Proverbs 3:5-12 (MSG)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.
Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of approval! The reminder of this was not as glorious as the fact that in just a couple of months we will celebrate one year of remission with our son. When I realized it had been that long all I could do was sigh, it was indeed a huge victory after months of praying, begging, pleading, calling, crying and many other emotions. I had never experienced such rejection in my life. We were desperate. Our son was in trouble. Yet we hit road block after road block. It did not make sense that the insurance company, executive boards, human resources and hospital administration could turn a blind eye to a dying kid and look at their bank accounts but that is exactly what they did. Our son had been through four rounds of cancer treatment and in the midst of the battle for coverage would relapse again. My faith in God was all that I had left. It was kept my heart beating in the midst of it all. When I read this translation of Proverbs 3 today, it stuck with me – “Trust God from the bottom of your heart…”
The bottom of our heart must be that place when every other pretense about our relationship with God fails and we are forced to rely on what we know about Him not what we can do. It is the place where there is nothing left to hold our heart together so it seems forever broken. The place where hope is the only positive thing we see and faith is totally reliant on what we know about God because the world gives us not an ounce of confidence anymore. It is in that place that we are changed for the better even though it seems we are at our worst. Weakness is not failure to God but an invitation for His Strength and Power to take over. We must be emptied to be full. The bottom of our heart is covered by everything the world has to offer, but when it is gone what will we do?
“Listen for God’s Voice in everything you do, everywhere you go…” Athletes find the bottom of their heart in their sport. That very thing that drives them to be better and do more. Those who desire a professional career will hire the most experienced and best coaches in the world to train and discipline them for greatness. Great physical ability and raw talent will only take you so far in such a place. At some point, the heart and mind must be conditioned and disciplined not to give up but press in when the mountain seems too high or finish line too far. I remember many nights at the gym on the elliptical when I closed my eyes and pictured my feet cross country running up a mountain. I could feel my body protesting as I planted my feet in the gravel and dirt producing a cloud with each pounding step. I would not give up. I could not give up. The price of failure was too high. I was going to make it to the top dragging my child with me if necessary. On those days, working out was more for the endurance of my mind rather than physical upkeep of my body. With each dire diagnosis, I had to press in to the Word God gave me the night this horrible ordeal began… “Your son will live and not die.” It seemed easy that first night compared to the day that I received the final rejection with no other option to be found. See this is when we have to trust God’s Will and His Word without really knowing His Way. Not every outcome is the same, but what is crazy to me is the believer produced in them all.
As I reflect on the past it is with great satisfaction, yes our son received his treatment. He is now cancer-free and in remission. He has resumed his life as a college student. Though he bears the marks of a warrior in his heart, on the outside he is just an ordinary kid pursing his future. That’s God. The change in our heart and mind after such an ordeal is lingering, but not as one might think. God uses these desperate times to get to the bottom of our heart and change us from the inside out. It is a difficult process that requires commitment but maybe if we looked deeper we might find that what we are experiencing is not what it seems at all. Trusting God is primary for our faith to be effective so that we actually believe in the confident hope we have in His Love. Superficial, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately love will not do. God’s Love for us is unfailing. It is constant. It is perfect. He will not settle than anything less than His Best for us.
Psalm 86:11-16 (MSG)
Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear. From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord; I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to. You’ve always been great toward me—what love! You snatched me from the brink of disaster! God, these bullies have reared their heads! A gang of thugs is after me— and they don’t care a thing about you. But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit. So look me in the eye and show kindness, give your servant the strength to go on, save your dear, dear child!
Train me God to walk straight then I’ll follow your true path…” Oh I get it – God just is bullying us into submission so we will be obedient children. Not at all. My husband and I both came from humble beginnings. Today as I look at our life, I am so thankful for the faithfulness of God as He has given us a beautiful home for our children in a nice neighborhood with many blessings that we never imagined possible. All Glory to God because I am not sure how we would have pulled it off. However, our kids don’t see it that way because it is all that they have every known and often take it for granted. We require our children to do chores. They must keep their room and bathroom cleaned up. Put up dirty dishes. Maintain what the Lord has given us and be a good steward of their blessings. So when the opportunity comes to stay with friends whose parents do not require the same – they jump on it. They are constantly complaining about our house rules and discipline. They would rather stay in a rundown house with unkempt yard and filthy abode than bring their friends to our house. Why? They do not like the rules. Welcome to our sinful nature at its best. We do not like rules and regulations that govern our life. Our kids are constantly comparing our standards and the practices of other parents and letting us know exactly how they feel, but they are our children so other peoples “rules” do not apply to them because their father and I are ultimately responsible for their care.
