Where are you going today? That's a pretty simple question, particularly if you've already checked your calendar for the day. What about this question? What is your assignment from God for today? A little tougher? Some of you will honestly shrug and wonder if I'm going to shed some light on that for you. I can't help but wonder how many want to argue, declaring that God will make it clear to you in the moment. Maybe. But I think we overlook one critical assignment from God. One He issued while Jesus still walked the earth: Noticing others. How well do you do this? Think of your favorite store. Now think of the place you most commonly get groceries. Which drive-through do you drive through maybe a little too often? Got all three places in mind? Great. Now . . .
How many of you have seen one of those homecoming videos of a man (or woman) in uniform surprising their child or mother or another family member? I love them—don't you? They are sweet and joyous, so full of emotion. I giggle and smile and sometimes shed a few tears. I look forward to the homecoming pictures posted by my active duty friends. Everyone who knows them breathes a collective sigh of relief. Another one returned home to us, safe and sound. Things can return to normal for that family. What civilians may not know is that the hours and days after the welcome home photographs may not be so sweet. The reality of homecoming can be very different from other reunions, say when a child returns home on a college break or you travel home to visit family. If you want to support military families, this is what you should know about reintegration.
I'm in a tough season. It's not a season of emergency or heart-wrenching tragedy, but it is a time of higher-than-normal stress. A lot is going on around me. and I have very little control over most of it. I must step back, and I must trust God. While I wait for His timing and His answers, I continue to work on those things He's given me to do. Some days, this is harder than others. ~ How do you thrive when the world around you twirls and swirls? ~ Where do you find the strength to get out of bed when you'd rather throw the covers over your head and hide? ~ How can you lovingly and patiently serve others when you just want someone to put everything around you right again? What would . . . no, what did Jesus do?
What do you do with family? Just the word family contains a lot: a lot of emotion and a lot of history. Some hopes and dreams and wishes. Probably some fears and a few hurts. For some of you, the word brings up considerably more positive reactions than negative ones. Others of you are simply trying to break years of destructive family cycles and build a better foundation for your children to launch from. God designed us to live and grow in families, so it's no surprise that families also encompass many of our most difficult relationships.
How much do you pray? Okay, before anyone gives up on this post or journies into a guilt trip where I don't intend to lead you, let's all admit that we could all pray more. We could (and probably should) seek God more. But that's not my intent in asking the question. Instead, I want to consider the why behind our actual tendency and discipline. Why don't we pray more?
How important is the Bible to you? That's not a trick question. Well, okay. Maybe it is. The Typical Christian Answer Most of us would say the Bible is very important, right? After all, it's God's word to us. His instructions on how to live. The story of our family and heritage. Encouragement for tough circumstances. Inspiration to persevere. Hope for the future. So, back to my original question. How important is the Bible to you? Are you sure?
Most people older than ten have faced some sort of tragedy. Some of us experienced horror younger than that. A car accident or house fire The death of a loved one Parental divorce Abuse, neglect, or abandonment The list of bad things goes on and on. Yet we know that God redeems. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 61:3 that He exchanges beauty for ashes, or as the Contemporary English Version writes, The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. But how do we get from broken hearts to joyous praise?
In my book The Warrior's Bride, I shared quite a bit about the health problems my husband endures. Chronic pain, back issues, migraines, leg cramps, and more are a regular part of our lives. I used to wonder what I was supposed to do with that. Were the physical struggles a test? A character building process? Would God heal him, or lead us to the doctor with the right procedure to make things better? And what does it say about our faith if nothing changes? What does it say about God if things get worse?
A recent conversation among friends on Facebook recently got me thinking. Consider the original question: "How many articles of clothing (not including underwear, workout items, and pajamas) do you think you need? How many do you own? No condemnation...just a question." Does the question make you squirm? Is your closet overflowing? Do you have more than one closet full of clothes? Maybe clothes aren't your thing. Maybe it's jewelry. Or books. Or kitchen gadgets. Or collectible knick knacks. Or trips to the beach or the mountains. The basic question remains the same: How much is enough?
Well-meaning friends. We've all been there: Looking at a friend or acquaintance going through something we don't understand, searching for the right words to say with only pithy sayings coming to mind. God never gives us more than we can handle. When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. Everything has a purpose. As someone who's walked through some heart-wrenching circumstances, can I tell you something? Yes, God can give us more than we handle. No, sometimes He doesn't open a window. And we may never see the purpose this side of heaven, and even then may not like what we discover. But what do we do with that? If we accept that as truth, then what is the proper response to tragedy? What does God want to see?