For weeks now, I have been reminded of our weakness and our dependency on Jehovah-Jireh, our Provider.
I know that He loves me with a crazy, unfathomable love that never falters, never dies, never fades away. That love is not dependent on my performance. God loves me because He chose me from before the foundation of the earth, and set His love on me, when there was no good thing in me.
I also know that the just shall live by faith, not by circumstances. Whether there is fruit on the vine, or not; whether there is health in my bones, or not. Whether bills get paid and cheques come in the mail, or not. I am to live by faith, because I have been justified by God's amazing grace.
I've been thankful for the chicken and rice and onions that we had to eat, day after day. I reminded myself of the testimony of young people who served in Peru. My own son said that all they had to eat, every day, was rice and chicken, chicken and rice. The very fact that we had onions was a measure of grace. We had some beans one day, and we had a bit of flax seed so we could make a few focaccia muffins. We were truly blessed, and I was truly grateful.
The week went by last week with our children watching for the mailman, and running to the mailbox to see if the cheque were finally in. So far, it has not arrived. Bills are overdue. It seems we owe everybody and his uncle.
I was okay with that. This world is not my home, I'm just passing through, don't you know? And if God wants to keep me poor, to keep my humble, to keep me dependent while I sojourn here, I'm fine with that. Don't you know that God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith? I serve a good God, One who would never do anything to harm me. I know that all things work together for good to those who love Him. I do. I love this immeasurable, unfathomable God. I know He is good. I also know He's not safe.
He doesn't always spread a feast out before us. Sometimes He leads us on paths that are rocky and painful, that seem never-ending and burdensome.
I wonder what the women thought as they visited the tomb to anoint the Lord's body with spices. They were filled with grief, and did not comprehend the events of the past few days. They'd watch their Lord suffer. They'd gasped at His crucifixion. They may have felt some relief when He finally gave up His spirit, because it was so very hard to watch His excruciating pain. They certainly felt a measure of responsibility to do what must be done, and they headed to the tomb to care for the Lord's body properly.
He wasn't there.
Instead, there were two angels. "Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen as He said. Now go and tell the disciples that He is risen, just as He said!"
The women ran to tell the disciples. They were excited! They likely expected the apostles to immediately rejoice with them!
Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
(Luke 24:10-11 ESV)
Can you imagine? The apostles thought the women were spinning an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
I put myself in their shoes today as I read that chapter in Luke. I'm sure they were weary, exhausted from the experience of witnessing the death of their beloved Lord. They likely didn't sleep much for days.
They may have prayed on the way to the tomb. Likely, they went in faith, believing they were being obedient to the traditions of men and the commandment of God. Seeing the angels brought more confusion, more pain. They didn't understand - we know this because Mary Magdalene went back to the garden later.
Then the final straw: "You women are telling an idle tale. We don't believe it."
I don't know how they felt, but I imagine they were devastated.
Satan is a real adversary, and he knows where we're weak.
Mary stood weeping. Then Grace appeared.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”Jesus said her name, "Mary," and she KNEW. At that moment, all of the hurt and all of the pain disappeared, for she was with the Lord.
This week, the final straw for me came in the form of a toothache. Not just one tooth, but the entire left side of my face, top and bottom, is aching and paining and hurting.
We've been living by faith, plodding along, trying to remain full of grace and faith, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that our Beautiful God will send relief in His good time. I was okay with having no cream for my coffee. I was okay when the coffee ran out, and the freezer was empty, and the cupboards were bare - except for some chicken (Thank God we raise our own chickens every summer!). I reminded my children of Habakkuk's words in chapter three:
Habakkuk Rejoices in the Lord Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.(Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)
I truly was rejoicing, like Habakkuk, and creatively making do with what we had. This quote from C.T. Studd resonates in my soul:
“Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands.” ~ C. T. Studd
Satan likely wasn't too happy with my walking by faith. I imagine Satan saying to God, "Yeah, she's faithful when it comes to financial pressures - but what if I give her more pain? She'll deny you for sure!"
I am well acquainted with daily pain from the head-on collision I experienced five years ago. I have suffered more in the past few weeks as my broken arm heals. I use the pain to remind myself that heaven will be gloriously pain-free.
But now, a toothache?
I hear Him saying, "Janet." My heart melts within me, and I know that He plans to prosper me, and not to harm me. He plans to give me a future and a hope. He is aware of my pain, and He is able to remove it, or leave it there for my good.
So I say, paraphrasing C.T. Studd:
“Pain is here again, hallelujah! That means God trusts me and is willing to leave His reputation in my hands. It means that He knows that I am maturing in faith and growing in grace, able to bear my toothache and resolving to cast all my cares on Him. I know He cares for me. I know He loves me unceasingly.”What about you? Are you bearing your trials by faith? Do you allow the circumstances of life to wear you down? Do you allow the misunderstanding of others or the damaging of your reputation to cause you to lash out in anger?
Or do you bow to His will?
Some day, you will hear His voice. "Well done, good and faithful servant."
I can't wait!