Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Purpose for Trials

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
-Romans 8:28-30

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
-James 1:2-4

What is crazy faith? Thanking God for your suffering.

It's an indisputable fact that our lives have trials, failures, and suffering. The scope of them range from stubbing our toe to disease and open heart surgery, from ungrace to persecution, from lapses of judgment to lapses of character. Just when you seem to be handling one trial, another pops up. This is life.

Again, like with many things of God, He presents us with choices. He presents us with gifts we must choose to accept and sometimes even struggle to obtain. Just like we choose to accept grace, we can choose to accept our trials as gifts.

So I should thank God for these obstacles? It does sound crazy, doesn't it? God, thank you for giving me a disease that I must persevere through. God, thank you for putting the looming heart surgery over my head. God, thank you for putting people in my life that let me down. Yes, and with complete seriousness, thank you for these trials.

We can either let our trials defeat us, or we can defeat them by allowing our trials and struggles to make us stronger. I have an auto-immune disease that eats away at me and necessitates surgery if I'm going to live. I could let this disease and surgery defeat me, I could let it limit my life and enthusiasm for it, I could let it make me miserable. But instead of consciously choosing this outlook and life of misery...I choose hope, courage, and faith in God. Absolutely verses like Php. 4:13 carry me: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me", or Rom. 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?". I choose a life of hope in Christ over a life of death in despair. I choose life over death. That's why I run half-marathons; and each one completed, each mile finished is a blessing and testimony to Christ that all things are possible when you leave these things up to faith.

Not all of my trials are so visible or physically painful. Some trials are very personal, relational trials. I don't think I would have come to Christ had I not been through a messy, unGodly, and even sinful relationship with an ex-boyfriend several years ago. "The man who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." (Gal. 1.23) Your biggest spiritual failure is God's greatest testimony for you to share. I can clearly point this personal low in my life and trace it to how I am saved today. Only God could take our messes and make something glorious out of them.

Without my trials, I know I wouldn't be the same person. I don't think I would have accepted Christ. And I'm positive I would be miserable, unsatisfied, and alone. Are you kidding me? Absolutely I thank God for my trials! I pray to God that I have the strength to make it through them, the wisdom and faith to believe that something so great I can't imagine are on the other side. I remind myself that these trials shape us to be more like Christ. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Heart Update

I've been learning more and more how God is visible in our lives. I've been seeing first hand how he's been working in my life. I'm finally realizing the fruits that God has for us when we banish fear and live by faith alone.

I have a dear, dear friend and mentor (you know who you are) who has something called God sightings. I can hear him groaning inwardly, because the analogy can get a bit hokey when you try to explain it. When ever God sightings are explained to a new person in the bible study, they're explained as the visible acts of God. Just as when the wind blows through the trees, you can't see the wind, but you can see the leaves move. God sightings are pointing out when the leaves shakes and saying "God has been here!"

If you know me or have read some of my previous posts, you know I have an aortic aneurysm next to my heart and aortic valve. You probably also know that I run - a lot more than should be possible given the heart. I had a CT scan completed in August. When I measured the scan myself, the aneurysm had grown. Which naturally prompted me to have a not-so-minor freakout. I tried getting an appointment with the heart surgeon, and eventually was able to get some time with him, but only after my half marathon on Labor Day weekend. I was able to get him to at least look at the report from the scan tech, and got some mixed news: according to the scan technician the aneurysm was stable, but he could not possibly condone me running, let alone racing a half marathon.

Of course...I ran anyway. Praised God the entire way, thanking Him for every mile. It was really hard not to praise Him when I kept passing the 413 team, with Philippians 4:13 on the back of their T-shirts. "I can do everything through him that gives me strength". Being able to run, despite it being physically impossible or dangerous, makes me feel invincible. So this is what it feels like to place yourself entirely in God's hands.
"If God is for us, who can be against us?" Rom. 8:31. I see this as tangible evidence of God. So here's my God sighting - I was able to run the race last weekend, not only comfortably, but even crushing my old record - and I'm still around to tell you about it. This is something not possible without God.

Today, I finally had the appointment with the surgeon. At this point, he had looked at the scans himself, and like me, he had found that the aneurysm did in fact look bigger than 6 months ago. He's amazed that I ran the half-marathon last weekend and that I'm just fine. The end result of the appointment...I am getting another (more detailed, more expensive) type of scan this afternoon. If this scan shows that the problem has gotten worse, we're doing surgery. Probably really soon. If this scan shows that the problem has not gotten worse, then I'll be allowed to run again. The big relief out of this appointment was that the doctor has taken away the nebulous "limbo" option where he won't perform surgery but I'm not allowed to run. It's almost a relief to know that I could be having surgery soon - it'll mean I won't have to put my life on hold indefinitely while we wait. I'm not allowed to run until I hear back from the doctor again... which should only be a few days, so hopefully I can handle that!

The whole experience of having this condition... I am constantly reminded of James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Because of the adventures I've had with my health, I've been able to live on the edge... leave myself entirely in God's hands in ways I would never have been able to otherwise. It's been quite the feeling knowing that its perfectly possible you could die at any point in time. That has really placed a sense of urgency on me to make peace with God, others, and myself. If you were going to die tomorrow - would you leaves things undone? Relationships unmended? Adventures left unstarted or unfinished? Since you should know you "can't take it with you", that things are here today and gone tomorrow, why would you not be generous with what you have? You can't keep it. Why should I toil away at a job that does nothing to help or save people when I could be doing something that does? What am I waiting for?

This condition has forced me to place myself in God's hands, and the way that Grace has been poured out on me is absolutely overwhelming. To hear that I'm getting prayers from all corners, and to be so constantly reminded that I've got people rooting for me...well it's been such a blessing. I couldn't be more thankful that there's so much love out there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Watch Out

I only have the energy and mental capacity for a short post today. WOW am I looking forward to a relaxing holiday weekend!!

Watch what you pray for. First, you have to know that God always delivers on righteous prayers. Are you ready for that? Do you believe that God is going to deliver?
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. James 1:5

Second, now you know he's going to graciously pour out whatever you ask for (He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32). So when we pray for Godly change in our lives, we had best be prepared to accept the opportunities God hands us to bring about change.

A number of people have reminded me lately of the movie "Even Almighty". The scene they mention is always the one in the diner - when God reminds the wife of Evan of her prayer from the beginning of the movie. God reminds her that he doesn't just make it happen - he presents opportunities for you to choose to make it happen.

So we pray to God. God presents us with the opportunity to take his gift. Then we have to choose to accept it.