When God Thwarts Your Plans...What then?

God frustrates our plans and nullifies our counsel when our plans don’t match His plans. The counsel of the nations can be nullified, but God’s counsel stands forever. The plans of the peoples can be frustrated, but God’s plans, the plans of His heart, stand from generation to generation.

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Jesus’ Compassion for Your Sorrows

Some days you just need to know that Jesus cares. Maybe today is that day for you. If so, I think you’ll be encouraged as we take a look at the compassion and sensitivity Jesus showed when Mary and Martha were grieving over the death of their brother Lazarus. I know this story has frequently bolstered my heart. 

The siblings’ story begins in John chapter 11 when Lazarus grows very sick, so sick that the sisters send word to Jesus about his deteriorating condition. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jesus doesn’t hurry to the village of Bethany to heal Lazarus, instead He stays two days longer in the place where He was. Despite the fact that Jesus doesn’t hurry to Lazarus’ sickbed we know that Jesus loved this family for the text tells us that He did (John 11:5). So whatever the reason was for Jesus not immediately going to heal Lazarus, it wasn’t because Jesus didn’t care about them. In fact, Jesus knew something the rest of the people in this story did not. He explained it to His disciples in John 11:4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Lazarus’ sickness had a purpose. And that purpose was for God’s glory; Jesus Himself would also gain glory from it.

Could it be that God intends your sorrows and difficulties for His glory?  

By the time Jesus arrived in the village of Bethany Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and his sisters were grieving for their brother. Because we’re privy to the story after-the-fact, we know Jesus delayed coming to Bethany so He could raise Lazarus from the dead, but no one else knew that. All the sisters knew was that their beloved brother had died and their friend Jesus, who was well-able to heal the sick, had not come in time to heal him. And now it was too late; their brother was dead. As Jesus arrives in Bethany, He is first greeted by a grieving Martha and then by a weeping Mary, both women telling Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary and Martha knew Jesus could have saved Lazarus from death—before he died; their faith extended that far, but it never entered their heads that Jesus might do more.

Could it be that God to stretch your faith and broaden your view of Him through your present circumstances? When Jesus washed the disciples feet in John 13:7 Jesus explained His actions to Peter saying, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” So many of the events in our lives end up in this category where we will understand hereafter. God has more in mind for us than we realize.

Verse 33 records, “When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled.” Then in verse 35 it says, “Jesus wept.” Even though God intended to use Lazarus’ death and resurrection for His glory, Jesus was “deeply moved” by the His friends’ grief. He wept for their sorrow. He wept that the best plan for their lives included this deep grief. His love for His friends moved Him to compassion for their sorrow, even though He knew that soon their mourning would be turned to joy, and that the sorrow they were experiencing would be buried by jubilation. Jeremiah found comfort in this aspect of God’s character as well so that he penned these words of solace, “For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness (Lamentations 3:31-32).

Could it be that Jesus desires you to know His comfort and learn of the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)? “Jesus! What a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll, Even when my heart is breaking, He, my comfort, helps my soul.”

Jesus left us a poignant picture of how to practically minister to the grieving. In following Jesus’ example we will also enter into the joys and sorrows of others and fulfill the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Paul reminded us of this in Romans 12:15 when he said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We enter into their sorrows with them, rather than standing back at a safe distance. There is nothing more endearing in a friend than when they sorrow with us and help bear our burdens. Understanding this makes Jesus’ compassion all the sweeter.

The Scriptures tell us to “consider” Jesus—to think, reflect, meditate on Him. When we do this we find food for our souls, comfort for our hearts, and a guide for the journey. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus’ compassion extends to every one of His children.

Could it be that God intends your present trials to draw you closer to Him? “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).”

When Chocolate Chip Cookies Aren't Enough

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I had the best roommates while in college at Boise State. Rhonda, Raynette, and I got along famously, agreeing on all the essentials, especially when it came to food. Our motto could have been, “You’re never too poor for chocolate chip cookies.” We adhered religiously to that philosophy even when our cupboards contained little else. Because our apartment was the social hub for all our friends, we vigilantly maintained our emphasis upon chocolate chip cookies, for their sake, of course.

