Someone posted this article on facebook today, and it goes perfectly with my post from two days ago! Life begins today, my friends! Click to read.
Recently, I sat up late at night reading (once again) Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. He quoted this hymn by John Newton, and it brought me to tears.
These Inward Trials
By John Newton
I asked the Lord that I might grow,
In faith, in love, in every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
I hoped that on some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this?” I tremblingly cried,
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
“These inward trials I employ,”
“From self and pride to set thee free;”
“And break thy schemes of earthly joy,”
“That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.”
I read that and heard this voice reply to all of my frequent inward cries of “Why?” with: You asked for this. Not in the snarky, heartless way those worse are usually uttered. But with peaceful reassurance of the Refiner’s Fire which I’ve asked to be walked through so many times in my Christian life. Even this morning in my prayer time, I caught myself saying, “Lord make me more like You.” I almost laughed. How many times have I prayed that prayer or one like it? Who hasn’t at least prayed, caught up at a conference or camp or after a moving sermon, that God would sanctify her more and make her more like Christ? That is the Christian aim, after all, right?
I guess in all the years of asking that, I hadn’t really considered how it would be answered. I really did mean it, I just didn’t calculate the cost of sanctification. We make jokes about not praying for patience, because you’ll have to be in a hard situation to learn patience. But now I’m seeing that’s really true about all of the fruit of the Spirit and Christlike characteristics, isn’t it? I mean, what did I think? I would wake up one morning and be like, “Oh good, now I’m wise,” or “Finally, I’m more compassionate,” or the dozens of other things I’m now learning? Surely not.
This revelation has actually increased my patience and lessened my questioning (not eliminated it, but lessened it for sure). I asked for this refining, after all — so I need to be thanking God for His answer to all those prayers, instead of sulking in the delay of a relatively new one.
Psalm 40 (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.
4 Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie! Continue reading “Psalm 40 – He set my feet upon a rock”
It’s only to be expected that you will get tired of waiting for the Lord to act or answer during this time. You know you’re being sanctified, learning patience, but it doesn’t always calm the mystery inside of why God is taking so long “up there.” There are so many biblical reasons for this.
In an article titled Why Won’t God Hurry Up?, Relevant Magazine writer Eric Speir sites at least four reasons he realized while he was waiting four years for the Lord to bless Him with a ministry job. His first reason is that you aren’t ready for the size of what will come. This is an interesting thought. We cringe at it, but it’s fair to consider that maybe God is still preparing you and/or your spouse to be parents. My husband and I have considered this in times of fighting or stress. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow when you see teenagers or other immature people “accidentally” becoming parents, but I encourage you to keep your eyes on Christ and your journey, and not let your eyes wander to assess other peoples’ journeys and what God does in their lives. The second reason Speir provides is that you are unlearning improper worship — in other words, has a baby become an idol to you? It may not be a real “golden calf,” but is it the most important thing in your world? It shouldn’t be. God will probably want to strip you of that before blessing you further. The article also mentions two other reasons we’ve discussed a bit in his blog: learning dependence on God, and being used for other things in this time. Learning dependence of God is probably the sweetest reason for waiting, in my opinion. What a better response from God than to ask for your attention and to grow closer to you before giving you another potential (and likely) distraction? Continue reading “Waiting Here for You… and waiting, and waiting, and waiting”
I wanted to write a post about the biblical concept of the refiner’s fire. I started to do some research and I found this awesome article from DesiringGod.org, so I decided to just share that with you instead. It says everything just as well as I could, if not much better. The transcript below is the introduction. Please follow the link under it to finish reading. You will also find a 30-minute message from Pastor John Piper on this subject and passage. To add to your reflection, I included a worship song below it, about the refiner’s fire.
He Is Like a Refiner’s Fire
You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (NIV)
It does not say in verse 2 that he is like a forest fire, or like an incinerator’s fire. It says that he is like a refiner’s fire. A forest fire destroys indiscriminately. An incinerator consumes completely. But verse 6 says, “I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed—you are not destroyed.”
A Word of Warning and a Word of Hope
He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.
It does say FIRE. And therefore purity and holiness will always be a dreadful thing. There will always be a proper “fear and trembling” in the process of becoming pure. We learn it from the time we are little children: never play with fire! And it’s a good lesson! Therefore, Christianity is never a play thing. And the passion for purity is never flippant. He is like fire and fire is serious. You don’t fool around with it.
But it does say, he is like a REFINER’S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.
Four Questions About This Text
Now, to unfold this text, let me ask four questions, and point you to their answers in the Scripture in the time we have.
- Who is like a refiner’s fire?
- Why must he be like a refiner’s fire?
- How can we experience his fire as refining and not consuming?
- What is life like in the refiner’s fire?
…To continue reading, please click here: He is Like a Refiner’s Fire
Yes, I know, patience is the best virtue to have but the worst to grow. We’ve all heard the old joke, “Don’t pray for patience.” If you ask for it, you’ll have to face a situation that is not easy to be patient in. Enter infertility.
