Can Separation Ever Be Good?

The Lord has been trying to get me to agree with Him on something for months… or has it been years? I can’t remember.

Anyway, He finally found a way that even I – the woman who could have been a lawyer – can’t argue with.

If you like your life the way it is, I suggest you close your browser.

I’ll wait.

Still here?

Okay…

So the background I can share with you is I am fiercely loyal. If we ever become friends, we will be friends until I die. When I care (caveat), I care deeply… and forever.

Which can be a problem when life separates us.

I moved a lot as a kid, and I still deeply miss and regularly think about my childhood friends. We don’t interact beyond Facebook, and I have no delusions that we would still be the best of friends today if only we lived near one another… But I’m not surprised when the casualties of moving show up in my dreams… weekly. And I still get sad I’m not 9 anymore.

And then there was high school. I had amazing friends back then – the kinds of friendships that only happen in movies. We were inseparable and forever changed for the better for having known one another. I think fondly about one or more of those people every. single. day.

With a background like this, it’s easy for me to feel like separation is never a good idea. It’s easy for me to view it as an evil to be avoided at all costs.

And I’ve been trying to convince God I’m right for quite awhile… He isn’t buying it.

Because He knows that sometimes separation is good.

Did I really just say that? Me? The girl who goes through the 7 stages of grief when her favorite FICTIONAL TV shows are cancelled?

Yes, I can’t keep saying separation is always wrong and bad… because God says otherwise. And no matter how much I Hate with a capital H that this is true, that doesn’t make it any less true…

Why can’t I just be a post-modern who doesn’t believe in truth?

Sigh.

That’s a different post.

For now, would you like to know what finally convinced me I must call some separation good?

No? Close your browser.

I’ll wait.

Still here?

Okay…

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, God the Father and God the Son, Jesus, were separated… it happened only once, but it happened nonetheless. There was a boundary, if you will, when Jesus lamented from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). It’s hard to say what exactly happened at that moment, but it’s clear the Father turned away from the Son in some way.

Lean in close…

Since God never does anything that isn’t good, we have to conclude this separation was good.

And if separation can be good for the Father and the Son, even just once, we have to conclude there might come a time when it would be good in our human relationships too.

I know.

I don’t like it either.

Truth be told, it terrifies me.

But it helps me to take notice of a couple things about the Father and the Son’s separation…

  1. It was temporary. Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely painful. But it didn’t last forever. In fact, it only lasted three days.
  2. It didn’t change how they felt about each other. Neither the Father nor the Son lost one ounce of affection for each other while they were apart. If they hadn’t already shared the maximum amount of love for one another possible, I’d even say such a separation would have increased their love for one another. Father pride swells when children do right…
  3. It was for the greater good. The Lord redeemed humanity via that separation. Turns out that break was the only way to restore what always should have been.
  4. The reunion was sweet. In the story of the prodigal son, the father’s joy is unbounded when he is reunited with his son. And, so, too, I am confident, was the Father’s joy when He got His Boy back.

I imagine these four characteristics can be applied to any separations we experience in our human relationships… I know they all aren’t always going to be true… and even if they were, the hurt will still steal our breath and wet our eyes as we walk in obedience…

But maybe we can ask the Lord for the faith to believe that maybe just one or two of these ideas will be true in our lives? And maybe they can help us be brave when He calls us to separate from people we love?

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Light in the Darkeness

I was in the Ozark “Mountains” over the weekend. I use quotes because I was born in the Rockies. So the Ozarks are mere hills. Nevertheless, they were still beautiful, especially to someone who lives in the flat lands of Memphis, Tennessee.

There are many pictures I wish I had taken, but I only took one.

Light in the Darkness
Table Rock Lake, Branson, MO

It was an overcast morning when we drove to Table Rock Lake. The wind was whipping, trying to knock me over with its might. I muscled my way to the rocky shore. I scanned the horizon for the most picturesque shot. There seemed to be no way to capture the autumn leaves, the vast lake, and the mountains in one image. The wind blew my hair straight behind me. I raised my phone and snapped a careless picture.

We enjoyed the scenery for another minute or two before returning to our car.  In the stillness and the shade of our vehicle, I was able to examine my shot. And I noticed something in the picture I hadn’t seen in reality. The sun broke through the thick clouds and illuminated the center of the lake.

I felt as if God Himself was parting the clouds and shining brilliantly through just to show Himself to me. Except He knew I couldn’t handle a direct vision of Him (Exodus 33:20), so He showed me only what I could handle – a bit of the light that radiates from Him. 

Aside from being beautiful, the metaphors abounded.

