From Survival to Spectacular—Your Story Isn’t Finished

Based on the unpredictable and seemingly impossible commands the Lord has given His people, I don’t think He would have won any ancient popularity contests.

Survival
(Image from Unsplash)

The first book of our Bible, Genesis, contains accounts that, if we didn’t have the whole story, could make God seem more like a sinister bully than a sovereign Savior.

The people whose stories of faith are recorded in the Word had no idea what the whole story would be, yet they exhibited otherworldly trust.

Noah’s Nautical Carpentry

For example, only a couple chapters after the creation and fall accounts, we learn that humanity continued to make a mess of things. Yet God saw Noah,

a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God (Genesis 6:9).

God told Noah to do something totally unbelievable: build a massive boat because He was going to flood the earth. Mind you, when God said He planned to “flood” the earth, humanity had no concept of what that meant. (And really, do we?)

All Noah knew was that God told him to build this massive structure called an ark when he was 500 years old.

While Noah worked on this project, he undoubtedly earned the reputation of being the “town eccentric.”

Regardless of human opinion, Noah obeyed God. In the end, God used Noah and his family to reestablish the human race and receive a new covenant from God.

“God Will Provide”

Then there’s the story of Abraham and Isaac. In the fullness of time, God fulfilled His promise and gave Abraham and Sarah a son named Isaac, when they were both well past childbearing years. To this we would say, “Praise God for His miraculous gift.”

Why then, in Genesis 22, would God tell Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac? For reasons yet to be revealed, God did tell Abraham to take Isaac, build an altar, and offer him as a “burnt offering” (22:2).

Abraham did exactly what God told him to do—and I imagine he did so with a terrified heart and tear-filled eyes. Isaac, as far as we know, knew nothing of this sacrificial arrangement.

For three days, they collected and cut wood to build an altar. Then, Isaac asked the million-dollar question: “Father . . . where is the lamb?” (22:7). How does a parent answer that? With wisdom from God, Abraham replied, “God will provide.”

That ought to be enough: “God will provide.” But how often do we want so much more? We want to know HOW and WHEN and WHAT He will provide.

A Ram in the Thicket

God didn’t give Abraham—nor does He typically offer us—the full story as he followed Him. All Abraham knew was what God chose to let him know. The same is true for us today. It takes faith to believe that all He will do will be for our good, REGARDLESS.

For Abraham and Isaac, God did provide—at the very last second. Just as Abraham’s razor-sharp knife was about to plunge into his son’s chest, an angel from heaven shouted and stopped Abraham from killing Isaac.

God provided the sacrifice: a ram entangled in a nearby thicket. Can you imagine what it was like for Abraham to untie the rope wrapped around his son’s body?

Can you begin to imagine the freedom Isaac felt as he stepped off the altar he had built with his father? Maybe they fell into one another’s arms and wept. I have to wonder what that was like.

Survival

(Image from Unsplash)

God Still Provides Today . . . Hang On

How easy it is to question the goodness and faithfulness of God when we are in pain, persecuted, living what appears to be a pointless life.

When we are flooded with adversity, with anxiety too hard to bear, we wonder where God is. When we walk lonely roads, stumbling over our own pain or the pain of others, life ceases to make sense.

In those moments, we MUST recall these stories. The stories of Scripture that appear hopeless help us to keep moving forward, reframing misery and mystery into masterpieces yet unfinished.

We survive by clinging to the truths of Scripture . . . which ultimately point us to the hope found in Christ.

Christ Himself is the ultimate example of tragedy transformed into triumph. That cross, that gruesome death, looked like the end. But on the third day, our Lord provided more than a man-made ark and much more than a ram in a thicket.

Jesus laid down His precious life and took our place on the altar of sacrifice—and rose again, conquering sin and death!

Jesus is the ultimate way that God has provided life and mercy to us. Like Noah, like Abraham, all we have to do is take God at His Word.

I know . . . easier said than done. I don’t know where you find yourself today. Perhaps you are being called to something you feel totally and thoroughly ill-equipped to handle.

If you are ill-equipped, God can arm you sufficiently for what is ahead if you will put your faith in Him rather than in yourself. Have you lost all hope of being saved by God? Are the flood waters rising and you’re losing air?

He will provide. Fall on your face before God, and ask Him to help you see the situation as He sees it.

Like Noah and Abraham and all those who believed God before you, there is more to your story than what you can see right now. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28,

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Please don’t give in or give up.

Give all you have and all your heart to the One who knows you best: Jesus Christ. He will make a way. Cling to Him and to His word.

Let Me Hear from You

What is one area where you are being tested to trust in Him today?

