A Prize Worth Hiking For: Three Lessons on Endurance

I had never hiked a 14er before. It was something that I had wanted to do for a while, but was hesitant because of the almost guaranteed altitude sickness that I get every time I visit Colorado.

Simply driving through Rocky Mountain National Park requires a lot of endurance for me, much less hiking up one of those rocky mountains.

There were several times that I was convinced I might not make it; that the challenge was simply too much for me to handle; and the fear of suddenly getting lightheaded or sick always being a nearby probability.

Yet, in the weeks following our hike (yes, I did make it to the summit!), there have been so many lessons that I have gleaned from that experience that have encouraged me greatly in the faith. As I’ve unpacked those lessons and worked through the truths about God’s character and promises that somehow seemed more clear at 14,000 feet, my desire to share what God has been teaching me continues to grow.

three lessons on endurance

How do we press on when the path we’re on is rocky, steep, and difficult, with no end in sight?

LISTEN TO THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

In climbing a mountain, as it is with faith, one of the many graces that the Lord gives us is the wisdom and experiences of others, which is intended to both encourage us to keep going and turn us towards repentance when necessary.

In the early stages of our hike, the excitement must have gotten to my head, as I sped along the trail and took to it at a rather brisk pace. It was a moderate trail at this point, which made it even more tantalizing to move quickly.

However, my husband, who had experience with hiking 14ers, told me that I needed to slow down and follow his pace. I didn’t really want to, and I didn’t for quite a while, until regret that I could feel in my lungs and legs caused me to humbly change my approach.

My husband and I enjoying a new adventure together.

Several hours later, as I labored up the steepest part of the mountain, barely able to keep up with my husband’s steady pace, I let out a groan as the false summit ahead revealed more steep, rocky trail. “Oh my gosh, it’s never ending,” I said to no one in particular.

But just as I made my discouragement known, a stranger on his way back down the mountain graciously encouraged me to keep going. “It’s so close,” he said. “Keep going, you won’t regret it!”

God intentionally and mercifully surrounds us with people who are intended to aid in our sanctification process. We see this in relationships like marriage, our families, church communities, and work environments. All are on purpose and all are put in our lives as sources of encouragement, conviction, wisdom, and strength.

As we faithfully listen to those whom God has granted much wisdom through trial and experience, we are encouraged to endure in one of two ways: 1) by throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (like my pride and ignorance); and 2) by fixing our eyes on Jesus (the summit) and running with perseverance the race marked out for us.

PRAY.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12, NIV

One thing that my husband encouraged me to do as we prepared for this hike was to talk. He told me that especially when the hike becomes difficult and when the aches and pains of the body consume our thoughts, the best thing to do is to talk; to get the mind to focus on something else.

What the mind focuses on either aids in or quickly deteriorates our ability to endure. If you think about how heavy and sluggish your legs feel, they will only feel that way that much more because you’re focused on it. The same thing is true in life and faith.

With so many internal and external circumstances that vie for our attention and demand our focus, we can quickly feel overwhelmed by and consumed with feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, and doubt if we allow ourselves to focus on them. The only way to get our thoughts off of how we feel is to talk about what we know.

Praying for safety and strength before the hike.

God has granted us the most beautiful form of communication and union with Him through prayer. We have direct access to the God of Creation; to our Savior and Redeemer, who promises to be close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18, NIV).

When the difficult circumstances of life tempt us to put our heads down and go into survival mode, we must remember that Jesus Christ, His saving grace and promises are our greatest means of survival. When we remain faithful in prayer, the roots of endurance grow deep as our hearts and minds focus on what is true rather than on what we feel.

KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly…you have come to God…to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…

Hebrews 12:22-24

From the trail head 3.5 miles away and 2,719 feet below, the summit stood in plain sight. And if you looked close enough, you could see the trail going up the side of the mountain, giving the illusion that this hike wouldn’t be too difficult.

Starting the 3.5 miles hike to the summit, an elevation gain of 2,719 feet.

A couple hours later, I discovered that the closer I got to the summit, the less obvious the designated path to the top was, the more switchbacks there were, and the less visible the final destination became.

Disrupted by several false summits, my ability to see where I was going was limited. And with no end in sight (literally!), even the simplest parts of the trail became difficult with discouragement and aimlessness.

There are so many times that we go through seasons like this in life and faith; when our plans don’t work out as we wanted and we’re back to square one; when it feels like we’re turning back to repeated lessons and old temptations; when our vision becomes presently preoccupied with the difficult trail under foot and less focused on eternity.

