "You are the one who filled my cup and You are the one who let it spill so blessed be Your holy name if You never fill it up again."  And there was the answer.  Not what I WANTED to hear, mind you, but what I NEEDED to hear.

Last week I got Mary Beth's book and Steven's CD in the mail.  If you do not know, they lost their daughter in a tragic accident in 2008...a few weeks before my Momma passed away.  I remember reading some of Mary Beth's posts and comments and felt I really connected with her.  We were both going through a similar pain...a loss that was beyond words.  And she got it.  She felt what I was feeling.  I've started reading the book this week...and four chapters in, I'm already crying.  As I read, I feel in parts I am reading my own story.  I've also been listening to Steven's CD non stop.

On the CD all of the songs are songs that have to do with loss and healing and trusting God even in the dark moments when you don't want to.  There is one song called "Faithful" and it has a line that says, "You are faithful.  When You give and when You take away even then still Your name is faithful....and with everything inside of me I'm choosing to believe You are faithful."  And again, came a reminder of that answer I needed.

Job 1:21 says, "...the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."  Now I have not experienced tragedy and loss of Job's proportion.  But I have experienced a lot of it lately.  And I know I'm not alone.

See, God has used all of these situations and circumstances and songs and books and webcasts to speak a real truth to me.  One I don't always accept willingly.  God is God.  He is sovereign.  And He DOES give and He DOES take away.  So my flawed belief...the one that told me that surely He wouldn't bring this seemingly wonderful thing into my life  and then take them away just as quickly in such a hurtful way....that belief didn't hold water anymore.  God does what He knows is best.  That doesn't mean I have to like it.  It doesn't mean I have to understand.  It doesn't even mean I have to agree it's right at the time.  But God knows what He is doing and He is in control.

And not only in this seemingly (in light of everything else that has happened) insignificant event.  But also in the sudden and unexpected loss of loved ones.  Or whatever we face in this life.  God has shown me that I have a part in His story.  And so do you.  And so has everyone who has gone before us and everyone who will come after us.  We are all running this race together.  II Corinthians  1:4 says, "(the God of all comforts) who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  It is these common things of life...the pain, the joy, the loss, the crazy, that bind us together as human beings.  And that point us back to the One who holds it all in His hands.

I want so many things in this life, but up until here recently I have been afraid.  Afraid to really live.  Always seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full.  Afraid of what could happen.  Always waiting on the other shoe to drop.  Afraid to be happy because of what could go wrong.  I question why God hasn't given me the desires of my heart yet.  I get angry and sometimes jealous when I see friends who seem to be getting the very things I long for and wonder when it will be my turn.

But that is not living in faith.  Living in faith means trusting the God who gives and who takes away...and praising His name regardless of what He chooses to do.  Living in faith means knowing He has our best interests at heart and that He IS working all things out for our good.  And sometimes it means He may have to take away...maybe to teach a lesson, maybe to draw us to Him, maybe to show us what we truly want and need versus what we thought we wanted and needed.  But He gives so much more abundantly than we could ever imagine.

I'm still trying to figure out what the purposes of the trials of this life are.  I may never know this side of heaven.  But I know God is faithful.  And I choose to say, "Whether the Lord gives or takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."  It's not easy.  It doesn't come without struggle and tears.  It doesn't come without questions and doubt.  But He is faithful.

In the song "Beauty Will Rise" are these lyrics:  "This is our hope.  This is the promise that it would take our breath away to see the beauty that's been made out of the ashes...Out of these ashes, beauty will rise. We will dance among the ruins.  We will see with our own eyes."  Another song "I Will Trust You" says, "and I know Your plans for me are much better than my own."

If we could only see as God sees.  If we could see the bigger picture.  If we could see what awaits us in Heaven one day and see how all these loose ends tie together, how He's weaving it all into a great tapestry.  If we could see all the dreams He is dreaming in us and for us and through us.  If we could just see that His plans blow ours out of the water.  But we can't yet see, so we have to trust and hope and praise His name...especially when He gives...and even when He takes away.

(If you have suffered loss or are currently going through a difficult time, I would suggest you listen to Steven Curtis Chapman's Beauty Will Rise CD.  It has been a great help in beginning the healing process...even of hurts I have stuffed down for a long time.)

Here are some songs that God has used greatly in my life in the past month...some are from The Story and some are from Beauty Will Rise.  I know I posted a bunch...but they are all worth listening to.  I pray they will bless you as they have me.


Broken Praise

I Will Trust You

Our God Is In Control

Who But You

Beauty Will Rise

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