Let’s sit in prayer for that this week.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Kimberly Ax

    Hi Colleen,

    I often start my day reading your posts. I could very much use prayer.
    Kim

    • Kim,
      It is an honor to be an encouragement to you . . . I am and will continue to pray for wisdom and perseverance.
      I would also love to know what sort of posts have helped. We are planning to start posting more frequently and want to fill up all those who read them with help and hope.
      “Lord, please draw near to your precious daughter Kim today . . . right now . . . as she is struggling with things in her soul. Please let her know you are NEAR, you HEAR her, you are GOOD even when we can’t see the end of the road. Please provide safe friendships for her to lean on, strong words of truth and comfort from scripture, and a calm peace in the midst of her difficult season. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

      • Kimberly Ax

        Colleen,
        I am personally very greatful you have started this out reach. I live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon.
        This is a very unchurched area of the country. So it is a blessing to have a Christian post read.

        The evidenced based research is a very helpful..and thank you for including it… as a parent of son with autism, intellectial disability,
        ADHD, anxiety and a few other diagnoses…it helps to have church support for families facing complicated diagnoses that will need support from both doctors, medications, OT’s, Speech Path’s, and PT’s as-well as often Special Ed.

        One of the very first posts I ever saw you in was the interview with
        you and your dad talking about autism in the church. Cannot tell you what an impact that has had. You both opened a door for families to be able to talk and be open…and that is so needed.

        My family did not handle the diagnoses well…they still are not. One of the things said to me was “Kim, when you were growing up there were no families kids with ASD in church.”

        My grandmother when she was dying of cancer and my oldest son was a toddler and my son with autism had not been born yet said the following to me
        “When I was a young mother we moved to Idaho and I did not know anyone here, I took your dad and uncle to church. They did not sit well, the pastor told me I had bad sons….I got mad and I did not take them back to church…do not do what I did..take your son even it is hard do not get discouraged.”

        I have no doubt my son could be percieved as a child who could not sit well…I needed help on all sides..help to deal with how to help Mathew, help for me, help for those working with us.

        I think your doing a very good job and being very brave.

        It might help to have some informatiion on the kinds of proffesionals families may work with. I can see why a person may ask “why does your kid see-a Speech Path, they cannot talk. Or what is an Occupational theorpist, why does a kid need that they do not work? Or how many therapusts does-one kid need?

        As I write this…this is my suggestion add interviews with individuals in those fields that can be referenced for families..it will help.the families be better equiped to answer with grace..it would also help reduce anxiety for parents who were scared about taking their child to get services.

        Kim

        • Kimberly,
          What a fantastic comment. My apologies for not replying sooner; I’ve been healing from surgery.
          I agree, when Jon was young, only 1 in 10,000 kids had an autism diagnosis….I knew NO ONE with a loved one with autism. Additionally, Jonathan has many other diagnosis…Tourette’s syndrome, IDD (used to be titled Mental Retardation), Global Developmental Disorder, speech and language disorder, PTSD, GAD (Global Anxiety Disorder), Executive Functioning Disorder, OCD, ODD, ADD, and some others. We were in the largest school district in the nation years ago and they said there was no other student like him. So I fully understand being ‘misunderstood, rejected, told I was a horrible parent, so on”. While my family has been wonderfully supportive, I realize that is not the norm. Your situation, tragically, is the norm. In fact, in the 50’s and 60’s, autism was referred to as the “Refrigerator Mother” syndrome. Doctor’s believed the child’s lack of connection was due to a ‘cold, unavailable’ mother….if you can believe that. While we have come a long way, there is a long road ahead-especially for the church where being “disabled” or “different” is frowned upon. My belief is the only way we can bring unity is to show up, provide information, and pray that others will come to understand. When Jon’s Tourette’s was horrible-100 tics/minute, I used to bring small cards to church, handing them to those we were sitting near. It simple said “Because Jesus has fearfully and wonderfully made each of us, my son with disabilities is included. His challenges are often distracting, I understand and suggest you find a place to sit where you will not be distracted. Thank you for understanding; may the worship service today be a blessing to you. To understand more about autism and other disabilities, please go to ________________ (fill in where you have found the best info).” Kimberly, I never had one person move or respond in an ugly way. In fact, studies prove that when others know there is a difference, acceptance and understanding go up by 70%. So one way we all can help the church expand and embrace differences is to confidently and lovingly show up like this. Anytime I encountered a negative attitude, I had to remind myself that another’s response to my life was NOT my problem and I would not defend or take on false guilt. As my dad often says, keep a thick hide and soft heart. It is love that wins people over; I don’t always respond with love but that is God’s work in my life and in yours. I just read Matthew 5:11-16 yesterday. I encourage you to meditate on that passage often. Instead of viewing your situation as something to be hidden, walk in confidence….as salt and light. The Father’s light in you will be magnified in every way.
          Finally, thank you, thank you for your wonderful suggestions. I will certainly look for interview guests like this; fabulous idea. I also encourage you to check out sites like Key Ministry (Steve Gercevich has been my guest a couple of times-he founded Key Ministry). Steve has made an enormous impact on the church; in fact, the interview you saw was done by his organization. Kimberly, please stay in touch. If you have a bad day and need to just scream or get out your frustrations, I’m here. If you need direction or help, I’m here. We’re in this together, I totally believe in you! Colleen

