Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer's Bitter and Sweet


Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.

Russel Baker
I imagine the cold sweet. "Drink" the bitter edge that brings delight to a dry throat. "Savor" fleshy bits that burst in the mouth and tell a sultry season, an airy porch, gathered loved ones, childhood innocence, and tall tales.

I have not made lemonade all summer. A first for me. No lemons in the house all season. Not even a mix. And the now steamy days of a southern August are begging for a cold pitcherful of the sweet and sour that loves to quench thirst here in our humble home.

Such neglect speaks of simple chaos. Almost three months of wonder, wander, waiting, and worry. The latter is painful to speak. But one health scare after another with my husband finally pressed me to fear, yet stopped short of sheer panic and anxiety.

I knew the nearness of God's presence. I did not want for the staff of my Shepherd. With His staff, He pulled me near to His pierced side. Drew me close. So I could hear.

I knew the voice of my Beloved. He whispered. I listened. Closely. And words spoken were so gentle. Their soft strength stays now.

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted."

With a new season soon to be in the making, and a difficult season behind, I crave fresh. The crisp and cool of a soon-to-come fall comforts my own dislike for summer's heat. Yet, part of me dares to dote for the impossible. To win back days lost to dread. To return with 20/20 vision and walk with hind's feet, climb with greater faith. Breathe pure air of only belief. Stand only bold. See only good. Speak only joy.

Part of me desires such reliving. Only a part. A small part. The greater part speaks louder, and sees God in the 20/20 now and the obscurity of then.

Rests with new vision. With comfort of a trial done. With hindsight of personal need. With humility that looked in the mirror and saw insufficient. Realized the lack of self-ability. Accepted the uncontrollable. Faced doubt. Looked in. Looked around. Looked up. Looked beyond. To this now moment taught us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13. The ultimate time in a trial when we have escape from adversity.

Thank God for his enduring of my doubt and fear and His understanding of my humanness. For bringing me to my knees and causing my soul to reach deeply and dig steadily for faith most precious. For giving opportunity of holding, clinging, trusting found treasures of our Creator's testimonies.

When I was teaching tenth grade, a short story's theme opened a door of reality. Through that story, a personal journey of a truth from God's treasures began. It was not a major literary work. Just a simple side story that told of a boy hero who faced fear. In his awe, he did not turn but held fast and proved himself brave. The little hero conquered fear by acting boldly despite his feelings.

I don't remember the title of the story, the name of characters, or plot development.

What I do remember is the theme. I memorized it. And have never forgotten.

"Courage is the willingness to do something even though you are afraid."

I have clung to these words because of my Christian faith, not because of a mystical, buried human strength that ends in self-gratification and egotism.
So often, we feel we have failed when we have fear. Maybe it is only my personal experience, but I feel rather sure there are others who have felt the nagging pain of guilt and defeat from anxiety, fear, stress, or trauma. We long to be among the super godly who are unaffected by life's jolts, stabs, and bruises.

God's word, however, does not demean our fear or distress. Rather, scriptures reveal a compassionate heavenly Father who greatly exhorts our faith and lovingly encourages us to take heart, regardless of past, present, or future pain. We are compelled to overcome. To cast fear away and hope and believe in God's saving power.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).

"The LORD is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

We can take heart because of His promises. And without fear of failure, admit our need. God is for us just as He was for Abraham; for the widow of Zarephath; for Daniel; the wedding company without wine; the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; the 120 in the Upper Room; the Apostle Paul.

We live by faith. Not by sight. Not by what we wish. Not by material things. Not by abilities or tangibilities. As Christians, sons and daughters of the Most High, we live because Christ lives in us and through us.

But we can find ourselves locked in a dark room with only the unknown around and His word in our hearts. We then make a choice. Succumb to doubt or hold to His word hidden within. When we choose to stand on scripture, God honors our faith! We yet wait. We may yet feel fear. We may not yet know deliverance or have an answer. We may yet battle worry. We may yet stumble. We may yet even fall.

And if we do fall, we get up again. We stand, straighten our path, and prove God true. We may be propped up with strength, but we stand. We may cry with pain, but we stand. We may feel alone, but we stand. We have no place to turn, be confused, but we stand.

Even in weakness, we stand and are strong. Why? Our faith, that faith given to us and developed in us by God himself, is greater than our fear. For the One Whose word gave us our faith is greater than our weakness, failure, falling, disappointment, emptiness, sadness, guilt, hurt, pain, illness, or death.

Though in fear, we can stand in faith. Can choose God's word. Can trust His hand. Can know His presence.

We remember His mighty acts. We run to His testimonies. We grasp raw truth. We take courage.

Do you need courage? You're human. Are you afraid? God is near. Do others mock your fear? So what? Do you feel like a failure because you cave? Realize the source of your guilt and throw it away like a piece of trash.

God, dear one, understands your feelings, and He has divine remedy for all. Place your hand in His, go to His well, lean on His arm. Trust His name even though you are afraid. Believe, believe, believe in the Father's love.

