Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sifted

I've had this sitting in my unpublished blog posts for about close to 2 months but couldn't hit the publish button. Beyond being someone who always hopes for the best outcome and doesn't dwell on (and thus talk much about) those that would be difficult should they hang around long, I like to be uplifting. I keep reading what I've written and feel like I'm being whiny. And it's vague. I don't share the things we're going through. I always find that to be a bit annoying when others do that. Maybe sharing will come later. They aren't things others haven't or aren't going through but sometimes it all feels overwhelming and you feel like you're groping around in the dark trying to unlock the box that holds the answers but someone has removed all the lightbulbs from the room. When you finally find the flashlight and get the box open, the answers are all written in invisible ink. That's how I feel. But as I've sat on the blog entry, it's kept me from feeling genuine blogging otherwise. I've decided that this post is just simply honest. My life and my faith aren't perfect and that can be uplifting to people as well, to see that someone who is usually uplifting doesn't have a life without problems, that my faith isn't just the result of getting a pass on problems. And while it's vague, maybe that's a good thing. It keeps the focus on the point of seeking God's will, not on our temporary problems. So here it is.

I think one of the most powerful passages in the bible for Christians is Luke 22:31.

And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail;

It would be nice if Jesus stopped there. But he didn't. He finished his sentence with
and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.

Peter didn't get it. His Lord was telling him YOU ARE GOING TO FAIL. With a heart full of pride in his own strength, Peter replied,

"Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death."


Peter failed big time. He wasn't ready to go to prison or to death. When Jesus was being arrested, after an initial moment of instinctive fear or anger or whatever drove him to whip out his sword and slice off the ear of a soldier, Peter's human reasoning kicked in. As Jesus was led away, Peter lagged behind. When Jesus was facing death, Peter didn't even have the courage to admit he knew him. He even denied Jesus while in his presence. Peter who watched Jesus perform countless miracles, feeding crowds and healing the sick, restoring vision, even bringing people back to life. That same Peter was afraid to follow when Jesus "couldn't" fix things the way he thought he should.

I feel like our family has been dropped into the sifter. I also feel like it's just the beginning. Of course there is no way to know that but the peace with which we're handling living with the unknown right now it is a little unnerving.

We got hit with a whammy a couple of weeks ago and it's left us forced to make major life choices without anything other than our faith to guide us. And that can be a scary thing. When you're limited to choosing between 2 similar alternatives with similar benefits and obstacles to weigh, it's much easier to make choices. When you're standing there comparing 4 completely different alternatives, things are a lot more uncomfortable.

We've heard the typical responses from some close to us, "God has bigger plans for you," or "When God closes one door, He opens another," said with a bubbly demeanor as if we should just take it all in stride and live life as if nothing is wrong. I know people mean well. And I know we will be OK. But I think feel-good cliches are unfortunate. I think summing a person's life challenges up for them in a cute little quip that makes God into a God that always fixes your problems with solutions that are easier and more rewarding by the world's standards is weak. It definitely isn't real. He doesn't always make things easier and more lucrative. And I think trying to encourage someone by pretending He does only sets us them for a heart of of discontentment and misunderstanding of God's goodness if the end results aren't easier. Sometimes He allows them to be harder for the purpose of growing us and pulling us closer to Him. Sometimes He allows them to be harder for the purpose of growing someone else who is watching how we handle the situation. Sometimes He allows them be be harder for purposes we never figure out. And that's where my my worry comes in. I'm not writing of the overwhelming there-is-no-hope worry. My worry is that my faith will take me as far as accepting the best solution by my standards, not His, and that if He asks us to do something that will make life less comfortable for us, will I be willing to trust that this is really where He wants us? Will I know that it's Him asking me to go down a path that looks rocky and difficult?

As we've begun to work through our options, I've already made one decision that was terribly difficult. It still doesn't feel completely right. But I believe that's because it's not what I want and it doesn't fit into my plan, the plan that I thought was God's plan. The further I get away from the decision, the more I believe that my plan was God's plan but it was His plan for one of our children, just not the other. But there's still that nagging question, did I give up too easily? My decision makes things easier for me. Is my growing peace with my decision actually borne of relief? Did I just choose the easier path? Or am I truly following God? I'm being sifted. And I keep going back to my favorite verse in the bible. Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths.