It occurred to me that when it is a cloudy day, gray and heavy, the sun is still there, we just can’t see it. Similarly, when night comes and the sky is black, the sun doesn’t cease to exist, we just can’t see it.

I thought about life. Sometimes it feels like a cloudy day or a darkened night. We ache, we wrestle, we hurt, we break… and we look to the sky… we can’t see the Son, but He’s still there.

He doesn’t cease to exist when bad things happen or hard times linger longer than we’d like.

Jesus called Himself the light. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12).

The Son is the sun, whether the sky is clear or overcast, whether it’s day or night, whether you’re light or heavy-hearted. 

And the promise from the Son stands. Whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

When the clouds come and dusk gives way to dark, follow Him and have light. Follow Jesus and possess Him. With Him, you are not alone, and the darkness will never overtake you (Isaiah 43:2).

How to Get Joy and Peace and Hope

There’s this idea out there that, unfortunately, I think is biblical. It’s that Christians are supposed to be marked by joy and peace and hope, no matter what’s happening in their lives (Romans 12:12, John 16:33, Romans 8:25).

You optimists are probably wondering why I find this idea unfortunate. These are rich benefits of being a believer, you might say. And while I agree, possessing these characteristics would be wonderful, most of the time, I don’t.

I am a whole-hearted follower of Christ who is rarely joyful, hardly ever filled with peace, and almost always feeling hopeless about one thing or another.

So when scripture tells me I should have joy and peace and hope, and I don’t, I feel discouraged.  

And today I think I discovered why.

Turns out it’s not my job to manufacture joy or peace or hope. I don’t have to conjure it up out of sheer will. I don’t have to “make it happen” in order to obey the Lord. I’m not expected to “look within” and find these things, like they’re being stored on the top shelf of my soul somewhere, and all I have to do is find them and dust them off.

On the contrary, it’s actually God’s job to fill the Christian with joy and peace and hope.

Paul gives a prayer/blessing of sorts to the Romans and says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 15:13).

Yeah, so the onus is on Him, not us. This makes me feel a lot better.

According to this verse, “all” you and I have to do is trust in Him. The “rest” – the filling with joy and peace and the overflowing of hope – that’s all God. He produces those things in us as we trust in Him.

For me, trusting God feels a lot easier than coming up with feelings of joy and peace and hope that just aren’t there. Maybe because trust is more of an action than a feeling? When well-meaning clueless people tell me to just “choose” to be joyful, I slap them in my mind. But trusting – there’s something I can choose to do.

The Bible is one story after another of how trustworthy God is. It’s ripe with verses about His goodness and His sovereignty. If there’s one thing I am convinced of, it’s His dependability.

I don’t know how to make myself feel something I don’t, but I know how to say, “Lord, I trust you with _____,” over and over again. And when I do that, feelings of joy and peace and hope will follow.

The next time you’re low on joy and peace and hope, don’t focus on those things. They don’t come from you. Put your energy into trusting God, and He will do the rest. 

A Greater Hope

I don’t like to spend money. So whenever there is an opportunity to acquire a free pen, I do so. I’m sure that’s how this particular pen found its way into my purse.

A Greater Hope

I have no recollection of when I got it or where I got it from, but I know why I picked it up today.

I pondered the phrase on the side, “A Greater Hope”. Yes, it was surely referencing Jesus, but what was God trying to tell me through this pen?

(Note: I don’t believe in coincidences. So I tend to (over?)analyze things like pens. I also have too much time on my hands, apparently.)

I know Jesus is THE Great Hope. But why was God bringing it to my attention today?

I thought about hope… The remnants of a Bible verse came to mind, “My hope is in You.” I looked up the whole verse to get some context. It reads, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long,” (Psalm 25:5).

I was not at all surprised the phrase, “My hope is in you,” is set in a verse about God guiding us given yesterday’s post.

But I still wasn’t getting all God was trying to tell me through my pen. He wanted me to focus on the “Greater” part.

Jesus is a Greater Hope… greater than what? Then it dawned on me – greater than ALL OTHER HOPES.

We receive hope from a lot of different sources. We gain confidence from trustworthy spouses and family members and friends. We get security from our jobs with their regular pay checks. We feel optimistic when our sports teams perform well (Go Dawgs). Even the weather can cheer us at times.

But there is one Source of hope that is greater than all of these. As I stared at my pen, I sensed God saying, “Go to the greater Source. You have a lot of hope in a lot of great things, but look to the Greater Hope.”

Lord, help us do just that.

One Benefit of Being a Sinner

Over the weekend, a teacher at my church blew my mind. Allow me to plagiarize him so your mind can be blown too. (It’s okay, he probably read this idea in a book he didn’t write.)