You know you need to be patient, so rather than go on and on about the necessity, desirability, and benefits of patience, I’ll just offer some Bible verses and wise quotes on the subject.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” -Galatians 5:22-23
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” -Romans 8:25
“…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” -Colossians 1:10-12
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” -Colossians 3:12
“Patience can be formed only in the crucible of frustration.” –Gary Thomas
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Augustine
“A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun.” -C.S. Lewis
“What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them…we must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly.” -A. W. Tozer
[Note: This post has been edited down from its original version.]
[…] Likewise, several months back, my husband received a call from a friend who out of nowhere burst into asking him when we’re going to finally get around to having kids. My husband eventually interrupted him, forced to confide our struggles. Later he told me how at first he wanted to lash out at the friend for being so inconsiderate, but then he confessed, “I know I used to be like that. I would ask my sister and her husband the same kind of thing, and I didn’t know if they had a problem.” And I related that I’ve also lacked the wisdom to be sensitive to where people can be struggling in life, such as ragging on single friends for needing to hurry up and find a spouse. The only reason we now have the consideration not to mindlessly hound people on insensitive subjects is because now we’ve actually been victims of it, and we know how deep it cuts. This is wisdom.
Here’s something to consider: what if you needed some serious advice? You must choose to ask one of two people: they are both committed Christians with good education, and they are the same age. One easily had so-many kids and has encountered no health or financial distress, her family has been perfectly intact and without struggle, and she has never had reason to question anything about her faith. The other lost a child, walked with her husband through a lay-off, watched her parents suffer through an affair, and at one point had a teenager walk away from his faith and led him back over time. The choice is obvious: you would ask the second woman for advice. Why? Because she’s the one with wisdom. Contrary to the old adage, wisdom is not necessarily granted with age – it comes with experience, with struggle, and with an open heart that walks with the Lord through that struggle, thriving instead of just surviving.
Imagine this: an angel, or even Jesus Himself, comes to you in the middle of the night and offers you two choices: you can have everything you want for the rest of your life (marriage, children, work, finances, health, etc.) without struggle, but you will lack the wisdom that would come with otherwise working for, waiting for, or sacrificing those things. Or, you can do without, or wait for, or give up some of those things, but be all the more wise and experienced. What would you choose? Continue reading “On Wisdom”
I’ve hesitated to post this song because it’s sad, secular and may seem less appropriate for this site. However, it has been a song on my infertility “soundtrack” from time to time. I feel like it goes with the theme of my post Moment by Moment, in that it emphasizes looking at each individual mercy and grace (in our case, from the Lord) as a victory, no matter how small, instead of drowning in what otherwise feels like months of defeat. So I’m finally posting it, but if it doesn’t resonate with you, I understand and you can skip it.
It’s “Little Victories” by Matt Nathanson.
By the way, I would love to hear about some of the songs on your “soundtrack” these days. Please share in the comments!
I enjoyed reading this post about Hannah. It’s from a website called Childless.me (I love the tagline of that site: An open heart is better than an open womb). Rather than write my own, I’m going to share hers with you. I plan to write a post soon about my personal favorite barren woman of the Bible, Sarah. For now, here’s Hannah…
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons? 1 Samuel 1:8; Like with Sarah, any Barren Women of the Bible series would be lacking without Hannah’s infertility story.
Before the gun is jumped on the opening verse; no, a husband cannot fill a baby-shaped hole in a woman’s heart. And God understands, He has noted in Proverbs 30:15-16, “…There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.”
Hannah’s barren years MAY have been all or mostly down to the timing of Samuel’s entrance into the world and her being inspired to embrace God’s plans for her firstborn. People often consider if God is saying “Yes“, “Wait“, or “No / I’ve got other plans for you“. It’s clear Hannah got a “wait” response even though she didn’t hear it until just before Samuel was conceived. I hope in my case there’s a “wait” I am not privy to yet. Although, when I see what is going on these last days my heart goes in the direction of “No.” So, while I float between “Please Lord” and “On second thought..” I wait by default. (See the third paragraph in this article:“The Role of Faith”; it can be hard to determine the answer even if it’s coming to you.)
Those comments in the article I linked to, the ones the author mentions in the first paragraph, Hannah likely heard some versions of. Aren’t we tempted to take what people say to heart, especially when we’re already down and extra sensitive? Then we also hear comments like Elkanah’s opening statement here, well meaning, but missing the magnitude of an empty womb. There are some highly sensitive husbands out there (as there are some highly insensitive), Elkanah is probably pretty average in that regard? Some males handle infertility so strangely in our eyes, they seem indifferent. Finally we have Hannah’s sister wife, Peninnah, who was apparently keen to make jabs over Hannah’s infertility. Just imagining all these voices in her life, *I* feel isolated! And to think, we haveour own voice to contend with also!
In 1 Sa 1:15 the long waiting Hannah states what we know well, “I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit”. I can only speak from my situation, I am not harassed by a sister wife or a sister for that matter. My husband is not as effected, but he understands more than he knows (he lost a wife and four children to a cult). He copes by doing his best to put them out of mind. I’m sure that is a daily practice. As for others, yes I hear some well meaning but hurtful comments occasionally. It’s not common, thankfully. For the most part, hurtful words aren’t an issue in my life. Other peoples having “it all” is only hard to watch on the rare extremely sensitive, hormonal day. (I did go through a bitter phase that was much worse!) Oh dear Hannah, she had to see her sister wife’s children run around all day. Hannah had it worse than me, I am sure of that.