Monday, June 7, 2010

My treasure in jars of clay

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

I have noticed over time, that part of the great mercy of God is that He doesn't show us all of our weaknesses all at once but one at a time. During the past months, a struggle I have had in my faith has been pressed upon my heart over and over and over - fear of loss. There are some things in life that mean more to us than anything.....more than life itself. For me, that has been my husband and children. I've always had what some may consider to be a strange prayer.......that I would never, ever be separated from my Jason....that we would be together until our very last breaths deep into our old age....and that we might die in our sleep, if the Lord didn't come first.

Many may consider this silly, a childish hope of a weak and simple faith...unrealistic perhaps....unlikely. My great grandmother, whom I never met, found herself facing the loss of her dear husband of many years as he had cancer. She prayed fervently that God would take her too, because she didn't want to live without her husband. And, you know? He did. As his cancer was in the final stages, they were headed to the hospital - perhaps for the last time and were both killed in a car accident on the way there. In a way, this is tragic. It was a tragic, beautiful love story. It is something I have clung to my whole life. I didn't know I would have this great fear until I met my Jason nearly 14 years ago, but as our relationship progressed, I grew more and more fearful of losing him someday. It was a thought I couldn't bear and so began my prayer to God.

Over time, this prayer has come to encompass my children too, and of course - their children as well. I have begun to fear tragedy or loss of any sort in my life. In 2006, I nearly lost Jason when he broke his back in a mountain biking accident. I can still hear the neurosurgeon telling me he hadn't ever seen anything like it and that it was a miracle that he wasn't paralyzed, and had he not been wearing a full face helmet, he likely would have been killed. However, here we are....Jason is healthy and well, having run a marathon and become father to two more beautiful children since then.

However, all around me I see tragedy, I witness despair in the lives of those I know and love. My friend lost her 4 month baby girl to SIDS, another to a rare heart defect; one of my very best friends lost her mother to dear friend Julie died unexpectedly at the age of 34, leaving behind 4 young children and a husband....a 9 year old boy died of leukemia after a 2 year battle....a healthy husband and father dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

My heart soul cries out. Why God? Why? And, what's more....who am I that you would honor my prayer when all of these people suffer such tragedy in their lives? You love them no less than me. During their sufferings though, I have seen such great evidence of your presence. I have seen your strong hand upholding them. I see your faithfulness to your children to get them through. It is clear.

Yet, I become paralyzed with fear. I want to cling to my loved ones with every ounce of strength I have. I want to wrap them up and protect them. I want to hold them in the palm of my hand and not let go - ever. I AM AFRAID. GOD HELP ME. If the sheer force of my love and hope and prayer could determine anything......I would have the strength to move mountains. No earthly power could overcome me.

And yet.....the gentle voice of my Father calls to me. "Take my hand. Trust me. They are my children and I love them. You are my child and I love you. Open your tightly clenched fist and place them in My hands. Allow Me to move freely in your life. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me."

Ah, Father....that I could trust and obey! You see? I so fear that me taking that step to trust will require me giving up those things which I hold most dear. I fear that my very biggest fear will be what needs to be tested and I don't want to be tested. I am not strong enough. I can't bear it. I know you say that you are sufficient, but I can't wrap my mind around that. I'm even afraid to reach out my hand and ask for help lest you need to prove it to me. I can barely write through the stream of tears blurring my vision. My soul is anguished.

Each night, I pray over my sleeping children and husband - I lay my hands on their little foreheads and watch them sleep. I touch their little noses and say, "God bless you, dear bug." They are beautiful.....healthy.....whole....spiritually, mentally, and physically. It seems my life is perfect in all the ways that really matter and in my own limited, human perspective, it can only get worse from here. How could it be any better than what I have? And, people are always saying...."Trouble happens to us all" and "If you're not experiencing trials now, then you will". Everyone has trials. Everyone dies sometime.

