Archives for September 2012

When God Doesn’t Consult Your Calendar

Note: While I highly value authenticity and transparency, I am  a  very private person. Private to a fault. Honestly, I much rather keep these words to myself, but woke up this morning with a very clear prompting to share them. After seeking the wisdom of my husband and some trusted counselors, here they are. May God be glorified, may your heart be encouraged, and may your faith be strengthened. 

September 11, 2012.

Certainly that date marked a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

For me it marked the start date of a new Bible study. It’s a date that has been heavy on my heart for a good 9 months as I have been researching and writing on the book of First Corinthians. It’s also a date that represented a lot of deadlines: workbooks had to be written, formatted, proofed, printed and delivered, a stage backdrop had to be built, video production details had to be set, and the first teaching lesson had to be written and practiced. Not to mention the first week outfit had to be selected, which is perhaps the most stressful part. I may or may not have tried on EVERYTHING in my closet Monday night. Yes, I’m THAT girl. Pray for me.

The months and weeks leading up to a new Bible study are intense, to say the least. That’s why I only write and teach one a year. My family can only eat so much take-out. My poor husband can only take so many months of retrieving clean clothes out of piles on the guest room floor. (If only folding were as easy as washing!) And my social life can only plummet so far before it starts to disappear for good.

Greg and I knew that September 12, 2012, and the weeks leading up to it, would be much crazier than normal. What we didn’t know was that they’d be some of the hardest weeks of our lives.

Enter trial # 1: My husband is a business owner and the past couple months have been the hardest/busiest of his entire career. I don’t think I have to explain how the atmosphere of a home and marriage can change when your husband is working 70+ hours a week and the load isn’t getting any lighter. Or when his iPhone becomes a permanent appendage. Or when 3:00 am becomes an “early” bedtime. Greg is INCREDIBLE at balancing work and family, but the work load of the last few months would bring any man to the brink of complete and total exhaustion.

A bright spot in all the craziness appeared in July when a pregnancy test revealed that we would be welcoming our second child into our family around March of next year. This was VERY exciting to us for a lot of reasons, the biggest of which was the fact that my sister-in-law would be having a baby around the same time. Needless to say, we were THRILLED to make the announcement to our immediate family.

Fast forward a few weeks. I’m lying on the exam table in the OB/GYN office about to see my baby for the first time. I look at the ultrasound screen and see . . . nothing. Nothing but an egg sack. With no baby inside. Then I hear the words “blighted ovum” . . . “type of miscarriage” . . . “D and C.” Everything else about that office visit is pretty much a blur.

Did I mention I was sick as a dog? I was. So, so nauseous.  Oh, and I gained close to 10 pounds. (Hormones and I are NOT friends!) Experiencing the loathsome side effects of pregnancy hormones with no viable pregnancy felt like cruel and unusual punishment. The two weeks between the suspected blighted ovum diagnosis and the D and C felt like two years. I was at an emotional and physical breaking point. Spiritually, I wasn’t much better off.  All the while, I had to finish writing the 1 Corinthians workbook and get ready for the launch of the study.  Everything in me wanted to curl up in a little ball on the couch and nurse my sadness with chocolate and all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. (Depression looks different for everyone. For me, it always includes junk food and Lauren Graham.) Instead, I had to figure out how to simplify and explain head coverings, prophecy, and the gift of tongues. No big deal.

