This week has been encouraging.
Yep. Seriously. Unexpectedly encouraging actually.
Because these last few weeks, I’d kind of settled into the seemingly-inevitable ‘life feels a bit hard right now’ scenario where my prayers were small and my expectation was low.
Just being honest.
Which is why I find God’s complete-inability to leave me in that place so completely merciful, and so completely, well, God. He is the restorer or perspective and hope and joy. Man, real, deep, unexplainable-yet-so-completely-tangible-joy.
A couple of my friends from Japan had emailed some prayers through last week which had picked up on this old-sounding-sadness in the way I was communicating. They had prayed that I would think heavenly thoughts and not give way to discouragement. They had prayed some really good things. And this week as I have continued to just press into the reality of knowing God and His Presence, things have shifted. Not the physical reality, but my perspective. Maybe not in the ways I would have wanted, but in the ways God knows best. It’s been a bit of a throwback to a time where I so desperately needed hope, and I used to get up early, and sit at my piano, and praise… Until I knew I was singing the truth and believing it. Every day. That’s how I would begin. And sometimes it would take 10 minutes, and sometimes it would take 2 hours… To just sing and keep on singing the Truth over and over. That even though the reality was dark, He was Light.
Because, as that great Jon Thurlow song sings out (which is on his new album that you should ALL buy right NOW btw ;)), you realise that when everything else gets taken away, only love remains. His love. Jesus’ love. Which is the truest and deepest and most wonderful love.
I’ve been thinking about the words I so often sing out in worship. Bold words about wanting a heart that is fully in love with Jesus. About wanting Him to have His will in my life. About facing brokenness for the sake of love. But here’s the thing. How do those words that it can be so easy to speak or sing out become the literal reality of our daily lives? What are we really willing to give? What about when it’s so deeply painful to praise? When a sacrifice of a broken heart costs you everything? How do you know it’s real?
Because I really believe that what He wants from me, is a heart that is fully in love. And I desperately just want a heart that is fully in love with Him. Fully. Completely. I desperately do.
But what does that look like when everything else is shaken? If love without expression is dead, then how do I love Him and trust Him and know that He is good when I’m facing rejection and heartbreak and suffering? How do you praise Him in abuse? How do you praise Him through divorce? How do you praise Him in disappointment? How do you praise Him in the feelings of heaviness of your own failure?
Well, I don’t have a magic-wand with all the answers. But I am learning, more and more, that I can always trust Him. Always. Even when I don’t understand His ways.
And I can trust that He knows what it takes to sanctify me. Completely.
He knows what it takes for us to keep this conversation going. Because He’s interested in my affection. He wants my whole heart. And I could sit back and say, ‘It’s ok God, I’ve got this now. I’ll keep coming to You and talking to You, if You just let things go my way for a bit’. But He knows the reality. And He’s more interested in the journey and the conversation than He is in me seeing everything I want… right… now. I was praying this morning, just talking to Him, just enjoying the conversation, and He said to me, ‘Is it all not worth it? To be able to talk to me? To be able to know me? To know my redemption?’ That’s a perspective shifting question.
Ever sit back and think, ‘Wow. I never thought life would turn out like this?’ Yep. Me too.
And I’m learning that that’s ok. Because in His ways, redemption is greater than perfection. I am learning that the Light is brighter after the deepest darkness. I am learning that the love is stronger after it has been tested in the fire of affliction. We sing those words don’t we? ‘I cry out for fire’? For the fire of the Holy Spirit to come however He wants to and to use whatever He wants to…?
Yep. I really think we need to think about these things before we sing them! Because the fire hurts sometimes. It ruins us for everything but Him. But at the same time, it is beautiful. Because it keeps us in a place of humility and vulnerability and total reliance on God. It keeps us softhearted and repentant. It tunes us out of the distraction, and opens our eyes to Him. And every one of us will walk our own valleys and it will look different… But we will all be faced with the choice in the valley… Of whether we cry out for fire.
Ok, I’m rambling today… So, I need to try and claw this back to where I started.
Encouragement. Surprising encouragement.
There have been a few things actually.
I found out something yesterday which really freed me in a whole new way. Just in the revelation of truth, and the letting-go-to-let-God-deal-with-it-reality. Sometimes He knows best the timings that can really bring you into freedom. And I don’t need to shout the detail from the rooftops, but in my heart, the Truth has set me free. I was driving yesterday and worshipping and I just started laughing in the reality that everything God had spoken was… right. All along. There’s a freedom in that which can’t be shaken.
I then received some references back this morning for one of the scholarships I’m applying for. And seriously, if you’re having a tough week, getting some brilliant references that tell you all the good parts of your personality are a pretty good way to begin a Thursday morning. I love my job. I really do. And I completely love the people I work with. But it’s wonderful when God uses the people He has placed in your life to just lift you and affirm who you are (I actually posted one of these letters on my instagram, but I’m not going to put it out in the public arena! Haha!)
Finally, this week I’ve been contacted by three language schools in Japan about going to work for them in the new term next year. I have three separate phone calls to three separate schools tomorrow about this. Now, I’m not sure if any of them are right, and I would REALLY value your prayers. I know that being a student myself for the first few months in Japan is vital, and I’ve got a Masters dissertation to try and nail down too… But one of these contacts in particular is a pretty God-insidence story which I’m praying into (I’ll save that for next week!)
So… that’s me. Joy really does come with the morning. I’ve seen the sunrise.