“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
What do a musician, a nurse, an entertainer and a bookstore owner have in common? They all live in my house. Well, future versions of them anyway.
Do you ever dream of what your kids will be when they grow up? I do. I wonder if my youngest will be the future drummer in our praise team or a professional baseball player because the boy has an arm and a passion for music with a good beat. Maybe he will do both. I like to think about how God can use what I see as a weakness and turn it into a strength. For example, my daughter can be a tad bossy, but she also loves to care for her imaginary friends. Someday, I think she would make a great mom (because what good mom isn’t bossy?) and maybe even a charge nurse.
I wonder what Jacob dreamed for Joseph and Mary dreamed for Jesus (see Genesis 37:11 and Luke 2:19). Could they have imagined the pain that lay in their sons’ futures? Did they see their potential to be used by God to save an entire people?
A Future Testimony
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’”
Acts 9:15-16, emphasis added
Cancer effects the whole family. If a member of your immediate family has never faced cancer (and I pray that they haven’t), then you may not realize this, but it most certainly does.
Back when Austin was first diagnosed with brain cancer, my dad told him that this was going to be part of his future testimony. And he was right, but the other day, I was reflecting on how it is part of Tyler and Addy’s testimonies as well. Addy has moved from being fearful of Austin’s biweekly in-home nurse visits to being intently curious. After they are gone, I can hear her talking to her dolls about blood draws and finger sticks, and I think that God may be using this to shape her.
Last week, Tyler stayed in the hospital with us for Austin’s treatments. Friday morning, we popped in to visit some friends in the radiation department. I wish you could have seen the smiles that Tyler put on the faces of the people there! Oh, how God was using him to bring joy in a scary place. And I think that one day, God may bring him back to this very place in a career or ministry that would demonstrate His kindness and comfort to a people that desperately need it.
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Back to Joseph’s story. Here’s a brief overview: His father favored him, and his brothers envied him. In fact, they despised him so much that they disposed of him by selling him into slavery and told his father he was killed by a wild animal. In slavery, the wife of Joseph’s master falsely accused him, and he was sent to prison. There, he interpreted dreams for Pharaoh’s staff, then was promptly forgotten for years. One day, Pharaoh heard of Joseph’s gift and called for him. Joseph became second in command to Pharaoh and helped an entire nation survive seven years of famine. His brothers returned for his help. He forgave them, saved them and restored his family. And he looked back on his suffering and saw God’s hand in it all (see Genesis 45:5 and 50:19).
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that God is the author of suffering or that He writes suffering into our stories. Primarily because, I am still trying to understand how the nature of suffering, God’s sovereignty and the manifestation of His glory work together. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t discount your suffering. We spend too much time trying to figure out how to get out of it that we miss sight of what God wants to do with it.
The Bigger Plan
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
I can remember as a young teenager the impact my great-grandfather’s death had on me. Like anyone else, I had dreams of what I would do or become when I got older (anywhere from a lawyer to an elementary school teacher), but when I left his funeral that day, I knew one thing for sure—I wanted to influence others for the sake of Christ. As an adult, God has used me in such capacities as a teacher, encourager and a writer. I could have never guessed the opportunities or the places or the people He would give me to use those gifts.
When I think of the people and families that God has brought into our lives in this season, I am blown away—doctors, nurses, Facebook followers and hurting families. Somehow, someway, I think He wants to use our little family to show how He is near to those that are brokenhearted and rescues those who have been (or are being) crushed (see Psalm 34:18). This is a terribly difficult task and at the same time, a wonderfully awesome privilege. I cannot explain it. Some days I don’t want it (because the despair feels overwhelming in that place), and some days, I just stand back in awe.
It’s all about seeing the potential. When I look into my children’s eyes and when I pray for them, I marvel at the wonder of their future—long or short, in the great and the small, God’s writing a story for them . . . even greater than I can imagine.
You can find more of Joseph’s story in Genesis 37, 39-45 and 50.