Place. Lean. Trust. Believe. That, my friend, is courage.

Let's give the tenth grade literary theme a twist of Christian persuasion.

Courage is yielding to God's word and trusting in His love no matter what we feel, think, or see. It is choosing to ignore our fear and lean on what we know from His word. It is staying hope that is not swayed by our emotions. Courage remains and may even co-exist with fear for a time, but courage is God-given, through His word, and overcomes our circumstances and will always ultimately defeat fear.

As I write, I realize I could face another challenge before this day has ended. In fact, the enemy is already trying to stir fear in my heart as my son and his wife make plans for a missions trip to what can be a dangerous area of Africa.

More and more, I am realizing that our entire Christian lives are a walk of faith versus fear. We hear about it from so many preachers, teachers, speakers, writers, etc. They all speak encouragement into our lives. We leave their words feeling ready to tackle the enemy. Praise God for such ministry! But the personal realizing and living of it can quickly change "Amen" and praise to sweaty palms and trembling hearts that overwhelm and subdue belief when the phone rings, or a knock is heard, and fear says, "Hello, again."

Remember the basis of 1 Corinthians 13. The three lasting, remaining, elements of our Christian life are faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of the three is love! Also, remember 1 John 4: 18 tells us that perfect love drives out fear. "Perfect" here means mature, complete, and refers to labor and growth of moral character - i.e., our relationship with God. And "drives out" or "casts out" means to strike, throw down.

Dear friends, perhaps I am wrong, but I see from these scriptures one answer to our battle with fear and intimidation. It is not found in scripture alone, but in our walk with God. The more maturity we have in Him and the closer our hearts are to His, the greater our power to stand against the enemy.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). In this scripture, "power" refers to ability, abundance, strength, might; "within" refers to a fixed state; for the sake of, to give self wholly to.

May we grasp the fullness of these simple truths in our hearts. The closer we are to our Beloved, the stronger our standing. As we fall deeper and deeper in love with Christ, fear will have less and less influence on us. As fear loses its power in our lives, our faith will grow, and God's power and His word will blossom in our hearts.

A.W. Tozer sums it up far better than I can. His words can be taken in and bring nourishment and revelation to our hearts and souls:

The love of Christ both wounds and heals, it fascinates and frightens, it kills and makes alive, it draws and repulses. There can be nothing more terrible or wonderful than to be stricken with love for Christ so deeply that the whole being goes out in a pained adoration of His person, an adoration that disturbs and disconcerts while it purges and satisfies and relaxes the deep inner heart.
Praise God for such love! I am looking for the purging, satisfying love of Christ that will transform my heart and my faith. I am not looking for a "pie in the sky" God who gives me everything I want and always expects perfect faith . But I am so thankful for a heavenly Father whose daughter I am. Who cares. About every need. And wants me to develop hind's feet and eagle's wings. May my heart and hope hang in there and wait before Him all the days of my life.
May you go in the grace of God today and find His love at every turn.



All scripture is from NIV Bible.
Research is from e-sword.

*We will have lemonade in our cottage ere summer ends.
*Please forgive this lengthy post.


19 comments:

  1. I'll pray for healing for your heart, too. You've been going and going and you'll continue to experience the loving Savior's restoration and recovery from the anguish connected to the scary stuff you experienced this summer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful post, Andrea. Heartfelt & warm ... TTFN ~Marydon

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful post and insightful words as usual...the sentence that really spoke to my heart was "Accepted the uncontrollable. "...that is so hard for me to do sometimes as I tend to try and "fix" things...but as the song says...He's still working on me....

    ReplyDelete
  4. My dearest friend:

    What joy it is to read the words of your heart. Words that can now be spoken with so much truth behind every stroke.

    "We live by faith. Not by sight. Not by what we wish. Not by material things. Not by abilities or tangibilities. As Christians, sons and daughters of the Most High, we live because Christ lives in us and through us."

    This is it! This is the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the Chris-Life truth! What Joy it is to know that you know it also. Bless you dear sister for your wonderful insight and words.

    Yes, He lives in us and through us. There is nothing else that we need to do or say to make it more clear.

    Fear should not have a hold on us because fear is not of GOD it is of the enemy...the prince of the air...and He has been defeated! Amen.

    In His LOVE,

    lady m

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful to see you writing--there are plenty of times I can see God 20/20 ONLY when I look backwards. Sadly, there are no do-overs in life, and I have to repent my own lack of faith and lack of trust in His sovereign power. Much love!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lovely post, Andrea!!! :)
    Praise God for His Faithfulness!!

    With Much Love~ Miss Jen

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your precious words were worth every line they used! I just love the way you write.

    You pen is anointed! Your heart is gifted. I pray you will find a way for your words to take flight and soar. The world needs to hear what you have to say.

    Bless you...promise to write soon. Busy month...I'm beat!

    xoRebecca

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you so much, Andrea, as we all need 'the satisfying love of Christ who transforms our hearts and our faith'.
    What another lovely post! And I continue to pray for you both.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So here I sit wanting to sing, and also wanting to weep. These are universal words you've penned, Andrea. They speak of a swelled heart; one visited by God's tender mercies, and viscitudes. Such things often come in pairs (or triplicate ...).

