This past week has been tough...I mean really tough. Sometimes I can be like the little boy who "cried wolf," but bear with me on this one. One of my little twins got sick and at one point had a 104 degree temperature and she was just a moment away from hospitalization. My sweet little Ava was diagnosed with both Pneumonia and a bacterial blood infection. The doctor told me this was very rare. Well, thank-you-very-much for your statistical analysis, doc, but this is MY daughter, and she is really sick! Do you ever feel like the rest of the world should have a greater respect for your circumstances when hell has arrived at your door? It never does though, does it? Life keeps going, and bills have to be paid, and you still have to work for a paycheck, and most people pay little to no attention to your seemingly God-forsaken circumstances. In the midst of Ava's sickness with a capital "S," I was thrown into enormous relational strife in my extended family, and two people in my faith community were hospitalized with some extremely serious conditions. No end in sight. Help me. DEEP BREATH... Throughout all of these things, I needed peace more than anything. Rest for my rapidly beating heart and respite for my weary soul. But I needed peace that was more than the absence of struggle. I needed that "peace that surpasses all understanding," as the Apostle Paul so aptly described in 4th chapter of the biblical book of Philippians. But where was it? I needed something real instead of just theoretical. The Gospel of Luke tells us in chapter 2 the Christmas story. Not the one about Santa and his sleigh. But about Jesus and his entry into the mess of our lives: Luke 2: 9-14~ "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." If you are reading this post, there's a good chance that you or someone you know has been touched by the evil of domestic violence that has likely left you with a voracious desire for true and lasting peace. I have good news for you today. The God who loved you so much that he sent his son to earth to suffer for your sin and mine, offers you peace and hope that can't be taken away by any tyranny of man. I asked God to bring me peace, and he did. But it was in an unexpected form. He didn't wave a magic wand take away my struggles or give me the warm and satisfying physical comfort of a fireplace with a side of good hot chocolate. He didn't even give me silence or the absence of strife. He did something even better. You see, God's desire for you and for me...no matter what our circumstances are, is for shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace but it means more than what we typically think of as peace. It isn't the absence of something. It is the presence of God. God IS peace. God whispered to me that he will always be with me, no matter what happens. And that was just what I needed. My prayer for you today is that the God of shalom would overwhelm you with the knowledge that you are not forgotten and the feeling that he IS with you. Your struggles may not end today, but with you, I wait with great expectation for that day of peace when God will "...wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4) Breathing deeply while fighting at your side. Shalom, Neil
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