When Life Feels Like a Gamble

dices-1385675-mPsalm 16:5-6 “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”

“I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.” Albert Einstein

Though believers in Christ know the truth that God is in control; we cannot help but often feel as if our lives are as unpredictable as a game of dice. I am married to a military officer. Our life could hardly get less predictable. The location of assignments, the length of deployments—sometimes the Army plays its cards close to the vest. Or, take my dear friend’s life. Everyday is a waiting game, a baited breath, a prayer that her husband keeps his job in the midst of ruthless layoffs. Then there is the little boy I met at the hospital yesterday. I could see in his mother’s eyes that the slow and painful chemo feels like a die, violently tossed and refusing to settle. What will the outcome be?

Psalm 16:5-6 brings an extra measure of comfort to those days when I’m so confused, tired or bewildered that I don’t know what to pray. God knows that our lives often feel like a gamble. But He promises in His Word that He holds our lot. The lines (otherwise translated as “lot” from the Hebrew) fall in pleasant places for those who love God and are called to His purpose. We can trust and be thankful because God has qualified us to share in a beautiful, heavenly inheritance with the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).

This article was first posted on FaithWriters as a devotional

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Abandon Your Calling

the-cavern-1382369-mWorry is that bastard emotion–the one that sneaks up on you when you imagine you’re in control and mocks all that you’ve tamed and called your life.

You know it comes partly from within you. You can feel it well up inside, birthed from a dark place that you’d rather forget or not acknowledge–a memory, a bad experience.

On the other hand, you can’t identify where worry comes from. Sometimes, it rises from places you’ve never seen before, circumstances you’ve never endured–a fear, imagination or predilection. The terrible thing is, no matter worry’s origin, it finds its counterpart in you. It thrives on your waking hours, stalks your dreams and plays with your mind. It feels like pesky flies circling your good intentions, your attempts to concentrate, pray or ignore it. 

I found a page in my journal recently where I had cried out to God, “I want you to be my one pure and holy passion! One singular longing not simply above all the others but replacing all the others. I want my thoughts so fixed on you, my eyes so mesmerized by you that for once, this pesky worry–no matter where it comes from–is rendered mute and inconsequential!”

The best part? He answered me:

Beloved. And hear me say that again, Beloved. You are deeply loved and cherished, no amount of wrangling in your mind can undo that. But you are far too obsessed with figuring out and mapping the flow of your life. You thrive on routines, demand a well-defined calling, seek a respectable agenda or vision. But these longings keep you from being relaxed and organically guided by my Spirit. And it is organic, because I am your Creator, your breath, your pulse. Every cell and the tenor of your future are mine.

And that measure of safety and stability you long for? That too is found in me. You know my character, it is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). How can your road be treacherous when you have a well-traveled, attentive Shepherd?

Have your thoughts ever buzzed with high-pitched fervor through your brain? Whether it be simply anticipating guests or bigger like distress in a relationship, the state of your faith, illness, fear or anger–all of these can manifest as worry, which simply means “distress, unease”.

Take it from a well, worn warrior. Stop looking for the straight and narrow. Stop searching for the plotted path, the intended direction. Stop seeking your calling or “what you’re supposed to do”. Abandon perfect. Abandon the map.

Were you ever told the Bible is your roadmap to heaven? It’s not, so it’s safe to abandon the map! The Bibleshepherd-2-853654-m is a spotlight on Jesus. It points you to the Shepherd.

Start looking at the Shepherd. Follow the well-traveled Guide. It will be a wild ride and you will rarely, if ever, know what’s coming next. But you will always, always be going the right way.

Lewis Does It…Again

I so wish I could’ve met C.S. Lewis! He “gets” me like he’s inside my head sometimes. Then again, other times, he washes completely over my head and leaves me gasping for breath, dazed and confused.

This arrived in my inbox last Thursday. I love everything about it. From the consideration of redeemed creation to the gentle appreciation for broken-down bodies.

