Last night I started reading The Strength of Mercy by Jan Beazely. I found it so compelling that I couldn't put it down until I'd finished the book. It is one family's testimony of adopting a child from Romania and even, to their surprise, starting an adoption agency.
But the happy ending in this book is not what not what encouraged me most. It was the story of one woman, one family, struggling and wrestling to pursue God's will and to trust him wholeheartedly, despite painful circumstances; intermingled with the powerful words of comfort that the Lord sent from Scripture, really stirred my spirit and encouraged my heart.
In particular one sentence from the introduction really caught my heart. "This book is a testimony to God's faithfulness and to the strength of His mercy even just for one child.... May His mercy move your heart and take you further than you ever thought possible."
Even just for one. It is so easy to feel overlooked and forgotten by God, but he cares for each person individually and will work his plan. As I, and every other person on planet earth can attest, his plans often cause us pain and difficulty, yes, even death. But he never ceases caring for his people. He never forgets us.
Here is a selection of other words that leapt out at me during my reading last night:
"The LORD Almighty has sworn,
'Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will stand.'"
Isaiah 14 :24
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him..."
"These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."
The fact that God is our heavenly Father means so much more to me now that I have a son. I hate so much to discipline him, but I know it is my responsibility to train and nurture him, setting the safe boundaries by which he can grow into a healthy adult. I do cause him pain and suffering, but truly only with his good in mind. But he can't understand. Not yet. So he just has to trust me and obey, and one day it will be clear to him. I thank God for the overwhelming love he gives us for our children, because this is a taste of how much he loves us. He delights in me, more than I delight in Iain, the son of my longing, the son of my tears and struggles, the joy of my heart. I love to bless my son, and I rejoice over him with singing. God loves you that way too. He does. Don't forget it. Trust him.
"Just like Abraham, who tried to produce an heir before God's hand moved in supernatural blessing on Sarah's womb, most of us have tried at one time or another to manipulate God's will to make it fit out time frame, our desires, and our purposes. This manipulation can be so subtle that we may not realize what we've done until it is too late. Then we find our flesh has given birth to an Ishmael. " p. 57
That passage fits me like an pair of jeans. I am daily driven by my impatience to try to push things along a little quicker, to get on with it, get over it. But we learn so much in waiting on God. In our time in England we marveled at the general good behavior of dogs. They are welcome on buses and trains, and allowed to run off-leash in parks. They aren't allowed in shops though. I can't tell you how many times I saw dogs sitting patiently waiting outside stores, completely free and untied, just looking into the shop for their master. I never saw any amount of temptation move them, not the length of time, the multitude of other people walking past, enticing aromas, or other dogs. I remain amazed at their patient obedience. It seems a strange model to take for oneself, but how I need to be more like those dogs!
Today is Sunday, of course, and Brian and I were both powerfully moved by the service today. The entire order of worship resonanted deep in our hearts, nearly every piece already embued with meaning from past lessons. What a blessing it is when God speaks so powerfully and clearly and you feel the Spirit burning inside.
The Text for Reflection and Preparation:
"And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." Genesis 45:5
or as Joseph later says to his brothers :
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive". Gen 50:20
The Opening Prayer:
Open our eyes, O God, to Your presence and action in our day, that we may see how you are active in preserving life and providing salvation in the midst of the worls'd violence and rebellion, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Call to Worship:
Elder: Praise the Lord!
People: Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
but to Your name give glory
because of your lovingkindness,
because of Your truth.
Or as, Brian and I have sung in the past:
Non nobis, Domine, Domine, non nobis, Domine
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
This song features prominently in the film version of Henry V, which is deeply significant to us. If you are interested to know why, you can read Brian's article about Henry V here.
Then we sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (who can stay dry-eyed for that one?) and In Christ Alone, a song that will always remind me of the struggles and joys we experienced in the UK.
And then after the confession of sin, Shelton Woods preached this sermon about Joseph. (Choose the January 4th sermon.)
All of this adds up to an overwhelming word of comfort from the Lord as we have recently been thinking, talking, and praying about buying a house here in Boise or pursuing an adoption, and have been praying for several other people in our lives that are hurting, especially in this same area of infertility. He see us. He knows us. He has a plan, and nothing is impossible with him. We may go through pain and suffering and defeat and failure in 2009. Everything that we trust in other than the Lord may come tumbling down, but I, with Paul say:
"I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord". Romans 8:38-39