Friday, February 20, 2015

You're Invited to our Hotel: #1 Making Sense of God's Plans

 So, it was last Thursday afternoon at 3:15pm, and Patrick was late for our afternoon coffee break. We both work on the seminary campus, and one of the perks is that we can take morning and afternoon breaks together. And even more conveniently, there’s a tiny café on campus with inexpensive coffee! These breaks together are a treasure. Nevertheless, he was late last Thursday. I’m only allowed fifteen minutes, so of course I texted him 10 times to say, “Where are you?”, “I’m going back to work so my break isn’t wasted!”, “Is everything ok??” Well, he finally texted me at 3:30 saying that he was “here”. I jokingly stormed up and asked why he was late. Then, he said, “The housing office called me” My first thought was that we hadn’t paid our rent, but I knew we had. He then proceeded to inform me that the apartment above ours had a kitchen fire a few minutes ago, which was why he was late. Our apartment had water in it from the sprinkler system that wouldn’t turn off. We didn’t have any fire damage, but we probably would have water damage, although the extent of the damage was unknown at this point. (Of course, our first thought wasman, why didn’t we get renter’s insurance?...) The most important thing was that everyone in our neighbor’s apartment was ok, although a little shaken up with a few small injuries (and several possessions destroyed).

First thoughts: Thank the Lord everyone is ok!
Second thoughts: Today is Thursday. Thursday is our cleaning day (well, if cleaning happens, it happens on Thursday). The sink is full of dirty dishes. Both dirty clothes hampers have reached capacity. My laptop was on the couch, so if the sprinklers came on in the living room, then there goes the laptop. How far did the water reach because the clothes that actually were clean are on the floor in Riley Grace’s room, instead of already folded and put up? Are the living room rugs salvageable? I wonder if Riley Grace’s pack-n-play is wet because that’s where she’ll sleep while we’re at the hotel. And how are the sleeping arrangements going to work out at the hotel? Riley Grace is never going to fall asleep if we’re all sleeping in the same room. Are we going to bring our microwave over there (Ok, so I had lots of second thoughts)
Our immediate reality was that we would have to move to the campus hotel for an indefinite time period until our apartment damages could be assessed and repaired. No, it wasn’t convenient. No, Riley Grace might not adjust quickly. No, we wouldn’t have access to our normal amenities such as a kitchen and washer/dryer, BUT everyone was safe! So, we were thankful!
As the day progressed, we were able to receive more info from the facilities and housing offices. Our apartment really had minimal damage. Two bookshelves were destroyed, our rugs were soaked, and our walls/ceiling need to be dried out. In my words, they have put a humidity sucker in our apartment that looks like fan in the shape of a huge whistle. In Patrick’s words, we have a large dehumidifier in our living room. Either way, they are working diligently to remove the water from our apartment. So Thursday evening, after work, we went to our apartment to scrounge around for anything we needed to take to the hotel before it was too dark to see since the electricity was off. It reminded me of being without power during hurricanes, although it wasn’t that bad at all. We grabbed a bite to eat for supper, unpacked at the hotel, and had an interesting time trying to get Riley Grace to fall asleep with everyone in the same room. Needless to say, she wasn’t tired because she thought it was a party! So we played and played to tire her out. Patrick needed to do schoolwork, but couldn’t because, in order for Riley Grace to fall asleep, we had to turn the lights off. What a day!
The Lord placed it upon my heart to post a few entries about what I’ve learned during our short stint at the hotel. It is now Monday as I write, and in a matter of thirty minutes during our lunch break, we were told to move back to our apartment (that’s another story for another day). So, we are back in our apartment, although I’m not sure if it’s ready for us!
So, you’re invited to “stay” in our hotel and glean from the lessons that we’ve learned during our short stay! I pray that the Lord reminds you of the truths of which He’s reminded us!
Lesson #1 from Our Hotel Stay: GOD IS SOVEREIGN
This seems like an obvious claim, and of course it is. I just shared with Patrick about my recent study in the Word. The Lord led me to dive into 1 Samuel. Usually when I start studying a new book, I gravitate toward the New Testament. I think the New Testament books initially seem to have more application, but the Old Testament is so rich and full of lessons, too! Anyways, I have read chapters one through four so far, and the main truth that keeps standing out is, “God is Sovereign!” It’s easy for us to believe and confess that He is sovereign when the blessings are obvious. It’s not as easy to accept His sovereignty when the trials, rather than blessings, are our reality. This small trial of being temporarily displaced from our apartment was not a terribly difficult trial. The worst part of it was inconvenience and minor stresses due to lack of communication. But it still was a small trial.

