Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There is Hope in Suffering

When you are going through tough times do you ever feel like it takes forever to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Do you ever feel as if you are in bondage to your pain or suffering because it just doesn’t end? There are seasons in life. Some seasons feel as if we have reached the Promised Land, things are great in our world. But I think more so than not, in this world anyway, life in the desert represents the norm. It seems as if struggling is just a part of life. I think that is the reality of a fallen world.

In the midst of our desert, we cry out to God to stop the pain, stop the struggling and that’s ok. I think that is the most natural thing we can do. But have you ever stopped to consider that suffering may have a purpose? That God allows us to travel the long road for a reason? In Exodus chapter 13 God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt after 430 years; and if 430 years of bondage wasn’t a long enough road of suffering, God decides “not to lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter” (vs. 17). God knew that if they went the shorter route that they would face war and more suffering and return to Egypt and a life of slavery.

You see, sometimes, we can only see what is right there in front of us. We can’t see what is down the road a little further. But God can! Sometimes God allows us to travel what seems to be the long route through our suffering but in reality he is protecting us from more suffering just as he was the Israelites. I have unfortunately chosen the short route one too many times in my own life only to have more pain in the end. At times, it has been a relationship that I chose because it was right there in front of me rather than waiting on God’s timing for the right person. I don’t have to tell you the pain that a broken heart brings; pain that could have been avoided. Being single seemed worse than slavery at the time, but I could have avoided suffering by avoiding the shorter road.  Being single, I have learned, is not so bad!  In fact, if it is God's plan then being single is just perfect for me!  At times, I have chosen to punish my children out of anger or frustration rather than choosing the longer route of daily discipline. It is painful to everyone involved when discipline takes place through our negative emotions even if at the time it seems quicker and easier.

Another reason that we struggle is that God may be allowing us a Romans 5 moment in which our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope! I can tell you this with 100% confidence. I have grown more through my suffering and have learned a greater dependence on God in the midst of suffering than I have any other time in my life. Really, that is the ultimate goal or at least it should be; to learn to depend on him more and learn to be more like him and suffering does just that. It causes us to cling to God because there is nowhere else to turn. As we cling to him, we discover that it is producing character in us. Character that blossoms. Character that grows. Character that emulates Him and that my friend is where we find hope! The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. When we abide in him, we can’t help but become more like him and if our character looks like his, like the fruit of the Spirit, then our hope is strong and we can persevere no matter the suffering around us.

So the next time you are in the midst of suffering and pain, consider thanking God for protecting you from the short road and asking him “what can I learn and how can I grow to be more like you”? I promise you won’t regret it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inadequate For The Calling

Do you ever feel inadequate for the job placed before you? I know I do. I used to feel this way in my role as a parent until Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo taught me how to be a better parent. I still feel this way at times, but I keep going back to the truth of God’s word and the biblical principles that the Ezzo’s taught me. No matter how inadequate I feel, I am reminded that God entrusted these children to me and he is bigger than any feeling I have. He will either make up for my shortcomings or he will equip me more than he already has for the task. But this is what I do know. I am inadequate without him!

The season I am currently in is different however. This feeling of inadequacy seems to be where I live lately. God is calling me way out of my comfort zone professionally and I don’t feel equipped for the task. Our mission at Seacoast Church is changing drastically and while I am ridiculously excited about it, it brings with it a lot of unknowns. As the Outreach Coordinator I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with a lot of questions. As I was sitting with my Campus Pastor, Josh Surratt the other day, I began telling him how unequipped I feel. Honestly I thought he was going to confirm for me that I am not the right person for the job and fire me; or at the very least demote me. But as any great leader does, he encouraged me. He simply said “Allison, you are in a good place right now” (really, it doesn’t feel good). “You are right where Joseph was when he was sent to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph’s response to Pharaoh was I can’t interpret your dreams, but God can. Allison, you can’t do your job adequately. Neither can I, but God can”. I don’t think Josh even knew that he was giving me some encouragement. He was just sharing his heart with where he was and what God was teaching him.