    "The closer we are to our Beloved, the stronger our standing." Oh yes! Closer.

    This scripture comes to mind: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." (Is 7:9)

    Thank you for allowing me to stand with you today. It's a sturdy, noble stand. To God be the glory!

    Hugs & prayers,
    Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
  10. Want $80 worth of items and only spend $20 out of pocket? Read all about how you can do it too It's Just a COUPON - How much can you really save?
    and it's the last day for entering the give-a-way--and it's Photography art-Check it out!!

    Cheri
    Its So Very Cheri

    ReplyDelete
  11. Andrea, you have a gift! You write so eloquently and truthfully. I always find such encouragement and comfort when I come here. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Andrea,
    You've given me fuel to pray for a dear friend who has just flown to Istanbul, Turkey to bury her father. I've sent the bulk of your post to her in an email to share it with her and how I will be praying.

    I'm finding that my closest friends these days are either in crisis or have difficult decisions in front of them. They need my ear and yet my heart has been so full of things happening around me. So, I find my Best Friend is found in the quiet as I unload my concerns for them and all that surrounds me. Thank you for your concern and eloquent posts and comments that encourage me to place my best time on my knees or with those God has entrusted to me to support and love. I needed the encouragement today.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Andrea,

    What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your faith, your heart. Isn't it interesting that it is perfect love that casts out all fear? I also enjoyed what you said about courage: "Courage is yielding to God's word and trusting in His love no matter what we feel, think, or see." Oh, this is so true. There is nothing like that perfect trust to bring us perfect peace.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear Andrea,
    Here's another post that is worth reading several times over.

    I love what you wrote:

    God's word, however, does not demean our fear or distress.

    How right you are. He does not belittle what we are going through, He understands that we are dust.

    He loves to pour love into our hearts, and set us free from our self-made prisons of fear and intimidation!

    You are right to say that each day we are given to choose between trusting God and fearing for the 'safety' of a loved one.

    May God's love be always so real to you and me that we always choose to cling to His love, and trust Him in everything.

    Love
    Lidj

    ReplyDelete
  15. Andrea,

    Oh how I love reading your beautiful and insightful posts! I am always so comforted by your words and the meaning they have in my life:). God is indeed faithful and loving even when we are fearful!

    Enjoy your lemonade:).

    Blessings,

    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  16. If we were super-human we wouldn't need to walk with God, what would be the point of lives lived without our Lord?
    Re. Africa: I lived there for 15 years, I went out as a single girl and the only thing I knew for certain was that it was where God wanted me. The westerners idea of what is safe and necessary is not the same as an African's. Perspectives change, you live every day in the Lord's hand and by the Lord's provision. Its difficult for a parent to see their child go so far away but they will receive more form Africa than they could ever possibly imagine!
    'Do not be worried and upset but trust in God.' (can't remember the reference)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your words:

    I knew the nearness of God's presence. I did not want for the staff of my Shepherd. With His staff, He pulled me near to His pierced side. Drew me close. So I could hear.

    So beautiful. And true.

    To be in His presence. No matter what our circumstances.

    Thank you for a great piece of writing.

    Sweet dreams.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Tonight I stand on the edge of defeat as I begin to navigate these unchartered waters of having two sons at college. I say "defeat" because if not closely guarded and tended to by my Father, my faith will cave into fear. I understand everything about this post, your words, your concerns, your thoughts of failure; I'm living them (differently, but very real to me). I don't know how to "do life" without my older sons, and yet I'm willing to "bend" to it all because I must if I'm to move beyond the infancy that cries out for control.

    Tonight I choose a darkened corner to mull and ponder and write down the questions of my heart, believing that God is near, is listening, and longs to walk me through this desert road. Like the ancients of old, this is my faith walk-about ... my journey of discovery. It won't end here. It simply is another fork in the road, requiring my movement.

    My fear? Staying as is and wallowing in my distrust. I want to "grow up" to be the person God intends for me to be, with faith that exceeds a mustard seed to, instead, become a tree of immeasurable trust.

    Thanks, friend, for so eloquently penning what most of us feel. You're right; we all can relate.

    Raise your Ebenezar this night; thus far, the Lord has helped us! Thus, he shall continue...

    peace~elaine

    ReplyDelete
  19. I wouldn't trade 12 years in the desert testing with a health crisis I had, for anything. It was during that time that I learned to put my faith in the power of God, not the wisdom of men. (1Cor 2:5) It was there I learned to trust His still small voice, even more than before, submitting to God and resisting the enemy of fear. What a journey of faith! It is always calling us higher! I'm rejoicing with you in your victory!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting. I cherish your thoughts. You are special to me, but most of all, you are special to God, who loves you with everlasting love. May your life be swept into His joy and peace.

In the Wonderful Love of Christ our Savior,

Andrea