Fast forward a little more to this past Monday – the day before the big launch. As I got Shep ready for bed, I noticed a few red bumps on his bottom, which I thought were bug bites. The next morning, there were a few more so I figured it was some kind of rash. By nap time on Tuesday, there were even more and he was scratching like crazy. Greg and I assumed it was a bad case of hives – nothing Benadryl, calamine lotion, an oatmeal bath, and time couldn’t fix, right? Wrong. By Wednesday afternoon, his body was covered with sores and his hands and feet were swelling to the point that he could hardly walk or hold a toy. So, two hours before I was scheduled to teach again, I was at the doctor with a VERY miserable little boy. The diagnosis: a fairly rare skin reaction called Erythema Multiforme Minor.  In his case, the cause is unknown. The nurse practitioner who saw Shep had only seen it once before – in a dermatology book in med school. Crazy, right? Wednesday night as I taught Bible study my heart was breaking for a little boy who was in an enormous amount of pain and couldn’t quite understand why mommy and daddy couldn’t make it go away. After a couple days that I am very tempted to describe as “hell,” the steroids have kicked in and he’s doing much better. His waffles were space ships again this morning and he’s already “bulldozed” a house plant. A healthy child is truly a gift. It’s so easy to forget that.

All of the things I have mentioned (and some I haven’t) would be a challenge if they happened all by themselves at a time when nothing else was really going on. The facts that they all happened at pretty much the SAME time at a period in my life when I was ALREADY struggling to carry all the things on my plate made them almost unbearable. Apart from the perfect sufficiency of God’s sustaining and enabling grace, I’m confident they would have been my undoing.

What I’ve just described is not uncommon, which is why the phrase “when it rains, it pours” is one we all know and have probably all lived. Apparently, God doesn’t consult our Outlook calendars before ordaining the events of our lives. Apparently, the request for His protection and provision in those intense seasons of life do not exclude us from adversity. Apparently, His “perfect timing” can look and feel really, really IMPERFECT and even cruel from our perspective.  Apparently, doing ministry doesn’t grant us immunity from trials, but actually makes us more vulnerable to them.

I know this.  I’ve taught this. I’ve written this. I could list a whole bunch of Scriptures that confirm this. But there’s something about living it that makes me wish it wasn’t true. There’s something about crying those tears that makes me want a God who clears things with me first. There’s something about watching your three year old suffer a random and unexplainable skin reaction at the WORST possible time that makes you want to look to God and say, “Are you kidding me?!”

Here’s what I know and have clung to in the midst of the tears and questions and frustration and overwhelming STRESS of the past few months:

My God is sovereign over all things, even my pain. Sometimes His providence is sweet. Sometimes it’s bitter. It’s ALWAYS perfect. (Is. 46:9, 10; Dan. 4:34, 35; Job 42:2; Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28)

My God is good and all His ways are good. Feelings aside, I know this to be true. Sometimes it’s the one and only thing that keeps these crazy emotions of mine from plunging into the depths of discouragement and depression. (Ps. 100:5; 119:68; Rom. 8:28)

God doesn’t consult my calendar because He works according to divine “Outlook.” My life-line through all of this has been Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands.” He can see what I cannot. He knows what I don’t. And He has plans and purposes that are way bigger than this little earthly life of mine.

I am an instrument in His hands. Sometimes instruments have to be sharpened. That’s just the way it is. As the grit of disappointing and challenging circumstances rub against this fragile heart of mine, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He knows what He’s doing. He loves me more than I will ever know. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)?

Even when we don’t know what in the world He’s up to, we can be confident that He’s loving, providing, refining, revealing, and preparing. The longer I think about that, the more thankful I become that He doesn’t consult my calendar or clear things with me first. His ways are higher, better, and wiser than my own. For goodness sake, I never would have put “redemption” on my own calendar, but oh how thankful I am that it was on His!

Let’s face it, from our perspective God’s timing is terrible sometimes. But when we allow the truths of His Word to lift our eyes above the fog of the present, we are able to see the rich and glorious reality of a God who is working ALL THINGS for our good and His glory and know in the very depths of our being that every bitter providence is a guarantee of a better future (Rom. 8:18).

God is good. All the time.  And today – September 14, 2012 – I am more confident of that blessed truth than I’ve ever been.

O let my trembling soul be still,

And trust Thy wise, Thy holy will!

I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,

Yet all is well since ruled by Thee.

C.H. Spurgeon

 

 

 

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