Tuesday, December 15, 2015

He Always Has a Purpose

"... for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10
The kids and I recently returned from a wonderful, whirlwind trip to Disneyland. It was a surprise for them, and we jammed everything we could into two days at the parks. Watching their faces light up at different rides and shows was priceless and we had a blast. 

My oldest: he is brave and fearless, and reflective and sweet all wrapped up at once. My little one: she is strong, opinionated, has an incredibly loving spirit and is so easily delighted. Take these qualities and combine them with the joy of a family vacation, and I found myself praying silent prayers of gratitude throughout the entire trip.

We made it home late Saturday, and come Sunday morning I headed to church. I hate to admit it, but I was exhausted and had NO desire to be there. In fact, as I sat waiting for service to start, I thought I could still sneak out and head home to take a nap and fight off my cold before having people over for dinner.

As I sat there weighing the decision to skip this Sunday, I remembered a sermon I heard years ago where the pastor remarked "the times where we least want to be there are often the times when we most need to be." So I stayed put. And that pastor? He was right.

The sermon on Sunday was the type where you feel like God is talking directly to you. The kind where you are trying not to cry in the middle of the sanctuary because you are so overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit. The kind that leaves you knowing that God is whispering His peace, His presence and His promises directly to your heart for the moment you are in. All you need to do is let Him draw you close.  

The pastor spoke of the mess …

The mess all around us as our world seems to grow angrier, violence fills the news, and hatred penetrates deep.

The mess in our homes as loved ones stop believing, families fall apart, and loved ones are taken far too soon.

The mess within our own hearts as we face the broken parts of ourselves; the hopes deferred, the dreams shattered, and the wounds aching to be healed.

And in this mess, what is our hope? Our hope — it can only be found in the One who gave up everything and entered this messy world to save us.

The pastor reminded us, God brings purpose to our mess and nothing is a surprise to Him. He will never leave us alone. But do we trust Him to do that?

So there again was that little phrase that God continues to place on my heart.

Do you trust me? Do I trust Him with every piece of my heart, every area of my life, all of my dreams and plans? Do I trust Him both when the journey is easy and when it gets bumpy? Will my faithfulness and gratitude extend past the bright moments like a trip to Disneyland, to the dark moments of loss and sorrow?

While I sometimes fight against it and I can stumble along the way, I have seen His goodness over and over again. I know He is trustworthy, and my heart's desire is to be faithful even in the valleys.  

I trust His character “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalm 145:8

I trust His plans for my life “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30

I trust His ability to bring peace and joy “The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

I trust that He carries me through all things and at all times “The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you.” Deuteronomy 33:27a

I stand firm on the foundation that He has a purpose and He is here. He is Immanuel, God with us.

The service closed with a song I love (you can listen to a version by Casting Crowns below). I stood in a packed congregation of believers singing as loud as they could with their arms raised, and I had that startlingly clear glimpse of what heaven will be like – pure joy as we worship the one true God.

During this week of Advent in which we focus on joy, may you find joy and hope in knowing that God has a purpose for your life. He is with you, through the good and the messy.