“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

(Habakkuk 3: 17-18, NLT) 

17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,

    and there are no grapes on the vines;

even though the olive crop fails,

    and the fields lie empty and barren;

even though the flocks die in the fields,

    and the cattle barns are empty,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Sometimes you just don’t get what you want.  That thing you’ve longed for all of your days.  That expectation.  The ideal. You’ve prayed for it.  You’ve waited, and waited, and waited for it.  You’ve cried out to God, “WHY?!?”  You’ve been angry, sad, impatient.  You’ve been joyful, generous, understanding.  Yet still you wait, and still you stand with empty hands.  At least…that’s the way it feels…when you are left wanting and longing for something. 

This feeling applies to so much in our lives — as we are all different…with varying goals, dreams and desires — yet for so many of us, this feeling is a result of infertility.  It is a silent suffering that plagues the homes of more individuals, couples and families than we ever realize.  I don’t want to monopolize this opportunity to encourage others with my own personal struggle over this specific obstacle…as it pertains to my life, but suffice it to say that I have walked the road of loneliness and despair that comes when your body will not do what you so want it to do…when you don’t get what you want

I got pregnant with my son very quickly, and the pregnancy/birth experience was easy and pleasant (aside from those typical discomforts that all mothers have), so when we decided it was time to try for a second child, our assumption was that it would just happen.  Yet…happen it did not.  Until…one day it did!  Father’s Day 2010 we had a positive test, and we excitedly shared our news with family…yet within the coming week, we experienced the pain and gut-wrenching disbelief that is miscarriage.  Since then, it was much of the same…over and over and over again.  I asked my doctor, “Why is this happening to me?”  There were several physiological reasons that were working together to prevent a successful pregnancy.  I was given odds and statistics, and as a result…I felt like a huge disappointment…broken and faulty.  This wasn’t the way my life was supposed to be…how things were supposed to happen for us!  So, I lied to myself…and to others…oh Lord, did I lie! 

“We don’t want more children.” 

“We are content.”

“It’s been too long and I don’t want to start over.”

And on and on went the lies.  It made me feel better to lie, because when I was honest…I got mad.  The anger would then lead me to conviction, because I am well aware that being angry with God only leads to a hardened, sinful heart.  Yet no matter what I did…whether I was lying about and hiding my true feelings…or whether I was allowing the anger to sear my heart into a stony, protective shell…I was unhappy. 

But isn’t that where selfishness leads us to though?  Unhappiness?  How can it take us anywhere else?  I was thinking with my “Id” (that carnal, instinctual part of my psyche), and allowed it to just sort of take over.  I wasn’t thinking Heavenly thoughts anymore.  I was so focused on what I thought I wanted, that I was missing out on the joys of being grateful for always having what I needed.

Please let me encourage your heart today.  I know the frustration of feeling that your cries and prayers have fallen on deaf ears, but understand this…Father knows best. 

As a child, I remember asking for things that I just didn’t need, yet I wanted them so badly.  I would beg and plead, and though it pained my parents to have to say it, they would sometimes have to answer no…to which I would respond with ridiculous and petulant behavior. 

One time, when I was about 7 years old, we took a family vacation (as we did every summer of my childhood), and on our way back home we passed through Maggie Valley, TN.  We had spent a lot of time and money already, and we were on the last leg of our journey home.  (I can only imagine how tired my parents must have been, after a full week of summer fun with 5 kids under the age of thirteen!)  As I have always been one to notice and read billboards, while we passed through this particular region, I began to see signs for “Ghost Town in the Sky!”  Well hot dog…that sounded fun to me!!  So I asked, “Daddy, daddy, can we pleeeeeaaaasseee go to Ghost Town in the Sky?  Please???”  Well my dad, who only ever wanted to please and bless his family, agreed to check the prices.  This was the 1980’s, so no internet!  He had to actually pull in the parking lot, leave us all in the van, and walk to the gates to inquire about tickets.  As we sat there, I was SO expectant!  I just knew that we would be going in any minute.  When I saw my dad walking back toward the van in the distance, I was literally vibrating with excitement, yet…the closer he got, I could see he wasn’t smiling.  The answer was no.  It was too expensive.  Well, I cried, I wailed, and I just did not understand why we couldn’t go in!  I lamented, “I hate being poor!!”  (A statement I have yet to live down to this day!)  We were not poor!  Sometimes Daddy just had to say no…Father knows best.

