identity

God’s Plans Versus Mine

I sat in the dusty Zimbabwean earth, peering up at the nowhere-near-ready church, and fumed. Our construction mission trip had just turned on end.

We’d traveled thousands of miles, spent thousands of dollars more to come this far, and now we were forced to face the hard fact: None of the building materials had been purchased. We had nothing to do but wait.

Anger coursed through me, and frustration. I looked down at my just-purchased work boots and gloves, eyed our unused tool belts stacked in a heap. What a waste!

But our team huddled and prayed, determined to give our work to God anew. And in the waiting came fresh blessings.

Helping the women of the village cook, shop for groceries, draw water from the well, braid hair. Playing soccer and King of the Mountain with a horde of barefoot children. Learning the native language while getting to know the bored men hired on for labor. Shining God’s light in spite of setbacks.

Two days later, we were working again. The plan had changed, and we didn’t leave with the completed frame of the new church as we’d hoped. But we left with friends and a heart for the people and the nation of Zimbabwe we probably never would have formed otherwise.

God’s plan had prevailed, after all.

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work and our plans fall apart, it’s hard to see the big picture. Our pride makes us think our plans are His.

The Bible has so many examples of God using the difficult and even catastrophic for good, and then we realize—He was there all along. Click To Tweet

For example, in Genesis, a Hebrew teenager named Joseph is sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, a terrible betrayal. Joseph was the son most beloved by his father Jacob, also called Israel, and his brothers hated him for it (Genesis 37:4). But God’s plan was always at work. Not only did Joseph cling to God and rise to Egyptian leadership in spite of his shackles, but he eventually saved both Egypt and his family during a time of severe famine.

When his brothers realized their transgression, they fell down before the brother they had once despised. Joseph wept and responded, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

Sometimes, heeding God’s will means letting go of our own plans. Click To Tweet

I imagine Joseph, stripped of everything and cowering at the hands of his brothers, didn’t have any idea the God of the universe had a master plan to make all this good. But he trusted God anyway. Though all of Joseph’s hardships, the Bible tells us, “The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:3). And after Joseph died, his bones were ultimately carried out of Egypt by Moses, the man God called to liberate His people when they, hundreds of years later, endured their own slavery, and buried in his people’s new home, Israel.

When I look back on my time in Zimbabwe, I don’t much remember the church we helped construct, but I do remember the people—their faces, their dreams, their songs, their laughter. I remember and celebrate our connection as Christian men, women and children united in a common goal.

I’m certain that was God’s plan all along.

Have you ever struggled to accept God’s plan over your own? How did it turn out?

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Faith, Hardships and Trials, Hearing God, obedience

When Patience Grows Thin

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

It was a beautiful fall day, but all I could think about were the negatives. My patience was growing thin every month seeing one line instead of two. I wasn’t prepared for the wait my husband and I would endure to have a baby. Just as God quickly arranged our marriage, I thought He would as easily bless us with a growing family.

Instead, we were left to wait and wonder. I had been praying endlessly for patience and a child, but I hadn’t asked God why it hurt not to have it right now. It’s a good thing I decided to call out to Him because He had surprising answers.

Jer33-3 WEB

When I find myself waiting on God to move, deep down I know I should set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:2) with an open heart for His plan. But in reality, I turn inward. I grow selfish and impatient, convinced that I’ve waited longer than anyone else. I grow envious of the people popping out of nowhere who are enjoying the things I’m praying for. My inward and outward attention hinders me from looking upward for wisdom, and thus, I’m tuned out from insights God wants to reveal.

My ugly attitude that morning didn’t match the beautiful fall day, and it was likely God who nudged my husband to ask, “We can keep trying, so why is getting pregnant so urgent?” I was stumped because I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for urgency. For weeks, I asked God to search my heart (Ps 139:23), and He showed me my anguish was not the negative pregnancy tests.

I wanted a baby and I longed for the break from my career travel demands maternity leave would grant. Hidden deep in my heart, God had a new calling for my talents. He used my wait to reveal it to me, but only after I summoned the courage to ask Him why I was hurting. It felt counterintuitive that He would call me to leave a steady job and team that I love, but I couldn’t ignore the peaceful curiosity of pursuing this new path He was making known to me.

