Confessions of a Broken Tool

This is Not That Day

I’m not much of a runner, but I did run another half marathon last weekend. It was long and sweaty and all the usual stuff. But we did it.

Around mile 8 or a little after we passed a sign that looked just like this:

yard sign

I teared up.

I know, I know, there’s nothing particular special about me having tears in my eyes. But this was a powerful message of encouragement to me in that moment. I know that I won’t always be able to do such a thing. But that day I was fully capable.

As I’ve reflected on that sign and the powerful reminder therein, I was reminded of the very common theological sentiment that God will never give you anything you cannot handle. That’s a very comforting thought, perhaps, but there is one small detail about it that bothers me: it’s absolutely untrue.

Hear me out.

Everything about our human condition is utterly beyond our own ability to overcome. We are all born broken and full of selfishness (which God calls sin). We cannot overcome that.

But there is a much more accurate and much more important truth: what God requires, God provides.

Did you catch that?

What God requires, God provides.

It’s like that great hymn said it, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided – great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

That means that, whatever challenge or issue is in our path today, God has provided what we need to endure and even grow through it.

So let me take this sign in a different context. The day that I cannot run the race set before me will never come simply because God will faithfully provide what each day requires when it is needed… but seldom before.

What difference does it make?

Well… it changes how I see the race. It changes how I see that monstrous hill rising in front of me or the rocky path ahead. It doesn’t make the bumps go away or even really take away the sting of weary muscles, but it does give me a comforting assurance that the struggle and the difficulty is temporary.

But there is something deeper, more powerful that I see. It means that the pain of the struggle—and there is always pain in the struggle—will not be wasted.

One of the most misunderstood assurances in the Bible is found in Romans 8 where we read this important truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8.28)

Paul goes on to explain that God’s purpose for all those who believe is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. I think what he is getting at is that God is using all of the hardness of this life to accomplish His transforming work.

I want to encourage you today by simply reminding you that, no matter what this day requires, God will provide it. In fact, He most like already has done so.

Run your race. You can do it.

You can do it because you can trust Him to give you every ounce of strength required.

You can do it because He is faithful.

You can do it because He promised.

And His promises are true.

Through Thorns and Waves

The painful sting of thorns is a part of this existence—even when working with the stunning beauty of roses. There is no way around it.

The heaving and crashing of waves affect the most sure of sea-going vessels and there’s not a technique for dismissing them. You can’t experience the wonder of the open ocean without being affected by them.

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I have found myself captivated with the haunting simplicity of a particular hymn. The melody was crafted by Jean Sibelius in his tribute to his homeland in a piece so appropriately identified as a tone poem called Finlandia.

The lyrics predate the music and were translated from German (written 1752) into English by Jane Borthwick in 1855.

This hymn is a discipline of self-talk. It is the urging of the mind to return to the soul-deep truth from which life so easily distracts.

I have been particularly enamored with Jadon Lavik’s reverent and hope-dripping rendition that I encourage you to pause and listen and meditate upon here:

Jadon Lavik, “Be Still, My Soul”

Did you see those powerful words?

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side

Bear patiently the cross of guilt and pain

Leave to your God to order and provide

In every change God faithful will remain

Be still, my soul, your best, your heavenly friend

Through thorns and waves leads to a joyful end

Be still my soul

It’s so rich—like cheesecake that demands you slow down and take small bites. The author reminds herself that God is on her side, that guilt and pain are a part of life in a broken world through which we must simply endure.

The urging to leave to God the burden of directing and providing because we know that what God requires God always provides. Because we know this, we can trust His faithfulness no matter what changes roll through our lives.

The assertion that God is, indeed, my best and heavenly friend is a realization to which many believers never acquiesce. But the testimony of Scripture bears out the assurance that, through the thorns of a fallen world and the waves of a sin-cursed journey, He will surely lead to the joyful end that He has promised.

It doesn’t make it not hurt. It doesn’t mean the journey will be smooth and easy and care-free.

It does mean that the destination is sure.

And in that we find rest. In that we can stop and just be still.

Be still, my soul.

 

Comfortable or Conformable

A letter or two can make a great deal of difference.

I was reading some devotional material and came to what my eyes registered as a common, familiar word. But context caused me to stop and look again.

Comfortable or conformable?

What difference does it make?

In spiritual things (and many others), the different is vast.

One is like a slow-acting poison that almost ensures our lack of growth. It is the most dangerous of luxuries and yet the default to which we cling. This limiting force entices us to thicken into spiritual couch potatoes.

The other reflects a softened lump of clay flung onto the potter’s wheel. It is that readiness to be remade, reshaped, rebuilt. It is a softness of heart, an eagerness of spirit, a submission of will that expects the result to be worth the process. This stretching  warm-up prepares us to become what we were made to be.

One is reflexive and soothing and a necessary part of our lives.

The other is often awkward and sometimes painful and also a necessary part of our spiritual lives.

Centuries ago a prophet by the name of Jeremiah was directed to walk down to the potter’s house and learn. While he watched the potter shape the lump of clay over and over until he was satisfied that it would fulfill its purpose, God helped Jeremiah see that he and you and I are just like that lump of clay. (Jeremiah 18.1-6)

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God’s intention for every follower of Jesus is to be “renewed after the image of its Creator.”(Colossians 3.10) That means that He intends to shape us more and more and more to be like Jesus.

So… does your life look more like you or like Jesus?

Right. Me too.

So there’s more work to be done in this transformation. And the reality that’s hard to accept is that very little growing happens when we are COMFORTABLE. It’s the same as the way that I can’t get in shape without doing uncomfortable things and things can’t be surgically repaired without being uncomfortable.

Let’s be frank about it. The only time our healthcare priority is making a patient comfortable is when there’s no more hope of healing treatment. It’s called palliative care.

Is it possible that many of us are spiritually resigned to just sit and remain comfortable? Are we ready for spiritual hospice?

There is just so much more to experience of God’s wonder and grace. And, to really get the most out of a lifelong journey with Him, we should strive tobe CONFORMABLE to His plan, yielded to His hands, like a moistened lump of clay upon the potter’s wheel.

A letter or two can make a great deal of difference.