Monday, May 23, 2016

Our children, our suffering, and the bigger picture

I was sobbing in the darkness, with tear stained pillows and an aching heart.

"Why, God? Why..."

Have you been there? Have you felt that gut-wrenching pain in the stillness of the night? Have you questioned God as to why you were suffering even after you had obeyed His voice?

And yet we still obey.

What is it, that draws me, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, to follow His leading even when it hurts? What is it, that drives YOU to obey His whispers in your ear even when it requires sacrifice? What is it, beckoning you towards His truth and righteousness even when it feels like everything is crumbling around you?

Because you know that your life will not be blessed by the Lord if you aren't obeying His voice.

And your children's lives will not be blessed if you aren't obeying His voice.

Deuteronomy 7:9 "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."

Deuteronomy 5:9-10 "You shall not bow down to them or serve them (idols); for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."

I was sharing my frustrations with this to my husband the other night. I poured out my heart regarding a conversation I had with God a few days prior (as per line one of this post). During some struggles, broken dreams, and trials I had tearfully asked God why I had to endure such hardship if I had obeyed His voice my whole. entire. life. I was hurt and angry, to be honest. (I have this conversation with God every couple of years.) Why would obedience require such letdown and heartache?

In response to my cries I immediately felt the Lord direct my attention to my children.

"Casey, you are struggling. I won't deny that. But have you ever considered that I have called you to live this life in order for your children to be formed and shaped into the men and women of God I have destined them to be? It may hurt for a little while, but just you wait and see the plans I have for them. This is all part of the bigger picture. I know what I am doing.

Have you thought that there is a reason I have you where you are? I know your children's hearts. I know what make them tick. You want them to follow hard after me? You want them to live radical lives devoted to me? Then trust me. I know the friends they need, the places they need to be, the things they need to do, the environment they need to flourish. Trust me. Just wait and see."

I was undone.


Immediately the scriptures from Deuteronomy and Hebrews started swirling in my head. I should know, by now, you'd think, that this life isn't about ME. You'd think I'd have gotten that memo by now.

Is it no surprise that my children are flourishing, love the Lord, healthy, kind, generous, and have servants' hearts? They are in love with life! They are joyful! Shouldn't I be thankful for that? Is there no coincidence that my children's relationship with the Lord is directly related to MY OBEDIENCE TO GOD?

Our children's relationship with God is connected to our faithfulness to God's voice. This truth is laid out for us in Deuteronomy. (Deuteronomy is my favorite book of the Bible, by the way. If you read it, this truth will seriously sink in, I promise).

It may not happen in our timing (prodigal son) or in our chosen way (Joseph). But it will happen. God's word does not return void. Our children will reap what we sew.

I am not saying that our children won't experience trials and temptations in this life. No. I am talking about a relationship with the Lord and a blessed life full of joy only the Lord can bring. I am talking about standing firm in the midst of the storm with hands raised and a heart abandoned to the King of Kings no matter how rough the waves may be. I am talking about unwavering faith, eternal salvation, a life led by the Holy Spirit.

So today I look at my children a little differently. I see the hand of God in every move they make, day after day, realizing the extreme weight of that revelation. Far be it from me to not obey every word that comes from the mouth of God. I may be humiliated, I may be embarrassed, I may be hurt, crushed, avoided, I may be poor, I may be weak. But nothing, NOTHING, will compare to hearing the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant," someday before Jesus.

I want my kids to hear those same words from Jesus someday.

And when they do, I will stand there as a fellow servant of Christ watching as Jesus offers their rewards from serving Him in this earthly life.

I pray that by faith, I can usher my children into the kingdom of God through faithfulness and obedience and lavish devotion and unashamed love for my Jesus.


Excerpts from Hebrews 11:

"The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain.

By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely.

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land.

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home.

By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

By faith, Abraham, at the time of testing, offered Isaac back to God.

By an act of faith, Isaac reached into the future as he blessed Jacob and Esau.

By an act of faith, Jacob on his deathbed blessed each of Joseph’s sons in turn, blessing them with God’s blessing, not his own—as he bowed worshipfully upon his staff.

By an act of faith, Joseph, while dying, prophesied the exodus of Israel, and made arrangements for his own burial.

By an act of faith, Moses’ parents hid him away for three months after his birth. They saw the child’s beauty, and they braved the king’s decree.

By faith, Moses, when grown, refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal house.

By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God

I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.  Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours."

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