As I reflect over the past year, I am most conscious of lessons. So many milestones, so many culminations, so many joys and heartaches, but mostly I see lessons.
As I begin the new year I realize, I am still in school.
Lesson 1: I am not in control. (My head does not think I want to be in control, but my actions disprove what my head thinks. I hate it when that happens!) I set my mind on how things ought to be and then when they do not work that way, I am upset, which is a lighter word for mad. I try to figure out where I went wrong, and I usually spend countless hours thinking of ways to maneuver the situation to meet my original plan. The maneuverings seldom work, so I am left frustrated (another light word for mad) and disillusioned. Somewhere in this whole scenario, I want to know why God did not answer my prayers the way that I wanted them answered to achieve my plan.
The reality, though, is I am not in charge; God is. Therefore, the only way to live is to commit my way to God and trust Him with the details. I know that He is more than able and willing to handle the details. This brings me to the next lesson He is teaching.
Lesson 2: Things happen. Good things and bad things. I don’t usually question the good things, but the evil happenings are hard to take. However, in this world ruled by man’s free will and the presence of evil, bad things happen. The bad things are not from God (James 1:17), and I know that He is in the middle of every mess working to bring good to His children (Romans 8:28). I often do not understand His working, but God, Himself, is well beyond my human ability to understand.
I do not have to explain everything that happens. I do not have to issue a treatise on the whys and the wherefores. I do not even have to understand. God calls me to trust Him and to follow Him, and that is a full-time job.
While I do not understand the why of many things, I do trust the absolute goodness of God. That way, when caught in the web of the bad, I can cry and run to my Father. Trusting His absolute goodness and love, not just acknowledging them in words, keeps my relationship with Him open. Otherwise, I slam the door on all His support and grace and find myself struggling to keep my head up in the bog of this world. When I trust Him, my eyes open to His glorious working in difficulty and despair. Bad things don’t disappear, but His goodness and love shine through them.
Lesson 3: Mercy triumphs over judgment. This truth comes from James 2:13. Mercy triumphs! I love that idea, but my humanness defaults to judgment. I do not know why; I just know that this is true. No matter the situation I face, I begin to make judgments about right and wrong, about what should be, about accountability. God, however, operates in mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.
There is another lesson closely linked here. I cannot see the whole picture. I can see what is in front of me, but I cannot see the back story. Therefore, my perceptions and my judgment are skewed. There is no way around this, and that is why I must trust God with the judgment. Only He can see the entire picture. Only He can rule and judge in righteousness.
What if my default changed to mercy? How would my attitudes toward people and myself change? God is teaching me, and I am trying to learn, that my most important first reaction is mercy. Mercy is what He gives (Psalm 86:15), and I can leave the judgment to Him.
Lesson 4: Love trumps it all. The closer that I draw to my Father, the more I realize Love. Love is Who He is (I John 4:8). Love that sacrifices for the good of another, even in the face of rejection. Love that shows mercy. Love that takes the extra step. Love that takes joy in the good that comes to others. Love that demonstrates itself in action. When I think about plans for the future, what I should or should not do, love must be the qualifying factor. What would Love do?
These lessons have many other ideas and theological discussions embedded in them, and I am not trying to provide comprehensive instruction in this short writing. I am trying to capture how God is dealing with my heart, and how He is changing me as I seek Him each day. I realize that His lessons for me will not be complete until I see Him face to face, but I am thankful, sometimes painfully so, for His patience as He works with me in love.
Psalm 37:5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.
II Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever.
Photo – My Reminder Cup, Beth Mims