If you like novels, I have one for you that is completely covered in one single chapter of Scripture, 1 Samuel 25. In 44 verses, you have an action novel, a drama, a thriller and finally a romance novel. Only in the Bible can you get all that in one chapter!
For some reason, I missed all this in my many readings of the Bible until one day it all unfolded for me, as I hope it will for you. Why do you need to know about a woman named Abigail? You need to know this story because it will help you navigate the most challenging relationships in your life. Abigail is dealing with an angry, abusive spouse on one hand, an offended warrior and future king on the other, all the while trying to protect and nurture her own household and family. This IS that spot between a rock and a hard place, and Abigail is in that spot.
Here's the short version. The future king, David, that young warrior destined to king of Israel is roaming the countryside with his band of soldiers. They happen upon the grazing land of Nabal, who is Abigail’s husband – who by all account is foolish, selfish, and arrogant. When David sees an opportunity to rest and feed his men, Nabal pushes back, refusing to help them and even disrespecting David, the conflict is ON. Neither will back down. As David and his men rush toward Nabal’s house, breathing fire and threats, Abigail is told of what’s about to happen, and realizes that she ALONE can prevent the bloodshed.
What would you do if you were in Abigail’s place? This is like the clash of two titans. Something bad is going to take place – it’s inevitable UNLESS Abigail steps up. If you’ve ever been around an angry person or BEEN one - if you’ve ever felt insulted and disrespected or been PRESENT when it happened – OR if you’ve tried to protect others around you from people who are hell-bent on destruction, you’ll take so much away from this story that will help you in life.
I love this story because Abigail’s character comes through so clearly. She takes responsibility. Someone has to! Nabal and David have lost their minds and are not thinking about the destruction ahead, but Abigail sees it. Sometimes, it rests on us to act in such a way that defuses the situation. I know – it’s not FAIR that she’s placed in this position, but there are times we don’t have the luxury of debating fairness. Abigail must intervene. That takes faith.
She also shows respect. Since neither man is respecting the other, Abigail senses this is important. It’s easy to see how she gives respect to David in their interaction and it’s the starting place for lowering his anger. Since Nabal will NOT respect David, Abigail does.
She also exercises restraint when no one else will. Someone has to be calm in an explosive moment and that restraint allows her to consider what’s at risk.
She also brings God into the conversation. As Oswald Chambers famously said, “Once we lose sight of God, we become reckless.” Everyone in this story is reckless except Abigail! Listen carefully to how she counsels David on his way to destroy Nabal’s house. “As the Lord lives…the Lord has restrained you…for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you.” (v. 26-28). Get this: Abigail keeps the future king from sabotaging his future with her restraint and her appeal. She’s looking out for him. She’s making sure he thinks about God. You can never go wrong doing that.
When Nabal finds out about her intervention on his behalf, he collapses and within days is dead.
The timeline of this story is fast and furious, as life tends to be. God shows up just in time, as He tends to do. He’s never really early from our perspective, but you certainly cannot accuse him of being late, either. God does just what is necessary to redeem this intense, sin-filled situation. Isn’t that kind of what God does? He redeems things.
God has worked through Abigail and has deterred catastrophe. He uses her words to remind David about Himself and His future plans for David’s household. Abigail has protected her household from death, and finally has a season of peace and silence.
Her huge questions about her future are answered when David later sends for her to be his queen. The details of this romance – this marriage – are not in the text, but the significance of what has taken place is so encouraging. God can redeem ANY situation in your life. Even when the players around you are toxic and angry, God is at work. May He surprise you in how He completes YOUR story!
I’m pretty sure many of us have been in a dark place, where things don’t make sense spiritually and emotionally. People have sometimes called a place like this, “a dark night of the soul.” It’s where fear, disappointment, and discouragement meet together to knock us off our feet – sometimes for long periods of time. This darkness is not necessarily about circumstances, and it’s not about the presence of enemies in our lives. It’s often not physical at all – it sometimes happens during the greatest times of our lives, circumstantially – but this darkness has the ability to drown all the great things of life out.
My wife and I actually battled this kind of discouragement a few years into our marriage, and we wondered if God was even aware of where we were and what we were going through. We would come to call this depression – and we didn’t know much about it until it became personal to us. We later learned that it affects more people than almost any other kind of mental ailment. The World Health Organization calls it, “The leading cause of disability in the world.” It’s very real to many, and it was certainly real to us.