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On the resurrection of the body and of all creation; and on the goodness of the bodies we now have.
26 November 1962
My stuff about animals came long ago in The Problem of Pain. I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the ‘new heaven and the new earth’30 are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder.
But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body: a doctrine which now-a- days is very soft pedalled by nearly all the faithful—to our great impoverishment. Not that you and I have now much reason to rejoice in having bodies! Like old automobiles, aren’t they? where all sorts of apparently different things keep going wrong, but what they add up to is the plain fact that the machine is wearing out. Well, it was not meant to last forever. Still, I have a kindly feeling for the old rattle-trap. Through it God showed me that whole side of His beauty which is embodied in colour, sound, smell and size. No doubt it has often led me astray: but not half so often, I suspect, as my soul has led it astray. For the spiritual evils which we share with the devils (pride, spite) are far worse than what we share with the beasts: and sensuality really arises more from the imagination than from the appetites: which, if left merely to their own animal strength, and not elaborated by our imagination, would be fairly easily managed. But this is turning into a sermon!
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Courtesy of Bible Gateway

A Bit of Borrowed Wisdom

TO EDWARD LOFSTROM: A letter of great encouragement for someone who had been struggling with excessive self-awareness.

10 June 1962

You are of course perfectly right in defining your problem (which is also mine and everyone’s) as ‘excessive selfness’. But per- haps you don’t fully realise how far you have got by so defining it. All have this disease; fortunate are the minority who know they have it. To know that one is dreaming is to be already nearly awake, even if, for the present, one can’t wake up fully. And you have actually got further than that. You have got beyond the illusion (very common) that to recognise a chasm is the same thing as building a bridge over it.

Your danger now is that of being hypnotised by the mere sight of the charm, of constantly looking at this excessive selfness. The important thing now is to go steadily on acting, so far as you can—and you certainly can to some extent, however small—as if it wasn’t there. You can, and I expect you daily do—behave with some degree of unselfishness. You can and do make some attempt at prayer. The continual voice which tells you that your best actions are secretly filled with subtle self-regards, and your best prayers still wholly egocentric—must for the most part be simply disregarded—as one disregards the impulse to keep on looking under the bandage to see whether the cut is healing. If you are always fidgeting with the bandage, it never will.

A text you should keep much is mind is I John iii, 20: ‘If our heart condemns us God is greater than our heart.’ I sometimes pray ‘Lord give me no more and no less self-knowledge than I can at this moment make a good use of.’ Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted—i.e., keep on fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk—don’t keep on looking at it.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack

Shared from Bible Gateway, C.S. Lewis Daily

The One In Whom

At 18-years-old, I stepped onto the sandy, Arizona soil in the driveway of an inpatient treatment center for the second time. Even after numerous counselors and previous inpatient treatment for anorexia, I still struggled with an addiction to exercise and food restriction. “Shipped off” to get well, I felt completely alone, unloved and abandoned by God and my family. My life didn’t appear to be “working out for good”. Circumstances seemed to belie the promises of a good God.

Many years later, my husband walked the sandy soil of Afghanistan, leading a company of infantry soldiers. Back home, I received one of the calls that every family member of a solider dreads. “We lost some.”

Patrick was the commander of Bravo Company 4/23. They had only been in theater a little over two months, when one of their strykers hit an IED (improvised explosive device) killing three men and maiming another. Hell broke loose on earth.

I watched my husband grapple with the agony and guilt of knowing he had been responsible for the men’s lives as their leader in combat. I felt like a mindless mist, moving through the motions of coordinating phone calls to the families, assisting to arrange the memorials and comforting the widows. Nothing looked like what I would expect from a good God. A few people voiced this.

“How can a good God let this happen? If God is in charge and powerful and loves us, why would He let these children lose their fathers?”

I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. I don’t know how all this “works together for good”. I don’t know how this matches up with God’s Word, “I am the God who heals you.” I don’t know how lingering illness and addiction connects with, “It is for freedom that Christ set you free,” and “I have given you the power to tread upon snakes and scorpions and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

God, how does this work?