That entire ride the rest of the way home, I missed out on the joy of my now because of my sulking about the past

Friends, don’t sulk and wallow in your discontent.  Rejoice in the Lord, who has graciously given to you all that you could ever need.  He truly does know best.  There is so much about my life that would not have come to pass if I had been handed what I thought I wanted in the moment.  Babies are always a blessing, yet I know that there are things that I was meant and appointed by God to do that would not be possible if my life were any different than it is right now.  I am finding joy in that…in seeing that God is moving all around me, and using me in ways that I never would have come up with on my own. 

“You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find…you get what you need!”  – The Rolling Stones

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when things are not as I imagined — when I am hurt, questioning, and confused — help me to see Your hand in my life anyway.  Give me joy in my mourning, and help me to trust You at all times.  Amen.

May I Put You on Hold?

1 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.” 2 So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. 3 And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land….. 6 And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”

I must confess that being put on hold frustrates me. Sometimes it feels like I’m being put in a closet while the person on the other line goes on a break to get a fresh cup of coffee! I know that’s not true, (at least, I hope it’s not!) but it’s frustrating none the less. Sometimes being put on hold is necessary so that the right individual can be located, or until they can complete a call they are already on. To me, the very worst is being put on hold without any background music. Even though I may not particularly care for the music selection, at least I know that I’m still connected; when there is no music, I begin to wonder if I was disconnected. Still, when asked, “May I put you on hold?” I generally agree.

I was thinking about the woman in our scripture text today and wondered what it might have been like to be told by the prophet that she would be put “on hold” for 7 years. She had been the recipient of a life-giving miracle when her son had died. God raised him back to life and they were living in the moment of divine blessing. But, then…

The prophet instructed her to do the following:

  • Depart from this land. (God had called for a famine)
  • Take your entire household with you.
  • Go wherever you want to go. (The destination was not important.)

I looked, and then I looked again to see if the prophet included a promise of restoration. There is none. Only a call for obedience. I guess the word “sojourn” might be the closest thing to a promise because it would indicate a continual journey that might ultimately lead them back home. But that is a stretch… Instead, the prophet’s words are a simple explanation of God’s intention to put famine upon the nation for a period of 7 years.

So, what does one do when God calls for obedience without a corresponding promise of blessing? Scripture clearly records her response in verse 2. “So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. She went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years.” I don’t see any questions. No discussion. No attitude. No rebellion. Just simple obedience. Her whole life was being put on hold, primarily because of the sins of others, and she basically responds with a shrug of the shoulders and a resounding, “Let’s roll!”

How did she have the courage to leave her comfort zone to journey into the unknown? Simple. She trusted that the word of the prophet reflected the love of God for her. After all, she had already received her son back to life because of the goodness of God. She could not see, and had not been told what the end result would be. She trusted God.

Sometimes the story ends right there. Just obedience. The writer of Hebrews tells us,

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:32-40)

At other times the story ends with greater blessing than we previously possessed. After 7 years, the woman returned home and requested her land be returned. The King appointed her own representative to see that her holdings were returned, AND that she was given ALL the fruit that was yielded from her land during the 7 years.

Are you on hold? If so, simply trust the Lord and know that your future is in His hands!

PRAYER: Father, my past experience with you allows me to trust during seasons of uncertainty. When I’m traveling a winding road, I’m able, by faith, to trust that you are directing my steps. Thank you for that confidence!