If I have learned anything from this hike, it is the importance of knowing where you are going. This doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t focus on the mile markers along the way and celebrate and rest when we get to them. It doesn’t even mean we can’t pause, look back, and enjoy the view from which we came.

Stopping along the way to rest and enjoy the view.

These mile markers and breathtaking views are placed in our life by the loving hand of God to be indicators of His blessing; of His guidance, delight, and protection over our lives. However, even as we enjoy the beauty of His blessings along the way, we must never forget the true summit for which we are enduring.

Eternity with God, the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord, is the heavenly summit that we press on towards. Bearing in mind the coming glory of Mount Zion; the city of the living God where thousands upon thousands of angels assemble; where the spirits of our brothers and sisters are made perfect; and the place where Jesus our mediator dwells in victory is the greatest source of endurance we have.

When we know where we are going and how glorious the view will be, we’ll endure many hardships, trials, and sufferings to get there, because we know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed…(Romans 8:18, NIV).

Justice for All: Mercy in Light of Justice

Robert F. Kennedy once said that “the glory of justice and the majesty of law are created not just by the Constitution, nor by the courts, nor by the officers of the law, nor by the lawyer, but by the men and women who constitute our society; who are the protectors of the law as they themselves are protected by the law.”

My family loves to discuss politics around the dinner table, and despite their different opinions, there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on and that’s the necessity for justice.

While I’m not as quick to debate politics, I do enjoy a good theological discussion, in which justice is rarely mentioned. It wasn’t until I read Jen Wilkin’s book – In His Image – that the concept of justice suddenly became a vital piece of my Biblical understanding.

“Administer true justice” says the Lord Almighty, “showing mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:8-9, NIV).

So what is true justice? Robert F. Kennedy wasn’t too far off. It’s not the Constitution, the court system, or those who defend it, but to show mercy and compassion to one another. It is brothers and sisters in Christ who are themselves protected by justice that administer true justice to others by extending mercy and compassion.

It is brothers and sisters in Christ who are themselves protected by justice that administer true justice to others by extending mercy and compassion.

protected by the law

When we think about the law from an American viewpoint, we know that it is intended to protect U.S. citizens, their rights, and their freedoms.

However, when we consider the Law from a Biblical standpoint, it can be easy to think only of a holy ark carrying two stone tablets and shrouded in a solemn tent. Or perhaps we think of the earliest books of the Bible filled with confusing rules and an angry God ruthlessly raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah for not following those rules (Genesis 19, NIV).

If we are not careful, wrong ideas about God’s justice can leave us feeling vulnerable rather than protected by it.

Just as the justice system of the United States is intended to protect those who abide by it, so too is God’s law and justice meant to protect those who are found in Christ; onto whom mercy and justice are imparted daily.

Rarely do we associate mercy and justice, though they are impeccably inseparable. If grace and mercy are sisters, then justice is their big brother (political pun intended ūüôā ).

According to the Bible, true justice would require death as payment for our sins, “for the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23, NIV). Justice according to a holy God is the complete eradication of all sin. Why? Because His “eyes are too pure to look on evil; he cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV).

This leaves us asking the same question as Habakkuk – “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous” (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV)?

Why is evil so rampant? Around us and in us? We know the wickedness of our own hearts and we know what the cost of our sin is. So why mercy? Why not fire and brimstone?

Mercy instead of and justice

“Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws” (Psalm 119:156, NIV).

Justice is getting what you deserve while mercy is not getting what you deserve. It’s not that justice was set aside so that we could receive mercy, for that would tarnish the perfect and holy character of God. And we know by the fact that our hearts are beating that we have indeed received mercy. So what’s the deal?

According to God’s law, death is the just punishment for sin. As believers, we know that there was one Death that bore the weight of all sin; the death of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

Without the just punishment for sin that Christ bore on our behalf we would rightly be held accountable for our sins. However, because Jesus received with perfect humility the just punishment for our sin, mercy extended on a daily basis is now an act of perfect justice.

In being flawlessly just, God righteously extends mercy towards us rather than justice not in an act of disregarding the need for justice, but rather in an act of remembering that justice was served wholly and completely on the cross.

This does not mean that we will never face physical death, but rather that we have been reprieved of a spiritual death and eternal separation from God because Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin in our place, which is good news and something that I’m sure we all think of often and find easy to recall when we are face-to-face with our sin. God’s mercy is a comforting reality in light of sin, as it should be.

