FOUND!

I hate when I wake up in the middle of a dream, feeling lost and confused, not knowing where I am or where I have been.  A few mornings ago I experienced just such an awakening.  I dreamed that I was lost for what seemed hours and then, finally, found myself driving home to visit my parents.   It was then that I felt my body heave an involuntary shudder as I remembered that Mom is gone, Dad’s days on this earth are probably short and the home I grew up in was sold three years ago.  It was at that moment that the cold shudder of feeling lost and alone gripped my heart.

Trusting in God’s Goodness has kept me steady even as:

I have fought tears back when I have seen something Mom would have liked . . .
when thinking of Dad alone and confused in a strange place . . . 
realizing that what was . . . has been lost forever.

The temptation to separate myself from the festivities of Christmas–knowing that Christmas will never be the same–has been especially difficult.   Yet it is in those moments of suffering profound loss, that God has faithfully shepherded my heart with these verses:

” . . . the people living in darkness have seen a great Light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a Light has dawned.” 
Matthew 4:16
 
“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
John 1:5
 

Even as despair has threatened I have been greatly comforted in remembering that,

No matter how dark life may appear, Christ’s Light dispels darkness like nothing else can.

Daily, He has drawn me into the Light of His Love, filling my heart to overflowing . . . not with a Christmas carol, but with the comfort of God’s boundless Grace in saving the lost:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.  
How precious did that Grace appear  
The hour I first believed.  
 
Through many dangers, toils and snares  
I have already come;’
Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far  
and Grace will lead me home.
 

As the Celebration of Christ’s Coming draws ever closer, God has faithfully spared me further heartache with the wondrous truth that God came down to seek and save the lost–you and me!  Jesus taught in parables about God’s pursuit of lost things in Luke 15.  I especially love the picture He painted as the love of a father was poured out when his son returned home:

” Bring the fatted calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.‘  So they began to celebrate.”  (verses 23-24)

If you find yourself struggling this Christmas . . . give thanks that you are not alone and lean into to the Light of His Love–He is so very worthy of our trust!

Yesterday I was able to talk to my dad on the phone for the first time since having to leave him in early November.  He is still very sick but there was Joy in his voice, so very grateful to be back in his apartment for Christmas.  Many thanks to those of you who have asked about and prayed for my dad.  Merry Christmas!

Rejoicing in Him Always!

With Conviction There Is Hope ~

When she walked into my office I was surprised as she offered an almost shy smile.   She called a few days earlier asking about “anger management.”  I responded with a question, “Who is it for?”  She answered with a quivering voice, “It’s for me.  I have no friends because they’ve all distanced themselves from me.  I’m so lonely . . . I hurt people without thinking with my sarcasm . . . can you help me?”  Although I could not see her, I knew tears were falling . . . each one marking the pain of regret. Concerned yet aware of a knowing smile forming on my face, I remembered myself a lifetime ago with nowhere to turn . . . so angry . . . so afraid when I realized my anger had become a prison.  Life was hard but I soon found out that God is very, very good. . . .

During our first meeting, I introduced myself and talked about what I do as a Biblical Counselor.   I explained that I don’t “do” anger management but that I would help her get into the Scriptures to gain insight into God’s perspective on life and how He sees her.  I told her about how God helped me with my anger and that He could certainly help her too.  A light came into her eyes that I can only describe as a glimmer of hope as she responded, “That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

It was my turn to listen as she told me her story.  She talked about her family, about hurt inflicted upon her by others.  She admitted that being angry had been a way of life; only recently did she realize that it was becoming a prison.  I appreciated her candor as she spoke of losing the people she holds most dear as they have distanced themselves from her angry outbursts and cutting remarks.  She admitted being confused as to why God allowed bad things to happen to her while also feeling convicted about hurting people who had done nothing to her.

I spoke to encourage a dry and hungry soul, not with pat answers but with the assurance of God’s provision:

Conviction is a good thing; with conviction there is hope.

She looked at me with her face twisted oddly as she tried to make sense of what I had just said.  She finally asked, “How can conviction ever be good?”

I answered simply, “When it serves as evidence of God’s Holy Spirit working in your heart.  God convicts in order to bring us to our senses, to recognize our need for salvation because we know we deserve hell.  When we repent of our sin (no longer making excuses for it) and trust in Christ Jesus to save us, we are truly free to live our lives well before Him.”  A light seemed to dawn as she listened and considered what I had said; that glimmer of hope began to widen as we looked at the Scriptures together . . . .

In a world that avoids taking personal responsibility for anything that happens and shifts blame to others for our sinful ways, the idea of conviction being a blessing is absurd.  Yet, consider the parable Jesus told about the youngest of two sons recorded in John 15:11-20,

“There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.”

When the rebellious son “came to his senses” he became convicted of his sinful behavior.  It was with that conviction that he realized his only hope was to return to the father he had dishonored and to confess his sins in the hope of being allowed to work for him as a hired hand.

Of course the parable has a much happier ending as Jesus pictures the father ready to receive and restore:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  (vs. 20-24)

I still remember the day I realized I deserved hell.  I realized that before a Holy God there was nothing I could do but ask for the mercy I had refused to give to others because of my anger and resentment.  It was when I understood how filthy I truly was, that I came to appreciate the awful necessity and wonder of what Christ accomplished on the Cross.

17th century Commentator Matthew Henry lends insight into the blessing of conviction under the Holy Spirit:

“Without clear discovery of our guilt and danger, we never shall understand the value of Christ’s salvation; but when brought to know ourselves aright, we begin to see the value of the Redeemer.”

Truly, with conviction there is hope when it is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ!

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  John 1:11-13

Feeling convicted?  Go to God as the younger son returned home to his father.  You can know and trust that God is watching for you just as the father watched for the son he had lost.

All to His Glory!