Are You S. T. R. E. T. C. H. E. D?

DSCN2791     Have you ever felt so stretched beyond yourself that you were certain you could not go one step further?  Maybe you are not stretched in the physical sense, but in your faith.  Does it seem like God is asking you to do something that makes no sense at all, seems impossible, or has you just plain scared out of your wits?  These are the times when God does His best work…and His best work in us when we are willing to surrender our will for His.

This past summer I had several weeks that had seriously stretched me physically due to my chronic illness.  One week in particular, I was simply running on fumes and God’s grace.  After the joy and busyness of a new grandchild being born, our other daughter-in-law became very ill and ended up having a surgery.  I spent a lot of time taking care of toddler grandbabies….much more than a once a week playdate with Grandma!  My oh my, how those precious babies can wear this ol’ grandma out!  I was stretched far beyond my physical limits.  Though completely exhausted, God did strengthen me to do what was necessary…until we got reinforcements!

I got to thinking about examples in the Bible of those who were stretched beyond their limits not only physically, but spiritually.  The Bible is full of examples from cover to cover because honestly,  that’s what this walk of faith is all about.  It’s not so much about us…but about the work of Christ in us.  It is about completely surrendering our own will for His perfect will.  It’s about getting out of our own heads and reasoning, and trusting Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on (or rely on) your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

       Caring for my grandbabies is what started this train of thought, so two women came to my mind; Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Sarah.  They were both stretched…physically and spiritually.

Mary was very young, quite probably no more than thirteen or fourteen years old, and a virgin.  She was espoused to Joseph, meaning engaged, though much more serious and binding than today’s engagement is considered.  She was visited by an angel who told her she was to carry and give birth to the Son of God.  After initially asking the angel;

“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

she listened to his explanation and replied;

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Mary completely surrendered her own will for God’s.  But this is not something to just skip over.  In that culture, being espoused to a man and pregnant with a child that was not his…

  • She would be labeled a fornicator
  • She could have been ostracized from her family and community
  • Joseph had every right to not only “divorce” her, but to have her stoned to death.

Choosing to say yes to God and His plan for her stretched her greatly, because it came with great personal risk.  Yet she trusted God.  How?  She trusted Him because she already had an intimate relationship with Him.  She knew Him well enough to accept His plan for her and rest in His love.  I firmly believe she experienced an even greater, sweeter intimacy with God the rest of her life.  One that never would have come about had she not allowed herself to be stretched beyond her own comfort and reasoning.

     Then there is Sarah, the wife of Abraham, father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:2-8).  Now for those of us who have been pregnant, who have raised toddlers (thinking terrible two’s and trying three’s here!), and who are shall we say, more mature in years…can you even imagine being pregnant at ninety years old???!  Even Sarah couldn’t imagine it.  Scripture tells us she stood in the door of the tent and laughed when she overheard the Lord tell Abraham that Sarah would have a son at this time next year (Gen. 18:9-15).

     Sarah initially laughed, but she ultimately  believed God.  She had faith that He would do what He said He would do.  And mostly…she cooperated with God.  She surrendered to His will.  Can you even imagine the flood of hormones coursing through her ninety year old body to prepare it to conceive and carry a child?  What about the strength God had to have given her ninety year old body to physically endure carrying a child for nine months, let alone delivering that child.  Oh yeah.  I don’t think I will ever again doubt Sarah’s faith because of her initial doubt and a little nervous laughter.  This kind of faith and obedience stretched her patience, stretched her faith, and stretched her physically…as well as her ninety year old belly!

     Isaac…who’s name means “laughter”, was the promised son.  Born to an old woman and man because they believed God.  They were both stretched beyond belief when God tested Abraham and told him to sacrifice his promised son Isaac.  Many times, obedience requires great risk, but it is always rewarded, and in ways we could never imagine.

     I encourage you to read Abraham and Sarah’s story.  It starts toward the end of Genesis 11 in the genealogy, and runs through to chapter 25:11 when Abraham dies.  I hope you take some time to read it.  Your spirit will be fed and your heart blessed.

     The point of all this?  Are you in a situation where you are being stretched, physically or spiritually?  Is God calling you to do something that makes no sense to you, or terrifies you?  Spend time in His word and in prayer.  Take some time to simply be still in His Presence.  Ask Him to strengthen you for whatever the result of your obedience may be.  Whatever that result may be…it will pale in comparison to His hand of blessing on you for your faith and obedience.

     We can never go wrong saying “yes” to whatever God has for us to do, however He wants to use us.  Allow yourself to be stretched and He will give you strength to endure and blessings you never thought possible.

God’s greatest blessings are born out of the greatest faith.

Will you say “Yes” to Him today? 

If you are encouraged, would you please leave a comment or share with someone else?




Looking Up

I have talked before about how trials can cloud our perspective.  I think that’s especially true when we are in the midst of something that is ongoing, and there is no escaping it.  You may be battered by illness, or anxiety.  You may be enduring the scorching fire of angry, hurtful words from someone close.  Maybe you feel the crashing waves of some other hardship washing over you and you feel as if you are drowning.  But friend, whatever your trial or challenge is right now, your Heavenly Father is with you, holding you above the crashing waves so you will not drown.  He promises you will not be burned as you walk through the fire.  Oh we can certainly feel burnt, or as if we are drowning, but He will not let us be consumed.  He is walking right beside us.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.  For I am the Lord your God, the  Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”                                                                                          Isaiah 43:2-3a

     How reassuring that whatever we may go through, God…the Creator of the Universe…is right by our side, holding us up!  But we are human, and I’m so glad God understands that!  Because so many times when we are in the midst of a trial, survival mode kicks in and we can become oh so self absorbed (raising my hand here!).  The biblical Job lost all of his children, livestock, and his health.  There wasn’t much more he could lose.  He wanted to argue with the Almighty and demand He remove His hand (of trials) from him and answer him (Job 13:3, 20-22).  Have you ever been there?  It’s okay to get angry with God.  He’s big.  He can take it.  But we are wise to not stay angry. 

The remedy is time with Him in prayer and in His Word.

     His ways are higher than our own (Read Isaiah 55:8-9).  He wants his very best for his children.  His vision and plan for each and every one of us is far greater than anything we could dream or plan for ourselves.  The question is…are we willing to patiently endure the hard and difficult trials He allows in our lives and…Trust Him?

     A few nights ago I went out to walk Riley after dark.  While he was sniffing around, I looked up.  Clouds had parted and I could see a few stars and the brightness of the moon.  The night sky was so peaceful, I instantly felt calmer.  I thought about the vastness of the sky, the billions of stars that were not visible to me, and how God has numbered and named them all.  And I thought of how He is mindful of me…every little detail about me.

         “He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.”          Psalm 147:4

“Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.”  Isaiah 40:26

     Friend, I am speaking to you right now.  Look up.  Look up and realize how big your God is, how good He truly is, and how very much He loves you.  He.  Is.  With.  You.  You don’t even have to hold on if you’re too weary because He is holding you.  All you have to do is lean into Him.  Talk to Him, open His Word and be reminded of His promises.  He’s got this.  He’s got you.

     There is so much more to this life…and the life to come, with Christ as our Savior…than our present circumstances.  Yes, life can get horribly hard.  But we have a strength beyond ourselves.  We have His grace and help in our time of need.

  “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that   we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                  Hebrews 4: 16

           The dark clouds will lift as we keep looking toward the Son.

     If you know someone that would be encouraged, please share!