We have been reprieved of a spiritual death and eternal separation from God because Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin in our place.

Justice on the other hand can sometimes feel like a prickly cactus; not as comforting to hold onto when faced with our depravity, but just as important.

When I experienced crippling anxiety a couple of years ago, I remember truly believing that I was being punished for my sin. Now yes, anxiety due to loving something or someone more than God was a likely consequence for idolatry, but it was not God justly punishing me for my sin.

We make three very critical mistakes when we believe that something negative in our lives, be it anxiety, depression, a loss, etc. is God’s just punishment for our sin…

  1. We grossly diminish the absolute holiness and righteousness of God by believing that the difficulty we are experiencing is the full weight and extent of His righteousness and justice;
  2. We severely belittle the costliness of our sin and wretchedness; and
  3. We sadly neglect the mercy of Christ and dismiss the justice served in entirety on the cross.

Though the consequences of our sin or simply the depraved and broken nature of this world are difficult and painful to deal with, consider the horror of Sodom and Gomorrah as white hot fire and brimstone rained down from heaven as punishment for their sin (Genesis 19, NIV).

That is what the perfect justice of a holy God looks like in response to sin; the complete destruction of sin and wickedness. So when we believe that the consequences of our sin are the full extent of God’s justice and punishment, we seriously diminish His holiness and purity.

Perfect justice has already been served on the cross in whole and therefore to remain a holy, perfect, and impartial God; unchanging and righteous, He remains faithful and just in that because One died for all, all have died and are therefore found in Christ; protected under His great mercy, which is daily imparted on us as an act of perfect justice.

justice for all

What is true justice then? That we show mercy and compassion to one another. Because we have received that which we do not deserve (the assurance of present grace and future glory in Christ), we are compelled to a) stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves (Matthew 7:12, Matthew 25:35-45, James 1:27) in an act of justice, and b) release the wrong done against us by trusting that it was dealt with rightly on the cross (1 Peter 3:18, NIV). This releases us from the need to avenge ourselves (Romans 12:19, NIV) and instead compels us to extend that which we also received when we did not deserve it (Titus 3:4-6, NIV).

We have the assurance of present grace and future glory in Christ!

And how is this done? By first taking God’s righteous justice seriously and in that, recognizing that it was fully served and wholly satisfied on the cross, against Christ on our behalf, so that we could receive mercy.

We are able to act justly toward others with mercy and compassion by reminding ourselves that “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-6, NIV).

We realize that God’s mercy and justice place us all on the same, even ground at the foot of the cross which bears all justice and mercy in perfect unity; righteously administered now and forevermore, that we may be free from the punishment of our sins to “act justly and love mercy, walking humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

A Writer for the Writer of the Word

Could we with ink the ocean fill¬† //¬† and were the skies of parchment made¬† //¬† Were every stalk on earth a quill¬† //¬† and every man a scribe by trade¬† //¬† To write the love of God would drain the ocean dry¬† //¬† Nor could the scroll contain the whole¬† //¬† though stretched from sky to sky. (Frederick M. Lehman, “The Love of God,” 1917)

It’s no secret that I would love to be an author someday.

My passion for writing has grown over the last couple of years and one of my greatest joys is now sitting down with a cup of tea and my computer, notebook, and Bible and getting lost in a literary adventure.

I’ve acquired quite a list of inspiration too, all the way from authors way before my time to authors and writers contemporary to this day and age.

They are my heroes!

One such hero is Jen Wilkin. I’m nearly finished with her second book and am itching to get to her third. I love how she writes. I love how she understands the Scriptures and writes in such a way as to help others understand God’s Word as well.

I want to be like her.

To my deepest despair though, I have discovered that I am not.

I’ve read a number of her articles and have sadly realized that I just don’t write like that.

Not only is she incredibly wise, but her style of writing is beautiful beyond all my hopes and dreams and linguistic expertise. Don’t even get me started on C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, and the like.

I am utterly hopeless as a writer … that is, if Jen Wilkin and others like her are the objective of all aspiration and ambition.

As much as I will always value their writings, they are not the greatest authors of all time.

They are but writers for the Writer of the Word.

I am but a writer for the Writer of the Word.

As Jen Wilkin would say, ‘we create because He first created.’

I do not (nor should I ever) find joy and praise and value in writing because I just so happened to stumble across something that I am somewhat good at.

I create; I write stories, articles, encouragement, and posts because He first created me.

