Sunday, February 3, 2008

Why am I surprised?

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” RSV

Today is Sunday. Typically on the weekends we don’t wake up while it is still dark. We look forward to Saturday’s and Sunday’s just for this reason. This morning while it was still dark, a six year old little boy came into our room at 6:00 am to ask if he could watch some TV. A few minutes later a thirteen year old boy came in with his request and then only minutes later an eight year old little girl came in with a question. I screamed out loud to my husband, “What in the world are they doing up this early?!?” I would love to tell you that I answered their questions with the patience of Job and the love of Jesus. Unfortunately I cannot say that. Instead, they were greeted with what looked and sounded like a screeching bobcat. Boy howdy, was I fit to be tied. I could’ve spit nails! I have a hard time falling back to sleep once I am awakened….in the dark…at 6am…on a Sunday.

Then I remembered something. I had gone to sleep last night asking the Lord to wake me up early. A friend of mine had called around 8pm last night to ask if I could teach the teen girls Sunday school class this morning. I just love teaching that group of girls and took her up on the opportunity. Unfortunately, I knew that I needed more time to seek the Lord on what I needed to teach today. So, I asked the Lord to please wake me up early this morning.

God heard my prayer last night. So why in the world was I so surprised when He answered? Why am I surprised that God is a God of His word? He says what He means and He means what He says. God says in His word, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12 Maybe I was surprised because He answered not particularly in the way that I would have desired Him to answer me.

Recently my husband and I have been going through quite a bit. Not only financially burdened but also becoming quite discouraged wondering what in the world the Lord was doing with our lives. Every time we have turned around this month, things seem to be going against us. It is to the point where it is almost comical…I said almost. There have been tears and disappointment and even confusion over why the Lord would let us experience these trials in the first place.

1Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” RSV

It was this morning’s incident with the children that gave me a spiritual wake-up call. I was reminded of a prayer that I prayed at the beginning of the year. In January I asked the Lord to take me deeper and to draw me closer. I asked God to take me from being a milk drinking babe to a meat eating follower of Christ. I asked that both Paul and I would see His glory and that our lives would be used for Him. I prayed that when the time came and my life was over, that I would have no regrets. That there would not be one wasted opportunity. I prayed that the purpose God has for my life would be wholly fulfilled. I don’t want to look back and wish that I had done anything differently, but to hear "well done good and faithful servant." That was my hearts cry for my husband and I at the beginning of this year. (The last time I prayed a prayer like this my husband lost his job. He jokingly has asked me not to pray powerful prayers like this in proxy for him.)

All this to say, this morning was a bit of a spiritual breakthrough for me. I prayed that the Lord would wake me up and He did just that. I wasn’t expecting this type of morning wake up call, so instead of being grateful, I was angry. I was discouraged that my sleep was over, disappointed that I was now awake and even quite irritated with the three messengers God had used. Likewise, in January, after praying for a deeper walk with the Lord, He had brought along some trials and quite a refining fire to burn away ‘me’ to make much more room for ‘Him’. He has answered my prayer again, and just like this morning I have responded by being angry, discouraged, disappointed and irritated that His response what not what I had planned. It has been a couple of extremely hard and hurtful weeks. Am I saying that our loving Father wants to bring hardship and heartache when we ask Him for things? Not at all, I am saying that my God knows me and I learn best in the fiery trials. If the Lord is going to use our lives for His purpose, for His glory, then He needs to transform us into the likeness of His son, which is often very uncomfortable. Paul and I are both very far from that perfection. (With as much as has been going on, it seems even farther than we thought.)

I could go on and on but will end with saying this. Why are you surprised when God allows the refiner’s fire in your life? If we all truly want what we say we want…a closer walk with thee, then we must expect these trials and difficulties. The mountaintop experience may take us higher, but the valley experience will take us deeper.

I believe that a blessing is on its way for us. Like the birth of a child, the labor pains come on the hardest right before the blessing. Praising Him in this storm is what I plan to do. I am going to try very hard not to pray and then decide just how God should answer. The biggest mistake a Christian can make is expecting God to move the same way He did the last time we prayed. I know better now. God is going to answer my prayers His way. The next time He answers….I am going to praise Him and rejoice… and try very very hard not to be surprised!


