When we don’t recognize the answers to our prayers

11 11 2016

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To state the obvious, there’s a lot of pain, confusion, fear, and disappointment in the aftermath of the election. We’re all processing what happened and trying to predict what it might mean for the future. Tensions are high and words are often harsh and accusatory. And I’m not even referring to the general populace. I’m talking about those who identify as believers in Christ.

So, I thought it might be good to preach a little gospel to myself and anyone else who wants to listen in. Feel free to grab a cup of tea and get cozy.

Our culture may be saying a lot of things about us, and we may be saying a lot of things about each other, but God has also said some very specific things about His people. Here are a few of them:

We are created in His image, covered by the shadow of His wing, held in the palm of His hand, fearfully and wonderfully made, created for His pleasure and glory, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, taught by the Holy Spirit, known, protected, shielded, shepherded, disciplined as beloved children, grafted into the vine, loved, cherished, set apart, adopted, His workmanship created for good works that He has foreordained for us to walk in.

Exhale.

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One good thing I already see happening post-election is that Christians in America are distancing themselves from political affiliations and reexamining their identity. As believers, we’re called to be in this world, but not of it. We may be citizens of a nation, but we’re called to live here as citizens of God’s upside-down kingdom. No earthly ruler is responsible for accomplishing what God has commanded His church to do.

God is calling His people to deep, meaningful, and powerful community. Can you imagine what would happen if we really believed all the truths God has spoken over us — if we walked into our inheritance and united our hearts, our creativity, and our energies in loving this broken world?

We need to own our identity as God’s sons and daughters and co-heirs with Christ, because the kingdom we live in determines the lenses through which we see all things, including the promises of God.

Consider Psalm 84:11-12. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”

When you read the words, “the Lord bestows favor and honor,” what comes to mind? Or what about the phrase, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”? If we view this promise through the lenses of the upside-down kingdom, we remember that “favor” from God may look like loving discipline of His child, and “honor” may look like bearing reproach for His Name, and the “good thing” He won’t withhold may be the suffering or persecution He knows we need to be conformed to the image of His Son.

The more we look through the lenses of the upside-down kingdom, the less God’s Word becomes about our personal or social agenda and the more it becomes about His glory and His kingdom.

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The only way to accurately see God’s promises and commands is through the right lenses, and when we do see clearly, life becomes a glorious adventure with Him. When we don’t get our way, we can still give thanks, because we believe in His sovereign plans and purposes and power. We trust that, whatever He chooses for us, it is an indication of our Father’s favor and His faithfulness to give good and perfect gifts to His children.

God is always only good in what He gives, and always only good in what He forbids. Therefore, the only true freedom is found in absolute submission to Him.

So, how do we live in submission to this King? What are the principles and laws of this upside-down kingdom?

They’re the exact opposites of the principles of the world or the so-called law of the jungle.

Jungle law says it’s every man for himself.
Kingdom law says consider others as more important than yourself, and the greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all.

Jungle law says might makes right.
Kingdom law says the weak confound the mighty.

Jungle law says kill or be killed.
Kingdom law says turn the other cheek, go the second mile, if someone asks for your coat, give him your shirt as well.

Jungle law claims that only the fittest will survive.
But kingdom law says become as a little child, the meek inherit the earth, and the pure in heart see God.

And here’s the secret to freedom and the unexplainable joy of God’s children. We know that the best gifts He gives are actually the ones that bow us the lowest, because God resists the proud and draws near to the humble.

God’s ways are higher than ours. He knows what we actually need (as opposed to what we think we want), and He is willing to crush us if that’s the way to resurrection. We see this imagery again and again in scriptural word pictures.

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Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and the Father is the gardener. He prunes us according to His wisdom. To us it may look like He has cut away what was most beautiful in our lives, but He always prunes with purpose, that we might abide more deeply in Him and that we might bear much fruit.

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He is the potter and we are the clay. We feel the pressure and we want to squirm out of his grasp, but He is shaping us, molding us for His purposes. We can trust God’s love to be behind every painful stroke of His hand.

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He is the refiner and we are His gold. Left to ourselves, we would remain dingy lumps of metal with dirt clinging to our surface. His fire cleanses, purifies, strengthens. He knows exactly how hot the fire needs to be to burn away all our dross until He can see His face reflected in our lives.

We want these things in theory. We may even ask Him to prune our dead branches, to shape us into useful vessels, to burn away our dross. But when it happens in real life — when the sheers cut deep and the pressure feels unbearable and the fire burns hot, we can easily lose sight of God’s purpose and forget that the suffering is not only for our good and His glory, it’s the answer to our prayers.

Have you noticed that we never fathom the fullness of God’s ways? There’s always more than we can see. We look for physical healing and God heals our hearts. We ask for blessing and He sends pain that splits us wide open, because He knows that’s the only way our souls will ever learn to breathe.

Right now the people of God in America have an opportunity to be salt and light for such a time as this. May we welcome His working in us and trust His ways. And may we recognize the answers to our own prayers, even when they come disguised in the most surprising and unexpected packages.


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8 responses

12 11 2016
Diane Kulkarni

Your words have truly been an encouragement today to return to the cross and repent anew. Surrendering to my King is the greatest privilege there is and I don’t want to miss one day of working with Him for His purposes. Thank you, Jeanne! I have shared this post with my friends.

12 11 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Diane! I don’t want to miss one day of working with Him for His purposes either. Praying for you and your friends and for all of us. xo

12 11 2016
Jody Lee Collins

Amen, my friend. If the election does nothing else besides energize Christians themail outcome will be worth it.

12 11 2016
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Jody. Grateful for you and the beautiful ways you shine. xo

13 11 2016
Peggy Gnehm

Beautifully thought out and written, Jeanne! This time has been so heart-wrenching in its divisions.

14 11 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Peggy. Praying John 17 over the church and asking God to help us all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It comforts me to know He is purposeful in all things and not shaken or surprised by what rattles us.

So nice to hear from you! Much love.

14 11 2016
Kristen Gough

Hi Jeanne, my name is Kristen Gough, and I am a friend of Grace’s from Seattle, currently serving missionary families in Mahajanga, Madagascar until July of this next year. My husband Kyle and I have four young boys, ages 1, 4, 7, and 9. This is my first time visiting your blog, and I wanted you to know how deeply grateful I am for your words and your heart for the Lord! I look forward to reading more from you in coming days. I also wanted you to know how encouraging Grace was to me this past week on facebook with her posts. I need women like you in my life, even if it’s from a distance! Thankful for your willingness to write and share! I’m spurred on in my faith this morning, and grateful for how He’s used you to bless me.

14 11 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Kristen, for these kind words and for your loving service to missionary families. I’m beyond grateful this post spurred you on in your faith today and pray we’d all lean more and more into God’s sovereign, loving purposes even as we navigate hurtful and confusing times. I love that Grace’s words encouraged you this week. She is a gift. May we all increasingly be the voice others need to hear. Much love to you and your sweet family.

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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