He is, after all, the Author of all inspiration, revelation, and interpretation.

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV)

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12, NIV)

Jesus Christ is the Great Author. By the grace of God, anything revealed to us from His Scripture and shared through preaching, writing, music, painting, or any form of artistry is divinely authored and perfected by God Himself.

It is not of human origin.

How absolutely incredible and unmistakably gracious is that!?

Because my value lies not in what I created but rather in HE who created me, I am free to write and re-write; to backspace and try again; to publish and save for later; to bind and keep for myself.

I am free to write for the Writer of the Word, knowing full well that it is not my own interpretation of things, but the revelation of the greatest Author of all time that gives me reason to write.

He is the Author of life (Acts 3:15, NIV); the Author and Perfecter (he’s the best of the best in the editing world) of our faith (Heb. 12:2, NASB). He has exquisitely scripted our salvation (Heb. 2:10, NASB) and has inspired our repentance and authored forgiveness itself (Acts 5:31, NIV). All Scripture comes from Him alone and is sufficient for all teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NIV). God is the Author of all inspiration, revelation, and interpretation (2 Peter 1:20-21, NIV; Gal. 1:11-12, NIV), and the Writer of our every word and utterance (2 Cor. 13:3, NIV).

He is the Author of eternity, and if that isn’t awe-inspiring enough, He has in all of His grace and mercy and goodness written eternity in our hearts. (Ecc. 3:11, NIV)

He has authored the Law, which is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, firm, and righteous (Ps. 19:7-9, NIV) and has written that in our hearts as well. (Rom. 2:15, NIV)

Even in His death on the cross, Jesus Christ was penning the greatest story ever known to man. With every strike of the hammer, our very names were being engraved upon the palms of His hands. (Is. 49:16, NIV)

“We are called to create in the image of an infinitely creative God – the First [Author] – the One who brought our world out of nothing,’ who established all that is good and righteous, and who authors our inspiration to reflect His character and glory. (Jordan Raynor, “Called to Create,” 2017)

He teaches us these things through His Spirit; He authors and crafts our work, reminding us that it is not our own words that give us value, but the Truth of HIS Word.

I am simply a writer among many for the Writer of the Word, and there is no other story that I would rather write than one that tells of our Great Author.

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.'” (Jeremiah 30:2, NIV)

For I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

I used the little tab that said ‘July’ on it in colorful, fun letters to flip the pages of my calendar to a new week, a new month, a new spread…only to find a bunch of¬†those little boxes that tell you what your upcoming days hold completely blank.

It made me cringe.

As I sat through the remainder of my Monday morning meeting, I felt the restlessness settle over me.

What on earth did I have to look forward to now?

What is there to countdown to?

What’s going to get me through the mundane routines of adulting…work, laundry, grocery shopping, making dinner, cleaning the bathroom.

If nothing is planned, then what’s tomorrow going to look like?

I hate this feeling.

Being a planner by nature, it’s against my grain to not have something planned; to not have an exciting adventure to anticipate, an itinerary to create, or anything to just get me out of the regular patterns of life.

It’s not even winter so I have no hope for a snow day either! :/

As I retreated to my office and sunk into my chair, faced with the same monitors, the same tasks, and the same blank calendar staring back at me, the despair began to sink in.

“This is it. This is your life. Look ahead several hundred blank squares from now and you’re still going to be doing the same thing. This is it.”

I’ve had to fight these lies before, so it didn’t surprise me much when they resurfaced. The ferocity at which they bombarded my thoughts however did surprise me.

I became restless in my spirit, racking my brain for something I could plan. Unfortunately, having just come off of a week-long vacation, I now have no money and no time off from work left to spare.

I’m stuck, and when I feel stuck, I start grasping at that which is not mine to hold.

That’s when my eyes settled on a sticky note that I’ve had on my desk for several years now that read…

…for I know who holds tomorrow.

Simple. Basic. Pretty straight forward.

But it holds a powerful punch, especially in a moment like this.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us that ‘we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

We do not lose heart.

Why?

We don’t lose heart because though what we see is one day after another wasting away; doing the same thing over and over again with no avail…though it all seems to be wasting away, we are promised a deep renewal day by day that makes us more and more like Jesus!

As I listened to John Piper’s commentary on this passage, I loved how he really focused on the phrase ‘day by day.