I also feel inadequate and ill equipped to write this book that I know with every ounce of my being that God has called me to write. I can’t remember the last time I felt so confident about something. But feeling confident about God’s calling and feeling confident about our ability to accomplish it are two very different things. I was reading Exodus chapters 3 and 4 in my quiet time this morning. Moses is at the burning bush where God is calling him to go rescue the Israelites from Egypt. I am convinced that Moses was confident that God was speaking to him. How could he not be sure when the bush was on fire yet was not being burned by the flames, but Moses still responded with “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Moses! One of the greatest men in history, responded with I am not equipped God! So I guess I am in good company. God then responds with several signs and wonders to show Moses what he will do in Egypt and Moses still pleads with God in chapter 4 verse 13: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” That is exactly how I feel sometimes Moses. While I am humbled that God would choose me to parent these children, to serve him in ministry and to write this book, sometimes it is so overwhelming that I want to plead with him to choose someone else because I just can’t do it, however as Josh reminded me, I can’t, but God can.

What is God calling you to do that you feel unequipped to accomplish? Is he calling you to parent, to be a great spouse, to go on a mission trip, to witness to your neighbor? I have been in this season for over a year now and what I have learned during this process is that if God calls us he will equip us but we have to respond. God equips us for our calling by allowing us to bear fruit as we become more like him, but we must stay attached to the vine so that our fruit doesn’t wither and die. No matter how we feel about the calling and no matter how much we wrestle with God about it, our answer should be “Here I am God”. That response still intimidates me but I trust that God will take care of the details in the midst of my obedience. I can promise you this. No matter how you feel about the task, if you obey, he will not let you down! God wants to use every on e of us to show others his power through the events and circumstances of our everyday lives. He is calling you my friend; the question is what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Will You Pray For His Will With Me?

Over this past summer as I was spending some quiet time with the LORD, I really started sensing that he was telling me to write a book. I have known for years that he wanted me to share my story of healing and redemption but honestly I thought that it would be shared only with those who have been a part of the journey like my pastor, my mentor and a few others. I wanted confirmation on this because I have never been the writing type. Sure, I made A’s in English 101 and 102 in college and I spent a lot of time writing in my journals but writing just wasn’t me. One August morning I was praying for God’s will and telling him that if this is truly what he was calling me to do then I would do it, even though I didn’t feel qualified, and not to mention my lack of time. Really God; you do know that I am raising three children on my own right? Within 5 minutes, God gave me the title of the book, all 8 chapters in the book and a huge confirmation in scripture that this was what he wanted me to do. So simply out of obedience I have spent the last five months writing my little hands off. I say that a little facetiously because frankly something miraculous happened. As I think back over the last five months I can honestly say that this process has not been laborious at all. I don’t feel as if it has taken any time away from my family, my work in ministry, or relationships that are important to me. For those of you that know me well and know how busy my life is, you know I really didn’t have anywhere to fit this in. But God did and the book is now finished!

I am not certain at this point what his plans are. Isn’t it funny how sometimes he speaks to us so clearly, as he did to me in those five minutes of my quiet time and other times we can’t seem to hear a thing? I think it could be several things. We are either not still enough to hear his voice or he just wants us to step out in faith and watch him work. It is probably a combination of both for me right now. I really don’t know what he wants me to do next and that is where you come in. I am going to send the manuscript to some publishers. If you know anything about the industry then you know that the chance of a first time author being published is pretty low. Here is how I feel about the whole thing: If God wants my book to be published then he will make it happen as I step out in faith and if he doesn’t then it won’t. It really is that simple. I would love it if you would commit to agreeing with me in prayer for God’s perfect plan in this situation. If this book was simply to further my own personal healing then it was well worth the time I have spent on it. If, however, he had me write it so that he could be magnified through it then I need his warriors to pray for his will to come forth. I am so excited about the possibility of him using me to glorify him in this way and remain hopeful in the knowledge that he is in control. Will you pray with and for me?

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