Category Archives: hard times

Take courage.

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God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper.  

A man acquainted with sorrow and depression, William Cowper spent his days holding on to small grains of hope and faith.  Even till the end, his last days on earth were dark, and it’s difficult to know why God would allow him to find no respite.  But what’s clear, and perhaps what’s even better for him, is that when he arrived to meet his maker, his joy was that much sweeter because of the clouds.  The joy and awe that he must have felt was infinitely greater because of the contrast to his black days here on earth.

It’s not ungodly to have seasons of depression, or dark nights of the soul.  Even Jesus himself was a man of sorrow, acquainted with suffering.  (Isaiah 53)

10Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,

and though the Lord makesc his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,

and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

11After he has suffered,

he will see the light of lifed and be satisfiede ;

by his knowledgef my righteous servant will justify many,

and he will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,g

and he will divide the spoils with the strong,h

because he poured out his life unto death,

and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

But it’s up to us what we will do during those seasons.  Will we turn inward and see no more than the pain that threatens to overwhelm us, or will we strain to lift our head from the miry clay and set our eyes on Jesus, and find our salvation there?  Don’t give up the fight.  

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How long, O Lord, how long??

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David, presumably due to sin in his life, is undergoing painful and dark times. He cries out to God for mercy, and asks that the Lord rescues him.

“How long, O Lord, how long??” Such a plaintive cry that I know has passed from my lips all too recently, even to this day.  His heartfelt plea resonates deeply with those who have walked the dark nights of the soul. Oh great God, give us rest!

David describes how he spends all night weeping, wetting his couch with his tears. When you’re in a season of despair, it seems like there’s nothing that can make it better, that you just have to hope and pray that this season ends before it really becomes too much to bear. But the Lord allows these seasons to teach us to walk with him through the pain, to lean on him precisely because we can’t endure it on our own. And perhaps these times do allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and convict us of sin that needs to be eradicated, that is drawing us out of right standing with God. So do cry out to him, he hears you, as David says later in the psalm. And hold fast to the promises of God, to his steadfast love.

“It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” -a demon, the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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Save me, O my God!

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This was written by David, at a time when he was still king, but his son Absalom had sought to usurp him. He had gathered David’s people against him, and publicly shamed him. David remained the anointed one, and he knew that his son Solomon was supposed to succeed him.  Yet he still loved his son and did not seek to harm him, though his son wished him dead. What despair, to have your own son turn against you and seek to take everything that is yours.  But in his darkness, he turned to the Lord. His hope was in the promises of a God who hears, who sees, who remembers, and who provides.

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Children of Divorce: Blame, Forgiveness, and Scars.

truth.

Confession: I yelled at my dad tonight.  For the past few months, I’ve been the primary cook in the house.  It’s not a big deal, I enjoy cooking, but I hate that my dad expects me to cook now, and he doesn’t even try.  He’ll even purposefully come home late, or if he comes home early, he sits in his chair or waters the garden instead of getting dinner ready.  So I end up cooking.  I’ve had this discussion with him before.  We used to take turns cooking, or if anything, he cooked the main dish while I made sure we had vegetables on the table.  But not anymore.  I cook, and he (unspoken) expects me to cook.

Yesterday, he asked me if I’d be home for dinner, and I told him yes, but I’d probably be a little late.  He said he’d cook leftovers, and then changed his mind and said he’d cook this beef we’ve had in the fridge.  Instead, I come home around 7:15, wash rice, and relax a little, waiting for him to come home.  He doesn’t get home till 8, then he starts watering the plants and asks me if “we’re” going to cook the beef.  I told him I don’t know how, and so I start getting other food ready because it’s coming on 8:30 and we have no food to eat.  I don’t mind until I after I come out of the shower (after my dad took his shower while I cooked), and I find that my dad has already started eating without me.  He didn’t even think to wait for me.  That’s what bothered me.  After I cooked dinner (when he said he would), the least he could do is just wait till I get out of the shower so we can eat together.  He did the exact same thing the other day, and I pointed it out to him then as well.