He said when Christ comes back and establishes the new earth, it will not be a “return to Eden” type of situation. Yes, He will wipe out sin, there will be no more pain, etc., but it will be even better than the pre-Fall Eden was.

Why?

Because before the Fall, Adam and Eve were clueless about at least one characteristic of God (and I suspect many more). Without sin in their lives, they were unable to experience God as Redeemer. There was nothing from which He needed to rescue them. All was well.

Not so with us.

Because we’ve committed more sin and experienced more effects of sin than we can quantify, we are perfectly positioned to experience God as Redeemer. And, if we make it to Heaven, we definitely will have experienced God as Redeemer in at least one way: His saving us from the death our sin deserves.

So, when we’re standing there in Heaven, enjoying the complete absence of all things bad and the complete fulfillment of our souls, our memories of our lives on Earth will stand in stark contrast to our experiences in our eternal home. No doubt, our hearts will swell with thankfulness and appreciation of our God, our Redeemer.

I’m taking this idea a step further and saying we don’t have to wait until Heaven to appreciate this aspect of God.

Psalm 130:5 (NIV) reads, “I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Read a couple different translations for different nuances.

“I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word,” (NLT).

“I hoped [for] Jehovah — hoped hath my soul, And for His word I have waited,” (YLT).

The psalmist isn’t hanging out in a hard circumstance, playing Solitaire, flipping through a magazine, waiting for God to do something. No, the writer is hopefully expectant of God, confident God will come through, according to His Word.

In other words, the psalmist believes God is the Redeemer. The writer has read about God acting as Israel’s Redeemer in the past. He’s read about God’s promise to be Israel’s Redeemer in the future. He’s choosing to believe God will come through.

We need to do that, too.

God has redeemed us from hard, broken situations in the past. His Word says He is redeeming us from current painful circumstances right now (Romans 8:28). And He will redeem us in the grandest of fashions when Christ returns (Revelation 21).

Count on the Lord. Hopefully expect the redemption His Word promises you.

 

You’ll Make It

Sometimes when we are in the middle of a storm, all we want is for someone to say, “You’ll make it.  I went through the exact same thing, and I made it.  You’ll make it, too.”

No matter the crisis we are in, that’s what we want to hear.  We want to know that it is possible to survive whatever we’re enduring because there are survivors in our midst.  This knowledge is often the only thing that gives us any hope.

For this kind of hope to work, though, two-fold transparency is a must.

Those who are struggling have to be brave enough to admit out loud that they are at the end of their ropes.  They have to be willing to share the ugly details of their situations with others so those who have survived the same exact thing can know those struggling are in need of encouragement.

On the other hand, you survivors have to be brave enough to admit out loud that you have struggled in the past.  You have to be willing to share the ugly details of your situations with others so those who are struggling the exact same way you did can be encouraged that surviving – and, eventually, even thriving – is entirely possible.

This kind of sharing is good and profitable and biblical (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25).

But even if you don’t have survivors cheering you on right now, if you are a believer, you have something even better.

God says you will make it.

No matter the struggle, though it may be inconceivable to others in your life, it is not inconceivable to Him.  He knew you would face this storm before you were born.  He saw it coming, and He knows every detail of the situation.

And, still, He says, “You will make it.”

He knows how bad it feels, how hopeless it seems, and how impossible Satan has deceived you into thinking it is.

And, still, He says, “You WILL make it.”

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God has plans for believers – good plans.  And He cannot break His promise.  Psalm 33:11 reads, “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Put the two verses together, and you see why God says to us with confidence, “You will make it.”

When you find yourself believing you cannot possibly survive your situation, remember the Lord’s promise to those who love Him.  He has a plan set in stone to prosper you and give you hope.

So hang on.

 

 

 

Certain Hope

Hope.

Or maybe I should say certain hope.

Yes, certain hope – sure, confident, and able to be trusted.  Guaranteed.  Unwavering.  Unconditional. Unparalleled.

This is the kind of hope you and I have access to through Christ Jesus.

Life, in order to be lived without fear, requires this kind of hope.  People, circumstances, religious systems, money, ourselves, beer, art – none of these can provide the surety I’m speaking of.

There is only One.

“I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed,” (Isaiah 49:23).

There is power in this verse.  Those who hope in God will not be disappointed!  That is a guarantee from the lips of the One True God.

If we who hope in God are disappointed, that makes God a liar.  Which goes against His character.  Which He cannot do.

To be clear, believers may be disappointed from time to time.  This verse, however, speaks to the future.  We may be disappointed with circumstances now, but, if we hope in Him, we will not be disappointed…  in the end.

We will find our hoping in Him was not in vain!

He cannot break His promise.

Certain hope.

Hope in the Lord; you will not be disappointed.