Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Woe and Well Being

“I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath. He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely He has turned His hand against me Time and time again throughout the day.  He has aged my flesh and my skin, and broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and woe. He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago. He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.  Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked.  He has been to me a bear lying in wait, like a lion in ambush. He has turned aside my ways and torn me in pieces; He has made me desolate.  He has bent His bow and set me up as a target for the arrow.” 
“Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed?” (Lamentations 3:1-12, 38-39)

In the Dominican Republic, God allowed me to see up close how the people live.  The majority don’t have many of the luxuries we have such as air conditioning, cars, brick houses, walk-in closets, immediate health care, and food without end.  They live in small houses with openings for windows, bathrooms in a separate building from the one they live in, and grow almost everything they eat.  They work hard all day with their hands doing jobs like raking the beaches, farming, and cleaning hotel rooms.  Yet if I had to describe them in one word, it would be “Happy”.  In spite of what we would see as poverty, they are extremely happy people.  Their priorities are different because they don’t know the wealth our nation has, and what they have is enough.
While laying their on the beach one day watching three young men raking the beach, talking, and laughing, God spoke to me.  It’s a question I haven’t forgotten.  He said “Would you be poor for me?  Would you be poor if that’s what it took to make you who I need you to be?”  Consider that for a minute.  It nearly took my breath away.  I’ve grown very fond of my blessings.

The people of the Dominican Republic are 90% Christian believers in Jesus Christ of one denomination or another.  These are God’s children.  Yet, He has chosen to bless them differently.  They live without care of car payments, house payments, or how to shuffle their busy schedules to get Johnny to soccer and Jane to dance class while still having date night with their hubby.  They don’t have to decide what they’ll eat because the answer is what is in their garden.  They don’t take an hour to decide what to wear to church because clothing is limited. Yes, they are blessed differently.
In Lamentations 3 we read the testimony of the Prophet Jeremiah, one of God’s chosen mouth pieces.  Here’s a man that God used time and time again to bring His words to the people.  God told Jeremiah that He had known him since he was in his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  And just as God does for us, He had a plan and a purpose for His life (Jeremiah 29:11).  Was God’s plan full of blessings? Was Jeremiah’s life painless because He was a man of God? No! 

In fact, Jeremiah credits God for aging his flesh, breaking his bones, surrounding him with bitterness and woe, and providing no escape.  He says God “hedged me in” as if he were under siege.  He says that God shut out his prayers, made the burdens he had heavy, and he became the ridicule of people. He goes on to say that God moves his very soul far from peace until he said “My strength and my hope have perished from the Lord.”(Lamentations 3:18).
But after all the persecution that Jeremiah endured, he finds understanding.  God must have given him insight to the trials placed in his life.  He says in verses 22-24 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”” He does not relent, to think this was his own doing, because he understands that all things are in God’s power.  He goes on to say in verse 39, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed?”.

We don’t know what God has in store for us.  It may be showers of blessings, and it may be poverty and sickness.  What we do know is that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Every event, every burden, every celebration, acts as a cog in the grand machine of life.  The hard ones God turns, and the easy ones God turns. Sometimes He may have to tear away from us the things we hold dear, such as the walk-in closet of clothes, the car, or the brick house.  Things have a way of getting in the way of our dependence on God.  Sometimes He may decide that we are more likely to server Him if we have less, or more likely to serve Him if we have more. 
Only God knows our hearts, and knows them even better than we know ourselves.  He can see the future as the past.  He knows when we need a little “woe” and when we need a little “well-being” and distributes those to us in perfect proportions to cause our spiritual growth at the rate He determines we need it.  Yet, His compassions never fail.  All things He gives, burdens and blessings, are for our good.  Though we do not understand His ways or His thoughts, we can understand His love.

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