Tag Archives: trusting God

Perspective


My dear friend Harumi is from Japan. I met her thirteen years ago at our church in Rhode Island and I have always been inspired by her faith.

As soon as I heard about the earthquake/tsunami last month, I immediately contacted her to inquire about her family. Thankfully, all were safe and sound.

Earlier this week, she forwarded me the online diary of a faithful Japanese pastor who lived and led his congregation in the town of Fukushima, which is also the home of the troubled Fukushima  nuclear power plant.

He wrote that “…all the residents were forced to evacuate and my church members had to get on a bus without any belongings (and were) sent to schools and gyms separately…I heard that there were not enough blankets for everyone and some couldn’t sleep all night because it was cold in the shelter. In some shelters, no water or food were distributed all day.”

Imagine having to leave your home for an unknown destination in the middle of a catastrophe with only the clothes on your back.

He continues, “…my biggest prayer request is that there would be no more radiation leaks. The worst possible scenario would be that people would never be able to go back to their town and homes, and that the church would be closed down…I have no idea for how long church members have to wander being unable to go home…I feel depressed just to think about it. However, I do believe and confess that almighty God and the Lord of history who reigns  over everything including nature WILL open a new page of mission and lead us on.”

Now imagine the possibility that you could never return to your home. Everything has been left behind, never to be seen again.

I love the honesty of this pastor. He doesn’t try to paint this in a positive light. It hurts and he is depressed at the new reality that he and his congregation are dealing with.

YET…after acknowledging the pain, he calls to mind the only source of his hope and help: Almighty God who is in control of all…even this.

God is always ready to “open a new page”…even in the most devastating of seasons. He is the Author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and He is writing a story with your life. As Beth Moore states in her study on Esther: “When we trust our lives to the hand and pen of an unseen but ever-present God, He will write our lives into His Story and every last one of them will turn out to be a great read. With a grand ending. And not just in spite of those catastrophes. Often because of them. Don’t just wait and see. Live and see.”–p.14

Eventually, the pastor and some members of his congregation were able to travel to another shelter 10 hours away from their homes.

He writes, “…Our nomad life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they’re wearing.”

What if all you had was what you were wearing?

“Nothing is clear to us. Will we be able to go back home?  If so, how long will it take? Will we ever be able to worship in our church again or will the town simply be abandoned? Like the Israelites in the desert, all we can do is follow God as He leads us with pillars of fire and clouds.”

He then quotes Psalm 121:

I life up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and Earth

He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber

Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand

The sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night

The LORD will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life

The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

The most miraculous thing to me is that I never get asked questions like, ‘Why did God allow this?’ or ‘I can’t believe in God; there is no God.’ From the 160 (church) members I have been in touch with, all I hear are words like, ‘God is great. I want to trust Him as I walk with Him from now on.’ I marvel at the strength of their faith in the Lord. Yesterday, three of those who were with us prayed to receive Jesus. Hallelujah!”

The pastor and members from the congregation then drove through a blizzard further south to church facilities: “The facilities here are blanketed with snow. In extremely cold weather, church members welcomed us with hot udon and soba. I ate a rice ball, trying not to cry. ‘Lord, make our hearts as white as the snow that surrounds us.'”

“Are we going to be a diaspora people? Are we going to lead a stable life? What is obvious is that God is shaking everything through these extraordinary events. Some people are receiving the Lord Jesus without question. Others are repenting saying their belief in God was dormant. They say that what sustains us as human beings is actually very little. We don’t really need any material possessions. The Lord challenges each one, shaking them from the bottom of their souls. Is this a beginning of an Exodus into a new frontier that the Lord is opening for us?”

“People around me say they left home thinking they would only be gone an hour or two. They literally have nothing with them…Our group of 50 is kept well by kind donations. Many of us are tired…Yesterday I felt numb. My heart ached. Two or three layers of loss suddenly engulfed me. My home was gone, so was my church. I was driven from my town. My ministry is gone. I can’t see what is going to happen next. I am trying to grasp the whole thing but find myself unable to.”

“We had a worship service yesterday, the first in two weeks….I cried…it seems that if you have to cry, you should do it without embarrassment. I will cry 50 years worth or a lifetime worth of tears.”

He closes his journal by quoting Isaiah 42:3: A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out and a final prayer: “May the Great Shepherd embrace this flock and carry them on His wings.”

THIS is what real faith in Jesus Christ looks like.

It is messy.

It is real.

It blazes with triumphant joy, even in the darkness.

It simply refuses to let go of the Savior who never lets go of us… regardless of circumstances.

This is not pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. This is not ‘religion’. This is a living, vibrant, passionate relationship with God- in- the- flesh, JESUS.

It is because of the risen Christ that we can look straight into the face of unimaginable disaster and heartache on this fallen planet… and through tears and questions and pain…STAND.

This is life reduced to its barest essence.

True life has nothing to do with our possessions…or how much money we have in the bank…or our job…or our looks…or our awards.

True life is found only in Jesus Christ…the Creator and Sustainer of all. (Colossians 1:15-17).

