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Looking Back with 20/20 Vision

Hindsight is 20/20.

When troubles and trials are dominating our reality, we rarely see past the pain they inflict. Our thoughts are so consumed with the sting of loss, hurt of rejection or sorrow of despair that it becomes nearly impossible to conceive of a happy ending to our anguish. The idea that there could be a good, redeeming purpose for our suffering is out of sight and certainly out of mind. In the heat of a trial our vision is darkened, and it is hard to picture the world ever looking bright again.

But, as anyone who has ever endured trouble knows, the pain subsides. Day by the day the sting, hurt and sorrow begins to diminish. It doesn’t happen all at once and, sometimes, that pain sneakily returns with renewed force for a brief time. But, slowly and surely, what caused us such grief begins to lose its power over us. Life keeps moving, changing our reality and our view of it.

Some people say, “don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” And I understand their point. Looking back can be a trap but only if we look back to grieve. Looking back can be a gift if we look back to grow. When we use our past pain as a treasure trove of experience instead of a load of baggage, those memories become stepping stones, not stumbling blocks.

I used to try to force myself from looking back and recalling my most painful moments in life. When old memories popped up that featured the sting of a breakup or the hurt of a massive failure, I tried to push them aside, reminding myself not to look back because I wasn’t going that way.

But then I drove past an old friend’s house – or what used to be her house. About a year ago my friend’s house burned to the ground in a tragic fire. Thankfully, everyone in the house escaped and no one was hurt. But the house was an entire loss. There was nothing left to salvage of her two-story home. As I pulled down the road where my friend’s house used to sit, I recalled what the scene had looked like in the days following the fire. Charred cars still parked in the burned-up garage. Black soot and ash covering the property. Busted out glass and empty windows. Loss – so much loss.

But as I approached my friend’s lot I was greeted with a beautiful sight: a brand-new house in the making.

It was seeing my friend’s new house, still in its framing stages, that got me thinking about how I look at the past. Do I look at it as destruction or do I look at it as the plot of land where a new house is destined to be built? When I consider what I’ve lost, do I mourn what was or do I thank God for it as I anticipate what’s to come?

At one time or another in all our lives, we will encounter loss and the struggle to imagine how our ashes could possibly become something beautiful. But, take heart. If Jesus has overcome death, don’t you think He can overcome your pain and hurt? Since Jesus rose from the grave, shouldn’t we believe He can redeem our brokenness and restore what we’ve lost?

Jesus can turn our trials into testimonies, but we have to give Him the ashes and allow Him to work out the transformation. We cannot be afraid to look back nor can we be afraid to move forward. It is a great balancing act of faith and by the grace of God, it is not impossible.

When we look back at the men and women of the Bible who trusted God with their ashes, we are reminded that He truly did make them beautiful. Look at Abraham and Sara, Noah and the ark or Job. God was faithful to the men and women who bowed down and acknowledged Him as Lord. The people who entrusted their lives into God’s care were never disappointed. They encountered trials, troubles and tests but remained true to the Lord their God and He, of course, remained true to them.

If you’re carrying ashes around, why don’t you try giving them to God? Stop trying to ignore them or pretend they don’t exist. You don’t need to be afraid of them or worried that they are doomed to ruin your life. Once you give them to God, He’ll do something incredible with them and then give you His perfect 20/20 vision to see why the pain was for your good.

Loss has a purpose greater than shattered hearts can ever comprehend. In the hands of our Heavenly Father, He takes what has been reduced to ashes and makes them a beautiful masterpiece by the redemptive power of His Son. He takes what breaks us and uses it to bring us back to the Savior’s throne. When God is given control and authority over the past, we can look back on it and smile, knowing that, even in those painful moments where the sting was so intense we didn’t know how and if we’d survive it, God was there all along. He was there, working out the details of His glorious, grand plan.

That’s beauty from ashes but you can only see it if you’re willing to look back.

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The Shield of Faith

A long, long time ago (read: fall of 2017) a mysterious bubble appeared on my eyelid (thanks chronic Lyme disease). The bubble grew so large that, at times, I thought it might explode. But, by the grace of God, it never did. In time, the bubble began to diminish until one day it was entirely gone.

In my mind’s eye I saw that bubble as a battle in the war for the health of my eyes;a pussy, protruding fight for the territory of my vision. With the bubble gone, I thought the battle was won, once and for all. Until two weeks ago, when a new, less protruding, just as painful, eyelid problem presented itself.

I first encountered my new eyelid issue one night as I was laying down to sleep. All of a sudden, a stabbing pain assaulted my eyes and I couldn’t blink without feeling tortured. I cried and moaned in agony for over two hours until I finally fell asleep.

The next morning I woke up with the same debilitating pain and made a frantic appointment with an eye doctor. After peering into my cornea with a bright light and quizzical look in her eye, the doctor flatly declared, “your eyelids are like sand paper.” 

I was a bit taken aback and confused. How did my eyelids become like sand paper so suddenly and what could I do about it? The doctor didn’t have an answer to the first question but she did have an idea for the second. “Wear your contacts,” she said. “They’ll act as a shield. When you blink, your sand paper eyelids will scratch the contact, not your cornea.”

I rushed home to my contact, excited to put the lenses in my eyes. The moment the contacts met my cornea the discomfort reduced dramatically. A smile spread across my face as I blinked free of stabbing pain. Before long the redness in my eyes diminished and the burning subsided.

Fast forward two weeks and my eye lids are still like sand paper. As the doctor warned, this is a condition that may not go away. But, as has been true throughout every twist and turn of my illness and healing journey, I still believe God can heal my eye. He has the power to redeem and restore everything that is broken – including eyelids.

 

But even if He should choose not to heal this part of me, He has not left me without hope and help for my condition. The Great Physician has provided two shields to protect my cornea: contacts and faith.

As I take up the shields God has provided I must remember that my enemy, satan himself, wants to use this latest healing set back to derail my faith. To kill, steal and destroy my confidence in Christ is always his goal. So, although I’m sure satan wouldn’t mind robbing me of physical vision, that isn’t his primary target. It is spiritual vision he’s after.

But before I ever knew I would have sandpaper eyelids God had a plan for my protection. His solution to keep me guarded from satan’s schemes and every one of life’s problems is faith in Jesus Christ. Even when pain assaults my physical being, the assurance of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’ resurrection is my unfailing shield. I can stand tall as the battle within my body rages on because the victory for my eternal health and vision is already won.

Thanks to my sandpaper eye lids, I pray to God in a whole new way. Each morning, as I put in my contact lenses, I talk to God and say… “Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming and renewing the eyes of my heart. Thank you for showing me how to walk by faith and not by sight. Lord, I pray that my eyes will stay fixed on you even when the enemy attacks my body, mind and soul. Help me to hold tightly to the shield of faith so I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one by the indwelling of Jesus’ resurrection power. Amen.”

If learning how to depend on Jesus as my shield is the reason for my sandpaper eye lids, then to God be the glory for great things He has done! 

 

“…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16