My Own Understanding

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a word game app called Wordscapes. The levels consist of a crossword grid at the top of the screen and a circle of letters (between 5 and 7, so far) at the bottom. The object of the game is to create words out of the letters within the circle and earn points and coins toward future games. I’ll confess—I’m hooked!

The game is an excellent exercise for the brain and acts as a refresher course for both spelling and vocabulary. As a writer, it’s perfect for me. Once I introduced it to Jason, he was equally intrigued. It’s now become one of our favorite things to do in our quiet time together.

My biggest problem with the game is that I lean on my own understanding. I get an idea in my mind of what I think a word is, and when it doesn’t work, I get frustrated. I see a five-letter word and falsely assume it must end in the letter “e.” Why do I think that? I don’t know, but once I do, I can’t seem to make myself explore other options.

The other thing that trips me up is when words begin with vowels. I’ll go through every combination of letters I can think of to figure out the next word, but in my attempts, I neglect to try words that begin with a vowel. I’m getting better about keeping this in mind, but it’s still a struggle.

I do the same thing in life. I get ideas of how I think things should be, and when they don’t work out the way I expect, I fall apart. I make plans, but I do not allow God to lead, so I act in my own understanding, and things become stressful and messy. I’ve learned with my word game that things go much smoother if I don’t have any preconceived notions. If I relax and enjoy the game, it’s actually enjoyable, not frustrating. However, if I try to force things to be the way I expect, I’m headed for disappointment.

I’m learning the same thing in my life, but it seems to be a slow process. I know my spiritual walk will be smoother if I allow God to direct my steps instead of taking the lead myself, but putting that knowledge into action is difficult for me. The planner in me wants to know what’s coming. The control freak in me desires to see things done her own way. And the worrier in me seems to think she knows what’s best. But the warrior in me knows the truth.

God knows our tendency to try to control things and to act in our own strength. I believe that’s why Proverbs 3:5-6 are in the Bible. They serve as our reminder that the puzzle of life is much more enjoyable if we leave the pieces in His hands and trust Him to guide us along the way. He has all the answers. He knows every bend in the road and what’s around every corner. He sees the beginning from the end and cherishes every chance to show us how much He loves us.

It’s time for us to let go of the illusion of control. We don’t know what the future holds, and we would be better off if we didn’t manipulate things to work in our favor. Yes, friends, we need to let God be God. He’s much better at solving puzzles than we will ever be.  

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

Faith as a Characteristic of Love

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1

Faith.  The very foundation of salvation and an integral part of love.  Let’s face it; it’s difficult to love someone when we don’t trust that person or feel we can’t count on them.  Doubt leads to bitterness, resentment, and other hard feels while faith leads to love, understanding, and joy.  Isn’t it amazing how much these characteristics of love intertwine with one another?

In the love chapter, we see two descriptions that specifically point to faith.  One of them we’ve already linked with another characteristic, but as we’ve already seen through the course of this study, several of them could fall under different categories.  Let’s examine the two statements about how love and faith are connected.

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
— I Corinthians 13:7

If we zero in on the middle of the verse, we’ll see faith in action.  It believes and hopes all things.  Not just some things.  It isn’t limited to things we understand or circumstances we desire.  No, "all things" literally means all things: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In the nasty now and now, it’s easy to lose faith.  For example, after countless visits to the chiropractor, my joints refuse to stabilize.  My latest attempt at strength training (in hopes of building up enough strength in the muscle to protect and secure the joints) resulted in severe back trauma that is still giving me fits.  This, of course, put me in the place where I wasn’t able to exercise, and so the cycle began again.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve repeated this process, yet healing still seems so very far away.  When the masseuse at the chiropractor commented in horror about the knots in my shoulders and neck, I nearly broke into tears.  

Yes, it’s easy to lose faith.  Many times, I’ve given in to the false idea that things will never change.  I’ll never get better.  If anything, things will only continue to get worse.  Isn’t that what happens with age?  Goodbye, hope.  Goodbye, peace.  Goodbye, joy.  Hello, depression and despair.  (The comical song from the old show Hee-Haw just ran through my mind—“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.  Gloom, despair, and agony on me.”  That sums up what my attitude is like when I turn my back on faith and choose hopelessness instead.

Hopelessness has never helped anyone.  It merely serves as a breeding ground for discontentment, discouragement, and defeat.  But faith, ah, faith can move mountains.  Faith not only believes God can but also acts like He will.  It trusts facts over feelings.  Faith refuses to give up or give in.  Why?  Because of love.

I love God enough to trust He can heal me.  I love Jason too much to give up on myself and allow myself to wallow in self-pity for the rest of my days.  And I love myself enough to keep on keeping on.  Is it difficult?  Gracious, yes!  Are there times I falter?  More times than I can count.  But here’s the blessing of all blessings—God loves me too much to give up on me.  He knows what I’m capable of.  He knows the blessings He has in store for me.  And He loves me enough that He encourages me to keep going, to keep believing, to hold fast to hope. 

Believe me, my friend, He’ll do the same for you! 

No One Understands God's Ways

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As I was putting the finishing touches on my lesson for the ladies’ meeting I’m scheduled to speak at on Saturday, I felt the Lord nudging my heart in a different direction. For months, I had prepared for a topic on expectations, based—I thought—on the Lord’s leading. But in the early morning hours one day last week, I knew, without a doubt, that the Lord had other plans. As I accepted His will, fearful of having to scrap all the work I had done and begin again, God kindly laid out the entire lesson in my head. Concerned I would forget what He was telling me, I hurried to my office and typed out notes as quickly as my fingers could go. Thus, a lesson on expectations is now a detailed account of the calling of Gideon. (Does anyone else notice the irony in this change of events? Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!)

Though the last-minute change caused me some temporary uneasiness, I can’t say I’m upset. I love the story of Gideon. He’s another one of those characters in the Bible with whom I can totally relate. He longed to trust God, but when things didn’t look right, his faith wavered, and he questioned the Lord of all. Oh, boy, do I get that! 

Is it just me, or do God’s ways often seem crazy? I’m not being disrespectful here. God’s way is always best. I know that. I believe it. But at the moment of hardship, they don’t always seem that way. They appear extreme, sometimes even ludicrous. Like asking Gideon to lead an army of 300 rag-tag soldiers against an army of 135,000 blood-thirsty soldiers. Seriously? And to top it off, the battle plan didn’t even involve weapons. Nope, instead, it revolved around lamps and trumpets. Sure, because that’s every warrior’s weapon of choice, right?

God’s ways—though always perfect—don’t always make sense to us. Why? Because they are higher than our ways. Our minds can’t even begin to comprehend what God has planned for our lives, and that’s not a bad thing as long as we respond in the same way Gideon did. Even when he didn’t understand (or agree), he obeyed. Though he was afraid and couldn’t necessarily trace God’s hand, he trusted His heart. And repeatedly, God proved Himself faithful.

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
— I Corinthians 2:11

No one knows the things of God. No one completely understands His ways. They are past finding out, and that’s okay. We need not understand to obey. We don’t have to see the whole plan. We need to trust the One who does. Gideon did, and his faith led to a great victory. Will we follow His example?