The Days In Between

Exodus 6:26-7:7- “… These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts. It was they who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron. On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the Lord said to Moses, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh, king of Egypt all that I say to you… You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother, Aaron, shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land… The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them. Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron, eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.”

I turned 28 approximately 6 months ago, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered if God was ever going to use me in a mighty way. When will my time come to make an impact? Will I ever get to fulfill this dream burning in my heart? Am I getting too old to pursue any new avenue of ministry?

I know. I’m a little insane… 28 is not too old for anything. But, because I was only created with the capacity to hold a finite mind, a body hindered by certain physical limitations, and a lifespan restricted by a time frame compared to a vapor, I have tiny moments of panic. When I forget that God orders my steps and guides my life, each year that passes makes me feel more and more vulnerable.

You ever been there? If so, let this story encourage you!

Moses and Aaron had far surpassed 28. They were octogenarians when God called them to do possibly the greatest task of their lives! What they did changed the future of an entire nation. Because of their obedience, millions were saved from slavery. Entire generations- multiple generations- were able to experience a total life change because God chose to use two eighty year old men to accomplish such a feat!

I’m certain that the days leading up to this point in their lives were filled with many “small miracles” and ways they both made a difference. Just like I know my everyday life is filled with wonder that I don’t even recognize, because I don’t always pray to see from God’s point of view.

I went to a concert recently where The Band Carrollton was ministering. They sang a song that I’ve been living on since that evening. I want to share a small piece of it here today:

“I have read amazing stories of all the faithful ones, wondering why today doesn’t look like that for me. But show me the miracles in the simple. Open my eyes to see that a beautiful life is found in the journey in the days in between.

You are the God of all my days.  I will trust in all Your ways. Take my hands and guide my feet. I know You’re leading me. So, I’m gonna dance with You in the in-between.”

Know today that there will be times sporadically placed throughout your life where you will see and feel the intensity of what it is you’re involved in. God will use you to do great and mighty things in His name. He may send you to the other side of the world to reach a nation of people that are waiting for you to get there. You may be asked to lead a group of people in a local church or minister to a young generation who so desperately needs to understand its worth. Maybe you’ll speak at a large conference, write a piece that gets spread all across the internet, or sing in front of thousands all for the glory of Christ. Who knows what awesomeness He will lead you into… even if you’re nearly 100 years old before that day comes.

But, please understand, that every single day offers us 24 more hours to use what earthly time we have to bring Him pleasure and glory… and share hope with someone who needs it.

It’s not too late for any of us. We’re not too old, too busy, too sensitive, too sick, or too ordinary to be given a crazy opportunity to shake the planet for Jesus. Wake up each morning with a fresh, hopeful, and eager outlook. How is He going to use YOUR life today?

And believe me… He will.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for thinking I’m worth using. Thank You for having confidence in me to go about handling Your business on this earth… for allowing me the opportunity to make an eternal impact. With the busyness of life and all its obligations, sometimes I lose my focus and feel too weighed down or stressed out to do anything good for Your kingdom. On those days- in those moments- remind me that if I give You all of my life, You will find a way to use every moment in some way. I love You, Jesus. I’m so grateful for this life You’ve blessed me with! In Your precious name, amen.

“While I’m Waiting”

(Luke 2: 25-29) 25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.”

Patience is hard to come by these days.  Everyone is in a hurry, and we are all spoiled by our fast food culture.  We are so used to instant gratification that any amount of waiting seems to bring out the very worst in many of us.  I remember when Taco Bell installed little timers outside of their drive-through windows so you could see how fast they could get your order thrown into a bag, out the window, and subsequently in your face.  People would get angry after just one minute passed without getting their food…  Really?  Yes, really.  That’s the way of the world.  We think we know what we want…and we want it NOW!  Essentially, we are all kind of bratty.  When someone makes us a promise, we latch onto it with a death grip and we don’t let up until it is fulfilled.  We nag, complain, guilt and whine about it until it morphs from a blessing into an assumption or even a demand .  No longer are we grateful and willing to wait.  We equalize waiting with insult and inconvenience, and as a result we get downright moody when we have to do it.  The outcome?  Rash decisions, road rage, fights, cheating, lying, stealing, taking matters into our own hands…need I go on?  It’s all rooted in impatience, and a lack of patience indicates a lack of trust.  If we can’t wait for something, our motives are selfish, and we don’t trust the process.  When we say to God, “I will wait, and pursue You all the while,” we are showing Him that we trust Him…and His process. 