God is our Father. He is not like an earthly father because God is Perfect. His Way is flawless. He is constantly disciplining and training us for overwhelming victory not just giving us enough grace to get by. That’s not what grace is all about. Grace covers our inability to be perfect and allows us to have the victory and all its blessings despite our sin. Our hard hearts and stubborn spirits want to compromise and live in the comfort of complacency. It is the midst of desperation that we discover less than His Best just will not do. We find that the void left in our life left by walking any other way but in fellowship with God just will not do. We want more of Him when the pressures and pain of life empty us of all the superficial substitutions and things get real. When we cannot fix the problem or end the pain. It’s not because God inflicted it upon us but rather is trying to rescue us from us. We like our way even though His Way is better. We mix our words but His Word remains true. We have a strong will but His Will always prevails. When we walk in agreement with God, it empties us of self. In this broken state, God sees the bottom of our heart and we love Him with all that we have left.
Psalm 119:57-64 (MSG)
Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say. I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised. When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed. I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders. The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out— but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me. I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning! I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you, of those committed to living by your rules. Your love, God, fills the earth! Train me to live by your counsel.
After raising three children to adulthood and two following close behind, I can definitely without reservation share with you that I absolutely loathe the whole process of parenting from the ages of 11 to 15. Not my favorite by a long shot, I know my precious babies are hidden in their somewhere and will once again emerge but Lord, help me! We have a 15-year-old who is slowly coming out of this phase, but a 12-year-old who is fully engaged. There are days they are lovable and peaceful children. But on those days when the hormones kick in and their mouths go into overdrive, I am forced to my knees not to hurt them. There is nothing sweeter when they begin to reclaim common sense and resemble those kids we love and adore. Or when they reach adulthood and unknowingly turn into you without even realizing it. There is nothing better when your kids are happy and healthy individuals living out God’s Purpose. I love having adult children who do not require constant care so now I can just enjoy them. The training and discipline is over except for occasional advice or opinion. I am satisfied with the wonderful adults that God has made them. We can enjoy our relationship now as we walk together through life without resistance.
God is gracious to His Children. As we mature in our walk with the Lord, there are no longer childish bouts of rebellion and obstinacies as we have decided that His Will, Way and Word are the best for us. We long for God to just smile on us in approval to feel the peace and joy that comes from living in agreement with the Lord. Just as we want our own kids to have the best and be the best, it can only be upstaged by a perfect God with unfailing love and overflowing grace. When I think back to those days of fighting for our son to have the transplant proving so beneficial, I remember towards the end thinking God this cannot fail if I love him this much how much more you love Him. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the constant denial when I knew in my heart this was God’s Plan. When I finally had to stop fighting exhausting all my own efforts, I put my head down on my desk and cried out to God from the bottom of my heart. The next day the call came that without expectation or explanation the transplant was a go. I began to ask the nurse how… why … what changed… she said she had no idea and was not about to ask just let’s get this show on the road. God loves us. Sometimes He has to get through our thick skull, calloused heart and overworking mind to get His Point across! He wants only the best for us!
Hebrews 12:4-11 (MSG)
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
Trusting the Lord comes from the bottom our heart when the rest of us has been poured out. I know sounds difficult and it is. Faith is hard but totally worth it. You cannot give up but must press on even if God is pressing you out of the way. A year later, I am changed. My whole mentality about life has changed for the better. I believe because when I got to the end of me, I found satisfaction in Him. The Lord trains us for overwhelming victory not just to get by. We are not designed to be survivors but thrivers. To wrap our head around how God sees us means we have to walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes it feels like we are on a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon as we inch ourselves farther and farther with the wind whipping and cord swinging. God is training us to live His Holy Best. Discipline is never fun. Training requires pressing beyond our own limits for more. You cannot give up even when your heart feels empty – that’s a good thing. When you reach the bottom of your heart, the Lord will fill you with His Love. It’s a sweet love even though in the midst of process it seems hard and unyielding. Let me ask you this…if your child wanted to touch a rattlesnake would you let him? What if she want to dart through rush hour traffic blindfolded? Would you allow it? There are things that I have allowed my children to do rather than fight with them about it. Nothing detrimental but rather because they just needed to learn from their experience. I am an imperfect person as well as parent so I have made many mistakes with my children sometimes giving in and indulging them. But to a perfect God for you to reach for anything less than His Best is as detrimental as touching a deadly snake risking a bite. Allowing us to go our own way is just as dangerous as rushing a busy intersection with crazy traffic. We do not understand such perfect love although we are wrapped up and consumed in it. What an awesome God we serve who wants only the best for us! Lord teach to me to want only the best you have to offer and never settle for anything less!
Proverbs 8:32-36 (MSG)
“So, my dear friends, listen carefully; those who embrace these my ways are most blessed. Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don’t squander your precious life. Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work. When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God’s good pleasure. But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul; when you reject me, you’re flirting with death.”