Week 11: Merciful God

Monday: Genesis 11

Tuesday: Matthew 11

Wednesday: Nehemiah 1

Thursday: Acts 11

Friday: Genesis 11, Matthew 11, Nehemiah 1, Acts 11

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 11: 

            Self-reliance can be utterly dangerous. We see the pride of the people of the earth in Genesis with their common language, and their tall tower, seeking to make a name for themselves above all else. And how often do I feel that I can “do it myself” instead of relying on God and His strength?

            As I read this, I see that God scatters the people and confuses their language, not out of malice, but mercy. Because often it is only when we are at the end of ourselves and our self-sufficiency, when we are confused and “scattered” and downright weary, that we draw near to God and fully rely on Him.

Is there an area of your life where you are relying fully on yourself and your own strength? Sometimes our strength is just pride in disguise. 

How can you invite the Lord into this part of your life and rely more fully on Him?

Is there an area of your life that feels particularly confused or “scattered”? How might this trial be inviting you to press in and rely more fully on the Lord?

Tuesday, Matthew 11:

            Even John – John the Baptist! –  can begin to doubt, can let confusion creep in. Certainly, imprisonment and persecution might not have aligned with the blessing he may have believed the Messiah would bring for those who repented and turned to Him. And yet, even after his questions and doubt, Jesus affirms John’s place as a prophet, the foretold Elijah who would prepare the way. Our doubts and struggles do not scare God away. Even when we stumble, nothing can thwart God’s good plans and purposes to use our lives for His glory. God reveals Himself to those who come to Him as children – dependent, reliant, trusting, seeking, asking. Even in our doubts and our questions, we can find rest in our loving Father.

Do you have doubts or lingering questions about who God is or how He loves you? You can be honest about those things before Him – He doesn’t love you any less.

Find a friend or mentor who you can confide in, sharing your doubts and questions. Doubt often loses its power when we speak it out loud to a reassuring friend.

What is a way that you can rest in Him today?

Wednesday, Nehemiah 1:

            God kept a remnant of His people in Ezra, but they are still “without a wall,” without protection from their enemies and a shelter of peace. Like Ezra, Nehemiah turns to the Lord in His grief, turns to the Lord with his questions. He remembers who God is – great and awesome God, God who keeps His promises, God who loves His people. Yes, we sin, but we return. We return to the goodness of God who loves us, and He gathers us into His loving arms.

            I love the model of Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1. Let’s take some time to pray like this today:

  • Glorify God for who you know Him to be – the great and awesome God! God who keeps His promises of love!
  • Confess your sins
  • Pray for loved ones who have sinned or may be walking in sin
  • Remind God (which is often just reminding ourselves!) of His promises and ask for His favor

Thursday, Acts 11: 

            Peter is criticized for sharing the Gospel with those others deem “unworthy.” But Peter remains sure of his story – of what God showed him and instructed him to do. So often in my own life, I let other people’s opinions and criticism get to me. I second-guess myself and sometimes even what God is doing in my life when the voices of disapproval get loud. As Peter stands firm and tells the story of what He saw the Lord do, those criticizing Him are persuaded of the grace and goodness of the Lord. 

Are there areas of your life where you have let the criticism of others overshadow your desire to do what God has put on your heart, or to diminish His work in your life?

How can you look to Him for approval, instead of relying on the praise or endorsement of others?

*This is different than asking a few trusted friends or mentors to look into your life and decisions and give advice – definitely do this! But don’t let broad criticism (or even just the fear of it) from people who don’t know you well cause you to question yourself or God’s plans for your life.

Are there people you have unknowingly or unintentionally deemed “unworthy” of the Gospel message simply because you have never thought to share it with them?

Friday reflections:

“Remember, Katie, that nothing can actually alter the plans that God has for your life. This isn’t coming as a surprise to Him.”