But back to 1 Samuel. As I was reading, I noticed that there were several instances where God willed for difficult things to happen. The Word doesn’t simply say that the allowed them to happen, but that He willed it. I’m not at all comparing our hotel stay to these trials recorded in 1 Samuel. The Lord has simply put a spotlight on the lessons from 1 Samuel while we’ve been living in the hotel! Let’s look at a few examples:

1 Samuel 1 Hannah and Peninnah were both married to Elkanah. Peninnah bore Elkanah many children, while Hannah remained barren. Hannah longed for a son, but 1 Samuel 1:6 makes it clear that “the Lord had closed her womb.” Why would the Lord intentionally close her womb? So, Hannah prayed fervently and earnestly for a son, to the point that the priest thought she was drunk when in fact she was desperately praying. She committed to the Lord that she would give her son back to Him if He chose to bless her with one. The Scriptures record that the Lord remembered Hannah and blessed her with a son. So, Hannah had a son! But now, as she promised, she had to give him up to the Lord’s service. Once the child was weaned, she brought him to live with the priest. And afterwards, Chapter 2 records how Hannah worshipped the Lord! What faith and trust she had! I think that if I were in Hannah’s shoes, I may become bitter at how the Lord could have willed for me to be barren, knowing the pain it would cause me? And then I’d be bitter that once I finally had a son, I had to give him up. But Hannah wasn’t bitter. She was faithful. She was patient. She was obedient. And she praised the Lord! AndGod was sovereign over all of Hannah’s trials and triumphs.

1 Samuel 2 Eli was the priest that Samuel (Hannah’s firstborn son) went to live with. Eli’s sons were wicked. They were supposed to be serving as priests, holy and set apart unto the Lord. Instead, they had profaned the name of the Lord by acting dishonorably toward the sacrifices. Eli tried to warn them to turn back to the Lord and turn away from their wicked practices. Knowing what we know about the Lord, it seems as though it would please Him to have had Eli’s sons turn back to Him. We know that the Lord is full of mercy and desires repentance. However, 1 Samuel 2 records the following regarding Eli’s sons: “But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” Instead of leading their hearts to repentance, the Lord willed for their hearts to remain hardened because it was his will to put them to death. That doesn’t seem merciful at all! But still, God was completely sovereign in this situation as well.

So back to our apartment. No, it’s not a big trial at all. Our stuff is wet, but not destroyed. We’re a little inconvenienced, but our family and friends are safe. But even in this small and inconvenient trial, God is sovereign. He might have allowed this to happen, or He might have willed it to happen. Either way, it did happen, and here we are in a hotel as our apartment dries out. Maybe you are in the midst of a small and inconvenient trial, or maybe you’re battling a huge trial that you can’t wrap your mind and heart around. I encourage you to pray through and rest in the sovereignty of God.

Encouragement for YOU within the Trials, Big and Small:
1.      God is sovereign in all things. He is LORD over everything that happens. Remember Hannah. She encountered a trial of barrenness, and then a trial of giving her son to the Lord instead of being able to raise him as her own. Even through all of that, God was sovereign. Hannah found comfort in that, and so can we. 
2.    God has a plan, even if we can’t understand it at the moment. Most of the time, we cannot see the reason for the trial while we’re in the midst of it. Many times, we still don’t know the reason once the trial is over. Making sense of God's plans...God may not allow us to make sense and understand everything about trials. The Lord doesn’t promise to provide the specific reasoning for each trial. Although we can’t know the “whys” of everything, we can know WHO is sovereign, OUR Lord. If we search it out, we can know all of the truths and promises about the Lord that let us know we can trust Him, even if we don't understand the trials. We can also know that the overarching purpose of anything that happens in our life is so that we can be brought into sweeter and closer fellowship with the Lord. Why? Because He loves us and desires this for us.
3.    God’s presence never leaves us. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and He is always true to His Word. Even if you cannot feel His presence as you walk through trials, He is always there. He is our constant comfort and peace. Lean on Him, and rely on His strength when yours has failed.

Further Study:

1.      Take some time to meditate on the following verses, and thank God for His unfailing presence, His faithful love, and His flawless sovereignty.

Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Lamentations 3:24 ““The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

2.    Read Acts 2:14-41. Notice what God planned in verse 23. How can you rejoice in His sovereignty today? What trials are you facing? How can you praise Him in the midst of these trials? What is He trying to teach you? How can you encourage someone else who is also facing trials?

3.    Read James 1:2-4. We are supposed to consider trials as “pure joy”. Yikes. That’s usually not my first reaction. What all are we commanded to do in these verses? What does God promise to us? What are some things (based on these verses) that you can pray specifically for God to do in your life regarding your response during trials?

I pray that the Lord gives you strength and reminds you of his faithful promises as you walk through trials and as you seek to encourage others as they walk through trials.

Always, Jacquelyn

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