Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Practicing Presence

When I chose "grace" and "courage" as my words for 2013, I could not anticipate how much I would need to rely on them. In the first three months of 2013, John and I have been faced with trials and doubt, and yet I keep hearing the whisper that God is gracious and merciful and that He strengthens me with courage. 

Without going into details (yet with his permission to share), John has been battling health issues for the past several months, making it an especially trying time for us as the doctors have not yet diagnosed what is wrong. Through sleepless nights and agony, we have been asking God for answers and healing. 

As a wife, it has been difficult for me to stay strong and not let anxieties and worries take over. We had to make the difficult decision as a couple to postpone our trip to Uganda this month. Although we were extremely saddened to let Ronald, our Compassion International sponsored child, know we could not visit him - yet, it was the right decision. And hopefully we will be able to reschedule our trip later this year (...and thankfully those 5 painful vaccines we got will last for a couple of years!). 

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons that we are learning right now is giving everything up to God. After making the courageous decision to go to Uganda and then experiencing God's peace, now He is telling us to wait. I was so conflicted over why we felt led to go only to have to postpone the trip a few weeks later. I so desire control - over my calendar, our plans, our hopes for the future - yet I am learning that all of my confidence needs to be placed in God.

On Sunday, some friends visited us and brought as delicious, homemade chicken tortilla soup. It was so refreshing to visit with them, and during our conversation, they mentioned that they were reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. I'd read this book from the seventeenth century in high school, so after they left I picked it up again and read through my highlights. 

Passages of challenging encouragement continued jumping out at me:
"He sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then... Ask of God, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of Him, all that He should please, and as long as He shall please. Such prayers, indeed, are a little hard to nature, but most acceptable to God, and sweet to those that love Him. Love sweetens pains; and when one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage... Comfort yourself with Him, who is the only Physician of all our maladies. He is the Father of the afflicted, always ready to help. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine. Love Him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere." 
Yes, indeed, these prayers are hard. Yet, I've seen that "God is often (in some sense) nearer to us and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health." 

And so, John and I continue to count our gratitudes in our journal, thanking God for the wonderful blessings that we have in each other, our family, friends, work, neighborhood, church, city...

I'll finish with a passage from Charles Spurgeon that my father-in-law sent to us, based on Isaiah 48:10:
"Comfort thyself, tried believer, with this thought: God saith, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Does not the word come like a soft shower, assuaging the fury of the flame? Yea, is it not an asbestos armour, against which the heat hath no power? Let affliction come—God has chosen me. ...Sickness, thou mayst intrude, but I have a balsam ready—God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that He has "chosen" me." 

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