It was such a difficult time for, but we now look back on that time as a huge time of growth and victory where God met us in the dark places. And yes, we speak of this in past tense. It’s part of our history – but not part of our present experience.
Those many years ago, we didn’t know where to turn, but when we did begin to reach out to God for answers, we found hope and instruction in an Old Testament book named 1 Kings, with a verse that said, “Enough! Now, Lord, take my life.” 1 Kings 19:4.
That got our attention and the story that unfolded before and after this verse become a beacon of hope straight from the life of a man named Elijah into the frightened young adult lives that we were living those many years ago. By the way, doing a slow read through just the two chapters of 1 Kings 18 and 19 will help you anchor yourself to God in unexplainable times of darkness and confusion. And that anchor will hold, my friend.
We discovered some things about life and God in those valleys of depressing darkness.
We learned that mountaintops of victory are often followed by valleys of despair.
We learned that how we take care of ourselves contributes to our outlook and health.
We learned that the things we fear the most are often things we should fear the least!
And we learned that God often sends the help that we so desperately need…if we’re looking!
For me, the greatest part of Elijah’s story is his meeting with God on a lonely mountain, where Elijah is wanting to end it all. Without this meeting, Elijah learns NONE of the lessons I’ve just mentioned. WITH this meeting, everything changes.
I’m not afraid to emphasize this idea of meeting with God because I believe God has promised to reveal Himself to those who seek Him! It’s not an empty promise because He’s made it! And He’s faithful to fulfill in our own lives. I’m sure He will for you, as well.
When you meet with God, He’s going to change everything. That’s what Elijah’s experience teaches us, and that’s what meetings with God tend to do:
He asks questions: What are you doing here, in this condition?
He changes perspectives: Why would you be afraid and discouraged?
He gives direction: Get up and do what I’ve asked!
All through Elijah’s story, God is telling him, “I’m not done with you. I’m not done with you. I have a plan for you. It’s not over yet.”
The stories of the Bible often surprise us. We expect a certain thing or fear a certain thing, but then God turns the entire story on a certain event – or, in this case, a non-event.
Elijah was SURE that Jezebel would murder him – after all, she had promised to so and had the military clout to bring it about. In running, he was sure he wanted GOD to take his life. He was so tired and so weary. He was thinking death from any direction. He was certain death was next. That’s where this story is so fun. We often fear the most what we should fear the least.
Do you remember how Elijah died? Did Jezebel catch him? Did he meet death prematurely? Do you remember how this story goes? Well, some of you remember. Elijah doesn’t die at all. He’s caught up in a whirlwind into heaven. There’s NO record of his death, and he actually appears later in the NEW Testament.
Why? Because God is not done with Elijah, even though Elijah thought so. We wondered about that many years ago, and then discovered, “He’s not done with us.” And if you’re here, I can confidently say, “God’s Not Done With You.”
The dictionary defines “despair” as a loss of hope – a mindset that gives up any hope of something better happening in a circumstance, season, or life. How many times have you been there? Are you there now? Have you given up on something important to you? Do you think God is done with you in that matter?
You should read about THIS woman – Esther. Here is a woman whose story is so powerful, she has a book of the Bible named after her! That’s rare enough, but her story is one of the most unique stories in the history of storytelling. Esther is just ten chapters long and it’s better than any romance or adventure novel you’ll ever read. It’s a great investment of your time to read – and understand the HOPELESSNESS, the DOUBT and CONFUSION this woman when through – and then the incredible VICTORY and RESCUE that took place because of her.
If you’ve had all the odds stacked against you before, you’ll be familiar with Esther’s situation.
The story has a wicked king, a pagan, sexualized culture, repressive patriarch, murderous racism, and drunken revelry. And that’s just the first chapter. When the king decides he needs a new wife, he issues an edict for a nationwide search for a beautiful young virgin who will go through a process of preparation and even competition to eventually get a night with the king – which in itself is repressive and enslaving. Esther goes through all this, and the end result is that this young Jewish girl who is living in exile in Babylon becomes the queen. We have so many questions. But there’s more.
