Thursday, May 1, 2014

Praising the Lord in the Storms by Lorraine

I am blessed so much to have another blog by Lorraine. God is not only transforming her life but also the lives around her. Enjoy hearing about God's work in her unfolding story.


Making Me Fireproof: Praising the Lord and Blessing Others in Extreme Conditions

My Story Continues – Praising the Lord in the Storms
 
     You may recall from the March 28, 2014 My TIE posting that my transformation began when I lost a job that I had loved in 2011 and God placed me in my current position in an extremely dark work environment that is filled with brokenness and sadness. I am so glad I did not wait until God has delivered me out of this storm to start writing my testimony, as these storms seem to keep coming. 

     Since the introduction of my story, I have been hit with a more severe storm.  I was told by the doctor at a hospital emergency a few weeks ago that my mom has a serious health condition. Given her advanced dementia, the family made a tough decision to not proceed with surgery.  Although mom is now at home and has forgotten all about it (a blessing of being demented), this means I could be losing her any time between now and up to a few years at the most. With many family members yet to give their lives to Christ, this news has turned an emergency situation into a crisis that is filled with emotions and panic. At the same time, we also have another family member admitted into the intensive care unit for another serious health condition, on top of a few other unforeseen situations. Needless to say, our lives have been turned upside down.

     God won’t give us more than we can handle.  When this most recent family crisis hit me in the middle of the night with no warnings of any kind, my first reaction was that God must think I am strong enough to handle the “double-trouble”– the storm from work during the day and during the week that shows no sign of calming, and one from home that is consuming my energy for the rest of the time in a 24-hour day and 7-day week.  One day I did ask myself, “what have I done wrong to deserve this?” The answer is of course, I have done nothing wrong; in fact I am just letting God stretch me and transform me.  As the storms get more severe each time, I know there is only one way to pray, not for miracles to happen, but for ways to find Jesus.

     Praising the Lord in the storms is not easy and I am exhausted and drained.  This has been going on for almost three years now and the storms just keep coming.  There were times when I just wanted to give up. I had even thought of stop writing my story altogether.  Thankfully I did not do that as I know God is using my story to bless others.  Continuing to share my painful journey with God is one way He is strengthening me.

     I remember a message delivered by a pastor from a church in a neighbourhood of Toronto that houses socially and ethnically diverse people groups. The vision of this church is that members will be God’s mercy and live out His Gospel where they live, work and be members of the community they serve.  This message has kept me going: expressing the fruit of the spirit during hard times make the fruit taste sweeter:

v  Patience is about long suffering, it is a quality to allow people to endure;
v  Disciple means carrying the cross daily, by committing to God during hard times and put Him first;
v  Showing joy during hardship is not normal, but through Jesus Christ we will gain the strength we need to endure;
v  We must always remain in Jesus Christ, this is when the fruit will remain sweet during hard times, and the purpose is to expand the Kingdom of God.

     Praising God is our way to victory: God is moved by our faith and not by our problems.  A few years ago I came across this phrase on a candle: “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm.”  This candle is now a permanent d├ęcor in my living room.  Many people say there may be an underlying blessing for the hardship God put us through, but I would argue that the reason behind why God put us through hardship is because He wanted to bless us so that we have no choice but to rely on Him to get through it, thus bringing us closer to Him.  

     A year ago when my colleague was sharing a devotion piece with me, I came across a spiritual power tool known as sacrificial praise.  It means a discipline of praying when you don’t feel like it. This greatly honors God because He already knows that we don’t feel like it so when we do it, it honors Him more. I guess this relates to my ability to sense and abide with our Father when I praise during hardship. I learned that the more I praise, the closer I am to Him and the more strength I am able to get to continue to endure.

     When we see how God truly work through us during difficult times, it is truly rewarding and we become hungrier for more of Him – something I hope to share in future segments of my story.  I have noticed in my weekly spiritual journal in the past year that I have turned from pleading for help to praising God. People who read my journal may think I had an awesome week but in fact, it was the opposite. I guess this is when God turns a trial into triumph and a victim into a victory.  Here are a few things I have learned to-date throughout my journey with God:

1.            Outcomes of our faith do not always mean things will get better. 
2.            God is using the situation to grow us; He is transforming us every time we surrender to Him.
3.            *God does not always remove us from the fire, but to make us fireproof.  There is a difference between a “delivering faith” and a “sustaining faith”:
•     Delivering faith will keep us out of adversity – this is victory; while
•     Sustaining faith is where God takes us through the storm – this is greater victory.

     Bad things do not happen to good people, they happen for good people, those who are ready and wanting to be transformed. Only trusting God will push us to our limits.  I know until God opens the next door for me, I just need to praise Him in the hallway.  Blessed people are those who can rejoice and be glad daily.  Blessed people worship Jesus daily, even in extreme conditions.

     I would like to end this part of my story with the same Bible verse, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” James 1:12 (NIV).  May God bless you today and always.

Lorraine
April 27, 2014

*Taken from a Joel Osteen sermon on being “Fireproof.”

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