It just struck me tonight, as I was yelling at him, that this is what it must have been like for my mom.  I’ve been feeling that more and more as time goes on…throughout the summer, it was necessary to really clean the house because we (me, really) were having guests over to stay.  He didn’t help clean the house at all, so I cleaned everything.  The only thing I asked him to clean is the area around his recliner, and under the toilet seat, because those messes have nothing to do with me.  He says “Why can’t you clean it?  Mommy used to clean the whole toilet.”  And that’s the problem.   She used to do all these things for my dad and he never showed any gratitude.  He took it all for granted.

When I first found out about the divorce, I blamed my mom.  Her temper was is explosive.  Therefore, I thought it was her fault.  My dad, as everyone who meets him tells me, is so nice, and such an easy going guy.  Make no mistake, he is, he’s a local boy, product of the Hawaiian Islands through and through.  How could it be his fault?  My mom is the one who flies off the handle, who has problems forgiving people, right?

Eventually though, when I learned what happened, how my dad broke her trust in a major way (no cheating, thank the Lord) in the early years of their marriage, I saw his part in it all.   But I didn’t and still don’t fully understand how he allowed –no, chose–to lie to her about something so major, so the easiest thing to do was turn a blind eye.  Given what I know about my dad, how nice and laidback he is, this just didn’t make sense.  So instead of trying to understand it (my dad gets really sensitive every time I bring it up), I told myself–why couldn’t my mom just forgive him?  Again, I chose to blame her.

That is, until I grew older.  To have been betrayed by your best friend, the one you swore to love till the day that you died, is a deep deep wound that requires the strength of God to forgive and his grace alone to work on saving the marriage.  I realized too, how much my mom had sacrificed in order for my brother and I to have the opportunities we did.  With my dad’s betrayal came a role reversal.  My mom became the primary breadwinner–had to, in some ways, if she wanted to continue towards upward mobility for my brother and me.  She certainly wasn’t a gold digger, but she had planned for an easier life for herself, with her doctor of a husband.  Instead, she now took consulting jobs that forced her to live in hotels Monday through Thursday–perhaps just for the money, but in retrospect, perhaps to get out of the house to keep their marriage from crumbling any sooner.  And so over the past few years, I’ve come to see her as the paradigm of sacrificial giving.  I even bragged about her to friends at times, whenever the topic came up.  I know it’s common, especially amongst Asian Americans, to sacrifice for your children, but I’m amazed at how much of her life she gave–no, continues to give– for us.

And so when Joe asked me about the divorce, and I told him what happened, and how I now am so grateful for my mom–he replied–“But she should have put her marriage first.”  I was a little offended by his comment.  I appreciate my mom for everything that she has given to me, it has allowed me to be who I am, to have the amazing educational opportunities that I did, to not be in debt upon college graduation, etc.  She should have put her children first, I thought to myself.  That’s what makes a good parent.

But as I yelled at my dad tonight, I found my voice cracking and tears starting to come to my eyes.  I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional, until I realized that now I do blame my dad for the divorce.  I blame him because he shuts down during conflicts, and he doesn’t take responsibility for his part of the problem.  He has a hard time saying that he’s sorry, instead choosing to shift the blame and put it back on you.  Not only that, but I realized that this is what I do when others get upset at me.  I have a hard time owning up to my mistakes if I’ve really hurt someone.  Moreover, as the words “you always” and “you never” came flying out of my mouth, I realized that I even argue like my mom.  I even brought up that point about cleaning under the toilet, just like my mom would have done.

The tears came because I realized that I blame both my parents for giving up.  For not putting their marriage first.  For showing me these terrible conflict resolution styles that have wormed their way into my personhood.  For thinking that sacrificial love is really putting your children first, when in reality, the best thing you really can do for your children is to love your spouse.  For not fighting for their marriage.  For not learning how to apologize.  For not learning how to forgive.

