“Happily Ever After”

Abraham

Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

God promises us wonderful things, but we are the ones who assume a “happily ever after” comes with those promises. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises was sorely tested when it seemed the “happy ever after” clause had to be sacrificed with his promised son Isaac. Our faith will be tested as well. What is that one thing we crave, believing it is the missing piece to our living “happily ever after”? That is the one thing standing between us and perfect reliance on God. God is supposed to be our happily ever after–not a man, not a career, not a house, not a child, not a church, not even a ministry. God promises us “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” but that does not come with a description of the things we consider good. What if those good things are, to God, a broken spirit, a surrendered will, empty hands? These things focus our eyes on the Lord as our reward, our happily ever after. Each of us will meet a call to a faraway altar someday, where God will demand our version of His promises in exchange for His perfect version. Then we will learn to stake our very lives on God’s ability to raise up from the ashes of our dreams a perfected version of His promises–God’s happily ever after, not ours. And His is the only one worth having–it is eternal.

David–he had been anointed king when but a youth, but the journey to that promise was the opposite of triumphant. He was misunderstood, maligned, tricked, scorned, lied about, chased, and spied upon for at least a decade, before God finally raised up from the ashes of his dreams the refined reality of His promises. David gave his happily ever after to God, and God gave it back to him better.

Moses–he was persuaded that he was raised a prince so he could help his people Israel escape their bondage, but the story he planned quickly spiraled out of control. His ideal of God’s promises failed, leaving him a refugee in the desert, leading sheep for forty years. A long death process indeed to his version of “happily ever after.” But God raised him up from the ashes of his ambitions to lead God’s flock out of Egypt God’s way, not his. Moses gave his happily ever after to God, and God gave it back to him better.

Esther–she must have felt a sacred duty to convert her king husband to the true God, to be a shining light in the palace–but she was forbidden to let anyone know she was a Jewess. Years passed as she felt trapped by her unfulfilled dreams of making a difference in the ways she had planned. Then Haman’s evil plan of death against all Jews gave her the moment she had hoped for–in so different a form than she had expected! Her own dreams had to die in order for God’s perfect plan to be revealed in her life, to give her God’s version of happily ever after. She gave it to God, and God gave it back to her better.

Mary–she was just a simple girl planning joyfully for her coming marriage to a Godly man–who would condemn this sweet “happily ever after”? But God had a more perfect plan for her–to be called blessed forever in Heaven and in history by the way God would bring His promises to pass in her life. Mary had to die to her dreams of a stainless name, a virtuous marriage, a normal life, in order to say to the angel’s impossible message, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” She knew Joseph would no longer want her, stained by the shady circumstances of Jesus’ birth–but she was thrilled that God wanted her–had chosen her to fulfill millennia of prophecies for her people. She counted the cost and chose God’s favor over man’s. And God rewarded her, though the promises fulfilled brought her more pain than anyone can imagine–a woman giving the Son of God to the world, having Him cruelly killed, then raised again to Heaven. She was no common woman, no common mother, to bear the depths and heights of anguished ecstasy that God’s promises brought her. She gave her happily ever after to God, and God gave it back to her better, though it might not have seemed so in her lifetime.

John 12:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

Could I bear to go through such things, die to my dreams, to see God’s promises perfected in my life? I must. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord–be it unto me according to thy word.”

Libby 

Blessin’ or Lesson

 

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Every person in our lives entered it for a reason. Each person is either meant as a blessin’ or a lesson and life can be so much better for everyone concerned if we accept them as such. Each is valuable as an example of how to live or how not to live, and I’ve noticed I tend to learn from bad examples faster because flaws are always easier to spot than strengths. Quite a few girls have passed through my Bible college dorm and they all have fallen into one or both of these categories for me. Some I started out disliking but ended up befriending. Some I started out liking but upon finding out their true character I distanced myself from them.

These girls have taught me that when your only concern is winning your own game, regardless of others’ welfare, you lose things that are far more valuable–a good name, friendships, opportunities, trust, and time wasted without impacting anybody for God. It is natural to think of oneself first; but that is not the way Jesus wants us to think. The Bible says the first shall be last and the last first: the humblest servant will be the greatest chief. Sometimes losing a board game is worth maintaining a relationship. Getting a lower grade on an assignment is not the end of the world if you know your time was spent on ministry, and studying had to take second place. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to try without having a clue how to do it when you start. Refusing to do anything at which you cannot win is a crippling habit and is definitely not how God intended us to spend our lives.

They have taught me that flexibility is the key to a full and rich life–flexibility to God’s will, to friends’ needs, to ministry, to family, to whimsy. It’s ok to be impulsive sometimes and just sail off the grid on a spontaneous adventure. It’s ok to end up at a completely different destination than you started for and realize it was the right place all along. It’s ok for your to-do list to be lost in the shuffle of a day’s events and to be just as productive in ways you didn’t plan but God did. Never would I have ever imagined myself approving of such unpredictability, since I have always been an infamous stick-in-the-mud. But college friends help to free in me that tiny spark of whimsy I never knew I possessed. And it’s so much more fun to laugh till your lungs burn at misadventures that you would have once wept over.

They have taught me that choosing to be emotionally short-fused and unstable when others fall short of your expectations, makes you miserable and damages your friendships. Thick skin is the best kind of condition to develop. But it is also helpful to form realistic expectations of others and ourselves. Do we assume the worst about others’ intentions but expect them to assume the best about ours? Giving people the benefit of the doubt and finding something positive in disappointments, keeps one’s stress level and relationships on an even keel.

