As I mentioned in, His Purpose meditation, I entered our LGM retreat with my share of "burdens" on my heart. Since it would take WAY too much time to share it all; suffice it to say that for several weeks prior to the retreat, I had been increasingly aware of some potential life-changing "challenges" that might be facing me in coming months.
Since I have the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, I can tell you that He graciously has lifted those burdens from me... But I didn't know that He would choose to do that during those two or three weeks leading up to the retreat. In a future retreat reflection, I hope to get into more about how God showed me that He "speaks our language". Yet I can't even tell you this story without mentioning that He spoke several words to my heart, in various ways, over those days and weeks. I tend to frequently question whether God is actually speaking to me, or if I'm misreading Him... Whether it's often just my own imagination, or even our "enemy" trying to distract me or get me off track...
But God is so faithful, and kind. In the midst of my soul-searching and crying out, He spoke several words right to my heart, in a variety of ways, as only He can do. I want to share one of those words with you as well, in the hopes that He might minister to your heart too.
As I was contemplating the various possible outcomes of my "challenges", I came to the conclusion that there was not really any "comfortable" solution. Whatever road the Lord was going to have me travel, it wasn't going to be an easy one. During that time, among other things, our Heavenly Father spoke comforting words to my heart through a sermon at church. The message (whether truly from Him or not, I can't tell you, but it surely seemed that way to me) went something like this: "Regardless of the outcome of this situation, I want you to see it as a gift".
At the time, I could see only one of the potential outcomes as being "gift material". And it was the least likely of all... Every other option seemed to be anything BUT gift material. From the outside, it might seem as if God were being cruel to speak such a word, since it was almost surely going to be a "rough ride", this gift.
And I will tell you, that the eventual outcome was NOT the one that seemed like "gift" material. No, but He was nonetheless, absolutely as gracious as it was possible for Him to be... which is PRETTY GRACIOUS! :)
Now, it "just so happened" (as IF there really are any coincidences :) that there were a couple of very appropriate scriptures that I was reading during my quiet times with Jesus over these several days and weeks... I was in the first chapter of the book of James. Here are the two scriptures that cut to the heart of the matter:
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;..." James 1:13
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
What, James...? Are you saying that our trials are things we should be THANKFUL for? Yes. I think that might be exactly what he's saying. And I believe that's what the Holy Spirit was whispering to my heart during the days prior to, and especially during the retreat. In fact over those days, as I was coming to the realization of what the true outcome of my "trial" was going to be... I realized it was not going to be something that my human nature could rejoice about... But His Spirit (and by His grace, my spirit as well) actually could look beyond the "outer appearance", and see it for what it really was: a GIFT.
And get this... It was a gift, because it served to test my faith and develop perseverance. Absolutely. But it dawned on me as the weekend progressed, that He was actually giving me a much better gift. I realized how intimately He had spoken to me, in words that only I would be able to "hear"... Hopefully I can share some of those words with you in another installment... But the thing is this: I realized that the real gift is HIM. HE is the gift. He let me know that He is fully involved with my life, caring for me in the smallest, most personal ways.
So I ask you, dear reader... Are there trials in your life? Is there uncertainty, maybe a bit of fear? Are you unsure about whether He truly hears, or cares about your requests and needs? If so, I'd encourage you to soak in those scriptures above, and remember that perhaps He's speaking that same word to you: Regardless of the outcome, it's a gift. And ultimately HE is the Gift. I don't want to "put words in His mouth", but this much I DO know... He loves you very much, and He desires the absolute BEST for you... Regardless of how it might look on your end. He desires to know and be known by you.
That's the best gift I could ever imagine receiving... I hope you take Him up on it.