There’s a villain in the story – Haman – who has a diabolical plan to kill all of the Jews (Esther’s people) and he has the clout to get it done. Esther seems to be the only person who can intervene. Now, on top of all these hopeless indicators – this is the one book of the Bible where God’s name is not mentioned. God does not speak in any recordable way in the book of Esther. We see and hear of no prophets, messengers, or angels. He is there and He seems to be silent for the moment. What a hopeless season!
All this sets the scene for an incredible series of conversations and events that lead to the rescue of Esther and her people.
You’ve heard all the famous words of this book:
“The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with Him…”
“If you keep silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
"Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me…and then I will go in to the king, which is not accordance to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
These are climactic words that describe hard moments of decision where Esther places her life in the hands of an invisible God who seems to let His character and history do all the talking. Esther is walking in HOPE while in a HOPELESS situation, and she shows us all how to do it.
The great preacher, Ron Dunn, said, “Good and evil run on parallel tracks, and they arrive at about the same time.” I agree. And Esther sees the evil tracks before the good track becomes apparent. But that’s what living by faith is all about. It’s what we have to do when we feel hopeless.
The most FUN part of the book of Esther follows her great moment of trusting God. You MUST read this part for yourselves. After reading it, you must admit to a series of incredible coincidences, confirmed by history, or you must choose to believe that God does work silently and powerfully to weave together everything for the good of those who love Him.
It's all so fascinating to me because when I look back at my life, I see some similar things happening. Maybe I’ve just seen God do too many things that align perfectly in multiple ways in answer to prayer to believe that ANYTHING is coincidental. I’m not naïve to enough to think that great things happen without God. This story ends SO WELL, in spite of its hopeless setting.
I believe God is a God of hope -not despair. If you are alive, He’s not done with YOU or with YOUR STORY.
Esther’s message is unmistakable! God is there, even when you cannot see Him and even though you may not hear from Him. He doesn’t miss a detail. He doesn’t miss a moment.
His eye is on the sparrow – I know He watches you. He’s not done with you
Certain stories and movies begin with the end – and then go back to tell the story of how it all unfolded. I’m thinking of movies like Saving Private Ryan, or Forest Gump that are set up like that. It’s a weird feeling to see the end first, but I find it very helpful and interesting to see how it all gets to the conclusion -and I’m actually excited to see how it falls into place, when it doesn’t seem like it will be able to get there.
Life is like that. Understanding life is like that. The story of Joseph is precisely like that.
What if you could conclude your life by what I call the 50/20 principle? This principle is named after the verse where it’s found, Genesis 50:20. Here it is – this is what Joseph said to his brothers at the end of his life, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
What if I told you that this will be your reality? What if I said, “Whatever else you’ll experience in your life, at the end of it, you’ll be able to say, ‘God meant it for good!’” Would that help you while you walk through and wait through the story? Would that enable you to trust God with your life in a deeper way? It has helped me!
The story of Joseph is, to me, the most encouraging story in the Bible. If you’ve read the 14 chapters of Genesis 37-50, you know what I mean. It only takes a few minutes to read these chapters, but as you do, you are able to see the incredibly complex journey of his life from beginning to end.
The things he experienced make the story relatable to just about every person I know.
He was rejected by the very people who should have loved him the most.
He was hated and abandoned by his brothers – who really wanted to kill him.
He was enslaved and removed from everything that was familiar or dear to him.
He was slandered and falsely accused when he did everything right!
He was isolated and forgotten and left to rot in prison.
But God wasn’t done with Joseph!
Those low points of his life followed great times of promise – when good things were happening to Joseph. This means that his life was like a roller-coaster. His very high moments are nearly always followed by deep and dark valleys.
One of the wild things about this story (and about our lives sometimes) is that Joseph didn’t do anything to deserve the poor treatment. He was victimized in so many ways, but never allowed himself to simply BE a victim. He was treated with so much injustice, and never deserved what he experienced – but again – rose above all that with the help of God. How does that work?
Here’s how it works. Through every experience, Joseph was assured that God was WITH him, and he learned that God could use all of those painful things in his life. In fact, it’s the very awareness that God was with him that helped him get through the tough times. We see that truth several times, especially in the “prison chapter.”
It says, “But the Lord was with Joseph…” Genesis 39:21
I think this is the primary application of these 14 chapters of the life of Joseph.
If I can believe by faith that God will take every situation – and cause it work for good…
If I can believe He is WITH me, even when I can’t see or hear him…
If I can see how He has consistently been faithful in the lives of others.
