You know sometimes when things are hard and you just want to cry? I feel like that all the time right now. I know, I just heard you say “me too…” I heard it. Anyway, sometimes I say out loud “why does everything have to be this hard?!” Things that seem simple become difficult – for no good reason.
Simple things are hard. I want to go to the grocery, it’s five minutes away. But dang it if there is 30 minutes of traffic. Or I want to fill out a form and submit it online to save time, effort, and energy. But dang it, I can’t get it to download, the website to cooperate, or I can’t find my information. I want to leave the house to get to an appointment on time. But dang, I can’t find my keys. These are the little things. I seem to have a thousand of them every day. I bet you do too.
Then there’s the big stuff. I can’t get my ex out of my head, I’m sitting in church and I feel like my past is on my sleeve. Or maybe it’s, I don’t want to go to church because I’m a recovering addict and people will judge me. Or maybe it’s that I can’t participate in that relationship group because I’m a cohabitating-not-married-woman. I’m breaking the rules and they say we can’t participate. But we really need help.
Perhaps you’re like I was – I can’t go to church because I’ve been judged there before about being an unwed mother, who I know God gave me but people talk and ask questions and I’m not ready for that. But, I need the grace, peace, and mercy that God brings just by entering into his presence.
How much does the world look upon us and judge? How much do other Christians look upon us and decide we’re sinners? How much do we feel those stares and the pain that is caused by them? How much does the Church turn away from the inclusive love of Jesus to exclude those who need the great physician the most? How many people stay away from church because they aren’t like those people who go to church? Yeah. I’ve been there.
My realization. I had a realization last week. I have had this several times, and each time I’ve forgotten it, only to have it again. The truth: all the people who are in the church are people who are like me – sinner, forgive, beloved. We all need the Great Physician. We all have sinned and we all fall short of standing in God’s presence. (Romand 3:23) We all need Jesus to stand with us when we enter the throne room.
Those people who are standing on the stage, giving advice to us, are the same as us. They too struggle in their relationships. The pastor may be a recovering alcoholic or addict. The pastor may have had sex before getting married. The pastor may be struggling against lust. The pastor may be a person who partied through his or her twenties and now feels the weight of that. The pastor may be abusing his or her spouse. The pastor may be having an affair. They are just like us.
Those people who are leading groups, directing ministries, or serving at the church have fallen short of God’s glory. They are just like you and me. They walk through the fire too. Just like you, just like me.
Another reminder. I was looking for a verse the other day and came across a chapter that I’d read before and it reminded me that God redeems us with fire; we are cleansed with fire. Our sins are burned away in the fire. It is often said that fire refines us – like gold and silver, the fire burns away the imperfection so that what is left is more valuable than before.
Isaiah tells a story of seeing the Lord in Isaiah 6. There are 13 verses, very short, but great impact. He says “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s armies.” (Isaiah 6:5 NLT). I feel this. Do you? He is saying, ‘I have done and said so much that is wrong. I am so unworthy of entering into God’s perfect presence.’
It has a bit more meaning though. In Exodus, Moses cannot see God’s face “for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20 NLT) Isaiah had seen God and knew he was destined to die because of it. Certainly, he knew what Moses had experienced.
Instead of punishing him, God saved him. Isaiah says, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” (v. 7, NLT)
There was a purpose for this forgiveness. God was looking for a messenger and Isaiah was that messenger. “Who will go for us?” and Isaiah volunteered, “Here I am. Send me.” (v. 8, NLT) He volunteered the same way Mary volunteered when she said “I am the Lord’s servant.” (Luke 1:38 NLT) Isaiah did not know what was in store for him, but he was a prophet. He wanted to serve, in response to the Lord’s grace and goodness.
God told Moses “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7, NLT)This is what Moses, Mary, and Isaiah responded to. They were purposed in this world because they said yes; they were humans just as we were.
The same is true for all of us. We have a purpose for living. God can forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and remain faithful in the face of faithlessness. He shows compassion and mercy on us even when we do not deserve it. We rail against him in our pain and we ask ‘why’ many times over. He still gives us grace.
Still, he forgives and he purposes us. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT) He uses the painful situations, the devil’s works, our bad decisions, and many other things to work out for the good of we who bear his son’s name. He causes all these things to benefit us – the devil’s handiwork gets short-circuited so that we and others like us benefit from the problems the devil causes.
Perhaps, we are wrong. What if we are supposed to be in church instead of sweating it out alone in our living room? What if we are supposed to be sitting next to the woman who looks like she has it all together, listening to the pastor who also appears to be put together, in the church full of people who we think probably have it all together? What if that woman, that pastor, those people are struggling with the same thing you are? What if your fear of judgment is the devil whispering a lie to you? What if that lie is keeping you away from the seraphim who holds the coal that will cleanse you from your sin. What if that pain you harbor deep within your heart is what God will use your good and the good of others who love God? What if that pain is your purpose in life?
The hard stuff is a fire sometimes. It sets our anger ablaze and we set fire to everything around us. Sometimes that fire burns inside us and sets us on fire for the Kingdom. Sometimes that fire doesn’t touch us because we have big faith and we get through to the other side. Sometimes we walk in the fire with God and know he is with us and sometimes we can’t see him at all. Sometimes, the fire refines, and sometimes the fire burns.
No matter what happens in this world, God uses the fire for the good of those who love him. In all cases, you, lovely friend, are beloved by God. You, beautiful sister, are not alone. In all cases, Jesus has had victory over the evil in this world and you are his.
It is sometimes terribly painful to experience the fire. I cannot say why we experience such suffering. I cannot say why the world is the way it is. The thing that I know is true – God is good. Our hope is that we become refined while we are in the file. That is where we lay our suffering, our pain, and our fear while we are walking through the fire.
Lovely, if you are walking through the fire today, please know that you are beloved by the creator of the universe. Please know he will make it work out for the good of all who love him. Please know that I, and others, pray for you often. If you need prayer, please comment with your request below or contact me on this site.
Another last thing. I love to find songs that apply to real life situations. Here’s one that I’ve recently felt all the way to my soul. check it out: Fires (Lyric Video) – Jordan St. Cyr [Official Video] – YouTube
I’d love to hear about your current challenges or thoughts about this post. Leave a comment below and enter the conversation.
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