It’s been a weird year.
Gosh, I think I say that every year. I’m beginning to realize that life is a series of events meant to challenge and stretch you more than you ever thought possible. If you’re a Christian, we’d call that sanctification.
It’s funny how that word comes up so often for me now, when I once barely understood what it meant. Somewhere, in one of my journals filled with sermon notes, is a message on sanctification. The simple definition was = set apart for God’s service. Throwing away CDs, becoming more faithful to church, reading your Bible more, looking less like the world and more like old time religion.
Check. Check. Check! I’m good!
Truly, sanctification is not a checklist, but an ongoing work in the heart of the believer by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Until I reach glory, the journey of sanctification and holiness continues on through my life. Life is less about what is happening to me and more about what God is doing in my heart through it.
I don’t know about y’all, but that’s a lot more painful and ugly than a checklist.
So, I started this post off bemoaning that this has been a weird year. In the grand scheme of what God has been doing in my life even long before I knew Him, it’s been exactly right. He has me right where he wants me.
In the past, I’ve often lived in a state of discontentment wondering what God has in the future. Many of us do that, right? We wonder what job God has for us, how He wants us to serve, what great and mighty mission He has us on. I remember my eyes filling with tears as I’d hear the testimonies of missionaries on deputation and think, “Oh that God would use me like THAT!”
However, as I said, He has me right where He wants me today. Faithful and obedient in where He has planted me. I’m a wife, a mom, a homeschool teacher, a daughter, and a Christian in my local church and community. No different than if I were a nurse on the front lines or a missionary in Africa; I’m doing His work because He has me here.
We rarely hear about faithfulness in the seemingly “mundane and ordinary.”
Sitting right here is hard when sanctification is in progress. I think it’s easy to ignore the work that needs to be done when our heads are in the clouds, looking toward the future with the spiritual excuse that we are pursuing God’s will. We’ve been trained with worldly philosophy that something is around the corner, a breakthrough is coming, and a pot is at the end of the rainbow.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m wrong about a whole lot. There have been many times where I was convinced something was God’s will. Did He forget the plan? Did Satan thwart His plans? Did so and so ruin everything for me? Have I totally messed everything up?
Nope. I’m exactly where He wants me.
Sitting with that is hard. Again, it’s more fun to fantasize about the future. But working faithfully where I am and allowing the Lord to change, purify, and sanctify me through it? That is hard stuff. However, His grace is enough even through the hard seasons. And there is an odd joy and strength that flows beneath the difficulty, a peace that passes all understanding.
I recently watched a documentary on the life of Corrie Ten Boom, a woman who was imprisoned during the Holocaust for hiding Jews in her family home. If you’re a Christian, you’re probably at least slightly familiar with her story. One thing that struck me about her story was her determination to be faithful even in the harshest of prison environments. The conditions were so filthy that the guards wouldn’t even open the doors for fear of catching lice from the inmates. The cruelty was even more harsh. However, she and her sister continued to faithfully share and proclaim the gospel with their fellow inmates; even seeing some converted.
She said she clung to Psalm 31:15, “My times are in thy hand:” as she trusted God to deliver her and bring her through as according to His will. I’m sure she felt immense grief as life as she knew it was over. Did she ever wonder what in the world God was doing as she suffered? Perhaps. But her rest was not found in her circumstances, but in the One who was sovereign over all of it. I cannot begin to fathom such peace, yet the Lord sustained her with His love.
As the pastor at church put it last Sunday, we cannot look to our tangible circumstances to determine whether God loves us. We look to the cross to see that He does love us and He is good. I believe Corrie clung to that very truth, considering her Savior as she suffered her harsh reality.
No, I’m not in a prison. I’m living in a nice home with modern conveniences, in a free country where I haven’t experienced persecution for my faith (yet). However, we can find incredible encouragement from stories like these, especially when we feel like perhaps God has dropped the pen in the writing of our story. Life seems to have so many twists and turns that we might lament like Solomon, “All is vanity!”
What’s. The. Point?
We can realize it’s not our story at all, but His story for His glory. And our times are in His hand. Our sovereign Lord is working all things for our good and His glory.
And if you’re like me, maybe this feels like a slightly trite response to our fear and worry. “God is in control,” doesn’t always feel like much help when I want is solutions and maybe even a little bit of my own control.
This is where we can find ourselves in the second place, perhaps where God knew we would wind up all along. We come to end of our proverbial self righteous and independent rope as we cry the same of that father with the demon possessed son, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
Rest assured, the author and finisher of our faith has a purpose for those glaring questions and our shaky faith too. Each weird year, each trial, each foggy circumstance is part of His plan to sanctify us and glorify Him. Our feeble feet will learn more and more that we can stand on Him.
This began as just a Saturday morning rant, but maybe I just needed to hash these things out to encourage myself. Perhaps these thoughts will encourage you as well.