Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my book Living in the Shadow of Death: Learning to Thrive through Tragedy and Uncertainty. If you want to learn more about this book, scroll down or click here. If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.
Have you heard of bummer lambs? CommonSenseAgriculture.com says, “A bummer lamb is one that is raised entirely or partially away from a mother.” The author explains that sometimes the mother dies. Occasionally, a ewe will have multiple kids but not be able to produce enough milk, so she will chase one away.
A good shepherd sees these abandoned ones and takes them in. He feeds the baby from a bottle, allowing it to live indoors if the weather is adverse. When the lamb is strong enough to return to the flock, they thrive without ever forgetting the time with their shepherd.
Which leads us to a very important lesson about showcasing God’s glory.
The First to Respond
The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands. ~
“When the shepherd calls to the flock, guess who run to him first? The bummer lambs! Why? Because they know his voice best, and they have been held close to his heart. It’s not that he loves them more; it’s just that they’ve been broken enough to let that love in.” (God Loves Broken People, page 15).
Can you relate to bummer lambs? Do you feel neglected or pushed away? Listen to the blessing in Isaiah 40:11. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”
Bummer lambs know heartbreak, but they learn the shepherd’s love in a way that regular sheep never experience. This is why brokenness is a gift, offered to us from our loving Heavenly Father.
Our Response Is Everything
We need to venture into painful territory if we want to find our way back to full health. Are you ready? I’m going to ask a sensitive, possibly offensive question. Did you cause your own pain? Without knowing the details of your situation, I’d guess that at least some of what you’re dealing with is your own fault. Give me a minute to explain.
If you read the pieces of my story that I shared earlier in this series, you probably saw moments where I instigated nothing yet suffered anyway.
In the big scope of life, pain’s origination is only part of the problem. If I caused it, then I can fix it, but ultimately, something else is even more important. One lesson I drilled into my children is that their response matters. Every time. Whether I own a piece of the original problem or not, the moment I respond poorly, I further my own pain. Even if I did nothing else wrong. Oh, we don’t like to admit that. But let me tell you this: Accepting that is good news.
If I am responsible, then I maintain control.
I can enact positive solutions over a negative mess! Think about it. If I was part of the problem to begin with, I can talk with God, figure out the issues I need to deal with, ask forgiveness from those I hurt, then grab Jesus’s hand, walk through my hurt, extend forgiveness and grace, and move on.
But the process isn’t dramatically different if someone else’s poor choices hurt me. If I confess I grabbed hold of resentment or unforgiveness, then I can turn to Jesus and ask for help from those debilitating diseases that keep me trapped, unproductive, and in pain. I grasp His hand, walk through the hurt, extend forgiveness and grace, and move on!
That’s not to dismiss the pain that must be dealt with when someone else harms me, but the end result is up to me! I can either sit in the mess, growing more embittered and toxic to those around me, or I can get to work on a solution that heals from the inside out.
Used for God’s glory.
More than that, though, when we choose the hard path toward complete healing, we become someone usable for God’s glory. Christine Caine wrote in Undaunted, “God deliberately chooses imperfect vessels — those who have been wounded, those with physical or emotional limitations. Then he prepares them to serve and sends them out with their weakness still in evidence, so that his strength can be made perfect in that weakness.”
Job didn’t enjoy the loss of wealth, the death of his children, or his disease. Joseph didn’t enjoy being carted off to Egypt, sold into slavery, or his time in prison. But those wounds showcased God’s glory and provision in a way that neither man could display before their tragedies.
Showcasing God’s Glory
Perhaps that hits you wrong, like God is a bully who dispenses turmoil so He can play savior. This circles back to previous devotions on God’s goodness, precisely why I wanted to broach God’s character before I talked about our emotional response to all that’s happening in and around us. We must cement ourselves in the truth.
“As commentator William Barclay has written, ‘Suffering … may well drive a man to bitterness and despair; and may well take away such faith as he has. But if it is accepted in the trusting certainty that a father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear, then out of suffering come things which the easy way may never bring.’ God wants to bring rare, unexpected treasures out of your days of suffering, things that the easy way simply cannot bring.” (God Loves Broken People, page 106)
What God thinks about us should tint every aspect of our lives. We can’t dissect one part of who God is from any other part. He is both love and mercy. He is holy and just and sovereign. All that God is works together, perfectly aligned, seamlessly in tandem, as He deals with us. And, like it or not, our grand purpose is to showcase God’s glory.
Our voices, our service, and our abilities are to be employed, primarily, for the glory of God. ~
Read Isaiah 43:1-7 and gain encouragement. When disaster threatens, God sees you, walks with you, and protects you. You are loved by the One who created you. And when He calls you home, not only will nothing stand in your way, but He will instruct the forces of nature to aid in your return to Him.
These are not the words of a selfish God concerned only with showcasing His glory. This is a passionate God, focused on caring for His people and showing that love to the world.
This is an excerpt from my book Living in the Shadow of Death. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead, or you can purchase the book on Amazon (other retailers coming soon!).
Does God have a purpose for the turmoil or tragedy you are experiencing? Does a good God allow loss and send pain? How can that lurking feeling of dread for tomorrow be part of abundant life with Christ?
Grief hits us unexpectedly. A job loss, a failed relationship, a health crisis, an unexpected move, a rebellious teen, and other difficult circumstances force themselves upon us, demanding our attention. Fear, insecurity, and loneliness intimidate us into quiet submission and attempt to dictate our choices.
But what if we could shove them out our front door?
With loving concern and unyielding devotion for those facing a loss they never imagined, Carrie opens up her heart to reveal the biblical truths she’s learned through the heart-wrenching turbulence in her own life. She answers questions many Christians struggle with but dare not admit:
- Is God really good?
- Does the presence of pain and loss cancel out the abundant life promised to us?
- How can we follow God when life seems to only bring heartache?
- Is He even trustworthy?
If these are your questions, take heart! Within these pages, Carrie shares some of her very unchristian-like doubts and how she developed an intense faith and abiding trust even while Living in the Shadow of Death.
If you want to dig deeper into this book, you can also buy the journal featuring quotes from the book (links of the Book Page). Also, on the Freebies Page you’ll find a small group study guide and a leader’s guide!