Is That ALL?

Is That ALL?

“Is that ALL?”, I fairly shouted at God. After asking Him, beseeching Him earnestly for rain; after days of watching the storms come close but then skirt our town, the thunderheads rolled in. I had been watching them all day as they slowly crawled up to us. Before evening they arrived, and the rain did fall, hard and promising. I stood at the kitchen window to watch this answer to prayer unfold. Audibly, I thanked the God who sent it our way this time. However, the yard of sand was barely wet before the clouds released just one, final dribble, thus ending what had barely begun. And I was incredulous. I heard a loud whine – “Really, God? Is that all you’re giving us after such a long and hopeful wait?” Oops. That voice was mine. …

“Is that all?” It’s December 26th. Maybe you heard the whine from a child. Or maybe you thought it. The post-Christmas let down. Then there’s a hazy, nagging disappointment at the close of a happy event, meeting or conversation. You had somehow expected — more. And then there are the large and looming disappointments, like:

the end of a relationship – “Is this it, then? After all these years is this ALL?”,
or looking back on years of living in hard-to-be places so that some might come to know Christ Jesus, and asking “Is this it? All my life for this small handful of fruit? Really, God?”
or studying hard for that one degree that will get you that job that will get you that career …but it doesn’t work out that way and you sputter “Really, God? Is this ALL I’m to expect?”

Ah, you and I, once young, rising stars who could go anywhere and do anything. The older, wiser ones nodded and smiled, and waited to see what we’d become. The brightness has now faded into a glow. We are ordinary after all. Are you tempted to disappointment? “Is this all, Lord?” Had we expected more fruit, or more affirmation, or to be more cherished, or for more in our 401K? Let’s be careful that the questions we pose, silently or audibly, do not stem from a bitter root of chronic disappointment.

A chronically disappointed person is, at the root, a person in rebellion against God. Pow. Pretty strong statement there, but I didn’t make it up. From Genesis (or at least Exodus 16) all the way through to the apostles’ specific teachings (especially Hebrews 3:7-19) to those of faith in Christ we are warned: ungratefulness = unbelief = disobedience = rebellion = sin (= death). A chronically disappointed heart is a complaining heart. Complaining isn’t really against other people or circumstances; it is really ultimately against God. It is saying, “I am not getting my due, so therefore God isn’t really good. I would do it differently, better. I would be a better god than God.” Does this ring a bell? Know of anyone who has taken action on that premise? So, yes, this is serious stuff. My innocent outburst against the rain stopping may not have been so innocent. Our spontaneous expressions of exasperating disappointment are red flags that direct us to peer into our own hearts and identify sin that may be hiding there. Due to the eternal goodness of God, He is eager to grant us repentance.

So what does repentance look like in this case? Romans 2:4 is a good start. First, you and I must own up to our unbelief. This is called confession. Repentance means to stop going one way, to turn and go a different direction. God’s goodness is meant to turn us. We want to choose the road of chronic gratefulness instead.

… I clapped my hand over my mouth, and went to study my wall map, which is a visual tool I’ve created to help me cultivate gratefulness. This is where I note the ways God’s goodness is clearly visible to me. The map is quickly filling with notes of gracious over-and-above blessings, the sequence and timing of each one truly remarkable, gifts with my name on it from my Heavenly Father. The little “overflowing bowl” icons I draw by each note far outnumber the little icons identifying activities and outcomes that might be in the “Is this all?” category. Clearly, then, God is more interested in sustaining, supporting and encouraging me than he is in waving successes and fruits of my labor before my eyes. His will for you and me is to believe Him with a thankful heart. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord [have you?], so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving [italics mine].” Col. 2:6, 7  I am amazed, humbled. How dare I not believe in His sovereign goodness. How dare I not overflow with thanksgiving?

“It this all, then? That’s IT?” Yes, for some things it is. The time comes to recognize the end of some events, some seasons. It is with thankfulness that we do so because we know that God is good in all He does. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! [That would be you and me.] For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Ps. 107:8

At the edge of my map I have written these verses:
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. … Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. Is. 46:10, 11

This is NOT all!, the Only Just, Righteous, Good God has declared! There is more! He is not finished! No one, nothing, will derail or stop Him from completing His good plan for you and me, and all His creation. So, hold your tongue when the rain stops – unless it speaks from a grateful heart.

Advertisements

Under the Big Screen

Under the Big Screen

I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust …
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The pangs of death surrounded me,
And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid …

In my distress I called upon the Lord …
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled…

The show was about to begin. The deep rumble reverberated in our bones, giving us notice to take our seats. I, my two brothers and a handful of cousins scrambled up onto the car. From the vast, horizontal surfaces of the late ’50’s model sedan we scanned the sky.

He flew upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness His secret place,
His canopy around Him was dark waters
And thick clouds of the skies.

The curtain went up and we gazed, all agog, at the monstrous thunderheads, the changing hues from lighter greys to deep teals. The breeze picked up, which served to heighten our anticipation. All around us, 360 degrees, the eerie blackness of a stormy day closed in. God was near. We were certain of it. He was going to do something really big.

The Lord thundered from heaven
And the Most High uttered His voice …
He sent out his arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.

Our home had no television. We didn’t go to movies. God was the creator, producer and director of the shows that fired our imaginations. And His special effects still are unmatched. Near the horizon, where the Kansas wheat fields met the sky, lightning zipped across the expanse like arrows released from the bowstring. The distant rumbling rolled closer. “Jesus is now moving furniture around in the mansion he’s preparing for us,” we imagined.

Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At your rebuke, oh Lord, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

A flash. The world around us turned white. For one breathtaking moment we saw a million individual heads of shining wheat brought into relief against the stormy backdrop. Each one seemed to shout, “Surprise! Look at me in all my glory given me by the Glorious One!” It only lasted an instant; we drew our collected breath. And before we could exhale, the crashing thunder blasted our eardrums. That was close! And totally exhilarating. The rain came fast now in slushy pellets. Hail! Time to watch the show from inside the house.

 

Through imaginative play a child tries reality on for size. Does it fit? Does this God of the big screen square with the God Daddy reads to us about in the Bible? Does this God go to school with me and protect me from the bullies? He does. And it fits this young heart, this precious faith.

Take every opportunity to point your child’s imagination heavenward. So then, when he is no longer a child and death surrounds him, evil frightens him and he is in deep distress, he will call on this God, his Lord. He will also say

He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me,
For they were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.

How capable is your God? Your child’s God? Maybe we need to get out more; to take a front seat under the biggest screen on earth and try that on for size! Hey, it’s free!

Psalm 18

Photo:  The Kavango River and Angola as seen from Rundu, Namibia