We read in Matthew 6:34 that we are ‘not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.‘ (Matt. 6:34 NIV)

We can go back to the Old Testament then and read in Lamentations 3:22-23 that ‘because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.‘ (Lam. 3:22-23 NIV)

Every day has its own appointed trouble divinely matched with its own new mercies.

Looking ahead to a month of little blank squares quickly causes me to lose heart. It saddens me because I fear a wasted life; I fear one day waking up and realizing that 20 years have passed and I’ve done nothing with them.

Yet, when I read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 I realize that I have no reason to despair; I have no reason to lose heart because what I am fearing is so far beyond the scope of my own control.

Each day has an allotted amount and certain degree of trouble. In turn, each day also has the appropriate amount of new mercies in which, if tapped into, will produce a renewal, a joy, and a sweet anticipation for each new day greater than any calendar filled with plans ever could.

As we go, one day at a time, we can trust that there will indeed be trouble.

But we can also trust that day by day there will be new mercies, new grace, and new compassions divinely revealed to secure for us victory over the trials and suffering we face every day.

All we have to do is know and trust in the One who holds tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and the tomorrow after that.

When You Can’t See What’s in Front of You, Look Back

Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot – come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations…(Ps. 66:5-7, NIV)

“I can handle one more,” I thought to myself as I adjusted the boxes already in my arms.

I headed out the door, balancing a load that wasn’t exactly heavy, just awkward and large enough to restrict my view.

Even though I couldn’t see anything in front of me, my familiarity with the staircases and hallways of this place made it possible for me to walk forward with confidence.

As I put one foot in front of the other, I thought, as I’m sure many do, how horrible it would be if I tripped or fell down the stairs with all these boxes in my arms.

I thought about how painful it would be, how probably every valuable I had in those boxes would likely break, and how humiliated I would feel.

But then I wondered – why don’t these fears stop me or cause me to be more timid than I actually am?

Even as I was thinking of all the ways this could go wrong, I took each step with confidence…

Knowing that the next step would be there;

Trusting in what I had become so familiar with; and

Believing that I didn’t have to see directly in front of me to know where I was going.

Moving forward in life can be scary at times, especially when you don’t know what’s ahead. Much of my life feels like that right now.

I have spent so much of my life wrestling with God for some level of understanding or control over my future.

I want to know what’s coming and what I might expect around each corner.

The degree to which I have confidence about today’s decisions has always been directly tied to the assurance I feel about tomorrow’s outcomes.

Not only do I want to see the next step in front of me, but I want to see the next ten steps.

As I carried one load after the other from my apartment to my car, I realized that walking by faith is a lot like walking down a flight of stairs with a stack of boxes blocking your view.

There are times in life where circumstances may block your view of what’s ahead, and it is in those time when we most need to remind ourselves of what we know.

I knew that it was exactly 20 steps from the top to the bottom because of how many times I had walked up and down those stairs.

When we know the promises of God because of how often we search the Scriptures and familiarize ourselves with it’s truths, we will be able to confidently move forward, even when we can’t see the next step.

Something that I‚Äôve found to be exceptionally helpful in developing such familiarity and confidence is to look back as David did in Psalm 66 and be thankful for all the times, all the people, and all the ways that God has shown His faithfulness, His character, and His goodness; reminding ourselves that He’s always been faithful and that He always will be.

Even though it’s just a simple move across town, any kind of move or transition like this feels scary at times. What lies ahead doesn’t always seem clear, but God has been so good to me in reminding me, in the midst of the stress and frustrations of moving, of all the things I can be thankful for…

for my family who helped me move into my first apartment two years ago and made it home. Thank you for sacrificing so much of your time and being patient with me.

for my neighbors who sat outside on their deck next to mine and talked with me for hours. Thank you for helping me feel less alone when it seemed like no one else was around.

…for the people below me who kept me up so late that one night with their loud music and partying. Thank you for teaching me how to be slow to anger and patient in love and kindness.

…for the guy who would always be out on his deck reading when the weather was nice. Thank you for reminding me to live simply; to slow down, take my time and enjoy the little things.

…for my next door neighbor who went from being a stranger to one of my best friends. Thank you for having the courage to knock on my door and introduce yourself for the first time; for the late night talks, the McDonald’s run when the power went out, the clothes you let me borrow, and the many, many walks we took. Thank you for showing me God’s love in the unique way that only you can.

…and for everyone who helped me move out. Thank you for your willingness to help in any and every way when I needed it the most.