THEN I can wait through to the end, fully trusting that God will do the same in my life.
I’d remind you, if you’re a follower of Christ – He is with you, JUST as He was with Joseph. In fact, I’d go much further than that. God is MORE with you than He was with Joseph. He is IN you fulfilling the promise of Jesus to give you the Holy Spirit. He will never leave you or abandon you. Believe that.
Knowing God’s WITH you, helps you know God’s not DONE with you.
Even in those dark times when you can’t feel him or see him or hear Him. He’s there. He knows where you are, and He is weaving your story to have the same testimony as Joseph’s. He wants you to trust that He will get you there – and allow Him to shape you on your journey.
You can say with Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
Unless you’re at the very end of your life – unless you’re taking your very last breath as you hear these words, I believe this with all my heart, God’s Not Done With You.
I love comeback stories. Most of us do. The plot lines are always similar. Bad things have happened, maybe from the beginning. Someone is counted out, and no believes in their future. Tragedy happens and sets a journey back – and then, all of a sudden, the picture changes. A cataclysmic event starts a new season and direction – and before we know it, everything is different.
Spiritually speaking, we sometimes feel that our past holds us back so badly, there is no real future. We think we’ve done something God cannot get past. We may feel He’s done with us.
Have you been there?
If so, this book is for you. God’s Not Done With You is filled with biblical comeback stories – where the main characters wondered if God was finished with them. I love that there are so many that we can come to know who now have the testimony that God was NOT finished with them.
We begin with one of the biggest. The life of Moses. Most of us know who Moses is, but did you know his life is told in three seasons? Just about everyone knows about season 1, where he was put in a wicker basket on the Nile and rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter. That’s told in just 15 verses in Exodus 2.
Most of us know about season 3, where God uses Moses to set the Israelites free. It’s an amazing lesson in history and in the power of a Sovereign God, but there an interesting interlude in between.
Are you aware of season 2? The one in the middle? This is what I call the 40-year dark season of Moses’ life, where he is on the backside of the desert. He has committed murder in an angry retaliation for the mistreatment of his people but has to run for his life.
“But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.” Exodus 2:15
Nobody makes movies about this season. It’s too dark and painful. Overcome with regret and sorrow, Moses is wandering alone. He remembers that God had rescued him as an infant, and he recalls favor from the Lord, but now I think he’s too discouraged and regretful to see what God has next. I’m convinced this is a season of many tears. Eventually, Moses lands in a place where no one else can find him. But God knows where he is. And God knows how to get his attention.
Most of us have done things we regret. Sometimes we’ve acted out in anger. I know I have. I wish I could take words back, remove the effects of actions I’ve taken, people I’ve hurt. Anger can ruin, but God can rescue. I learn this from Moses’ life!
There’s a bigger picture going on in Moses’ life that he’s completely unaware of. He doesn’t see that God is still going to use him. He’s doesn’t know that he’s being prepared for bigger things than he’s ever imagined. WHAT IF we could see that every dark season has a redemptive piece to it where God is going to use what we don’t think He can use?
New seasons begin with new encounters. That’s what the burning bush is all about. God is getting Moses’ attention and he’s going to give him a new assignment.
“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush…”. Exodus 3:2
Think about what that experience must have been like for Moses. Wouldn’t you have turned aside to look at the bush, just like Moses did? There are so many things the scripture teaches us this encounter with God – but they are better caught than taught.
What God teaches Moses, He yearns to teach us, but we have to give Him our attention. And Moses does it right – you must read it for yourself in Exodus 3.
However, there is one thing I want to urge you to do right now. Allow me to PUSH you, to URGE you to have a new encounter with God and allow Him to speak into your future – no matter what your past is like. Don’t look for a burning bush – look for His written words in the Bible. Don’t wait for the backside of the desert. Open your heart and mind to Him now.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned. In my years, I rarely remember what other people say to me in the way of direction and advice. But I never forget what I hear God say to me in my most difficult and dark times. And every time He speaks, it’s the beginning of something powerful.
It might be that right here and now, God is making you aware that He’s not done with you. Stick around to experience what God has planned.
Recently, I read an article which asked the question, “If your house was burning and you had moments to rescue what was most valuable to you, what would you attempt to save?”
The article suggested that most people would try to save their home first, then some would focus on family keepsakes, and almost everyone would go for their phone (like, what would we do without the phone?). Others might rush to rescue their vehicles.
