Isaiah 7:13-14 “And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
What amazing news. Surely this announcement would bring joy. God declared His coming. God would dwell among His people. God would fulfill His promise. God would no longer remain silent.
But joy does not walk alone.
Just as we can’t have hope without darkness and peace without turmoil, the Advent season reminds us we cannot have joy without suffering.
My heart seemed to be in a constant state of heaviness and ache last month. June displayed the depravity of man and the fallen world in all aspects. Disease and death and destruction affect nations, communities, families, and individuals. Tragedy continues to strike around the globe. Intense hardships and trials invade our homes. Shootings, terrorist attacks, poverty, political craziness, cancer, pain, addictions, assaults of every kind run rampant.
And my mind cannot turn it all off. My heart cannot handle it all. Between the tragedies themselves and the endless noise of the news and opinions of everyone on social media, my mind constantly tries to sort through the noise and my heart constantly grieves. Part of it is how I process things and part of it is my introvertedness. Sleep evades me, sometimes due to pregnancy and sometimes due to my mind racing. I have learned I am someone who feels things deeply. And I am often overwhelmed by the weight of it all.
But last month reminded me of the necessity of being in the Word. I cannot handle the weight of all the tragedies apart from the weight of the truth of the Word.
At the end of 2015, I thought about the word I wanted to mark my 2016. I wanted a word for the year to lay claim to throughout and to refer back to on the discouraging days. And although that word was in clearly in front of me as 2016 approached, this is the first time I've announced it.
Uncertainties marched into 2015 with us, so my word for last year was able. I clung to the truths found in Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
We needed provision in every way--a job, a home, a church, friends, a car, furniture, community. All I could do, all we could do, was trust in the God who is able. We didn't know how He would provide, but we knew He would. And He did. In some ways it wasn't what we necessarily prayed for or wanted, but His provision is so good. I'll always look back to that year as a marker of my God who is able.
So as 2016 approached, I wanted to lay claim to it. As we thought about our photography business and my writing career and making friends and building community, the word that kept coming to mind was courage.
Last week our fridge decided to stop working. Every day it seemed to function less and less, and then it finally gave up. Thankfully, I had been putting off grocery shopping so we didn't have a stocked fridge or freezer. I'll be honest, it was hard to not worry (and continue to not worry) about how we would scrape a few hundred dollars together to get a new one. After searching around, we found an outlet store nearby that had one for a good price. And Spencer had a friend from work that offered to help him get it, so that saved his back and the extra delivery fee. But when those unexpected expenses come, I have to fight being anxious and worrying.
Although we found the least expensive one we could find, it was still a bit discouraging. And it's times like that, when finances seem to burden and cause anxiety that I lose sight of my Lord being provider.
I have noticed Katherine getting anxious at certain times. And instead of telling her that I'll always be there, I have started to tell her Jesus will always be with us and take care of us. He will always be with her and take care of her. And I have had to remind myself of that. When the bank account runs lows and we steward what we've been given the best we can, I can still trust in the Lord's provision. I may not know exactly how he will provide, but I know He is good and trustworthy.
What He says in Matthew 6:25-34, He means:
"And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last." (Mark 15:37)
That wasn't the ending the followers of Jesus had expected. Even after walking with Him, knowing the Scriptures, and hearing His teachings, they didn't expect this. This declaration of death. This despairing finality. This hopeless darkness.
This God-man they had surrendered their lives to was horrendously mocked and brutally executed. This dear friend they had lived life with was no longer beside them.
Just nights before they had feasted together. They experienced the intimacy of Jesus bending down to wash their feet, to serve them, to show them true love. And just days before that they watched Him triumphantly enter into the city with great praise from the people.
But now He was in a tomb. The One who healed the sick now lied dead. The One who spoke about the Kingdom of God and forgave sins now was silent. The One who said He was the way, the truth, and the life now was covered in darkness.
I don't want to be political. I'm really not trying to be. But my heart was saddened today. I know it often can be if one spends too much time invested in politics, but today my heart was saddened because of the Word of God being a spontaneous prop in a campaign.
A few months ago I read through Judges and was left with so many questions. Questions about God and Israel, the cultural context, and the events that took place flooded my mind after reading that book.
I know the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament, but reading through Judges left me confused. I knew if someone asked me questions about the book, I wouldn't have answers. Judges reveals a dark moment in Israel's history, a time when the people continuously did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So what can this ancient text, filled with violence and evil, teach readers today about God?
Sometimes commentary is vital to understanding the meaning of Scripture. People have researched the original language, the original context, the original audience. And their research needs to be read and studied. I believe Scripture taken out of context is a dangerous thing.
But I also believe although context is crucial and necessary, the Word of God is wonderfully, sweetly enough. Scripture is beautifully profound and beautifully simple. And the Word of God does not return void.
To the ones who hurt on Mother's Day...
To the ones who long to hold your precious glory babies and see their faces...
To the ones who just want to give your moms a hug but are separated by miles or are on separate sides of glory...
To the ones who feel less than because you don't have the same last name as your children...
To the ones who are struggling through postpartum depression and don't have the strength to keep smiling through the day...
To the ones who feel feel burdened and weary and exhausted especially today...
To the widows and widowers who miss your spouses even more on a day like today...
To the ones who cry for your prodigals to come home...
To the single moms who don't feel celebrated and aren't given a relaxing break today...
To the ones who stay away from social media on a day like today because of the sting it leaves with each post you scroll through...
To the ones who avoided church in fear of it being too painful...
To the ones who hurt on Mother's Day...
Do you ever read a passage of Scripture and then have to sit for a few moments just soaking in all the goodness you just read? Man oh man, I get so excited about those times. Those times make me feel like I'm getting to know the heart of my Father just a little bit more. I just finished up reading Nehemiah and chapter nine is an absolutely beautiful passage declaring who God is and what He has done.
Sarah loves Jesus and her family and is passionate about addressing the urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world. She is the wife of Spencer and mama of Katherine and Claire, and they live in Nashville, TN. She runs a photography business with her husband and writes in order to offer encouragement and invite others to choose grace, joy, and gratitude in the adventure and the mundane. She loves traveling and reading; she will choose unsweet tea over sweet and bootcut jeans over skinny; and she is all sorts of awkward with small talk but thrives with deep conversations.