Friday, June 13, 2014

A GOD Worth Waiting For

“You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

There came a point in my life when I ripped up and threw away all the letters and notes I’d written to my future husband.

I also stopped praying for him.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I would do all this!

There have been over the years (and there are still today) many well-meaning people and books that suggested to young people that they pray for and write letters to their future spouse. Sweet yes, and sure, a great idea, but looking back, I realize it wasn’t the best thing for me at times. First of all, I realized that most of those letters were rather immature and sometimes downright silly (and really, as I looked back at most of them I realized I didn’t actually want my future husband reading them!). They were really more an emotional outlet for me than writing a more serious letter to my future husband! In addition, instead of this pointing me to Christ it was fueling my own dreams for a husband and family (good things though they were) and leading ultimately to what the Bible calls idolatry.

Now I am not writing all this to convince anyone to stop praying for or writing to their future spouse. Actually, I think it’s wonderful if you can do that, and at some point I will probably resume that. But the point I’m making is that even good things with the wrong focus can become sinful. So my question for you, like the one God asked me, is simply where is your focus?

I realized, at least at present for me, that writing letters to my future husband took my focus off of where it should have been – squarely on Jesus Christ. While I had intended to keep my focus on God, I found this letter-writing actually distracting me from Him and focusing my emotions on another person. More than that, I realized I had been writing to the wrong person. It was God that wanted my heart and I was giving it to someone else… unknown and imaginary though he was.

There’s more to it, I’ll be honest with you…. praying for or writing to my future husband often hurts too much. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose long desire has been to be married and it hasn’t happened; nor am I the only one who’s had their hopes raised only to have them dashed to a thousand pieces (maybe more than once?). I heard a pastor speak once about how singleness can be a gift of suffering and I know from experience that is all too true. Many times it’s a trial, a thorn in my flesh. I’ve struggled with being angry, at people, circumstances, even at God; and bitterness has tried hard to gain a foothold. But as I look back I can see that God has graciously allowed me to suffer and withheld a good thing from me because this is what I needed to become more like Christ. I need to learn (again and again) to be satisfied in Him alone. Now I want to clarify that I do NOT think that you’ll stay single until you’ve reached some point of “full surrender” (good news, because we’ll never completely get there!); God uses different means for different people. There are some who will get married young, only to discover that is God’s means to teach them dependence and satisfaction on Him; for others it may be physical sufferings, financial hardship or some other disappointment or trial. Trials (in whatever form they take) are intended to lead us to a deeper dependence on Christ, and thus they are still a gift. Elisabeth Elliot wrote,

“Having now spent more than forty-one years single, I have learned that it is indeed a gift. Not one I would choose. Not one many women would choose. But we do not choose gifts, remember? We are given them by a divine Giver who knows the end from the beginning, and wants above all else to give us the gift of Himself. It is in the sphere  of His circumstances – that we receive Him. It is there and nowhere else that He makes Himself known to us.” 1  

God gives good gifts to His children, but often He will strip us of some good gifts to give us something better. And again, the greatest gift that God could give us is the gift of Himself. He is the greatest treasure, the pearl of great price that we are compelled to sell all we have in order to obtain.

Should I be concerned about what my future spouse thinks about all this? Should I be worried he might be hurt if for awhile I didn’t pray for him or write letters to him? No… because quite honestly, I want to marry a man who is more concerned about my heart being God’s than being his. Instead of focusing primarily on being a good spouse, we should be focusing on growing in our relationship with Christ. A dear friend of mine once wrote, “Dare I say it, I am now so completely captivated by the love of this Heavenly Man, that I want no earthly man until it will only serve to bring my First Love greater glory on this earth!” 2  It is Christ who must have all our heart, our love must be for Him first and foremost. All our desires must be entrusted to Him and we must lay them down continually at His feet. Will it be worth it? Yes, we will have Jesus, and He IS worth it. He is worth every sacrifice, every trial, every tear; and He will bring greater joy, satisfaction and fulfillment than we ever could think possible. May we just keep believing and trusting.

"The enjoyment of [God] is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean."   - Jonathan Edwards

1 Let Me Be A Woman p. 34
2 Annie Wesche, My Soul’s Husband, Set Apart Girl magazine, Sept/Oct 2011.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Reading List! (June 1, 2014)

Finished this month:

How I Know… God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth
This was a great little biography of answered prayer by a missionary’s wife to China at the turn of the 20th century. So inspiring how God saved their lives multiple times, healed people who were sick and supplied “impossible” needs. May we grow in our faith and pray!

“But the wonder is not that God can answer prayer, but that He does….” (p. 114, emphasis hers)

A Treasury of Prayer – the best of E.M. Bounds (edited by Leonard Ravenhill)
If I could use one word to describe this book it would be the word radical. I have been so much more inspired to pray and to persevere in prayer by reading E.M. Bounds… in fact I can’t NOT pray!

 “Prayer is the easiest and the hardest of all things… its results lie outside the range of human possibilities – they are limited only by the omnipotence of God. Few Christians have anything but a vague idea of the power of prayer; fewer still have any experience of that power.” (p. 71)

“Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” (p. 183)

A Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms
This book is not for everyone. If you are open to the fact or already believe that spiritual gifts have not ceased than this is a book you should definitely read. Otherwise, you probably won’t care for it.

As I started 2 online Seminary-level classes this month, I’ve done a lot of reading for them. Here are two that I’ve finished that I think others would also enjoy:

The True Story of the Whole World by Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen
This book is a really neat overview of the whole Bible! If you want to read something that will sum up or give you a good survey of the Bible this would be great! I really loved how the authors show the overarching story of Scripture pointing towards (or back) to Christ as the climax. It’s very easy to read too! There was just their interpretation of 1 verse that I didn’t quite agree with, it was a bit bizarre and surprising (because their theology is all really good), but minor. (If you’re dying to know they mentioned that in Genesis 1:26 God was addressing the “angelic council” which I do not think that is right… I see God addressing the other members of the Trinity). But otherwise, the book is really great!

CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet by Michael Emlet
If you want to know how to better bring Scripture to a discipleship/counseling relationship you have this book will be an excellent help! It actually made me cry at least twice – Scripture really has such power to change people!

“All Scripture invites a response to God. In this sense, all Scripture is practical theology – narrative with a punch!” (p. 51)

Currently Reading:
I’m in the middle of The Lamb is All the Glory by Richard Brooks (a commentary on the book of Revelation)

Additional books I want to finish this month:
As I’m working on some other books (not to mention writing papers!) for classes I don’t know if I’ll have much time to finish another book this month, but this is the one that I want to start next:
Spurgeon on Prayer & Spiritual Warfare by Charles H. Spurgeon