            I let these words from a dear friend sink in slowly. A family emergency had left me reeling, uncertain, heartbroken. Far worse than suffering of our own is the suffering of those dearest to us. Especially when there is no possible way to help or fix it. It is often the suffering of loved ones that leads me to throwing my biggest questions at God, and, honestly, feeling most abandoned by Him.

            “How could you let this happen?” was my late-night cry. I had wrestled the whole year to surrender my plans to the Lord, and now I felt duped, forsaken. But you didn’t protect us, I couldn’t choke out the audible words, but the thought swirled. Maybe I know somewhere deep in my heart that this isn’t true, or maybe I just know that you aren’t supposed to say things like this to God. Regardless, the words ran through my head even if they weren’t coming out of my mouth.

            As dear friends showed up with cinnamon rolls and supper and prayers, I wept. And while many friends just listened, nodded along and cried with me, one spoke this gentle but profound truth, one that I would cling to for months and keep coming back to over and over again; that while this suffering may alter my own imagined plans for our lives, no emergency, no surprise, can ultimately alter the plans of God who holds our world in His hands. We were surprised by this turn of events, yes, but He was not. For our Sovereign Father, this wasn’t altering the plan, this was part of the plan.

            And that is a big, hard concept to wrap your head around when the plan looks like a giant ugly mess, something that you never would have chosen in a million years. And yet, at the same time that I kind of hated this truth, I found great comfort in it.

            As I sat late into the night reliving our catastrophe over and over again, I began to see how God’s fingerprints were all over it. No, He didn’t stop it from happening and, no, He didn’t provide the instant, miraculous answers we were begging for. But there was also no way to deny that He was there, constant, working out little details on our behalf, putting the right people in the right places at the right times, gently guiding us not out of, but through, our darkest times. I saw that while our plans had changed, His plan to be with us was still completely intact, even in the unexpected.

            Our valley was not a surprise to our gracious Father. This situation would not “alter” our lives because it was in fact the very life He had laid out for us all along. He knew these days would come, and He purposed to walk them with me, with all of us, and to use them. And we know that He doesn’t waste our pain.

            It was His mercy, His plan, to scatter His people in Genesis. John’s time in prison would help him know and love Jesus all the more. Nehemiah’s grief for the people of Israel would lead him to build the wall with all the more determination. And the criticism of Peter would lead to the spread of the Gospel. I wonder if they saw His mercy at the time, or if it is only this evident looking back at the story as an outsider.

            Years later, slowly, we have overcome this trial and many more. Each of us has emerged different from our grief, not unscarred, but stronger somehow. To be really honest, I am not yet in a place where I could say, “I would do that all again, because of what God taught me, because of His nearness.” It’s still a bit too painful, and I think that is ok. I do believe that in eternity one day, we will understand the things that just didn’t make sense this side of Heaven. Today, His mercies are new, and that is enough.

            When we are looking at our own plans that have turned into a bit of a mess, when our worlds are rocked with tragedy or suffering, we can rest in knowing that our Loving Father’s plans haven’t changed. In fact, His plan all along is to shepherd us through our hurt and our sorrows, to be near to us, and to grow us in dependence on Him. It is mercy, not cruelty, that has allowed it to unfold like this. It is intention, not happenstance, that has brought us here. He is here with us, and He is not surprised.

What things in your life right now are altering your plans? Can you believe that they might in fact be part of God’s plan for you?

Even in the midst of the unexpected, can you name places that you see God at work, or where you recognize his nearness?

In what ways has God used other unexpected suffering or changed plans to bring about your good or His glory? Take comfort in knowing that He intends to do it again!

2 thoughts on “Week 11: Merciful God

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. 2020 was sure filled with many surprises but God wasn’t surprised. He has been and will be with us at all times.

  2. This is a wonderful post! It is so necessary and difficult for us to realize the deep truth of what you say in your Friday reflections. That was a wise and courageous friend who spoke that truth to you in the midst of your pain and suffering.

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