We are still patiently waiting to see if growing our family is in His plan, but God lifted the heavy burden of urgency. My changed heart no longer wishes for changed circumstances. A changed heart no longer requires changed circumstances. Click To Tweet

WL_Changed Heart_Kelli Thompson_Blog

What if waiting isn’t a test of patience, but an opening for God to REVEAL His divine direction?What if waiting isn't a test of patience, but an opening for God to reveal His divine direction? Click To Tweet We can fear what God is asking, or we can anxiously await the opportunities He provides.

Let’s talk about this! How can you call on God and tune into the hidden wisdom He can make known during your wait?

Showing love

Loving Those Who Drive You Crazy–Guest Post by Karen Wingate

Quote pulled from text with a woman praying

I’m not very good at this loving one another thing.

Jesus’ disciples implored him, “Increase our faith.” I cry out to the Lord, “Increase my love!”

The Bible says we are to love our brothers and sisters “deeply from the heart” (I Peter 1:22, NIV)). Love is to be sincere (Romans 12:9, NIV) or, as some versions of the Bible say, real or without hypocrisy. We are to love as Christ loved us (John 13:34, NIV).

Here’s my dilemma. As I grow in my own ability to trust and obey God, I find myself impatient with those who still struggle with faith and obedience. Yet Christ asks me to love those who offend me, diss me, act in unloving ways toward me, and whose foolish choices cause me to suffer consequences. How do I love the Christian brother or sister who repeatedly dabbles in the world’s ways? How am I supposed to show love to those who don’t seem to notice or acknowledge my efforts?

Then I remember – that verse about loving as Christ loves me holds the answer. How does Jesus love me?

He loves sacrificially. He gave without expecting anything in return. Loving as Jesus loves means I’ll stay in the same room with a grouchy husband, loving him.

He loves universally and unconditionally. He loves me no matter who I am, where I’ve been, or how far I’ve come. I’ll listen with loving patience to the incessant chatter of an overwhelmed mama of preschool children.

He bases his love on my needs, not on my deeds. Grace and love entwine to give me what I don’t deserve.

Like Jesus, I’ll love others intentionally, expecting no return on my love investment.

He demonstrates his love in tangible ways. His death on the cross is a highly visible expression of His deep regard for me. I’ll look for concrete ways to express love to those who need it but don’t deserve it.

He forgives me. He chooses to remove the magnifying glass from the things I do wrong. I’ll hang in there with someone who persists in dabbling in the world’s ways.

Perhaps the answer to my struggle to love is found in the disciples’ plea to have an increase of faith. Paul challenges his readers to have the kind of faith that expresses itself in love (Galatians 5:6). How much do I buy into the fact that Jesus released me from sin’s grip when He died as my replacement on the cross? That I don’t have to earn His approval? That His grace and forgiveness is a gift and I don’t have to cling to guilt or shame any longer? Am I filled with such gratitude for all He has done for me that I am willing to share that gift with others? And if the only way they’ll catch the hugeness of God’s gift is through a demonstration of how the gift works, would I be willing to do it?

Opting to love as Jesus loves becomes a two-pronged approach. First, I commit myself to a growing knowledge of and gratitude for the vast extent of Jesus’ deep love for me. Next, I take the risk to love others in the same way. When I accept how I have been loved and reflect it to others, I am fulfilling God’s call to love with a depth and sincerity that will make those who drive you crazy sit up and take notice.

Who needs a gift of God’s love from you? What loving actions will best speak to their needs?

Prayer

Becoming More Like Jesus–Praying for Our Enemies

Winter scene with white lettering that says, "God commands us to pray for our enemies, and He can be trusted, even in this. ~Kristi Woods"

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)

Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?

As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.

But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.

A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!

His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.

Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.

God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.

Winter scene with red berries and the words, "God uses prayer to soften our hearts." - Kristi Woods

Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.

God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?

How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.