Jess said...

I have had some trials by fire myself in the last week or so. And I just know that it must be a time of testing. I'm just praying for the sustainance to get through to the other side at this point! But, knowing that "ALL things work together for good for those who love Him" helps.
Just hang in there and I can't wait to hear what results from all the 'labor pains'!


ps... And, for what it's worth, I think you are just as an encouraging writer as any of those mentioned in the running for the conference scholarship. But, even if you don't get to go this go-round, just know that God is blessing you with talent (and us through partaking in your writings) right where you are. :)

Megan said...

I just said a little prayer for you guys. May you feel His arms around you through the hard times. :) He does seem to use those hard times to draw us nearer. I never thought I'd be thankful for the most difficult experience of my life, but I am. I think he recently allowed me to get to that low point, because it was his way of answering my desperate prayer, the cry of my heart, to be closer to him. And he brought me back, through this very difficult painful time, reminding me that I can't do it alone and He's in control. Thank you Jesus! He has you in His loving care. Thank you for your post!

Chelle' said...

I'm always a fan of Monday morning posts from you. After the weekend off I know you are going to come strong with something of the Lord and I love it.

As for praising Him in the storm... (and very rarely do I ever feel like I can say this) I believe the Lord has really taught me this principle.

It is not a very easy one to learn as our tendency is to always question the Lord, asking the Why's, Where Are You's and Aren't you going to spare me's?

It's in His answers that we find growth, just as Job did. As we remember His answer to Job (the Why's are beyond our comprehension) we settle in again on the fact that He is trustworthy and He works all things together for our good... and HIS GLORY!!

Lyme Disease is not MY PLAN for my life but He has allowed it and continues to use it to bring growth and glory. And though I couldn't have said this three years ago when it all began- I would much rather have Lyme with the Lord than be healthy and far from Him.

I love you friend. Hang in there as I know that the other side will produce a wiser, Godlier Paul & Joanne.

How exciting.

Gina @Chats With an "Old Lady" said...

Oh, Joanne! I can relate to this so much! We are facing some really hard things right now. It is a constant battle between the flesh-and wanting to curl up and cry all day...and push on...looking to Jesus...knowing He is still in control. And then there are those human emotions that come...and are normal...but shouldn't control us. But sometimes I can feel guilty for having normal emotions. You know what I mean? My goal is that I just want to glorify God in all of this...and if you have read my blog lately you will see my heart...but it is hard sometimes!

If I lived near you, I'd come over and take you to Starbucks, and we could cry in our coffee...and then pray of course!!
...and keep clinging!

Rebekah said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. The past 3 years have been a struggle with last year being the most difficult of all.

Each new year I saw as a new begining, a chance for more positive things.

At the start of this year I was almost afraid to think what may lay ahead. But through our past trials I have made some commitments, some self realizations, and become a better Christian

Thanks for you post

Chelle' said...

HOORAY! The new picture is priceless. I stopped by soon after I sent the email and saw the picture you choose (before I got the comment on my blog) and I LOVE IT.

Your children are precious. The front side of them as well as the back (wink-wink)

Fran said...

I am praying for you Joanne. We can all understand the frustrations and challenges in life, but its what we do or don't do when they come.

I pray that we all can trust better, believe more, have eyes opened wider, and hearts ready to receive His goodness.

Praying for you with much love~

Earthmommy said...

What a wonderful example of how the Lord answers our prayers!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed reading your too and will be a regular reader!

AlaneM said...

Wow, thank you for this post - it's totally speaking to me! I too learn best by trials & I SO wish I was not that way. In the middle of them it's very hard for me to be thankful & remember that I'm being refined. And I often react just the way you did, spitting nails :)
A few months ago I got a message from an e-list I'm on ( that described her vow to the Lord to get up early to spend time with Him & how it's blessed her through the years. Man was it powerful & convicting! I didn't make a vow but I did express my desire to do the same. Desire that lasts exactly until my alarm goes off early! I've had a lot of struggles & I know I'll be blessed when I do this but I'm still fighting with myself. Why do I bring this all up? Because I think that God is using your post to get my attention...again.
Thanks for giving me a gentle prod in the right direction!


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