In addition, the tears came because I realized how much of their sinfulness is in me.  I am like my mom, and I am like my dad.  And it scares me.

They were both Sunday School teachers, super involved in the church.  They knew what was right, and what was honoring to God.  But they chose instead to lie, to hold grudges, to withhold forgiveness, and finally to get a divorce.  I’m grateful that they waited until I was in college so they wouldn’t have to fight for custody or make me choose which parent I wanted to live with, but they should have fought harder.

I tried to apologize for yelling at my dad, but he still wouldn’t admit his role in any of it, or even say sorry.  He still pushed the blame back on to me, so I just went to bed.  (Now a few hours later, I realize that I tried to apologize but couldn’t because my dad wouldn’t admit he was wrong.  What kind of apology was I trying to make??)

Before turning out the light, I opened up a book I’ve been reading through recently–Child of Divorce, Child of God–and as I turned the page and began to read, I started to cry.  The author was abandoned by her father and knew that God was calling her to forgive him.  And as I read that, I knew that God was calling me to forgive my parents for not putting their marriage first, and for not trying harder.

I’m still working on it.  I wish I could say that I willed myself to forgive them, but I can’t just yet.

It’s been 8 years since I accidentally found the divorce papers.  I thought I was well adjusted to it–even grateful, to a certain extent, since family vacations (which we still do with both parents) are infinitely more pleasant now.  I was still blessed to have grown up in a (tumultuous) two parent household.  I’d seen the humanity in my parents and loved them still.  I’d found my identity in Christ alone, the great healer and restorer.  But it’s only now, as I’m beginning to look to marriage for myself, potentially inviting another person into my life, that I begin to realize just how many scars I have, and just how deep they run.

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Fear & the Will of God

Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real orimagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension,consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
Antonyms: courage,security, calm, intrepidity.

The third of this dictionary series.

These past six months have been absurd.  Filled with quick blushes, fluttering hearts, and alabaster jars full of tears.  As a twenty six year old who has never been in a relationship, these past six months were full of uncertainty, excitement, and revelations, as for the first time, I was “seeing someone”.

He came out of nowhere.  I was happy being single, busy with friends, school, research, and church.  I had just come back from Urbana, InterVarsity’s amazing missions conference, where the Lord reminded me that he has a perfect plan, a me-shaped dream that is part of his plan in restoring the world.  He reminded me that he made me, down to the interests and specific experiences that I’ve had in my life, and nothing, nothing goes wasted under his watch.  He is a purposeful God.

So coming off this conference high, my friends told me that they were speaking to this guy about me, and suggesting that we meet.  They’d been talking to him for months, and he was asking my best friend tons of questions about me to see whether he wanted to take a risk and meet me.  Eventually, he decided that he would jump, and he asked me out to coffee in mid January.

We met once a week, no more, no less.  And we tried to keep the boundaries platonic.  Ever since our second meeting, we always went dutch, and physically we did nothing–not even holding hands.  But over time, he found me making my way into his heart, and eventually, I found him in mine.  As cliche as it was, things happened so quickly.  He told me  in early March that he “liked [me], and really enjoyed spending time together”.  And in early April, I tried ungracefully to tell him the same–“soooyanothatsongthatsplayinginthatsceneinbeautyandthebeastwheretheyrethrowingsnowballsateachother?yeaaah,ithinkthatswhereimat.”  Hahaha 🙂  But he graciously let me express myself in the only way that I could.

We went and found new restaurants together through yelp, we fast danced (me awkwardly) at the Navy’s Anniversary Ball, and we sat beneath the shade of trees and talked for hours, often spending a quarter of a day together.  Restaurants would close, but our conversations would continue as we strolled along the Ala Wai canal, or sat in a car.