Beyond the article and all the things to rescue, I think we all know what we’d save. We’d save ourselves. And the reason we’d save ourselves is that our most precious possession is our time. We’d want to make sure that we had more time for relationships, for experiences, and for life. I think this is pretty much a universal thing - we all want to rescue time.
What bothers me about this truth is that if time is my most valuable possession, why do I waste so much of it? Can we just admit that there are more ways to waste time than ever before? Can we acknowledge that our culture and world will take the seconds and minutes and hours we will give it - all the while making what we have left to spend smaller and smaller? What’s the answer to that? There’s only one answer that I know of.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
I pray this verse every day. And each time I do, I’m more acutely aware that my time on earth is both valuable and diminishing. One day I’ll have none left. It’s up to each of us to ensure its spent well on things that count.
All my life, I’ve turned up the volume. I know where that volume button is on my remote, on my computer, and in my vehicle. For me to hear, the volume goes way up, and I’m not shy about it. I want to hear that music, so let’s crank it up!
Did you know that Jesus likes to crank the volume up? In Luke 15, Jesus reveals a secret few have thought of. He reveals this through the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. We know the stories, but don’t miss the secret Jesus is pointing out! It’s the secret of increasing joy in a place where there is no lack of joy - heaven. Did you know there’s a way to turn up the volume of gladness in heaven, where the angels are and where Christ is enthroned?
According to Jesus, when one sinner repents the joy levels are off the charts in heaven - the angels are rejoicing, and the Lord Himself rejoices because the sinner has turned to Jesus. “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
The point Jesus makes in Luke 15 is obvious. When we help sinners to meet Jesus, heaven rejoices. It’s an undeniable truth that Jesus so clearly communicates, and it reminds me of what He says is important.
It’s important that we value people more than sheep or a coin.
It’s important to Jesus that we reach out to people needing repentance.
It’s important that we rejoice and celebrate when people repent.
Reach out and value people. Invite someone to worship with you. When they turn to Christ, rejoice like angels in heaven! Let’s crank up the volume of heaven’s joy.
Recently, Josh Howerton, DFW area pastor, posted on his Twitter feed a great series links that gives insights into the abortion issue. I repost this to help work through the common myths you'll encounter.
MYTH: Xians aren't really pro-life, just pro-birth - they don't care about anybody after they're born! Besides starting almost every Pregnancy Center I've ever seen, Xians adopt at more than 2x the national average + are exponentially more generous to the poor than rest of population.
MYTH: Men (anti-abortion bc they don't have uteruses) are forcing their will on women (who all want abortion access) Women are more likely than men to identify as pro-life, which leads to headlines like, "Why Are Women More Opposed to Abortion?"
MYTH: "My body, my choice!" Abortion advocates tries to define the unborn baby as part of the woman’s body (similar to her toenails), but frankly, this is anti-science. A baby has its own distinct DNA, fingerprints, heartbeat, thoughts, emotions, and pain / pleasure sensations.
Science confirms an unborn child is not part of another person’s body, but its own distinct body.
MYTH: Most abortions are about poverty, health complications, and rape! DATA: Florida is one of the only states that records a reason for every abortion. 75% of abortions are for "no reason/elective."
MYTH: Overturning Roe will result in a hellscape of women dying from medically complicated pregnancies like ectopic pregnancies! DATA: All states that have abortion restrictions allow for ANY procedure that saves the life of a mother
MYTH: This is racist white supremacy! DATA: not only does abortion kill more minority children than any other population segment, here are some quotes from Margaret Sanger (Planned Parenthood founder) who wanted to unleash abortion on minorities to weed out “inferior races”
DEMAND: "If they restrict abortion, they should make it illegal for men to desert women after getting them pregnant. If women can't back out of pregnancies, men shouldn't be able to either."
MYTH: "A radical minority is imposing its will on the majority of America!"
FACT: at least 71% of Americans want legal restrictions on abortion
SOURCES: Pew, FiveThirtyEight, Marist
MYTH: "Banning abortion doesn't decrease it!" 1 This isn't a moral argument. If they'd said, “Outlawing slavery won’t end slavery! It will just make it go back-alley!” that wouldn’t have been a reason not to issue the Emancipation Proclamation 2 Everybody knows this isn't true
There are 2 reasons 47 of 50 nations in Europe draw a line after 15 weeks for abortions (most at 12 weeks): 1) It's inhumane to kill a baby that feels pain, sucks its thumb, and responds to Mom 2) They had no court (like ours with Roe v Wade) telling them they couldn’t
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th each year, is a national holiday set aside to celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the United States of America. This is a notable and important thing to celebrate! And it’s important to me.
