Nothing softens the heart like a baby’s eyes first fastening on your face. But a deep, core-to-core relationship with that tiny human being only becomes possible with its maturity. In the same way, our spiritual birth makes us alive to God; He comes into view. But that is only the beginning, not the end, of what He is after.
In every difficult situation, you are being plunged into a process of growth that is meant to call relational maturity out of you.
If we are looking for a shortcut to blessing, for God to make our life easier, we are going to become quickly disillusioned and confused when life proves hard and He doesn’t seem near. . . until we discern God’s intent . . . which is not to make our life easier , but to grow us into the maturity capable of a deep, core-to-core, real relationship with Him.
The quickest way through any painful circumstance is to discern what God is trying to teach us in it. There is always a message there, waiting to be found after the last of our childish tantrums has given away, when we finally grow too tired to fight Him any longer. When we become desperate to understand what God is trying to teach us, it is amazing how quickly we begin to see what it is.
God is waiting within the hardest, present challenge in your life to teach you what will change everything.
As your own private tutor, He is committed to walk you through to the other side, by helping you grasp what will radically transform your situation. . . something so powerful personally, that it has the potential to revolutionize your relationship with Him.
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I have asked my friend, Shella, to give you a window into how God has done this with her.
Last week you read of her dramatic conversion. This week you will read of the lifelong process by which He has deepened her capacity for a core-to-core, real relationship with Him.
And now, Shella, in her own words . . .
During my walk with Him, God has often used the theme of “provision” to educate my faith in Him. My earthly father was a good man and I adored him, but he wasn’t the best of providers. I believed I had to cultivate independence because there would be no one else to take care of me. God wanted me to trust HIM as my provider. But I have had to understand in stages the radical trust to which He was and is calling me.
I was 36 years old before I gave up some of my independence and finally married in 1984. I left my career in advertising, attended art school for four years and graduated at the top of my class. Art became a passion I hadn’t known was there, and I began showing my work in Atlanta. Then in the early 90’s my livelihood was threatened, and I thought the bank was going to foreclose on our home. My heart broke as I realized my art would have to be placed on hold and I would have to return to work in marketing where the pay was more lucrative. I had been a Christian a little over a year.
Immediately, God provided a freelance opportunity. I took the job and made $7,000 in three months. At that time, I was in a Bible study, and these words from Malachi stood out like neon letters flashing at an all-night diner:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house and test Me now in this….if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” (Mal 3:10)
Surely, God wasn’t asking me to tithe 10% of the $7,000 I had just earned when we could not even pay our mortgage! I was terrified because I knew this was exactly what God was asking me to do. With tears streaming down my face, I pulled out my checkbook, and prayed, “God I really want to do this. Help me do this.” I was almost numb as my quivering hand scribbled out a check for $700 to my church. God spoke, I responded and I’ve tithed ever since. He has never failed to provide.
One job followed another, always with no effort on my part, and I had my own freelance business for ten years. These years were hard, long and tiring, but I stayed in weekly Bible studies and prayed fiercely. There were days I did not think I could continue and I ached for the art I had sacrificed. I cried out to God, “What else do you want from me? Why aren’t you bringing provision through my husband? I’m exhausted and hurting. Where are you?” And then in a gentle whisper, not in the burning bush or clashing thunder, the God I was condemning as I justified myself, said in a gentle compassion, “Give me time.”
We cry for God to deliver us.
God wants, instead, to develop us.
This takes time.
Slowly as I obeyed, I was learning to trust Him. But God and I would go around the “mountain” once again.
In 2000, my husband and I decided to move from Atlanta and build our dream home in Destin, a beach community in Florida. Things were flowing nicely, and we sensed God’s leading. But as the move-in date approached, my world crumbled when I discovered we had to deplete my entire savings to finish the house. I was distraught. Had we missed God? Was this move not from Him? What had we done wrong?
God asks us if we trust Him and we say, “Oh yes, God, I trust You.” And then He proceeds to show us that we don’t. Not really. Not completely.
The air around me felt thick like a foggy weight pressing in on my chest. Again, I worried that we might lose our home, and I was paralyzed in disappointment. Nothing could console me.
There were days when I could hardly get out of bed. One morning I woke up and threw a fit with God. I was spent. Yet somehow in the midst of my diatribe, I sensed a gritty resolve well up in me, and petulantly stammered, “I will not go out of this house one step until You answer me.”
Shocking, yes, but I meant it. For three days I stayed cloistered, read my Bible and prayed like never before. One morning as I wrote in my journal, the Spirit began to flow through me like trickling water over the rocks of a dried up creek. I had cried a lot and had no more words to pray.
I was led to Come Away My Beloved by Frances Roberts, page 39, entitled “He Hath Filled My Cup.” The passage spoke of deliverance and these words stood out:
“For He hath stretched forth His mighty hand and hath smitten the waters: He hath made me to pass through dry-shod. Hallelujah! For there shall be no more sea. (Rev. 21:1)
The image of God stilling the waters, when I felt like I was drowning, strengthened me. Then I saw a reference to Joshua 3 and 4, so I turned there in Scripture. The story I found in Joshua pierced my heart.
God commanded Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan. But there was a problem: during the harvest, the Jordan River overflows all its banks. It was the harvest. (Josh 3:15) God told Joshua to have the priests lead the way, bearing the arc of the covenant into the Jordan. Joshua believed God, and when the priests stepped into the river in faith, the torrential flood of the Jordan was cut off and the riverbed was exposed, so that all Israel could cross on dry land. (Josh 3:16-17).
Immediately, I felt a shiver run through me. Was God promising me, like He promised Joshua, that if I went forward in covenant faith, that the waters of financial disaster would not overtake me? Hope pulsed through me, but nothing prepared me for what I would next read.
“Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan……….and carry them with you, and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.” (Josh 4:2-3)
And he (Joshua) said to the sons of Israel, ” When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before us until we had crossed….” (Josh 4:21-23)
My heart burst. God had selected this passage specifically for me.
It was no coincidence that a friend from Israel had sent me twelve stones from the Jordan River; and He knew that one by one, as we were building our home, my husband and I had buried those stones in the twelve outside corners.
God had pulled a golden arrow from His quiver, aimed it at the target of my heart and struck a bull’s eye. I leaped as I “got it.” My very home — my lodging place — was a promised land. It was His “provision” and would not be taken from me. He had brought us here. The stones were laid forever as a memorial to remind us that He parted the threatening waters through which He led us in His provision.
Could He have been any more specific or personal?
That day in Joshua, I found my footing again. God brought us into His promises and has been faithful to provide through my husband for over ten years. I haven’t worked in the business world one day. I have, however, spent a lot of time in my studio making art, which is the joy of my life. As we surrendered, God redeemed. We are grateful.
However, we are still being tested. It is 2012 and the economy is dreadful and we — like so many others — are battling financial challenges once again. In some ways, we could say it’s never been worse. Strangely, I am not distraught. I am not throwing tantrums nor raising fists. Yes, I am sometimes weary, but we have our home, and I know God will part the high waters. We are not forgotten, and we will not drown.
Our twelve stones in the twelve corners of our lodging place will always be a reminder that “all the peoples of the earth will know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may revere the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:24) . . . and trust Him completely.
And we do.