Before I met Raul, I saw life through shattered-glass. The “why,” or “how” formulated on broken focus and jaded pieces. The cup wasn’t half-empty it was almost-gone. The grass wasn’t greener on the other side, it was brown. Life wasn’t a bowl full of cherries, it was a bowl of sour cherries. After we met, I noticed he didn’t see through the same eyes I did. Even though we’d see the same unfortunate event, he’d see it differently. Instead of seeing it through shattered glass, Raul saw it through stained glass. If you’ve ever seen historical cathedrals (like this pic I took at Sainte-Chapelle de Paris), the perfected synchronicity of prisms and colors will leave you breathless. Why does Raul see through stained-glass eyes? Because at the beginning of his faith, he took Romans 8:28, literally. He believed God at his Word that, “ALL things work together for those who love him.” Raul has taught me that if God is in it, we can look for the good in it. Not in some things, but in ALL things. God is not an exaggerator. He’s not an embellished storyteller. When God said “ALL things,” God meant All. Things. When we become a Christ-follower, we become a new creature (Ephesians 4:24) and with that, comes a new set of eyes. Raul embraced his right away! For me, it’s taken time to adust my sight to my new stain-glass(es). 👓 I know we all have eyes, but I pray we look through the stained glass of God’s promises not the shattered glass of our past.
Isaiah 49:18 • Isaiah 50:4 • Isaiah 51:2
“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.” Jonah 2:1
When my brother Jason lived in Florida he volunteered as a fireman. A day-in-the-life can be a building on fire, a fatality on the highway, a threat of terrorism. While someone like me would run from these scenarios, someone like my brother runs to them. Curiously, when I asked Jason about it, he didn’t have some pithy explanation. He just said, “I don’t know, it’s just something inside of me.” Jesus saves too. A day-in-the-life for Him is a man addicted to drugs; a woman being trafficked; a college student attempting suicide; a spouse being betrayed; a parent seeing their baby rushed to the ICU; a single-parent losing their job; a “healthy” person getting a “terminal” diagnosis. Everyday we find ourselves in need of being saved, and Jesus goes through any and all fires to get to us. I know someone who started taking drugs when he was a young teen. For two decades, it would be a burning building he could not get out of and it presented three choices: give up and burn; risk everything trying to find an escape; call upon Jesus, who knows the way in and the way out because He is the Way (John 14:6). He can rescue without any risk to his own Holiness while keeping those He rescues, safe. After years of the first two choices being in vain, this addict called upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Today, he is six months sober and alive. If you need to be saved, call on Jesus. He loves you. He already went through the fires of hell, died and defeated death for you! And He is standing by to rescue you. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:21
Sheep are protected in the valley by the shepherd. And so are we. Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” We get weak, sick; we break, lose our way; we grow weary, disoriented. But our Shepherd doesn’t. His power, wisdom and protection never weakens—it is consistently eternally consistent. Does our Shepherd shield us FROM the valley? Not always. Sometimes it’s the only way to get to the goals and dreams (“green pastures”) He has for us. But nothing can separate you from God when you’re in it; and only God allows what happens through it. I know dark valleys. Even with God, it stinks to be in them. But it would stink more to be in it without Him. Some of you are walking through difficult valleys. REMEMBER: we walk through the valley we don’t live there. And our fear in this dark valley is legit, but the fear is our prerogative—because Jesus said, “don’t be afraid, little flock.” We don’t need to fear the valley if God is with us. We ONLY need to fear the valley if He isn’t. I hope this encourages someone today.
Sometimes I’ll read a bible verse and it’ll be like Rock Candy going off in my head: BOOM! BAM! ZAP! That’s what happened the other day when I read: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut. 31:8) I read it, reread it, let it marinate, then it hit me. God is a 360-degree God! God is ahead of me. That means He’ll walk into a place, season, or occasion before I will. That means He puts Himself in harm’s way for me. But according to this verse, God is also WITH me. He’s next to me, arm in arm. That means that during times when I’ve been weak, He carried me because that’s what “being with” does. But this verse also says God will not abandon me. That means He won’t fall behind. He won’t make me feel like I’m walking this alone, wondering if He’ll catch up. Oh my gosh, what a revelation, especially if you struggle with fear or anxiety. This verse is a PROMISE, a truth, a FACT. We don’t need to be paralyzed or accept immobilization due to fear. Because…God isn’t just near, He’s 360 degrees around! You can’t get more coverage than that! Go God! Go you! Go God’s Word that comforts us, right when we need it.
Sometimes we find ourselves going places where we have to put on a smile. I suppose the argument can be made that’s being fake. But may I offer a counterargument? If I am a Christ-follower, and there’s a smile veiling my sorrow, maybe it could mean I’m being Christ-like? A smile is contagious, so it is a powerful witness. A smile is a universal love-language, requiring no translation. A smile is visible proof that the joy of the Lord is my strength. A smile can turn my entire disposition strong, even if my soul is weak (James 3:4-5). A smile is part of God’s creation–He designed me with this facial option. Since God smiles upon me (Numbers 6:25) tho I let Him down, I can smile upon others, because I’m made in His image. And what about the hidden sorrow behind the smile? I validate it! That sorrow is REAL! Psychologists (and more importantly, the Bible) say that some of us carry a tinge of sorrow our entire life. But take heart, we’re in good company. The bible says Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). I don’t consider myself a fake when there is sorrow behind my smile if it is reflecting Jesus Christ alive and well in my soul! One caveat to hidden sorrow: make sure you don’t let it go unattended and cause you to isolate. Tend to it with Christian counseling (let me know if I can help you find one). And keep smiling.