Pam, a dear family friend and a wonderful mentor to me, has experienced more tragedy than most could fathom. She has lost two husbands, her brother, and most recently her adult daughter, and my friend, Julie. She recently wrote me an e-mail that once again reminded me that God hears my pain, that he knows my hurts, and that He wants to help me. She wrote:

"During my time of just waiting in God’s presence, you came to mind regarding both your eye appointment and the Jensen family. Reading Steve and Vicki’s poignant emails has been emotional for me, both for what they are going through and because of my memories of the final days and weeks of Jim’s life.

I don’t know how to convey in an email what is on my heart that I desire to share with you. I wish we could get together over a long lunch and talk, but alas distance—and the fact that you are a busy wife and mom—prohibit that. So I am just going to write a few thoughts, share a couple of Scriptures and pray that God will do the work in your heart. After all, He is God and He is more than capable.

Knowing how deeply you love your family—your immediate family, including your parents—and just a bit about the fears that you have regarding losing any of them (even though we know that any separation in this life is only temporary), I somehow want to communicate to you how much God longs for your security to be firmly established in Him. He wants that to be in your heart. You have it in your head. That is apparent in how you write about the Jensen family and your admiration for what they are going through. You see them facing one of the hardest things parents must go through with a confidence and trust that can only come from the presence of God. That is giving you great hope that God will see you through anything. And yes, He will. But He wants you to know that on a heart level as well. Because then and only then will you be able to face the challenges of each day with an assurance that “God is enough”. And that God can be trusted.

God is trustworthy and therefore without reservation we can pray, “thy will be done in my life”. You and I both know this is not a one-time prayer, but one that
we must reaffirm each day. We are not to worry about the tomorrows. They have enough trouble. Every morning, God wants us to run to Him, believing that He is “more than enough” for whatever that day holds.

The heart of what I want to communicate with you is something that I heard Andy Stanley say in a series from last year called, “He’s Still Got the Whole World in His Hands.” In part two of that three-part series, he shared an insight in Philippians 4:4-7 that was revelatory to me. So often we tell people not to worry but to pray with thanksgiving and God’s peace will come. Andy pointed out something really interesting about a word that often gets overlooked, the word “present”. We won’t break through to “peace” until we’ve come to God with what our deep needs and requests are. Begin with the topic (your eye appointment, Jason’s job etc) but don’t stop there. What are you really praying for? What are the deep needs/fears that are really represented. Those are what we must present to God in order to get lasting peace. When I pray for finances, am I really praying just about the money to pay the bills—or does it go beyond the worry that I won’t have enough money to pay the bills to a fear that no one will take care of me. When I desire to pray “not my will but yours” but feel I’m holding back a little part of me, I need to pray until I get to the real need. Do I really trust God? Or if I pray that way, He might require someone or something that I can’t imagine living without. Is a man’s prayer about a job just about the job—or the need to have respect among his peers. The examples are endless, but my timer just went off, so I need to get ready for an appointment.

I will close with a couple of Scriptures and the encouragement to you that I experientially know that God is enough to see me through each trial that comes. I know that—and yet I am still learning it (a lesson I will likely keep learning every day of my life). I have a few of those underlying needs and fears of my own, that God is helping me learn to present to Him—and to pray until the peace comes.

I love you Annie—and God loves you so much more. Come to Him in honesty. Ask Him to reveal what is underlying every fear and concern you have—and then pray until the peace comes. Because it will. Because God is faithful. Because God is trustworthy.

Psalm 62:8 Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! AMP

Isaiah 54:10 For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you. AMP "

Heavenly Father,
Please help me to be able to believe these words in my deepest heart. Help me to trust matter what. I wish I could say I have hands open to you....that I fully trust you with my heart. I want to, but I am so afraid.

God, I tentatively lay these treasures before you, but know that I'm still holding on. I know that in the big picture, my tiny little grip doesn't have too much to do with the outcome of anything. However, the heart of this wife and mother just can't seem to let go yet. I know your arms are a safer and better place than my weak hands. I'm trying to believe this in my heart. Please be patient with me.

I am a jar of clay, weak and chipped...easily broken.

Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping.
Psalm 39:12

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3

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