It’s sad looking back and seeing all the ways that this place has become home. I’m going to miss it with all it’s joys, lessons, and memories, but as I look ahead, unable to see all the outcomes¬†that lie¬†in front of me, it is in the looking back that I clearly see, without fail, a God who has and always will be faithful.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

The God Who Sees

“You are the God who sees me…” (Genesis 16:13 NIV)

The tears welled up in my eyes as I wrote the words, “I feel forgotten and disregarded” in my journal. It had been a rough couple of weeks and it was all I could do to simply open my Bible.

As I vented this frustration and concern, I was encouraged to write out not only my complaints and hurt to God in prayer, but to also write out what I thought He might say in response. It didn’t take long for God to start moving through a spirit desperate to feel Him again, reminding me that He is the God who sees me…

____________________

“I live, my child. I am alive and I am working. In the end, I will stand on the earth and though your heart grows weary and your emotions run on empty, you will see me. You will see me with your own two eyes and I promise, I will restore you (Job 19:25-27). And in this season of waiting for this coming glory, if you’d let me, I will make this hope the joy of your heart; the kind of joy that brings strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Only I understand the way to wisdom child; only I know where understanding dwells. For I see the ends of the earth; I see everything under the heavens. I am the One who establishes the wind. I am the One who measures the water and tells it to only come this far. I am the One who sends down the rain, who opens the storehouses laden with hail, and who cuts a path for the thunderstorm (Job 28:23-26). That’s me!

So too, I am the one who looked upon wisdom and approved of her; I tested her and confirmed her. My child, if you want wisdom and understanding, all that must be done is for you to fear me; to know me and to love me (Job 28:27-28).

Though I am the Almighty and the Great I Am, my child you must also know…

I am the God who sees you.

I see you as I saw Hagar wondering in the desert;

I see you as I saw Sarah grieving over her barren womb;

I see you as I saw Esther ripped from all she knew and placed in a foreign home;

I see you as I saw Ruth giving when she had nothing more to give; and

I see you as I saw Rahab trusting in a God she did not yet know or understand.

I am the God who sees you.

I am the God who formed you (Psalm 139:13), who knows you (Psalm 139:1), who washes you whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7), and whose love for you surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). My dear one, you are my treasured possession (Deuteronomy 26:18). I do not grow weary or tired (Isaiah 40:28), so what makes you think I would ever grow weary or bored with you?

I delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17)!

I am the God who calls the storm to rise (Jeremiah 10:13)¬†and commands the storm to cease (Psalm 107:29), so why do you think I wouldn’t do the same for the storm raging in your spirit?

All these things I Am child, but I’ll tell you what I am not. I am not your emotions. I am not your feelings. I created you with those, yes, but that does not mean they are truth, for I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. I am the God who sees you.”

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There are numerous times throughout the Scripture where we see our favorite ‘heroes of faith’ wondering through the deepest, darkest, driest, and most barren wastelands; many of which God Himself led them to.

One of my favorite instances of this is found in the book of Hosea.

In the poetic writings of this minor prophet, we can see parallels between God’s relationship with His children Israel and the relationship between Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer.

Instructed by God to take this woman as his bride, Hosea married Gomer knowing full well that she had indulged in prostitution and would be unfaithful again.

As the story goes, we see God and His nation Israel, through the lens of Hosea’s¬†marriage to Gomer, going back-and-forth between anger and tenderness; between disloyalty and redemption; rejection and renewal.

And we discover that often it is the most desolate wilderness that brings about the most beautiful redemption.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and I will make the Valley of Achor [trouble] a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” (Hosea 2:14-15 NIV)

How beautiful and tender our God is towards us!

It is often in the most barren circumstances; the bleakest situations, and the most hopeless days that our eyes are able to settle once more on the God of our youth with a childlike faith and dependence.

God leads us into desert seasons not to deplete us, but to speak tenderly to us there.

He strips us of all other platforms that offer temporary hope and satisfaction to help us realize that hope placed in Christ alone will never put us to shame (Romans 5:5).

He takes away to give back abundantly.

Even in the wilderness; even when we feel dry and desperate for renewal; even when it feels as if God is a million miles away, we can rest in knowing that not only is He faithful, but that He is also the God who sees us.

He sees your pain.

He hears your sorrow.

He knows your fear.

Regardless of what we feel, we can have assurance in knowing that what might be a valley of trouble right now will one day be renewed into a gateway of hope more satisfying and more redeeming than anything we could have ever imagined.

So keep going, keep trusting, and keep hoping in that God who sees.

~Kristin