He believes in one of those Christian alternatives to dating–dating with friendship at the forefront and marriage in mind, then once he knew that I would be the one, he would propose, and then pursue until I said yes.  It’s modeled after Christ’s pursuit of our own hearts–a commitment to loving us that inspired and motivated the greatest act of love known to mankind.  Commitment first, pursuit second.  And although I struggled (and quite frankly was frustrated) with wanting a traditional relationship where pursuit and romance happens at the onset of emotions, I respected his conviction and I admired that his eyes were focused on the cross.

Being in the Navy, he would occasionally be gone, disappearing into a submarine for weeks at a time, and communication was spotty and via email at best.  But we made it through, with biblical encouragement and the cds of worship songs he’d make me.  His last underway was most difficult, I was so used to texting him every day, and that morning he’d sent me a text, facebook message, and email, so every line of communication that I had was another reminder that he would be gone for 21 days.  And I actually was counting them down one by one in the beginning, because I missed him so.

But while he was gone, I was praying with open hands, asking the Lord what he would want from us.  Specifically, “What should we do, Lord?”  And behold, I heard “Break up.”  Over the course of a few weeks, I’d press the question again twice after that, not believing what I’d heard, and honestly not wanting it to be true.  So finally, when I heard it a third time, I began asking the Lord for confirmation–through scripture, through quiet times, through anything, but specifically, I asked that my friend Jeannie, who had always been so supportive of us, would confirm what I’d heard.

The Lord provided.  Be careful what you pray for, because He is a God who answers.

Since we stopped dating, the tears just won’t stop coming.  I sobbed in the beginning, and I just had no words to say to anyone, including God.  It was all I could do to just sit there with Him in my car, watching the sun sink over the Honolulu skyline, and know that He hears and He was with me.

Through this time though, God has taught me so much.  I’ve begun to read books on Guidance, Finding God’s Will,  listening to sermons on singleness and listening in silence…and through it God has shown me much.

We all want God to tell us what to do.  We all want God to simply save us the pain and the struggle of figuring things out for ourselves, because we know that his plans are infinitely better than ours.  That his plans lead to his glory.  And who wouldn’t want to take a shortcut to get there?  Why bother with my own plans and my own desires when i know my heart is sinful, and when I know that whatever he wants is best for me?

Because he wants you to be an autonomous being that is both fully you and fully submitted to him.  Just as he didn’t force you to choose him, he will not and does not want you to just be a puppet who does whatever He wants.   In a sermon by Tim Keller, he provided this illustration:

Imagine you’re a parent.  And your five year old asks you for permission to go out and play.  “Of course,” you say.  “But be back home by five, because your mother and I are cooking dinner.”  Now imagine that it’s 15 years later, and your 20 year old calls and says “Hi Dad, my friends are playing frisbee at the park, is it ok if I go play with them?”  You’re dumbfounded.  “You’re 20 years old!  You know your workload, you know how much time you can afford to spend with your friends.  You don’t need to ask me, you can decide for yourself.”

The greatest lessons are learned through living, not told by word of mouth.  Did you come to believe that God loves you because you heard it week after week in a building with a steeple, or did you come to know that God loves you because you had an undeniable experience where his love completely overwhelmed you like the flood of rushing waters?  Did you come to know that you are a sinner because people with picket signs pointed their fingers and accused you, or did you come to find you’re a sinner because you were shown a mirror and saw the depth of depravity within your own soul that looks so shiny and good from the outside?

Likewise, God’s guidance, his wisdom comes through learning.  Learning to listen for the promptings of the Spirit, and learning to walk in ways that are just and true.

Of course, when you’re making difficult decisions that have nothing to do with morality (for those, the answer is in God’s word), things get complicated.  What job to take, what school to go to, who we should marry, we often turn to God for guidance and for direction for these.  As we should.  There are certainly better options, and there are worse options.  Prayer, wisdom, and countenance of friends are certainly necessary.

