As I type this, my son is in the midst of military leader training. As opposed to the lazy days of summer where fun and relaxation could be prioritized, he is now running in the heat, pushing his endurance and maximizing his fitness. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally challenging on a personal level. Add to it the responsibility of leading and shepherding younger, less experienced cadets, and it’s an even weightier load to carry. He’s still a teen, figuring himself and his life goals out. He may even (surely he does!) miss his family too. But off he goes with his platoon each morning: backpack loaded, determination flowing through his veins, rank in his sight and hope in his heart.
Here at home, I’m most definitely missing him and adjusting to the loss that happens each fall when he returns to boarding school. He thrives within the structure, so the sacrifice is worth it. But my mama heart grieves the separation…especially this semester. Typically, I’m sustained by several joyful, celebratory weekends together.
Family visits are now cancelled. It’s yet another loss due to virus restrictions. Ugh. It’s deflating and maddening, and I wonder how I’ll manage until Thanksgiving when I can hug him again. God made me a people-gatherer. My heart is wired for togetherness, but currently that wire feels quite barbed and rusty. It hurts.
On top of that, the heap towers taller with all the other losses, disappointments and socially-distanced variations stretching into perpetuity at this point. Who knows what will happen with my daughter’s first year of high school? Dances, traditions, teachers, grades, volunteering, church groups, sports??? What about my husband, who would love to clear out of what used-to-be my home office and get back to his beautiful high-rise windowed office without another Zoom call on his calendar for months? And when will it feel safe to travel and gather larger groups together for some of the best things in life? It’s all so frustrating, emotional and draining.
But we must persevere!
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…how many of you are picturing a small blue and yellow fish right now? Can you hear Dory’s voice from “Finding Nemo”? Really, though, who has the energy? Who isn’t already exhausted? How can we stay positive, power-on and even make the most of this difficult life season? We probably can’t.
If you’ve read my writing for any length of time, you might recall these two words. They’re my absolute favorite words in Scripture. Every time you see them, there’s a shift; a change of course that reveals God’s grace, compassion and love. After each “but God”, circumstances don’t get the last word. What the enemy means for evil, God uses for good. What was supposed to defeat us doesn’t get to do its job. God gets the last word, and He gives us the word “victory” to raise high above our conditions and cast light over our darkness.
“But God” means that He is working. And, know this…He is always working for our good. Take, for example, these “but God” verses (just a few of many!):
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. (Genesis 8:1)
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. (1 Kings 5:4)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
“But God” changes everything. In HIS power; not ours. Friends, God makes all the difference. He, in His sovereignty, is the ultimate course-corrector.
In each of our situations and circumstances, we get to choose our sustenance; our power-source to persevere – His or our own. They are two sides of the same coin. Opposite approaches, but with the same goal in mind. One side of this coin is your perseverance. It’s you not giving up, persisting through challenges, maintaining effort despite formidable obstacles, continuing on no matter what. Exhausting? For sure! Sustainable? Perhaps for a bit, but likely not forever and probably not without cost. Not in your own might.
Flip that coin! What’s on the other side?
God’s steadfastness. His inexhaustible grace, unconditional love and unwavering faithfulness to us (often resulting in a “but God” course change). His unchanging character. His glory in our victories through Him. When you flip the coin, this side wins every time. He is immovable in His nature; who He is, the “I am”. Did you know God’s steadfastness is mentioned 219 times in the Bible? More than 200 times, the word is directly associated with His love for us. What can we gain from this? Complete confidence in His plans and purpose for our lives, because of His great faithfulness.
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6 )
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
“You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.” (Job 10:12)
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
God is in control.
While it might seem as though things are out of control these days, we need to remember that God is still sovereign. None of our circumstances are a surprise to Him, and it’s part of His plan that we are alive for such a time as this. And, most of all…He loves us. Always. He is steadfast.
Rather than work ourselves into a frenzy or frenetic effort trying to persevere in our own power, let’s flip that coin and rest in His steadfast love that is working (right now!) in the midst of our circumstances. Yes, there are many unknowns, disappointments and frustrations…but God. He is working. Good things WILL come! (I even saw a photo of my smiling son at school! Such a unexpected gift to sustain me!) Our God is good, and He is greater than any circumstance. We can have hope there’s a “but God” in the works. Because He loves us.
Lord, God, we’re so thankful for you! You can handle this chaos and confusion. Not only do you know how this works out, You are personally working it out for our good and Your glory. Give us rest, Lord, as we shift our perseverance from our might to Yours. Help us to trust Your authorship of our life stories…but God…our hope is in your steadfast love. Amen.