Obstacles

A month ago we had a significant windstorm in the Grand Rapids area. Lightning, thunder, heavy rains and an isolated tornado were accompanied by high winds that leveled trees and knocked out power for two days or so.  I commuted to work that Friday morning alright, but when I went use the trails they were blocked with large trees that had fallen during the storm. I was unable to maneuver my bike around them. I tried one direction and couldn’t get through. I went the opposite way and faced the same problem. Finally I biked through Grandville and it ended up taking me longer to get home than I had anticipated.

This little experience is not that much different from our everyday lives. Sometimes God sends us trials and temptations that we find difficult to see our way through and get around. We often wonder why He sends us these things and if there is any escape from them. The answer to these questions is that God sends these things for our spiritual profit even if we don’t understand fully how they are going to work out for our good. God sends us trials, and gives us the grace to bear them. God provides an escape in the midst of the temptations of this life. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:13).

In other words, no temptation is outside of God’s control. God will not allow us to fall into any unplanned temptation or trial because He has planned and continues to plan all things. Sometimes the way through our trials and temptations may take longer than we would like, just like my commute home did. We all have obstacles in life. For some it’s a disease such as diabetes or cancer. For others the obstacle is being confined to a wheelchair either from birth or due to an accident. For still others it’s depression, eating disorders or family issues. Others experience unemployment.  Whatever the problem, we may bring our prayers to God and trust in His protecting care. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God in him will I trust” (Ps. 91:1, 2). When we place our trust and reliance on Him, we will never be disappointed in Him no matter how bleak our circumstances seem to be. May God grant us this grace!

Kevin Rau

Though Foaming Waters Roar

I recently had the opportunity to go white-water rafting on a river in West Virginia. While riding through the roaring rapids of the river, I could not help but be struck by the power of the water. Sitting at the front of my raft, I met the huge, rolling waves head-on as they towered and crashed over me. All around me, foamy water swirled as the powerful current rushed dangerously. This experience brought to mind many Scripture passages about the power of the water and seas and prompted me to ponder the awesome power of the One of Whom it is said that, “the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:5). God “rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, [He] stillest them” (Psalm 89:9).

Psalm 107:23-31 describes the experience of those “that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters” and encounter the power of the stormy seas much as I was reminded of it a few weeks ago. When they “see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep,” who “commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof,” the magnitude and strength of the waves is enough to strike fear in the hearts of seasoned sailors: “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. But when they acknowledge the One who created this great power and “cry unto the Lord in their trouble, he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”

“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:31).

Not only should we see the power of God in the strength of the seas and be prompted to praise Him as the great Creator, but this truth contains a great comfort for the child of God. Not only has He created the stormy seas and given the swirling current its power, but He controls its seemingly uncontrollable depths. He has “placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof… roar, yet can they not pass over it” (Jeremiah 5:22). His is the voice “that even the winds and the sea obey” (Matthew 8:27). He is “the Lord thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared” (Isaiah 51: 15). That same sovereign God is our Father. We are His precious children, and He has promised to control all things for our good.

This is especially comforting when we encounter the storms of life. Often fears and troubles swirl about us like a foaming current, threatening to pull us under into the depths of despair, never to return to the surface. We can flail about with all our strength, trying to fight the waves and save ourselves, but we will find that we are weak and helpless. But when we cry to God, He will save us. His alone is the power to bring us through such trials and calm the stormy seas. He has the power to dry up the entire sea so we are once again standing on dry ground, or He may choose to part the waters and lead us through with towering walls of water looming over us. And sometimes it is His good pleasure to allow us to struggle in the storm for a time, but He will always be there, holding us up with His almighty hand, never permitting us to drown.

So whenever you are experiencing the stormy seas of life and you are tempted to despair, turn to the One who has placed those trials in your life. He alone is the Rock to whom you can turn. He is your refuge and strength.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:1-3,7).

Anna Langerak

Who I Am and Who I Am Not

A lot of us have sad and tragic, yet honest stories about our childhoods or lives in general. Some of us have been through a lot more than others. I decided to use a presentation I gave in a college class as an opportunity to witness to you all, by showing you who I really am, who I’m not, and maybe along the way, helping you find out who you are, too. I’d like to start with a quote from Pastor John Piper. He says, “Not only is all your affliction momentary. Not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. All of it is TOTALLY meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or fallen man; every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is working for you a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. Don’t say it’s meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless! Of course you can’t see what it’s doing! Don’t look to what is seen. When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40. When a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out… Don’t say, “That’s meaningless!” It’s not. It is working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, therefore, do NOT lose heart. But take these truths and day by day, focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God, and preach them into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.”

This quote has come to mean so much to me. To tell you why, I’ll start with when I was in the 8th grade. I have a father who is an alcoholic. At 14 years old, I found him in the garage, attempting to take his own life. Thankfully, God was gracious and his attempt was unsuccessful. But such a situation can take a toll on a little girl who thinks about how she could have lost her daddy, no matter how difficult his circumstances with sin made the relationship.

In my junior year of high school, I had another sad event cross my path. I lost my grandma. Not only was she my grandma, but she was my role model, my confidant, and one of my best friends, even if I didn’t get to see her often because she lived out of state. Yes, God took her to be with Him in all His glory in heaven, yet there’s something that is just never the same when you lose a person who means the world to you. But, I pressed on.

I’ve also struggled with different types of mental illness since I was about 10. Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are the three I’ve had experience with. My senior year of high school, I really struggled with the depression. I was suicidal and did a lot of self-harming to cope with the pain I was feeling internally. I had a lot of support from wonderful friends, and God provided me with the resources to get the help I needed.

Fast forward to a couple years out of high school. Sexual assault. A gross sin and a crime I never would have thought I’d fall victim to. It drains you emotionally. It clouds your vision with fear, guilt, and shame. But this does NOT define me. Like Piper says in his quote, “You are NEW and CARED FOR.”

One might wonder what I’ve learned from all of this. If there is one thing I have learned in all of this, it is that God is good ALL the time. Not just sometimes. Not just when I’m feeling happy. Not just when things are going my way. He is GOOD. ALWAYS. How did I manage to get through this? Only by His grace. Do I still have struggles I face every single day? Yes. Is God still good? Yes. Is God still faithful? Yes! ALWAYS!

Now, all of you may still have the question, “Who am I?” Well, first, I’ll tell you who I’m not. I am not who my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder says I am. I am not defined by who my earthly father is, and I am not going to let myself wear the label “daughter of an alcoholic.” I am not defined by the different emotions of shame, guilt, fear and all of what comes with having been sexually assaulted. Who am I? “I am the daughter of a King Who is not moved by the world. For my God is with me, and goes before me. I do not fear because I AM HIS.”

“And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3: 18-24).

Anonymous