But to ask God directly for what He wants, I think we need to examine our hearts for why we ask this question.  Sometimes the way just doesn’t seem clear.  And any of the options before you seem good, so therefore you really want to inquire of the Lord and make an informed decision.  And often times, he may just tell us to choose.

Sometimes, however, we ask the Lord what he wants because we’re afraid.  We fear making the wrong choice, because we’re afraid of the consequences.  We don’t want to pick the path less traveled by and come to find it’s full of thorns and wild beasts waiting to devour us.   It may seem like the holy way to go, inquiring of the Lord.  But your heart is quaking in fear.  You’d rather He just make the decision because then there’s no responsibility on your part–God told you do this.  And if God told you to do it, it must be good!

Remember, God is a God who answers prayers.

When I asked the Lord what to do with this man, I was in the second boat.  Not only did I fear the consequences of my actions, but I honestly thought that if God made the decision and told me what to do, then I would follow, and I hoped that it would expedite his glory.  God, you, me, and the right person, we’ll make a good team one day.  So if he is the one, tell me to get a move on and climb aboard.  Silly me.  Expedite his glory.  As if such a thing exists!  The rocks cry out day and night with the sound of his praises!  As if I could delay his glory by making the wrong choice.  As if I had any power to do such a thing, as if such a thing could even happen!  The Lord will be glorified in our sin or in our worship, it’s simply our choice.

But the Lord convicted me today that I asked him what to do out of fear.  He in his grace, answered anyway.  I was afraid because I knew that he was close to a proposal.  I was afraid because if it turns out I don’t want to marry him, I didn’t want to hurt him.   I was afraid because if I don’t want to marry him, I may end up alone forever.  I was afraid because if he didn’t want to marry me, I would be heartbroken.  I was afraid because deep down inside marriage scares me.  I was afraid because my parents are divorced, I’ve never seen a healthy marriage, and I’m terrified of going through it myself.

Being a child of divorce leaves scars.  It just does.  The Lord heals the pain, but that divorce is never erased from your memory.  My identity was shaken.  I became the product of a broken home.  But as the pieces were shaking, what came to the surface was that I was first and foremost a child of God.  Should God strip away all the other labels that people place on me (daughter, sister, tree hugger, student, staffworker, etc), only that would remain.

Nevertheless, I didn’t realize until today just how scared I was of marriage because I’m afraid of divorce.  I’m afraid of the arguments that come between two people who vowed to love each other till death do you part.  I’m afraid of marrying the wrong person because I know how painful and earth shattering divorce is.  And I know the bitterness and the resentment that can come.

I was talking on the phone to my best friend, and I told her my fear of being single.  And she said–what’s meant to be will be.  But I asked her–were my parents meant to get a divorce?  Was that meant to be??  And I still am wrestling with God about the answer.  I know that sin wormed its way into their marriage and rotted it from the insdie out.  But was that part of God’s plan?

The Lord convicted me too, asking me…do you really believe that I work everything out for Good?  Do you really believe that my plans always prevail in the end?  Do you really believe that you can mess with life so badly that my plans do not come to fruition?  Do you really believe that I am Sovereign??

So choose.  Pray, consult, listen, use wisdom.  But choose.  Don’t live life in fear of making the wrong choices because no matter what you go through, I will be there.  No matter what happens, I will use it for good.  No matter what happens, I have you in my hands.  No matter what happens, I am in control.  No matter what happens, I love you and that is enough.

Do not fear impending danger.  Do not fear evil derailing my plan.  Do not fear a life of pain.  Do not fear threats that are real or imagined.  Because I am the Lord your God, and you are mine.  Trust me.

When we seek to know the Lord, we aim to please him, and we find ourselves squarely in the will of the Lord.  It’s not something to be sought, but something to be lived.

The antonyms to fear are courage,security, calm, and intrepidity.  (Does this not sound like a life lived in freedom in the Lord?)

The cure to fear, however, is faith.

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