I Will Rise

There is a girl that I will never meet that is on my mind often.  In a moment of hopeless and all consuming darkness, she opened the window of her apartment, and felt the terror of free falling as she plunged to her death and met Christ face to face.  Was this meeting a moment of finishing her race well and receiving the crown of life, or was it a moment of horror as she was cast into eternal separation from God? Oh Lord, may we never waste one moment of our time on earth — people are dying without hope. Time is precious.

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” ~James 1:12-15

On our way home from language school recently, a friend and fellow believer who has started carpooling with us, told me of this young girl in her apartment building who jumped out of the window and died last month. She was a teenager and wore a head covering, indicating that she and her family are Muslim.  The security guards found her laying on the ground in a corner as the sun rose and my friend recounted how she heard the grief stricken wales of the mother and watched as the body was covered and taken away.  This girl jumped to her death from right above my friend’s floor and this death took place within walking distance of my child’s elementary school. Just as I was waking up and thanking Jesus that His mercies are new every morning, this girl’s chance to ever do that again ended. It’s a startling reality for many around us…we just never know when today may be someone’s last chance.

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I look out my window and imagine the pain this girl felt…

Each heart wrenching detail my friend shared pushed me to an intense mixture of feelings containing fear and sorrow.  It’s only been a matter of weeks since the anniversary of my own father’s suicide came and went and as we drove into the very complex where the girl died and dropped off my friend, I looked at the ground and felt the sickening reality rip my heart open.  As we walked up to the front door of her apartment, my eyes scanned the very ground that cradled the girl who didn’t know Hope as breath left her body and the Unseen was suddenly seen. Did she know Jesus? Had anyone ever explained that Jesus could rescue her from the darkness that she felt would never end? Every single day that we arrive to pick up or drop off my friend, the memories of my dad’s suicide are right there…..haunting me.  Darkness is oddly enticing when you feel grief, but the Light in me cannot be overcome by any amount of darkness that relentlessly tries to gnaw away at my God-given hope.  The intensity of pain I feel at times still mirrors that which I felt on the morning he died.  It still feels like yesterday and if I do not remain active in the guarding of my heart and mind, these memories will do nothing but distract me from living the life of an overcomer.

“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.” ~Proverbs 4:23

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” ~Isaiah 26:3

“Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.” Hebrews 12:2-3, AMP

I haven’t written in awhile and that is mostly because life right now is difficult, and I find my words completely inadequate at explaining the daily hardships as well as the unimaginable joy that surges through my heart as I see the Lord over and over again bring deliverance and solutions to the very things that I think will overwhelm me.  The Father is faithful and He is always good, no matter how impossible my day may feel, or how difficult the task of learning and sharing the gospel in a new language seems.

“But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.”
―Amy Carmichael

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.” ~Isaiah 43:2

Sometimes I get upset when I hear of tragic stories like the girl jumping from the window, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s no accident that these types of stories are told to me.  This girl’s story jars me awake from any ounce of laziness that I may have been slipping into.  Her story reminds me to press on and endure the struggles of language learning.  Many cannot hear the Good News unless we lay down some aspect of our lives and do what it takes to reach them.  For me, this means rewiring my brain to understand a foreign language.  For you, it may mean something different.  I challenge you to ask the Lord to guide you in this area.

Sigh. I used to be one of those people who thought missionaries were the ones who had it all together.  They were my heroes and they were the ones who I assumed didn’t struggle like I did.

And then I became one.

And what I’ve realized is that you may think you have dealt with all your problems and you are ready to move to a dark and oppressed country, but if there are any cracks in your armor, then that will be the very place that the enemy will attack you.  It literally takes one moment of me taking my eyes off of Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and before I know it, the violent adversity that threatens my hope, pushes me down. And when I fall from my own ridiculous standard of perfection, then shame and pride work together to keep me from calling out for help. When the stormy trial comes upon me, if my trust falters, I am like Peter, and I sink.  But that’s exactly the moment when Jesus holds out His hand to me, picks me up, and reminds to once again trust in Him. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about trust.  It’s all about grace and walking in His strength, not mine. It’s all about Him being glorified as He sustains His child through the impossible.

Walking on the Water ~ Matthew 14:22-33, The Message

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!”

When circumstances seem overwhelmingly difficult, or they take us by surprise, I am learning that none of it surprises God.  After all, Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and He sent them directly in the path of a storm.  I’ve had well meaning people tell me things like “the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will” or “Nothing bad will happen to you because you are following God in obedience.” The longer I spend on the front lines of the battle for souls that we call the mission field, the more I just don’t believe those statements are Biblical.  Yes, my soul is eternally secure and my hope in Christ is untouchable.  Yes, God sometimes chooses to heal our diseases and protect us from accidents or death.  But sometimes, He chooses to allow the storm to come.  Sometimes He leads us directly into the storm, knowing that He will never leave us while we learn the lesson of walking by faith and not by sight.  I know that without the storm in the story of Peter walking on water, there wouldn’t have been any need of a Savior.  Without the storm, there wouldn’t have been much reason for Peter’s faith to be tested, resulting in a lesson of trusting Jesus at all times.  Without the impossible storms in my life, I would not know the supernatural power that lives in me and helps me do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I see myself in Peter. I see storms in my life and I hear Jesus beckon me to come to Him in the midst of it.  Because I’m human like Peter, sometimes the storm distracts me from Jesus Himself and when that happens, I fall.  But like the young girl who fell out of her window to her death, no amount of pain or suffering, or loneliness, or homesickness, or persecution or loss can keep Jesus from immediately reaching out His hand to me and lifting me up to try again. I cannot fall to my spiritual death because His love never lets me go. When the lie of hopelessness is whispered into your ear, you must remember…

That. Is. A. Lie. 

There is always hope.  There is always a chance to get back up and try again. His grace is sufficient for exactly what you are going through today.

“Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him.” ~Psalm 37:24

“The Lord upholds all those [of His own] who are falling and raises up all those who are bowed down.” ~Psalm 145:14

“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the [uncompromisingly] righteous (those upright in heart and in right standing with Him). The Lord protects and preserves the strangers and temporary residents, He upholds the fatherless…” ~Psalm 146:8-9

“When I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light to me.” ~Micah 7:8

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“For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” ~Proverbs 24:16

Like I said earlier, I thought missionaries had it all together and didn’t struggle like I did. But no matter what our profession may be, we are all the same and we are all human.  We are all like Peter.  We all have the same sins and struggles that we must fight in order to fight the good fight, but the good news is that because of Jesus, we are able to get back up and keep going every single time we fall. There is no shame in Christ and it’s not too late to take His hand and live a life of renewed trust in the One who can help us walk on water and do the impossible!

When your heart is faint and the darkness is real, call out like Peter did….”master, save me!”  When Jesus immediately reaches out His nail scarred hand and sustains you from falling to your spiritual death, feel your hope strengthen and give thanks that though we will often fall, we will rise again.  And each time you rise, rest in the fact that you are learning the art of perseverance which leads to a beautiful hope that will never disappoint you.

 “…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope…” ~Romans 5:3-4

I look at these hopeless eyes that walk by me everyday and ask the Lord to place in my path the ones who are starved of hope and longing for love.  Please pray that I will have eyes to see the hurting and that His words of Life will always on my tongue. To Him be the glory…

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