If anyone ever had a right to pray that prayer, it was the apostle Paul. He spent almost six years of his ministry in a jail cell, he was whipped, shamed, ship wrecked and abandoned
(2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Finally, near the end of his life, he sat again on the cold damp concrete of a cell and wrote to the man dearest to his heart—Timothy. How desperately he wanted Timothy to be able to hang on to what Paul had taught him. He agonized over how to impress upon this young pastor:

Do not give up! Do not be dismayed by what appears to be. It may look like God has lost control, that perhaps He isn’t all that good—but Timothy—don’t give up. I haven’t. (paraphrase)

This kind of tenacious faith is exemplified in an Old Testament story:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stared into the fire as flames leaped higher and higher.

“You have one more chance,” the Babylonian King told them. “You must bow down and worship my statue, or I will have you thrown into the fire.”

I wonder what raced through their minds. They had been faithful to God; they had not worshipped the idol. Surely God would rescue them! Surely, God wouldn’t allow them to be killed!

Their words in Daniel 3:16-18, teach us something amazing about faith, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’”

The three men believed that God could save them! But even if He didn’t…

How do we have faith when the things we believe for aren’t happening? How do we have faith that God is good when bad things happen?

Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith Chapter. It lists many heroes of the faith, men and women who believed God against all odds, who had faith in God even when it looked like God wasn’t faithful.

Verse 39 says this, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”

Have you ever felt like that—like God hasn’t fulfilled His promises?
Have you had faith that God would do something, and then He didn’t?
Maybe you prayed that a loved one would survive cancer, but they didn’t.
Maybe you were sure it was God’s will that you find a job, or keep your job—but you didn’t.
Maybe you don’t understand what’s going on, or why God allows some things to happen.

When I feel this way, I am comforted by 2 Timothy 1:12, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (emphasis added)

One weekend, my husband and I were driving through downtown Washington D.C. We were supposed to meet some friends for a baseball game, but as we wound through construction and down one-way streets, we got hopelessly lost—at least I did. I had no idea where we were going and I could see the lights of the stadium behind us. But I know my husband. He’s an incredible navigator. I knew he would get us there safely even if it looked for all the world like he was going the wrong direction. And sure enough, he got us to the baseball game on time!

You see, the secret is not what we believe. The power of our faith is not that we simply have faith, or even that we have hope. There will always be things we don’t understand and things that don’t seem to match up with what we believe about God. We may not understand what God is doing, but we have faith in who God is. We, like Paul, know who we believe, and that He is faithful.

Most world religions require faith. Most world religions have morality as their hallmark and eternal life as their goal. But, as Christians we do not merely have faith—faith in a reward for good behavior or faith in life after death. It is not mere faith that gets us through our troubles, sustains us in prison, or allows us to stand in the flames. The good news is not that you and I have faith, but that the One in whom we believe is faithful.

How Do I Love Thee?

“Peter, do you love me more than anything, do you choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, of course you’re my best friend.”

“But Peter, do you love me more than anything and choose me over everything?”

“Yes Lord, I think the world of you.”

“Peter, do you really like me?”

That’s a paraphrase of the last conversation Jesus had with His once bold disciple, Peter. Repeatedly, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him using the word, “agape”. This Greek word refers to perfect love, like God has for us. But Peter hesitated, unsure if he was capable of agape love. So he responded to Jesus using the word “phileo”, the Greek word for the love of a close friendship.

Peter was having a crisis of faith. Just a month earlier he had told Jesus that he loved Him enough to die for Him. Then, everything had gone wrong. Not only had Peter been unable to save His Lord from crucifixion, he lost control of his emotions and actions and denied that he even knew Jesus.

How could he be sure that he really loved Jesus now? How could Jesus love him?

Finally, Peter burst out, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you!”

The Bible tells us that we love God because He first loved us. Jesus also commanded us to love others as He loves us. God knows us completely. He knows and loves us even when we doubt Him and even when we aren’t sure if our faith is real.

Jesus accepted Peter’s words and said, “Feed my sheep.” With this instruction, He gave Peter the responsibility of accepting that love and sharing it with others.

Do you believe God has agape love for you? Are you sharing it?

first published at http://www.swagga4christ.com