We can lose every single thing we have on this earth and still possess the same radiant, gritty, enduring faith as this dear pastor… because we can never lose Jesus! (Hebrews 13:5). This broken world is not our home. When we  leave this earth, we don’t take any of our possessions with us. The best this world has to offer are mere trinkets in light of our glorious eternity in Heaven.

HE is our Treasure.

And as this pastor and his congregation so beautifully prove: HE. IS. ENOUGH.



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Detours


The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.”–Unknown

I am a classic Type A personality: first-born,  honor roll student, list-maker extraordinnaire, etc. I set and achieve goals. I am driven. I must have a plan!

I spent most of my life resisting detours of any kind, until I realized how futile that is…because like it or not, detours are part of life.

We can either fight against them or we can allow them to work for us.

I can still remember one particular detour that took place when I was 16 years old. Our family was making our annual summer pilgrimage from Pittsburgh, PA to Myrtle Beach, SC, where my uncle Duane had a vacation home. I had had my driver’s license for a few months and was always looking for a chance to get behind the wheel. Probably against his better judgment, my dad agreed to let me drive part of the way down. He and my mom promptly fell asleep and I took the opportunity to push a cassette  into the sound system (yes, this was the 80s, long before the invention of CDs!) so I could enjoy some musical accompaniment as I whizzed along the highway. An hour and a  half later, I was still going strong, so happy to be helping out with the long drive.

Until my dad awoke from his nap and happened to notice the signs along the highway.

They all said north.

After all that driving, we were only about 45 minutes from our home in Pennsylvania. It turns out that there was a fork in the highway and I had taken the wrong one.

I always did have a terrible sense of direction.

I comforted myself by theorizing that I had probably saved us from being in a terrible accident that may have awaited us on the southbound part of the highway. Of course, I contemplated this from the back seat, where I was banished for the remainder of the trip.

Each detour presents us with a fork in the road:  we can view this interruption of our plans with anger, bitterness, irritation, disappointment, fear or acceptance, anticipation, a willingness to experience something new, and peace and trust in our good God.

Of course, detours vary in degree.

When I graduated from college, I was convinced that I had aced a particular job interview and was poised on the edge of a great career. However, I wasn’t offered that job and the path I had planned to travel was suddenly closed.

To this day, I am grateful for that detour. Since I didn’t get that job, I went to work for another company…and met my husband. Without that detour, this moment in time would never have  happened:

(Please note that in 1992, big poofy shoulders and enormous head pieces were all the rage for brides). 🙂

Of course, some detours hurt deeply: a health crisis, job loss, financial struggles, a major move when you would loved to have stayed put; the unexpected death of a loved one. I have experienced all of those.

Yet, each one of those detours turned out to be a blessing in disguise:

*They forged steel into my soul and fire into my heart. I’m tougher than I thought I was. I am a survivor.

*They allowed me to meet wonderful people that I would never have known otherwise…some have become my very closest friends.

*They have made me long for that great heavenly day when I will finally see my Savior’s beautiful face and He will wipe away every tear from my eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4)

*They have challenged me to live by the truth of God’s Word rather than allowing my feelings  and my limited vision to dominate.

*They have caused me to truly treasure the good times. Those moments are all the sweeter for having endured the hard ones.

*They have forced me to live within today’s parameters, focusing on the here now. And even in the hardest of times, blessings still abound…if we have eyes to see them.

I am currently on a  God-appointed detour, so this is all fresh to me. I thought I would share some steps that have helped me along the way. If you are experiencing a detour, please think about the following:

1) Remember that God knows the path that you take. (Job 23:10). That includes the detours. He knows all there is to know about you (Psalm 139). You have not slipped through the cracks.

2)He hears your cries and has compassion on you. (Psalm 37:14; Psalm 18:6-7; Psalm 145:8). In fact, we are told that He is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)

3) He can ONLY do good to you. (Jeremiah 32:40). During a detour—especially if it is a painful one—you must always remember the comforting and reassuring promise of Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope.”

4). There is a purpose for the detour. Nothing is random. (Proverbs 19:21; Romans 8:28).

5) He will guide you every step of the way. (Psalm 23:3; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 73:24).

6) You are never alone (even if you sometimes feel that way). (Matthew 28:20).

7) Remember that you are not able to see the big picture…but you can trust God’s sovereign and good purposes. (Isaiah 55:5-9; Romans 8:28).

8) God does not make mistakes. (Deuteronomy 32:4).

9) Remember that every detour has an end. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). His timing is perfect. This season will not last forever even if it feels that way. So…

10) With that in mind, enjoy the scenery while on the detour. (Psalm 118:24). It may seem that there is nothing to enjoy, especially when life is hard. Life can be brutal, no doubt about it. But our beautiful God delights in giving us gifts (James 1:17) and they can be found, even in the hard places. I know that from experience.

“This day will never come again and anyone who fails to eat and drink and taste and smell it will never have it offered to him again in all eternity.”—Hermann Hesse

He has made everything beautiful in its time.—Ecclesiastes 3:11

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