Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Club: Crossing Oceans Devotional

Last Friday our ladies book club met to discuss our summer book selection, Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. My sweet friend Tina Foster led our devotional. I greatly admire Tina's sweet spirit and godly focus, and I leave each conversation with her thinking about something insightful or encouraging she has said. Please read her message below.

The Big Question

by Tina Foster

While reading our book selection, Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, I was once again challenged to grope for an answer to the one question that seems to pop up over and over again: “Why do bad things happen to God's children?” Just when I think I’ve got the perfect answer wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow, something dreadful happens to me, a family member or a friend. Almost immediately those two giants, Fear and Doubt, arrive -- flooding my mind -- and I seem to be right back at square one.

Jenny, our heroine, expressed these feelings well when she said to Craig:

“Sometimes I wonder if heaven is real or if I’ll just…you know…cease to exist.”
“There’s a heaven, Jenny.”
I warmed at the certainty in his tone. “Most days I know that.”
It’s those others days that turn our emotions inside out. And those are the times when it seems that people without Jesus are most interested in our response. We need to be keenly aware of demonstrating our faith in Jesus who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus remains King even after the bad news.

Recently on Christian radio, I heard a young wife and mother give a talk about her losing battle with cancer. In fact, within three months of giving this speech, cancer had taken her from this earth. Her name is Rachel Barky. Listen to her thoughts on the question “Why?”
The worst moments of each day are the ones right when I wake up, the moments when I’m just coming out of a deep sleep, and I’m becoming aware of what time it is, what day it is, and then I remember that I’m dying.

My frustration and anger are normal. They are even right—some would say. But at their root, they are unbelief. They are my sinful heart saying, ‘I don’t believe that this is the right thing for me, GOD. You must not know what You are doing, or if You do, You are not good, or You are not in control, or you are just being unfair because I don’t want this, and You are not giving me what I want.’
That is what my heart naturally says, and what yours does, too, when faced with circumstances we don’t like—when someone at work is making things difficult, when someone in our family doesn’t do what we would like them to do, when accidents, natural disasters, or disease happen. But GOD is good. He is in control. And He is fair. When I try to make Him into a GOD who serves me, I sin. Our natural bent is to sin, and it is our greatest problem.

Isn’t that so true? There just isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for why we suffer. Even when we understand intellectually the benefits gained through trials, we are still left to struggle through the emotional turmoil that makes us susceptible to an invasion of Fear and Doubt.

Remember, as long as we remain here, we will fight against the broken part of us, our sinful nature. If only it went this way: I sin, I repent, I ask God for forgiveness, and I’m never again bothered with that sin. But by God's omniscient design, that is not the way to perfection. We are being transformed. It is an ongoing process, and we can fully trust God to complete it.

Paul makes clear the continuous battle between our sinful nature and the law of the Spirit within us in Romans 7:23:  “But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

But because Jesus lives in us, we have been set free to live with hope and a peace that those outside cannot possibly understand. We must praise God in the very middle of our crisis so that others will want to understand. So they will ask. So it will be given to them.

It has taken way too many years, but now I can honestly say that I don’t want to be comfortable down here. Being comfortable -- having everything I want -- leads me away from the Cross, not to it. At last I have a better understanding and appreciation for the words of James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (perseverance). Patience must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Also, Romans 8:16-18 comforts and strengthens me, knowing that my Lord learned obedience through suffering: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are GOD’S children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of GOD and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Here are two more jewels from Scripture that remind me I’ve been bought with a price and now my life is hidden with Christ in God.

“Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?" (Isaiah 45:9b).

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).
Regardless of my circumstances, I know to Whom I belong and that He will provide sufficient grace when needed most. I suppose the question “Why?” should be replaced with the question “Who?” -- which will always and forever more have the perfect answer: EL SHADDAI, GOD ALMIGHTY.

I’d like to leave you with the words to a song titled “What If Your Best” by Jeromy Deibler and Mia Fieldes.

I’m trying hard to keep from giving You advice
It’s like teaching Shakespeare how to write
Or Monet, the way to paint another scene
But there’s just something in this amateur that thinks
That my opinion’s what you need
On how to work in me
But I am only clay, and clay probably shouldn’t speak


I want Your best but what if Your best is brokenness
Would I be broken?
I want Your best but what if it’s less than what I ask
And what I’m hoping?
What if Your best is here in the waiting, here in the going through the motions?
I’ll still be trusting all I am, and all I have,
and nothing less to Potter’s hands.

Tina Foster is a homeschooling mother of two of the sweetest children you could meet: 8-year-old twins Ian and Anna. Tina's husband, Stan, is a well-known photographer in the Montgomery area.

Still to come, recipes and decor from our summer book club -- and our new fall book selection!


All things bright and beautiful said...

Thank you for posting this. I have spent ten months trying to recuperate following a small stroke. I am just 47. Suffering is awful & wretched but it can also be strengthening especially with regards to one's faith.
God bless.

Kristen said...

This is very thought-provoking and so true. Thanks for sharing it.

Nancy said...

so true, so true ~ Stan did our sweet Jenny's wedding photos and captured the day perfectly :) loved this post, sweet friend.

Mrae3 said...

Hello, your blog and family is so nice. I hope you are feeling better. I just have a question for you, where did you get the blue floral curtains in your daughter's bedroom, pictured on your blog? Very pretty.
thanks, monica

Anonymous said...

Love Tina and talking with her leaves me on a higher spiritual plane each and every time. She is truly a special friend. I have taught her twins, Anna and William in Sunday school and they are very much sweet children that are being taught well by their parents. I just love their entire family! Thanks for posting this, Melissa. Tina had told me about the bookclub, but I am sure she would never have shown me this devotional. She is too modest and humble.
Laura McCann
Fort Deposit

Melissa Lester said...

Laura, you are right about Tina. She is a precious jewel!

Monica, I made those curtains for Emma's room using a Waverly fabric from the line Beautiful Things. I think it has been discontinued, but I found several yards several years ago at a discount fabric shop. Thanks for noticing!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin