From Mistake to Miracle

God excels at turning.png

Last night, I began reading The Magnolia Story, the bestseller written by HGTV’s favorite couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Though I didn’t get very far into the book, I know it will be a fun read.

The first chapter detailed how the fabulous family began their show business career. It turns out, neither of them had ever thought of being—nor desired to be—on television. But when a producer from HGTV contacted Joanna and conveyed her interest in creating a show based on the Gaines’ house-flipping business, Joanna was intrigued. Chip, on the other hand, felt sure it was a scam and encouraged his wife to let it go.

Meanwhile, Chip purchased a houseboat, sight unseen, for the family to live in during the transition from their existing home to the completion of their new farmhouse. He was so excited, but he kept his purchase a secret, waiting to surprise Joanna when the houseboat arrived.

Fortunately, Joanna didn’t heed Chip’s advice, and she contacted HGTV, who sent out a film crew to shoot footage for an advertisement for the new show. It was only after the team arrived that Chip and Joanna both discovered they were horrible on camera. Chip completely froze up, and Joanna came across dull and flat. Despite their attempts to be natural, both of them lost their charming personalities as soon as the cameras began rolling.

Things were so bad that the leader of the film crew told them if they didn’t get their act together, there would be no show. They had one more day to prove they could do this. It just “happened” to be the same day the new houseboat arrived. The crew followed the Gaines’ to the unveiling of Chip’s secret, and once he removed Joanna’s blindfold, both suddenly forgot about the cameras. Chip was ecstatic. Joanna was irate.

As the two explored their new purchase, they discovered it was full of holes and mold. The thing was a complete disaster, and Chip realized he was the one who had been scammed. When Joanna recognized how badly her husband was hurting, she softened her frustration and sought to encourage him by saying maybe they could fix it up. They walked through the boat again as she discussed changes that could turn the mess into a masterpiece, then she sketched out some plans on a piece of paper, growing more excited with every stroke.

As they exited the houseboat, hand in hand, they finally noticed the camera crew and realized they had just blown their chance to become television stars. No one would want to watch a crazy couple argue over a husband’s impulse buy. Imagine their surprise when the head of the crew said, “Now we’ve got a show!” Once their true personalities showed forth, the cameras captured a loving couple who faced an obstacle together and triumphed with love and understanding. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? And so, the popular show, Fixer Upper, was born.

Do you know what I love most about this story? Their “big break” began with a mistake. A scam. A decision made in haste. A situation that could have destroyed a marriage or led to financial ruin. But God had other plans, and He used the mistake to work a miracle. He allowed the hardship so He could lead them on another path, one that would impact millions of people in the years to follow. True to His Word, He gave this faithful couple something far beyond what they could ask or think.

God can do the same for you and me. He excels in turning messes into masterpieces. He is the original Fixer Upper, and He has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. What we need to understand is sometimes that plan involves ugly and unwanted elements (like a leaky houseboat), but God often uses those things as a springboard for the miracles in our lives. So, don’t despair. Your story isn’t over yet. In fact, it may just be getting to the good part. Hang in there, and trust the One with the plan.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
— Ephesians 3:20-21

Nothing Can Separate Us From God's Love

 Photo by  Eric Ward  on  Unsplash

Isn't it amazing how Satan can fill our minds with thoughts of both worthlessness and pride? Sometimes, he comes to us whispering how good we are and that we don't need to depend on anyone but ourselves. He fills our minds with powerful thoughts of pride, fame, and self-sufficiency, similar to the way he dealt with Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tells us we're fine on our own, and sadly, many times we believe him. 

Ironically, he is also the source of the worthlessness we often feel. He is the one who comes to us and tells us no one cares. He convinces us we're all alone and the reason for that loneliness is that we're unlovable. He parades our faults and failures before us as a reminder of how lowly we truly are. He persuades us that God, no matter how good and kind, could not possibly love us after all we've done. According to him, we're on our own. 