You know the old adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”  Well…it does.  Waiting doesn’t have to be all sadness, misery, and solemn expectancy.  Waiting can be fun.  When I was a little girl, my parents would take all five of us kids school shopping at one time.  They had it down to a system.  Just outside of the mall entrance to Belk (or maybe it was JC Penney…I digress…this was thirty years ago) there was a great, big fountain and a Peanut Shack.  Dad would entertain us kids, while Mother would take us in the store, one at a time, to shop for our clothes and shoes.  Pretty smart, if you ask me!  Dad would let us get a small bag of nuts or candy to snack on, and he always seemed to have enough pennies in his pockets and games in his mind to keep us occupied.  Waiting with Dad was fun.  Before we knew it, we were done and headed back home with very little drama and/or tears involved in the process.  It took some smart thinking, team work, patience, and love, but the waiting was endured with grace. 

Well…life is much the same.  You may have to wait your entire life for a promise, or it could happen tomorrow.  Either way, we must remain righteous and devout, as Simeon did.  He hung onto the promise of the Messiah…eagerly anticipating, yet his righteousness remained intact.  He was patient…for a LONG time…and in the last season of his life, the Lord led him to a temple where he was able to witness the fulfillment of that promise…and further still…he was able to hold that promise, the baby Jesus, in his arms!  What a reward for a life spent waiting…gracefully…patiently…and trusting the process fully. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to trust You enough to be patient with Your plan.  In a world of hasty, grumpy people, I want to be set apart…smiling while I wait.  Amen.

Building a Testimony

(Psalm 40:1-3 ESV) 1 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

When I was a kid, there was a singer named Sammy Hall who frequented the Camp Meeting and Youth Camp circuit. He had a wonderful testimony of deliverance from drugs. After Sammy would visit, many of the youth of the church would give their testimony about various vices that God had delivered them from. Sometimes, the ones who testified last felt the need to enhance their testimony by making up deliverances that never actually occurred! We often jokingly accused them of “building their testimony!”

Interesting things happen when we wait patiently on the Lord. David began this Psalm with several very bold statements. Think about it. He declared that God lifted him out of a pit, set his feet on a rock, stabilized his wobbly steps; none of which happened literally! He was speaking symbolically!

As David was searching for adequate words to describe the goodness of God, he chose examples others could relate to. For instance, it’s not hard to imagine God leaning in so He can hear our prayerful words. Neither is it difficult to “feel” the stability of having a solid foundation to stand on. There’s a big difference between standing on a dry, solid rock and standing on a slippery one! He also pointed out how God had stabilized his wobbly steps; securing his pathway.

After experiencing his answered prayer, David breaks into a new song of praise; a song he could never have sung had it not been for the intervention of the Lord. Often, we become so impatient while waiting on the Lord’s assistance. A million “what if” scenarios are rehearsed in the secret recesses of our mind. And, instead of songs of praise, our words can keep us locked into dark thoughts of our impending demise. Not David! He uses his good fortune to speak of the goodness of God.

The result? He believed his testimony would serve as a turning point for many individuals observing his deliverance. With anticipation he writes, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”

I’m thankful for the many times the Lord has brought deliverance to me. But, I’m equally grateful that my testimony has been instrumental in helping others find their way to Him. How about you? What kind of testimony are you building?

PRAYER: Father, let your grace be evident in my life in such a way that others may see Your goodness, fear You, and put their trust in You. Amen

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