I wrote this as part of the Write 31 Days series on Journeying into God’s Love, but as I read it again this morning I felt encouraged to share it again as part of my January of Unwrapping Hope series, as a reminder to us all just how amazing and powerful our Hope truly is. I pray it encourages you in the knowledge that you serve a powerful, majestic and holy God who is much bigger than ANY and EVERY circumstance thrown at us.
Philippians 2: 5 – 11
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
After my experience of Him meeting me in the “valley of the shadow of death”, the film-like images and sounds did not fully retreat. Only a few nights later, they returned with a vengeance after I sat watching a film about someone with cancer. I retreated to bed early and decided to listen to some Kari Jobe worship songs using my earphones. I played the song I am not Alone, my eyes closed tightly as I soaked in the Scripture-infused words. Tears started flowing down my cheeks, as I was overcome by what I can only call the warmth of the Spirit of God upon me. The fear, the gaping hole of motherlessness, the grief: I felt Him pour out His Spirit into the depths of it all, into the deep longings of my soul. And then, slowly I began to see white-draped figures surrounding my mother’s bed, they appeared to be beckoning her upwards, with comforting reassurance. And as quickly as it came, the vision disappeared, but I was left with this beautiful sense of His Presence and a visual confirmation of His Scriptural promises to me. The tears streamed down my face even more, as I sat there amazed at how He had just met me in my deepest need, with such heavenly compassionate reassurance.
Now, when I look back on the path God led me down up to this point, I see a path mirroring Psalm 23. First, He made me lie down in green pastures, by drawing me into deep rest, physical exhaustion from repressing powerful emotions driving me to resign from my part-time teaching position. Then, He led me beside quiet waters to refresh my soul, building up my trust in Him through feeding me with His Word of Truth and then He, slowly, but surely, allowed me to step into the valley of the shadow of death, first by unearthing repressed emotions and then drawing me into the crippling memories themselves. And this is where I personally began to angrily question God’s goodness.
Psalm 23: 1 – 4
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Yet, precisely this angry questioning is what drew me into His deep abiding Presence. Everything else suddenly became inconsequential, as I looked death and utter brokenness in the eye. And it is in that moment, in which I had come to the very ends of myself, that He was able to show me that death and disease are but a shadow and that His Presence is a reality too powerful for this evil shadow to overcome. Even death and a body and mind ravaged by the evil hold of cancer have NO power over the might of our POWERFUL Lord and Savior. Now we see but in part, then we shall see in amazing, technicolor wonderful full (1 Corinthians 13: 12) !!!!
Does this thought get you as excited as it does me? I was running in the dunes yesterday and as I ran through a forested part, surrounded by majestic trees, it made me think of the Scripture of us being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12: 1). How often do we stand still to reflect on that- we, men and women of faith, are literally surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on?! And we are headed toward the throne of God, a throne, where “God shall wipe away all tears from [your] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” (Revelations 21:4)
I am excited and it is no wonder, in tasting and seeing but a small portion of His goodness, that just as it says in Psalm 107: 22, I cannot help but offer up my thanksgiving in telling of His great deeds to you here. And I pray that God would infuse my mere human words with His mighty power to bless you abundantly, to draw you into His gracious, loving and eternal Love:
Philippians 3: 20 – 21
But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.