like Brent and Dara, who are mourning the loss of Dara's sister who took her own life earlier this month.
or Payton, who is grieving the loss of his friend Loraina, who also took her own life, and yet trying to encourage her family at the same time.
or Nathan and Alicia who are in the hospital with their 11-month-old son Levi, waiting for the doctor's to perform surgery to remove a tumor from the center of Levi's brain.
We just had an amazing two weeks at Ponca Bible Camp. We saw God work in awesome ways. At camp we were hidden in the beautiful Ozarks, surrounded by hills and trees, far removed from all the tragedy that was happening. We didn't have access to TV's, computers, cell phones, or any kind of technology really. And yet, life didn't stop. Time didn't stand still. The world kept on turning, and as it did, hearts were broken, tears were cried, and questions were asked.
What are You doing, God?
Where are You? Are You even here?! Do You see what's happening? Do You even care?!
How could You let this happen? How in the world is this for my good?
Why? Why? WHY?!
I certainly don't have the answers. If anything, I am right there with Brent and Dara, Payton, Nathan and Alicia asking the same questions.
As I have prayed for my friends, God has directed me to the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I am thankful for the reminder of His promises, that never change despite the chaos that seems to be taking place all around me.
How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. Long ago, even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave Him great pleasure.
So we praise God for the wonderful kindness He has poured out on us because we belong to His dearly loved Son. He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of His Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
God's secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to His good pleasure. And this is His plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ -- everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for He chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as He decided long ago. God's purpose was that we who were the first to trust in Christ should praise our glorious God. And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that god saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. The Spirit is God's guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for Christians everywhere, I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in teh world to come. And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and He gave Him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with His presence.
I realize that was a lot of Scripture, BUT it seemed so fitting as I hurt for my friends and pray for them, much in the same way as Paul did for the Ephesians so many years ago. We serve the same God today. He is still good. He still loves us. He is still working out all things to the praise of His name.
And so, even in the midst of the pain, we are to do just that -- praise Him. I cried as I watched Alicia sing with Levi, who was clapping and and praising Jesus right along with his Mommy. Coincidentally (or more likely NOT), right after I learned about Levi's situation at camp (I had the rare opportunity to check e-mail and facebook), I headed back up the hill and joined everyone in singing, "Savior. He can move the mountains. My God is might to save. He is mighty to save. Forever. Author of Salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave." And I prayed that God would move this mountain, that He would act on behalf on Nathan and Alicia, that He would heal Levi. The song goes on, "Shine Your Light and let the whole world see...We're singing for the glory of the Risen King...Jesus, shine Your Light and let the whole world see we're singing for the glory of the Risen King." Yes, God, yes. Work this miracle, for the praise of Your name. May all who hear of Levi's story see Your power and honor Your name.
Overwhelmed with sadness and doubt, I thought of David when he penned Psalm 121, "I lift my eyes up to the mountains -- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
I am also reminded of Peter, when he boldly got out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus. He was doing fine too, until he took his eyes off Jesus and started looking around him at the wind and the waves. Not that I can blame him, as I would most likely have done the exact same thing. However, God keeps calling out to me, encouraging me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. For He is also the One who controls the wind and the waves.
This year has been a confusing one to me. I am at a loss as to how God works. I know He has a plan, is in complete control, has a purpose for everything, and will use it all for our ultimate good and His glory. BUT, in my humanness I can't see the beginning from the end. And so I don't understand what God is doing!
During the past 7 months, the path God has been leading us on has seemed to take us from one mountain to the next. We seem to be in a never-ending storm. Thus, I have been challenged to trust God, even when I don't like or understand what He is doing. My faith has been tested more than ever before.
Will I take God at His Word?
Will I believe His promises?
Will I rest in Him?
Will I let Him be in charge, even when I feel like everything is spinning out of control?
Will I praise Him, no matter what?
I am working on that, each and every day. I keep reading Psalm 121 over and over and over again. Praying these promises for myself, and my dear friends.