So I'm praying for Him to guide us according to this passage. And I'm praying for humility according to Luke 22:31 to remember how easy it is to say we're choosing based on faith when we're really choosing what's easiest or most comfortable, what's most exciting or what will bring us the most accolades from the world or the church.

2 months after writing this, I can say that while I feel like so many things in life right now are working against us, I'm still content. I still have my faith that God uses everything for good. I've learned through the past 16 years as a Christian to accept that most of the time I cannot look ahead and see His purpose. But I can almost always look back and say, "Ah, now I see it." And even in the bad times, I can look back and see something good.
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8 comments:

Pam said...

Kendra, I have no idea what's going on but I just want you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers and I hope whatever it is, it all works out for the best for all of you!

Kristi Smith said...

People are always asking me about Matt's new job (how he likes it). And the truth is that he liked his old job, he had to work less, and the pay was a lot better. But his new job is a job. It pays our bills. I think it will make us closer to our community. I think it is a good company. I can eat lunch with him when he can get away. Was this what our plan was? No. Some days it just plain sucks. But I do look for the positives (when I'm not pouting). ;-)

I know you all will make the best of whatever is dealt to you. I want the best for you. I pray that God will work everything out soon for you and that it will not be too disruptive to your lives the way you have been living them. Love you.

Cindy deRosier said...

We've been through three periods of unemployment in the last three years. The uncertainty, the worry, the question of what God has in store for us is all very familiar to me. Would I have chosen it? Of course not! I like security and income, plus a sense of place. Best wishes with whatever troubles you're facing.

Jayna said...

Wow. Talk about timely. Three weeks ago in a meeting, our pastor talked about this verse in Luke - being sifted. Then in a sermon two Sundays ago, it was mentioned again. Then yesterday, a GUEST speaker mentioned it as well, quoting the same verse.

And here's what he said that stuck with me. We focus on having faith in God...but when we're being sifted, it shows it's a time that God has faith in US. That's quite a weighty thought. Jesus had faith that Peter would return to Him.

Thank you for sharing this. I know it's not always easy to share difficult things. But thanks for sharing it - if not just for me.

reneevc said...

Just reading this for the first time. I don't know what to say, but I wanted you to know that I want the best for you & your family. I hope things get easier/ clearer soon. Much love to you all.

Farmers 8 Daughters said...

We have had many tough decisions to make over the years regarding jobs, businesses, more businesses, kids, school, still more businesses etc. etc. I've never known if God's path was clear for me in the beginning of each of these decisions, but looking back, like you said, I can see it.

I had a vision once about this, and though I can't back it up with exact scripture necessarily, it helps me deal with tough decisions, and I truly believe God gave the vision to me because I was having such angst over things. It was this - picture it:

I am at a crossroads - I have to make a choice between one thing or the other, which way to go. I pray and ask God to show me his path, which road to take, yet I still just don't feel secure in what he is saying and which way to go. But I have to choose, and I go one way. Was it HIS path? I don't know, but he comes with me regardless. If I had have gone the other way, would he have stayed behind? Would I have looked back and seen him standing there, shaking his finger at me like it was the wrong path? I don't think so.

This is what I feel it means. As long as our hearts are in the right place and we are genuinely seeking him to direct our paths, he will make our paths HIS paths, whichever way we took. Does that make sense :-)

Tammy Tutterow said...

You have no idea how much this touched me. I have been going through the most difficult situation of my whole life. I have been so hurt and so confused over the whys. I think now I am finally on the other side of it all and seeing true healing and growth occur. I think I can maybe even see a better life ahead because of the lessons learned by all involved. I am optimistic. I am kind of at a loss for words to explain how your post touched me and made sense to me, so I will just say thank you.

About Me: said...

I don't know you personally. I just stalk your blog, and have been inspired by your work over the years.
I think this was just a beautiful post.
That's all.
Oh, and I hope things work out...and soon. :)

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