More than a year ago now, during the pandemic of 2020-21, I began a series of ongoing weekly ZOOM meetings for nearly a year with 20 members of our staff and church, discussing racial issues. More than half of those in attendance each week were our African American brothers and sisters. My compelling question to begin the conversation was, “How can I, as a pastor, lead and shepherd an increasingly diverse congregation?”
I did more listening than talking during those meetings, and it was a refreshing time of learning and realizing things I’d never been taught and perspectives I’d never been fully aware of. Juneteenth was one of those perspectives.
That’s the background to this question today: Why is Juneteenth important to us all?
Chattel slavery is among the most evil of all movements on the planet. The term literally means that people were classified as “personal property” owned by an enslaver, who could purchase and sell them like livestock. Under the worst possible conditions, African slaves in America were treated as less than human - and entire generations lived and died as slaves, losing their families and their heritage for the personal profit of the slave-owner.
The abolitionist movement in America required many years to actually abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but the enactment of this proclamation took more than 2 years to communicate and enforce. Finally, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished chattel slavery nationwide on December 6, 1865.
On Juneteenth, we celebrate that victory on behalf of all who were enslaved. We also celebrate because from that day forward the stain and evil of slavery would not be allowed in our nation ever again.
Try to imagine with me what that freedom must have felt like to those who’d previously been enslaved! Try to realize the literal unshackling of chains and the possibilities of the future. At the same time, think about the challenges the newly freed men and women would face in finding a way of life, making families and building a new heritage.
When you look around you at your brothers and sisters of African American heritage, celebrate with them the great significance of June 19th! Acknowledging an event that they have celebrated their entire lives is a step in the right direction. It’s a worthwhile conversation and the bridging of cultures that we in the body of Christ should be known for.
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
We all have “defining moments” in life. It’s a moment that you look back at and remember the exact details a key event in your life. You talk about this event because it has shaped your world in some way.
My earliest memory is one of my parents immersing me a bathtub full of cold water and ice – a desperate action on their part in an to save my life. My 106 degree fever meant I was in danger. I was almost 6 years old, and I remember seeing the concern on their faces.
The fever broke, and I got well, but within the year my parents learned that I’d lost more than 80% of my hearing due to inner ear nerve damage. I would eventually lose 95% of my hearing, which meant that without hearing aids, my world became almost completely silent. My parents didn’t realize I’d lost my hearing, and thought I was ignoring when they spoke to me. It was a first-grade teacher who realized that I was actually deaf and I wasn’t ignoring anyone. People still sometimes think I am ignoring them.
My deafness became a “defining moment” that would affect my life in profound ways. Imagine going from a hearing world to a silent one. Imagine trying to adjust to school and communication. Think about wearing hearing appliances that were larger than your ears and standing out from other people in visible and social ways.
Gratefully, I had an amazing family, a small town community that made every effort to accommodate me, and great teachers! My parents would make the strategic decision to NOT send me to a school for the deaf, and instead secured a compassionate and gifted teacher to train me to read lips, pronounce words and function in the hearing culture. By the way, the teacher was from Houston, so I learned a decidedly Texas accent – the only one in my family. And to this day, I’m a killer lip-reader.
This immovable event made me feel that I was beginning life behind instead of ahead. I moved forward searching for ways to cope instead of just learning. I found myself feeling inferior and lacking – and worried about my future in every possible way one can be anxious. I found myself asking different questions than others about life – like, “Why me? God, where were you?”
We OFTEN ask these questions when big challenges come.
Immovable life events are often experienced in three key phases:
Problem Prayer Provision
As I’ve lived this out over the years, and as I’ve gotten to know thousands of people over these years of life/ministry, I’ve found that everyone has something that has impacted them in a defining moment kind of way.
We all have, at some point in our life, an unsolvable problem.
The verse that begins this article is speaking to the Apostle Paul who had what he called, “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan…”. That sounds like a pretty serious issue. We know Paul never solved this problem and we know he leaves the specific issue he was dealing with vague. The end result is that we can all identify with him in some way.