When we became acquainted with Jack (my hubby) he was soon included in our social shindigs. Now you need to understand that my husband’s philosophy, especially then as a young man, was “You never skimp on food.” Imagine his horror when he peered into our lonely freezer and saw only a bag of frozen broccoli and a small serving of frozen turkey waiting to be turned into something amazing, while in the fridge a small jug of powdered milk drink ominously waited for the brave or unsuspecting. We didn’t quite understand his horror at our barren fridge. We felt rich—we had chocolate chips in the cupboard!

That’s why it wasn’t long before before my man of action formed a plan to bless us. He, along with a few other guy friends, bought a couple carts full of groceries for us. We had no knowledge of this generous plan until Raynette answered the door one Saturday morning to three guys grinning from ear to ear, holding bags of groceries. She later told Rhonda and me that they just kept coming in to our apartment with treasure upon treasure of meat and vegetables and baking supplies and toilet paper and juice and cheese and more! They even had the temerity to buy some “girl” supplies for us!

That event came to mind as I read these words in Isaiah 55:1-2: “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.”

When you don’t have much money for food, the idea of “buying” what you need without spending a dime seems a bit far-fetched, the stuff of dreams. Yet our Jehovah-Jireh God (The God Who Provides—Genesis 22:14) has more in mind than mere food for our bodies. In this section of Isaiah God is speaking to His people, Israel, wooing them with words of love and forgiveness, trying to get them to consider what has true sustaining value and what does not. Though we are not Israel, the questions God poses to them, can be posed to us as well.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread? Why do you use your wages for what does not satisfy?

Indeed. Why would you spend your only grocery money on chocolate chips when you need something more nourishing, filling, and ultimately, much more satisfying? Jack has said, “He is the best preacher (or writer or speaker or communicator) who can turn an ear into an eye.” And that of course is exactly what the Lord is doing as He uses picturesque language to reach our hearts. We can rationalize about our choices—“Oh but chocolate chip cookies really are satisfying!” yet at the end of a day feasting on chocolate chip cookies alone we feel empty and sick inside. God wants us to understand that settling for "chocolate chip cookies" to nourish our hungry souls is a poor food choice at best and folly at its worst. 

Jesus was getting to the same core issue with the woman at the well in John 4 when He asked her to get Him some water to drink and then turned to conversation to the living water that would satisfy her thirsty soul. He explained, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:13-14).”

What well are you drinking from to replenish your thirsty soul? Why are you willing to settle for something that won’t truly satisfy you, even when you know better?

God has always wanted us to understand that He alone can truly refresh and satisfy our souls. He tells us in Psalm 107:9, “He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” The words of Isaiah 55:1-2 make us pause and consider the true state of our souls. Often we realize, “My, I am thirsty! I think I’ve been putting my trust in my husband’s job to find security" or "I've been looking to the smiles of my friends over and above the pleasing the Lord.” Thankfully, the Lord explains what to do when we discover we've been trying to slake our soul-thirst with mere water. And I think it's worth saying that this can happen to anyone at any time, all the more reason for heeding the words of Isaiah 55:1-2.

First, God tells us, “Listen carefully to Me” from Isaiah 55:2. If we want to assuage our heart's thirst then we need to go to the Scriptures for it’s there that we hear God’s voice speaking to us. His "listen to Me" is found there. Not only are we to listen, but we’re to listen carefully. God wants to make sure we get every Word, every nuance He has communicated to us through His Word. Got your listening ears on?

Next, the Lord tells us to “eat what is good (verse 2).” Nutritious, healthy food nourishes our bodies, while the Lord Himself sustains, refreshes, revives our souls. It's the same truths Jesus explains when He says our lives are more than food and clothing (Luke 12:23) for “man shall not live on bread alone (Luke 4:4).” Food for our souls begins with seeking the Lord for the nourishment that only He can give. All the more reason for Jesus telling us to seek His kingdom first, above all else (Matthew 6:33). What food choices are you making for your soul? Are you making sure to feed your heart "what is good?"

Finally, God says “delight yourselves in abundance.” Moses understood this when he prayed, “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days (Psalm 90:14).” The psalmist David proclaimed, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips (Psalm 63:5).” He understood what God is saying in Isaiah 55:2—when we delight ourselves in the Lord our souls are filled up with Him; we delight in the abundance of the Eternal and Living God who loves us so tenderly. That’s why David was able to proclaim, “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake (Psalm 17:15).” After you've listened to God in His Word and eaten the food that's good for your soul, are you taking time to delight in it? Are you meditating on those life-nourishing truths and drinking from their depths over and over again?