I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
We live in a world where selfies and social media can make our lives look real, real good even on a real bad day. There’s a filter for that! But, what happens when we take the filter off and our lives become unfiltered? What happens when we take the social media mask off and sit home alone wondering where is God in all of this? Well, it all depends on what lens your looking through. Yours or God’s.
Unfiltered defined means not having been toned down, censored or edited. Random House’s dictionary.com defined unfiltered by one hyphenated word…Reality-based. Now that’s a sucker-punch to the jaw. Ouch! Yes, our reality is so much more painful than our latest post or picture would lead others to believe. Our reality is what hits us smack dab in the face when we close the door to the outside world. Often, our reality leads us to a place of discouragement.
What does it mean to be discouraged? Bear with me for one more definition and then I promise I’ll stop teaching for a moment and just let the Word do the talking.
Webster defines discouragement as being deprived of hope or courage, something that obstructs or hinders our hope or courage. That’s exactly what discouragement does; it leaves us feeling hopeless. Fear is discouragement’s best friend, and they both stand in the doorway of our hope obstructing our view of God and hindering us from moving on. We can easily get stuck there.
When life happens and we become discouraged, how do we find our hope again? How do we move past our pain and regain our courage? How in the world do we change our perspective to line up with the way God sees things? Well, that’s just it…it’s not of this world. God’s perspective comes from a heavenly mindset, a Kingdom outlook. God only has eyes for our good. We have to have faith to see things as God sees them.
Faith begins as an unseen hope, many doubt that it’s real. But, because of Christ and His work on the cross, it is a reality that can be trusted. Because we’ve seen and heard stories of the goodness of God, we can hope again. It’s vital that we share our stories to encourage others to believe again, to have hope again, to dream again. If we don’t, the enemy gets a leg-up in this world, so share your story and I’ll share mine.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11 (NIV)
I will move past my enemies with this one sure hope: that with my own eyes, I will see the goodness of the Eternal in the land of the living. Please answer me: Don’t give up. Wait for the Eternal in expectation, and be strong. Again, wait for the Eternal. Psalm 27:13-14 (VOICE)
I can say that without seeing the Lord in the land of the living or learning to see my circumstances through the lens of God’s goodness, I would have remained discouraged, defeated, depressed and dead; dead inside that is. We do have a very real enemy, but oftentimes, it isn’t really an enemy we are facing in our battles, but just life, in general. This life is hard; marriage is hard, parenting is hard, loss is hard. We live in a fallen world and Jesus told us that things wouldn’t be easy, but He did offer us some hope.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
The truth is that life happens and the consequences of this life are sin, death, destruction and disappointment. In this life, we can become truly discouraged. Especially when death comes in and leaves us behind to face a world without someone or some thing we have loved. How do we rejoin the land of the living when something has died within us or death has come and taken someone close to us away. Maybe we’ve lost a dream, a marriage, our job, a friend, our health. How do we move on and trust God in our times of great loss? How do we look at our life unfiltered by our emotions and experiences that taint the picture? We’re human; we naturally filter things through what’s happened to us and how we feel about it, but there is a better way. We can step out in faith and learn how to endure our loss by looking at it through the raw, unfiltered goodness of God because that is our reality. Although our vision has been skewed and our heart may be broken, He’s there in the midst of our pain, and He is good…all the time and in all things.
Here’s my story:
This is where my story begins. Almost ten years ago, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. My mom called me on a Thursday morning to tell me that my brother, John, had died in a tragic accident. We will never know the details of that fateful night; many questions will not ever be known this side of heaven. Three sentences do not tell this full story, but this experience sent me into a downward spiral of doubt and depression like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I was hopeless.
The sudden loss of a loved one brings more questions than could ever be answered. But, I began a year-long wrestling match with the Lord. Doubting every thing I’d ever known or been told about God, I questioned things I still can’t say out loud. They were so personal, so holy, so unholy, I could barely ask them in an audible voice. But, I did. I had to know. I asked the tough questions. And when the answers came, often I argued with Him. “How could this happen? Why did You let it happen? How does this work into Your plan. I can’t see how there can be any thing good that could come from this? How long will this pain last? How could You, God, let this happen?” And, at one point, “Will there ever be joy again?” He saw me through it all, He loved me through the darkest hours and in the end, I knew Him so much better. I knew myself better too. And, it was worth it all.
Place of Further Still
Oftentimes, He takes us to a place that’s further than we’ve been with Him before. Beth Moore calls it the ‘place of further still.’ There are times in our lives when it can only be us and God. There are places that He takes us to that we have to go alone; we can’t take anyone else there with us.
We find this place in the book of Matthew. Jesus went there and He is our example of how to endure our loss in light of the goodness of God. His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts. He sees things from a Kingdom perspective and we can learn to as well.
He walked a little further and finally fell prostrate and prayed. Jesus prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done.” (Matthew 26:39)
That’s a rough prayer Further Still is the place where we hash it out with God and He heals our deepest hurts and wounds. When we emerge, we are never the same; we can’t be, we’ve been with God. You cannot leave His presence without being transformed in some way. It’s what He does.
Thankfully, I found out it is completely okay to ask God these kinds of questions. He invites us to do so because He knows that through our doubt and questioning He will prove to be the answer. He reveals Himself in such a way that answers our questions of Him. He meets us right where we are and answers with His character. It’ s what Margaret Feinberg calls ‘The Holy Who’ of God! As we go through times of loss and become discouraged, if we will press into God and ask the tough questions, He will answer with who He is for us in our time of need. He tells us to be brave and go to the throne. The King awaits us there.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
Who is God?
So just Who is He in our time of need? He says in His love letter to us, I AM:
- FULL OF COMPASSION
- THE GOOD SHEPHERD
- THE DOOR
- THE MIRACLE-MAKER
- THE WONDER-WORKER
- THE WAY-MAKER
- YOUR REFUGE
- YOUR STRENGTH
- THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
- A MIGHTY WARRIOR
- THE CHAIN-BREAKER
- THE PRINCE OF PEACE
- THE LORD
- YOUR SAVIOR
- YOUR EVER PRESENT HELP IN TIME OF NEED
- I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU.
God hears our cries, allows us to ask the tough questions and answers with the comfort of Who He is. He gives us hope. In fact, this hope is found in the most important I Am Statement in the Bible.
Finally, Jesus said to Mary before He raised Lazarus from the dead, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. John 11:25 (NIV)
God brings dead things back to life. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you and me. God often works in the realm of suddenlies. There’s an empty tomb. There is hope. Jesus lives. Hope lives. All because of the cross.
Therefore, we can say with the Psalmist, “I would have lost heart/lost hope/been discouraged unless I believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Because He lives, we can face the future and the future looks really good when you look through the lens of the goodness of God.
The Lord cares deeply when one of His loved ones dies. Psalm 116: 15 (NASB)
Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for us. You are our Living Hope. Teach us to see things through Your eyes so that we can find courage to face the pain of this world. Give us a Kingdom perspective and let us see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Amen