I’m convinced that every person has something in their lives that has affected them in powerful ways – some visible, some invisible. For some, like me, it’s visible and evident – others know about it. For others, it’s personal, invisible. Few may know about them: A traumatic experience. A devastating loss. An incredible disappointment. An overwhelming fear or doubt that pulverizes. A catastrophic failure that cannot be undone. In any case, we realize we cannot do anything about our problem.
It defies human solutions, and when it does, God has us in a position where we must depend on Him. This is often the bigger work God is doing in us. Dependence. Faith! Trusting Him IN and THROUGH your situation.
This is the storyline in every book and every movie that entertains and grips us. Frankly, if a movie doesn’t have a major dilemma that requires action – serious action – I’m just not into it.
This storyline is also the theme of dozens of scenarios in Scripture.
For example: The unsolvable problem of sin. The unsolvable problem of Israel’s bondage. The unsolvable problem of the Red Sea Israel had to cross. The unsolvable problem of Job’s affliction. The unsolvable problem of Goliath in David’s day, the unsolvable problem of 5000 hungry people in Jesus’s day, the unsolvable problem of Lazarus dead in the tomb for four days, and the unsolvable problem of Jesus taken to be crucified. It’s all over the Bible.
The consistent answer to unsolvable problems is always present somewhere in those stories. Scripture constantly reminds us of this.
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
Unsolvable problems in our life should lead us to the next phase…prayer.We’re driven to prayer, even seasons of prayer, and sometimes experience…unanswered prayer.
I can’t even count the endless number of times I cried out to God to change my hearing – to heal me. My parents prayed consistently. I remember being desperate in my teenage years – and later on in college. I recall a spring break mission trip where people gathered people around me to pray and ask for healing – and we all believed deeply that God was able and would heal me, but that prayer never was answered in the way we asked for.
Have you been there? It’s part of the process. We must do this. It’s how we exercise our faith, but there are times when no answer comes.
God has his reasons for doing (or not doing) what we ask. We’re left to trust Him – and that’s okay! This is what it means to walk by faith.
What often happens, though, is that we experience an unexpected provision. We look for healing but are surprised by grace. God spoke to Paul, and said, “I’ll make it possible for you to bear this problem. I’ve given you grace.”
It’s not easy to understand and wait for the blessing of sufficient grace. It comes through battling disappointments and grief – but Paul got the blessing, and it also will emerge in our lives when we are willing to trust it. We can see this in Paul’s words. “Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” v. 9
Paul is literally saying, “I have no complaints! God has been with me.”
My own story of God’s grace is very similar. It’s amazing how He poured His grace out all around me, through people and situations He specifically placed in my life.
His grace has flowed through amazing parents, and incredible wife, and wonderful family members who cheered for me as I struggled.
His grace was so evident in the churches that called me as their pastor, knowing I was deaf, yet seeing that God was using that in unexplainable ways.
His grace shows up regularly through co-workers who give respect, take up slack, and make sure I “hear” it all.
I even find that grace showing up when I’m able to come alongside others who face similar struggles and I can say, “What God has done for me, He can do for you.” I love watching the encouragement that brings people.
I’ve discovered an uncanny ability to hear what I need to hear, and the ability to understand the conversations I must understand – and not hear what I don’t need to hear. We don’t always need to hear everything, you know?
I have absolutely no complaints. It it were completely left up to me, I’m not sure I’d restore my hearing! There are SOME advantages to silence.
I’ve also grown fond of trusting God in daily ways.
Ultimately, your life will not be defined by immovable life events, but in how you allow God’s grace to work through them.
Ron Dunn, in When Heaven is Silent said..."God's power and authority are such that even the actions of the enemies of God and His people must subserve His will. If this is true, it means that my complaints against life and God, no matter how understandable, are not legitimate. If this is true, it means that I have no right to cling to anger or to harbor bitterness against whatever injustices I may have suffered. If this is true, it means that if God subtracted one pain, one heartache, one disappointment from my life, I would be less the person I am now, less than the person God wants me to be, and my ministry would be less than He intends. If this is true, it means that I can climb over those hurts and disappointments, over the tears and heartaches, over the graves and sleepless nights, and stand on top of that ash-heap and declare, "All these things God is working together for my good."
His grace is sufficient for you. It has been for me!
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.