Well, which is it? It can't be both ways. We can't be too good and too bad at the same time. We must recognize this ploy for what it is—lies from the father of all lies. Think about it, what could be better for Satan than a proud or discouraged Christian? It's an attack. Nothing more. Nothing less. The question is, are we ready for it? When he comes knocking on our door, are we too distracted to notice the subtle darts he's firing at us? 

Here’s the truth: we need God. We’ve already discussed the fact that without Him, we can do nothing. We weren’t good enough to save ourselves from hell, and we’re not strong enough (on our own) to get ourselves through this life. We need God! We were never designed to walk through this life alone.

Sadly, we make many mistakes along the way. That’s part of living in a fallen world. We should strive to live a life that’s pleasing to God, but this flesh makes it nearly impossible. That being said, there is nothing we could ever do to make God love us any more or any less. His love is perfect, and we are never separated from it. When we mess up, we should confess our sin to God and renew a right relationship with Him, but we also need to remember that our failings don’t make us failures. Yes, we make mistakes, but God knew we would, and He still felt we were worth dying for.

We’re not perfect, but neither are we worthless. Whatever lies Satan throws at you today, throw them back and say, "I am loved, and nothing will ever change that!“ 

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39 

God Urges Us To Be Careful For Nothing

Five Steps to Peace_-2.png

As I leaned into Jason’s sweet embrace, he commented, “I can feel the muscles in the back of your neck twitching. That’s nothing but stress.”

He wasn’t being cruel or argumentative. He was making a point. I need to learn to relax. The terrible thing was I didn’t even realize I was stressed at the moment. Sure, there’s been a lot on my plate lately, but I thought I was handling it all pretty well with the Lord’s help. But when Jason pointed out my stressed-out muscles, I realized I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was. While I was functioning and completing my tasks, my thoughts were still full of anxiety. At that point, I did what I usually do when I realize I’m stressed out—I started stressing about my stress!

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
— Philippians 4:6

The word “careful” in this verse means “anxious.” So, God is telling us, “Be anxious for nothing. Don’t fret about anything. Don’t stress. Don’t worry.” Does anyone else find this extremely difficult?  

I often read that verse and say, “But Lord, you don’t understand. I have so much to do, and time is running out. I don’t feel as well as I could, and that’s slowing me down even more. Oh, and I thought I had enough money in the bank to pay that bill, but it turns out I didn’t, and now the bank account is overdrawn. And. . .”

Sound familiar? There’s just a couple of problems with my well-meaning (and heartfelt) excuses. First off, God does understand. We made that clear yesterday. Nothing is hidden from Him, including the source(s) of our anxiety. He gets it, probably even better than we do. But also, if we’ll look at our key verse one more time, we’ll see it doesn’t matter what our circumstances are. Be careful for NOTHING. Or let’s turn it around and say, “Don’t be anxious about anything!” Don’t be anxious about your to-do list. Don’t fret about your health. Don’t worry about money. Don’t stress about anything.

That’s a tall order! In my warped thinking, if I don’t stress over it, it won’t get done. But the truth is, stressing has never helped anyone. Anxiety only robs us of sleep, our health, and eventually our sanity. No, worry isn’t the answer. So, what is? When life feels overwhelming, and we can’t figure out if we’re coming or going, how can we remain calm and peaceful? Fortunately, God tells us in the same verse and the verses that follow.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
— Philippians 4:6-9

Scofield calls this "the secret of the peace of God." According to the above passage, here's how we can stop stressing and live peacefully no matter our circumstances:

1. Don't worry

2. Take it to God in prayer

3. Be thankful

4. Think positive

5. Consistently do what we’ve learned

Instead of being anxious, we need to take the situation to God and leave it there. We can then be thankful for such a loving, caring Father who bears our burdens, and we can trust that He will work all things for our good and His glory. After that, we do what we know to do and stop stressing about what we don’t know. And we repeat that process over and over again.

I won’t tell you it will be easy, especially at first. But it is possible. And the more we practice this plan for peace, the easier it will become. Imagine if this five-step formula was our first response to a crisis instead of our last. How much happier and calmer would we be? Let’s find out!