They have taught me to be more organized. It gets things done efficiently, reducing stress, and the fuller your schedule is the more crucial a neat system becomes. I’m a rather haphazard person, so lack of organization is a serious flaw that cripples me constantly. Between school, work, church, dorm life, and personal belongings, life is a whirlwind and I misplace things regularly. Reports don’t get done till the night before they are due, quizzes must be crammed for, assignments are forgotten, and notes are hopelessly lost between this box or that drawer. To be orderly with a place for everything takes time. But I am learning that it saves time ultimately. As the Bible says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

They have taught me that no matter how hard it is to open up to one’s authorities, such vulnerability is essential. My life is like a box and I can’t see beyond its limits of experience–but if I ask counsel of people who have lived longer than I and succeeded where I have not yet attempted, they give me perspective from their own boxes and make me wiser if I accept their view. No girl wants to bare her soul with all its youthful vanities to a mature and seasoned adult, to sense them silently pinpointing all the things you’re doing wrong. But the Bible says a wise person will seek counsel. Though we fear losing our authorities’ good opinion if we let them glimpse our weaknesses, we actually gain their respect by doing so; it shows we want to move past our stumbling-blocks and are humble enough to realize we can’t do it alone.

The Lord has a great deal more to teach me, and He is using the people around me to do so. As I get to know them better, I am sobered by the thought that I am to them what they are to me…either a blessing or a lesson.

—Libby 

Accelerations, not Setbacks

IMG_8795+++.JPGI trimmed my hair this week. It had gotten so long since its last trim that the ends had become horridly thin and rat-tailed and weird looking. I knew I needed to lose those few inches so my hair could be healthy again, even though it felt strangely short and blunt afterwards. And it made me think about how life can feel that way.

Sometimes we hang onto something too long, irrationally resisting change or challenge to our cherished dreams and plans. We don’t notice what others do…that those things are becoming outdated obsessions, that the world has moved on without us, that God is leading us in another direction while we obliviously keep treading water. Maybe it’s a relationship we still hope will happen even though our friends and authorities try to tell us it’s not God’s will. Perhaps it’s a career that we have always planned to pursue instead of asking God what He wants. Or a habit we rationalize and make excuses for when the Lord urges us to leave it behind.

Abraham went through a similar situation. In Genesis 21, his family was embroiled in a battle of conflicting interests between his wife Sarah’s son Isaac and his servant Hagar’s son Ishmael. Sarah had persuaded Abraham to marry her servant Hagar so they could have a son to carry on the family name and inherit the promises, even though God had already promised them a son of their own. Through their lack of trust in God’s will, they ended up with a half-son Ishmael, and later their biological son, Isaac, leaving them in a mess when selecting an heir. Sarah demanded that Ishmael and his mother be sent away so Isaac would be able to grow up as the only son of Abraham, as God had intended. Although this decision saddened Abraham, the Lord agreed with Sarah’s edict and reminded him that the promise was to the true heir, Isaac. Ishmael was not forsaken by God—he grew up to be a great man in his own right—but he was not the child of promise. And the time had come to give him up.

God has a perfect will for every one of us. Whether we discover and follow that will or not depends on how much we trust Him and obey His every word. Do we tell God what we want and then go after it, or do we wait on the Lord’s voice and timing to reveal the next step He has ordered for us?

Some may call this ridiculously pragmatic, but the way I see life is this: if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t God’s will. I don’t mean for things that I should have done, like winning souls or studying for a test or such. I mean things that I had no control over. If a guy I am interested in falls for my best friend, then I reckon he isn’t God’s will for me. If I audition for my college tour group and am not chosen, that means it wasn’t God’s will for me. If a handful of friends go somewhere fun and don’t invite me, the most reasonable emotional approach would be to assume I didn’t need to be there and the Lord had something else for me to do that day.

It’s so easy to fall into a spirit of bitterness or self-pity or envy over things we can’t control. And though choosing to maintain an attitude of surrender to what the Lord gives or does not give isn’t exactly easy, it is simple. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” We can trust the One who made us to know what He is doing!

When we experience disappointments, why don’t we try to see them not as setbacks but as accelerations over obstacles that might have stood in the way of God’s perfect will. Trimming my hair seems to be a setback–why would I cut something that I want to be long? But trimming off the old ends makes room for thicker, stronger hair. And letting God trim our lives of unwise attachments or imperfect dreams makes room for the fulfilment of a master plan much bigger and better than ours could ever be!

1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” 

–Libby

Like a Little Child

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Psalm 86:4 “Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” 

This gives me a picture of a little child reaching up to someone she trusts, either with some grievance to make better or some joy to share. We aren’t usually as smart as that child— Continue reading “Like a Little Child”

He Loves Me Like That

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Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace 
To look through and behind this mask of me 
(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly 
With their rains), and behold my soul’s true face, 
The dim and weary witness of life’s race,—
Because thou hast the faith and love to see, 
Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy, 
The patient angel waiting for a place 
In the new Heavens,–because nor sin nor woe, 
Nor God’s infliction, nor death’s neighbourhood, 
Nor all which others viewing, turn to go, 
Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,–
Nothing repels thee,…Dearest, teach me so 
To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good! Continue reading “He Loves Me Like That”

A Lesson in Grace

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Galatians 6:1-3 “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Continue reading “A Lesson in Grace”