  • Lurlene

    Have to be honest this morning. Feel like I keep facing the giant waves in endless succession. I have cherished the story of Job lately. When we are in anguish we get up from our suffering tear our robe, shave our head, then fall on our face in worship in spite of the suffering, submitted to God’s sovereign will in our lives. Peace comes, then the suffering begins again and we can’t control it, mental illness is a wretched beast. It overtakes everyone’s lives around it. We are angry disappointed, and so sad. It’s like living death enters again. I watch my other kids walk through this in pain and anger and why?? And I have no answer other than we have to accept the good and the bad from the hand of God. I submit to the suffering knowing my daughter is suffering in mental anguish and I can’t make it better, and we live through it once again. This is the longest bout so far, 6 weeks of manic episodes. Exhausting. Wishing for answers but the only one I get is, shall we not take the good as well as the bad; Who are you? That you should question the potter.and this morning my devotions were on
    Acts 27:44 and the rest some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it same to pass that they escaped all safe to land.
    Keep thinking ok when we will be safe to land a full year of this ongoing, death like state of our life. When will we get there, safe? Hanging on to the broken pieces of the ship today….

    • Lurlene,
      Mental illness is horribly difficult….I get it. Every day is different, usually not what was expected. Yet, I picked up on these words near the end of your comment…”this death-like state”. I continue to learn that in this life, we will all endure many “death-like” states because with every hardship, there is a death to what we expected, wanted, thought it would be like, so on. When Christ says in Mark 8:34 that “if anyone should come after me he should lay down his life, pick up his cross, and follow me”. Literally, we are to die to self….to what we wish or thought would be…and learn to embrace what is. I will never say that is easy or a onetime choice. Somedays it’s an hour by hour choice. It may be helpful to grab some paper, fold in in half, and write on the top of one side “My Expectations/Wants/Wishes”; then on the other side “Reality Today”. Since we don’t know if tomorrow will come, all we can do is stay in today, examine our daily choices, and ask for direction and wisdom. Just this past weekend, we went to see my daughter. My son with disabilities had the hardest time with the whole trip….he longs to see his sister but his complications compromise his ability to enjoy traveling. We hadn’t had this problem until this past trip; I cried half the way home because I can’t change this reality. By addressing my expectations for trips, accepting that my son isn’t able to travel well, I’m asking God to direct us forward.
      Yes, six weeks of mania is beyond difficult, I’m wondering if you have expectations or hopes that keep getting dashed. By taking every thought captive, we can think one day of mania, not the rest of this life…it’s one day at a time. There’s a lot of reality that we don’t understand; but God does and he is shaping your character, allowing parts of you to ‘die’ so they can be replaced with HIS character. It’s horribly painful, it’s incredibly freeing. I would love to hear your thoughts and am always here to listen. I wish I could make it more simple for you today, my friend; please know I care greatly and am praying for you. Colleen

  • Lurlene

    I want to be faithful to praise when God comes to our rescue and our strength is gone. He did!! Big way, 5 nights of sleep in my own bed! Meds are starting to work. My sons last day here before returning to college till Christmas 2800 miles away, was beautiful. I said listen guys it might turn out terrible and we have to turn around and come home, but let’s take a trip to the mountains to our fav spot. I took your advice didn’t let my expectations out way the reality of our life. God came through in a huge way!! I and Tab have not been more than 7 miles away from our house in over a year. It was a good day, for thr reality of where we Are! My son posted an Instagram and I have to share. God has given understanding and strength for the journey to him. My mommas heart is so full, so thankful!
    “it’s not always attractive, and it’s not always painless; it’s rarely care-free, and it’s never perfect; but it’s life, and life is so good. I’m going to miss these people. #family #pnw #lifeisgood #lastday

    • Lurlene,
      OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I have read your comment over and over; every time ending with chills over your son’s words. If I wasn’t recovering from surgery, I certainly would have jumped up and down, clapping my hands with enormous joy over it all. How precious….to be able to enjoy some time away, to recall God’s goodness in a time when you really, really needed it. How great of our Lord to bless your surrendered heart; knowing that by giving up expectations, you were giving Him control of whatever happened. That is one of life’s biggest hurdles…to let go and accept what God allows; believing it all has a greater purpose that we often cannot see. Oh Lurlene, if you only knew how many times my kids struggled with their brother’s challenges…it’s hard for EVERYONE in the family! In fact, my oldest struggled greatly with his challenges; I wondered if she would be able to come to terms with it all. She is currently applying to vet school and one of her essays is about how her brother’s disabilities and challenges forced her to learn how to communicate when words weren’t present. The very thing that caused so much frustration as a child is now a blessing as an adult. It takes all of us time to adjust and accept what we didn’t plan on or what is so difficult. And, as mother’s, we long for our family to be united; when that doesn’t happen, it’s easy to forget much of that is God’s job and not ours.
      Lurlene, I am so over the top delighted to hear from you! Please let me know how things go; keeping your expectations in check, thus finding God put these treasurable experiences in your path just delights my soul. Have a wonderful weekend and thank you again for connecting. I’m celebrating with you!!!!! Colleen